As the health and wellness industry has developed, so has the understanding of what constitutes fitness “product” in the minds of consumers and facility operators alike. Nowadays, a company’s product is more than a tangible “thing.” It includes every aspect of fitness: personal training, group exercise, kids’ training, the facility, staff training and development, studio-based classes, floor layout and, above all, member experience.

It is through all these avenues that facilities are finding programming for profit in ways that reflect the changing needs and desires of the members. For example, workout areas and programs now “flow” together more (think functional zones and mind-body studios), replacing stand-alone free-weight areas or single-focus group exercise classes.

Innovative shifts in approach and education have allowed facilities to provide a more satisfying experience for the membership base, and in so doing to assist sales teams by giving them a solid sales tool—a fantastic membercentric experience. Facilities now have the platform to ensure that a forward-thinking “product” division will actively contribute to the retention of members and, by extension, the bottom line. The key to this contribution is a well-thought-out, thorough and focused strategy of inclusion embracing all aspects of the facility. Gone are the days of considering divisions like personal training and group fitness as separate entities. To be financially solid, clubs must realize that all departments are interdependent and able to make a contribution to the facility’s profitability.

Position Your Product and Your People

Your members will have a solid perception of your facility if you create that perception through a number of factors. Together, these factors become your “product.” You set your product foundation by branding your departmental staff as the educational experts in health and wellness. To achieve this, you recruit qualified, proactive fitness instructors/coaches and personal trainers. You must then clearly communicate the staff’s qualifications and skills to members, so they know they are in safe, knowledgeable hands.

Any offering that you add, whether it’s a group class, assessment protocol or new piece of equipment, will “come alive” through the attitude of your staff, so make sure employees are customer service ambassadors who reflect your company brand. A disconnected and fragmented team with no qualifications or customer service ethos will damage your brand. This will not only limit your ability to provide for members but will also place you at a severe disadvantage—due to lack of staff ability and buy-in—when it comes to generating revenue through new activities.

Excellent programming is a result of staff doing great things in the eyes of members. This is evident in the number of licensed products/programs that are available on the market—despite their structured nature, they can be hugely successful and unique when competent instructors give them life! Members will struggle to engage with a program unless it is driven from a base of competence, motivation and knowledge, regardless of how well it is marketed or how well priced the concept may be.
As the industry has matured, members have become more informed and aware of fitness trends. Managers who don’t stay abreast of the latest trends will find members voting with their feet, and not in a good way! Programming for profit is about staying current and relevant, as well as topical and a bit cheeky!

Satisfy Basic Needs: Build Community

One of the major trends shaping the future of the fitness industry is retention through community building; this extends from floor-based activities (e.g., express/fast classes with 5-10 members doing an activity such as an abdominal workout) to personal training and kids’ offerings. It’s important to understand the true needs, concerns and desires of the member base, not just to assume them or to guess. For example, rather than doing an intake assessment that tells obese and self-conscious clients what they already know (they do know they’re obese!), consider the underlying issues (i.e., the desire to have a safe, soft landing and not feel judged). Avoid using intimidating assessment methods that confirm new members’ fears and frustrations. Screen for risk, and then follow a membercentric intake process.

For more information, please see the full article, “Programming for Profit,” in the online IDEA Library or in the May 2011 issue of IDEA Fitness Manager.