Fitness clubs in England are less than a month away from reopening their doors to members. Who’s coming back to the gym? Are exercisers ready to part ways with mobile apps and remote coaching? Is hybrid the way forward?
We know that the last year has been a real game changer for the fitness industry. With the rise of at home fitness solutions, digital fitness content and remote workouts, exercising has become more accessible than ever.
In our first season of mPowered, we looked at what the future of health clubs might look like after COVID-19. Thanks to our conversations with some great fitness experts, we have put together a reopening guide with 6 steps to help you rebuild your fitness club successfully and come back stronger than before.
1. Bring back conversations with members
Many long-term gym members have probably adapted to new habits that involve training at home or exercising outside. Some are no doubt excited to return to the gym floor, but there will be others who might re-consider returning.
Imagine a couple of scenarios for a moment.
Matt: I am still working from home. Why should I pay extra for a membership I am not using as much?
Sarah: I have now relocated and I’m not sure if I will ever go to the same gym, even though I’ve built great friendships with the staff members.
Tom: The past few months have been so difficult, I lost my job and loved ones. I don’t think I can go back to the gym.
Now if you don’t pick up the phone and call members, you will only see the cancellations. But people are more than just numbers. Each has a unique story and character. Phoning members just to check in is a great way to hear directly from your clients and offer help.
Long-standing retention specialist Guy Griffiths believes that talking with your members and really listening is the simplest, yet the most effective way to boost your engagement and retention.
Matt’s probably not gonna be able to visit the gym as much, but he can still join an online fitness programme that keeps him on track with his goals. Sarah trusts your PTs, so why not introduce her to online coaching. For Tom, mental health and nutrition will definitely be key areas that you can help with.
2. Retrain staff members on digital
Technology is changing the way we live, from how we shop at the local supermarket to how we work, study and exercise. The faster technology is advancing, the more we need to catch up. Unfortunately, the fitness sector still has a lot of catching up to do.
Whether your staff members were furloughed or you have a group of self-employed PTs to look after, it’s always a good idea to invest in the development of your team.
Leon Rudge, Director of Digital Experience at Life Fitness, knows how cost-effective it is to buy into technology. His biggest advice for gym owners right now – retrain your staff members to gain competitive advantage.
Retraining employees on digital innovations could be the missing link that helps you stand out from the other clubs trying to bounce back from the many closures.
3. Expand your digital footprint
Social media, website, landing page(s), marketing campaigns… There are a lot of things you can do to promote your business. The question is where do you start and how do you measure success?
Many gyms still don’t have a digital section in their business strategy. But in order to have and maintain your digital presentence successfully, you have to do the legwork.
SEO expert and pre-sale guru Neil Haughin talks about the importance of adopting a digital mindset as soon as you know you’re opening a gym — or in this case, reopening your gym!
Planning a digital strategy is more than introducing a fitness app. It’s a mindset that guides you to create a more connected experience, whether you’re doing live classes on Instagram or tracking the health stats of your gym members.
4. Learn from the early adopters and offer choices
In the past year we all had to think of new ways to exercise. A run in the park, doing some weight lifting in the garden, jump in the living room with Joe Wicks, attend the occasional Zoom session, watch recorded workouts on YouTube, or log in workouts in your gym’s mobile app. We’ve never had so much variety available or at least we’ve never had to rely on it this much to stay healthy (and sane!).
But now that we’re heading towards reopening clubs and reclaiming our old routines, how do you choose what to offer your clients?
Dominic O’Sullivan, who’s a veteran in the technology sector with 25+ years of work experience, recommends that you stay up to date with the latest tech trends directly from the early adopters and absorb their feedback. He says that “the customer has taken charge of their own decisions about health and wellbeing more so than ever before”, so it’s important that you do offer choices at your gym.
To understand what your customers want and need, it’s not enough to just do a quick google research. Planning a successful delivery strategy should start with your members and directly asking them what would make their gym journey better. After all, your members are your biggest brand ambassadors and their voice matters.
5. Boost engagement through habit formation
It takes about a month to form a new habit. That’s precisely how much time it takes for 30% of new joiners to stop visiting the gym. After 3 months, the number of new members who no longer show up goes up to 90% (Source).
Setting a fitness goal and building a routine with your personal trainer is the most effective way for members to remain engaged.
Elite sports coach Ric Moylan admits that even athletes have bad days, but it’s the habits they have built along their fitness journey that help them do the work and stay motivated.
Why don’t you send out a free personalised health or fitness programme to the first 200 members that return to your facility. Better yet, send out a survey to ask them if they have a particular goal ahead of reopening, so that you can create a buzz about your gym!
6. Invest in your community with rewards
We love rewards almost as much as we love discounts and exclusive offers. What better time to introduce loyalty programs at your gym than now.
Will & Max Knight, founders of Athlete Perks, share that the gyms they work with report more in-app time after introducing rewards to their mobile app.
After a year of social distancing, many are craving more opportunities to connect with each other. Rewards will both give you a topic to discuss with members and a way to nourish your fitness community.