The daily responsibilities of owning and managing a fitness facility can be overwhelming. Along with all the usual details, like class scheduling and staff management, a primary concern is the danger of reduced revenue due to member turnover. For every two memberships sold, two members seem to cancel, which often causes a manager to have to focus on what to do next to keep the business afloat. For example, a manager might think, “What advertising do I buy?” “What promotion should I run?” “What is my retention strategy?” Instead of focusing on the “what,” successful owners and managers try to understand why gym-seekers become gym members.
Throughout my 15 years as the owner of a gym and a personal training studio, I’ve learned the seven basic reasons why people decide to join a fitness facility. This article—the first of a two-part series for IDEA Fitness Manager—will focus on three of those reasons, and offer strategies you can implement immediately to capitalize on them.
Many people contemplate joining a fitness facility because at some point they felt inspired. For example, maybe a neighbor lost a significant amount of weight, or a co-worker finished her first 5K. People want to be inspired, motivated and coached to be their best. You are in the best position to help them succeed.
To understand what inspires current and potential members, seek insights from those who have the most interaction with them: your staff. Host a staff event at a fun place, with food and beverages provided. Ask two questions:
- Are you inspired in your job? Why/why not?
- Do you feel our customers are inspired? Why/why not?
Then listen and take notes. The feedback you receive is as valuable as gold for your business, because employees frequently anticipate problems before anything becomes obvious to owners or managers. It may be unusual for you to hold this type of meeting, and it may require more than one meeting. Just like the process of building muscles, practice is essential in order for everyone to become comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings. It takes time to build trust and understanding.
Discover what inspires your staff, what that inspiration means to them and how they see it affecting customers. Having this information will help you take your business to a whole new level. Not only is this a great team-building experience; it also enhances your connection with existing and future customers.
Finding and giving inspiration will result in membership sales. But it is motivation that will keep customers coming back and, ultimately, renewing their memberships. Repeat customers need to feel stimulated by their time at your facility, because there are so many other things that compete for their attention and money. If inspiration is the fire, then motivation is the air that fuels the fire—and it’s up to you to keep that fire burning bright. Perhaps it’s time to evaluate all of the programs and services you’re currently offering, and to maintain the ones that are best received by staff and clientele.
For example, how effectively do your personal trainers motivate clients? Does your facility have a strong team? Do your trainers offer a mix of appearance and training styles? It’s refreshing for clients to work with a variety of trainers, each of them using a different coaching technique.
To make sure your motivators are feeling motivated, hold individual consultations with each staff member to discuss goals and to get feedback. Use a positive, uplifting interview technique to make your staff feel valued, and encourage them to share their ideas for enhancing the customer experience. When you implement an idea, make sure to thank and recognize the person who originally made the suggestion.
3. Doctor’s Orders
People are living longer, and they’re experiencing what is now referred to as a longevity bonus. Those extra 20–30 years provide more opportunities to enjoy life, and people recognize that fitness is a significant contributor to the quality of that life. Good health is quickly becoming an asset, valued both by patients and by their doctors. What is often overlooked is that many people join a fitness facility or program because of doctor’s orders. Western medicine is finally promoting the benefits of exercise, and many primary-care physicians are writing their patients prescriptions to become active, preferably under supervision—as provided in a fitness facility.
Be mindful that many of the clients who are following doctor’s orders are brand-new to exercise. In addition to being intimidated by the word exercise, these individuals may have a variety of health issues that complicate participation in a fitness program. Creating a welcoming environment—and a simple, nonthreatening evaluation form—will foster trust among those who are following medical advice. Also ensure that your staff is well trained to work with special populations, and that they know how to interact with beginners in healthy, productive ways.
When you get these new exercisers inside your doors, create value for them with custom programming. Brand your business as one whose staff is qualified to handle the unique challenges of a population that increasingly needs assistance in meeting health and wellness goals.
It’s never a waste of time to consider why customers join a fitness facility. In fact, it’s paramount to the success of your business. Some of the “whys” include the desire to feel inspired and motivated, as well as to find a place that is safe, especially for individuals who are new to exercise. The instructions discussed in this article will not cost much in terms of money; however, they will require an investment of time and energy.
Look for the conclusion to this series in the next issue of IDEA Fitness Manager.
Sheena Bull is an author, speaker, entrepreneur, raving fan of exercise and outdoor junkie. Reach her at [email protected]