Fitness facility owners and managers often focus on what they offer instead of why they offer it. In the first part of this series about why people decide to join a fitness facility, we explored the roles that inspiration, motivation and doctor’s orders play. In this second part, we’ll discuss four more guideposts that move people to purchase a membership and/or a personal training package.
1. Education, Expertise and Trust
Why do people give up after contemplating a healthy lifestyle change? Confusion. It’s that simple. There’s so much information, advice and opinion available that potential exercisers can feel overwhelmed. Oftentimes it’s just easier not to take action at all.
Many people still are not exercising, so there’s a high probability that your next member will be a nonexerciser. Why does this person step through your front door? Primarily for the expertise your facility offers. Trust is essential when people perceive that they’re taking risks. Customers no longer want to be sold to; rather, they want to be able to assume that your service is a good fit for them and that you have their best interests at heart.
However, customers may not perceive your facility as trustworthy when they’re making a buying decision. Are your frontline staff mainly motivated and/or directed to sell memberships rather than to educate potential members? Such an approach can appear inauthentic and hollow. Here’s an alternative plan—although it may not be easy to organize: Make your personal trainers available to answer the questions and concerns of prospects and new members. The more you educate and empower your customers, the more value you will get in return.
2. Strong Community Ties
The next issue that has become increasingly important, especially as our population ages, is community. Social isolation is a serious issue, and it can lead to many health-related problems that have a wide-reaching effect. One reason people join a fitness facility is to feel like they are part of a social network. In addition to visiting the gym to engage in healthy activities, members see it as a fun place to meet people. Make sure that your facility creates an inclusive environment in which all members feel welcome. Take a look around, and analyze what is working to create a sense of community and what’s not. For example, do you have a pleasant office space with a comfortable couch where staff and members can sit and chat with each other? Are there opportunities for members and staff to interact outside of the gym? I used to take my staff to art gallery openings and book readings. This helped them start some interesting conversations with members; the result was that we saw each other as part of a community, not just as employees and customers.
The relationship between personal trainers and clients becomes even more important as the clients grow older. For the benefit of both parties, mix young, energetic trainers with older clients. It’s equally important for the composition of your staff to reflect how everyone at every age contributes to a sense of belonging. Older fitness professionals bring the wisdom of experience; the mentorship they can provide will strengthen your community.
3. Facility Offerings
Many owners take a bare bones approach to operations, and it shows; they’re missing the fact that the facility itself is important to potential customers. People want to feel good in your gym, so create an environment that supports happiness. Obviously, the space needs to be clean and uncluttered. In addition, members want to know that they have choices in exercise equipment, depending on their needs. It’s the variety of exercise equipment and available classes that keeps people motivated and engaged. (An interesting note: There’s currently a trend toward exercising at home—accompanied by talk of gym memberships being unnecessary. However, realtors can tell you that the majority of home gyms are used as closet space.)
Go above and beyond in familiarizing members with your facility offerings. Here are some additional tips:
- Discuss why the treadmill is important, not just what it does.
- Remind customers about the benefits of access to a clean, safe, supervised workout space.
- At least once a year, take a close look at your facility and evaluate safety, cleanliness and accessibility.
- Remove old, outdated equipment.
- Create a wish list with staff, and add pieces as your budget and space allow.
4. The Happiness Quotient
Ultimately, people want to be happy. Whether they’re spending money on a vacation, a new car, a better house or new shoes, their underlying motivation is happiness. The same reason applies to purchasing a gym membership or a personal training package. Potential buyers are imagining a healthier body. Why have a healthier body? To be happier and more satisfied with life. A healthy body is important to overall happiness and peace of mind. It’s hard to be happy when the thought of clothes-shopping causes despair or you’re in constant pain and discomfort. Some people even fear pursuing happiness, because they believe the pursuit is selfish or impossible—or both.
When you understand this fear and the human desire for happiness, it’s easier to feel empathy for customers and support them on their journey. This desire for health and happiness is not only a possibility; it’s a necessity for a fulfilling life! Happy people create more happiness. Examine the need for happiness closely, and bring it up at staff meetings. Ask employees for ideas about how to make members happier, and also ask them what would make them happier. Recognize and acknowledge the many ways that staff is creating a healthier, happier world.
The decision to purchase a gym membership can be full of twists, turns and obstacles. As an owner or a manager, you can help level the path and remove barriers by focusing on “why.” Your customers will be happier and more committed to their exercise program, and your staff will feel empowered and proud to be part of your vision of health and happiness.
Keep a journal handy and write out the seven reasons why people join a gym: inspiration, motivation, doctors’ orders, expertise, community, facilities and happiness. Add your own notes beside each “why,” and ask staff members to contribute to the discussion. In time, you’ll notice a difference in your business. Marketing and advertising decisions will be easier to make, because you’ll have invested in knowing and caring about what people need.