It’s no secret that building a base of loyal customers is crucial to long-term business success.
For example, in the late 1990s building-block set and toy manufacturer LEGO® was facing bankruptcy. One of the primary reasons for this was that the company’s management had fallen out of touch with what consumers wanted. But then they had the bright idea of developing an online community of enthusiasts who would offer insights, suggest product ideas and give feedback on current projects. Instead of making assumptions in-house about what consumers wanted, LEGO created an online group forum to gain insights from customers about what they wanted. The idea was a hit. In 1999, there were 11 known user groups. By 2012, that number had skyrocketed to 150 groups and more than 100,000 devoted and engaged members (Antorini, Muñiz & Askildsen 2012).
And business has never been better: The company reports that in 2015, LEGO sets and toys reached an estimated 100 million children (Kell 2016). While LEGO’s success doesn’t rest solely on the shoulders of its online community, there’s no denying that the transition to an open-source format helped.
Fitness facilities can take a page out of LEGO’s playbook. Though the products are different, the goal is the same: increased loyalty and stronger financials.
Why Build an Online Community?
Creating an online platform where clients and members can interact builds a community, but it can also offer a wide range of other benefits that can positively impact your bottom line.
It helps maintain focus. Fitness professionals are well aware that their access to clients is traditionally limited to the 2 or 3 hours those clients spend with them during training sessions. But what happens during the other 165 hours in the week? Even the most stalwart clients can drift from their training goals during off-hours. Keeping connected with clients via a Facebook group, for example, keeps you and your business top of mind.
Ethan Kopsch, owner of Bird Rock Fit in La Jolla, California, encourages his clients to post updates on a regular basis. “I can ensure they’re getting extra cardio sessions by asking them to share post-run selfies,” he says. “I’ll also ask some of them to post pictures of their healthy lunch or dinner. This keeps them focused and also acts as a motivator for others in the group.”
Great out-of-gym adherence leads to a better chance that people will achieve their goals. When clients are successful, they attach more value to your services.
It’s a good way to share information. It can be very difficult to allocate time for questions or extended education during hourlong sessions. For example, we may want to impart a few nutrition tips here and there, but there isn’t always enough time for discussion. Facebook groups can circumvent this problem, giving you the chance to share the things you don’t have time for during scheduled sessions. Your clients will appreciate the extra effort you’re making to help them achieve their goals. Also, if the content you provide is worthwhile, chances are good that your clients will want to share it with their own networks, which means your name gets seen by more eyeballs. And that means potential client leads.
Facebook groups also keep your clients in the know about schedule changes, upcoming educational seminars and other general notices. For instance, Tony Cress, owner of Tony Cress Personal Training in Las Vegas, uses the platform to provide details on future events.
“Through Facebook, we also make separate pages for events that the members would like to do as a group,” he says. “We run Spartan® race group pages and invite other members of our facility to that page, in hopes they’ll want to be on the team.”
You build a network of peers. It’s hard to deny the power that a fitness community can offer when you think of a group like CrossFit®. One reason the fitness franchise has experienced such significant growth over the past decade is its emphasis on community. People don’t go to their box only for a workout alone—they also visit because they’ve developed a network of peers with whom they enjoy spending time. This leads to greater satisfaction and higher levels of retention.
The same type of thing can be achieved online, says Cress. “On our Facebook Business page, we use Facebook Live posts to show people ‘look-ins’ to our workouts,” he says. “What helps people who may not be at the workout [is for them to] see someone they know who is. We’ll get comments such as ‘Go Kerri!’ and ‘That looks crazy.’ This allows people who weren’t there to connect with other members.”
For details on starting a Facebook group, plus a full reference list, please see “How Facebook Groups Can Build Community and Boost Business” www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/how-facebook-groups-can-build-community-and-boost-business in the online IDEA Library (April 2017 IDEA Fitness Manager). If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at 800-999-4332, ext. 7.