Hard to believe but it’s true – summer is waning quickly. Before long all club operators will be plotting fiscal year 2023 budgets, making investments and deciding on new strategies to retain and recruit members to their clubs.
That’s of course no easy feat and in a competitive industry a 24/7, 365 days a year proposition. In fact, according to IHRSA the average club can lose 60 percent of new members in the first year or almost 30 percent of current members on an annual, repeating basis. As you look for ways to sidestep this trend and lock in members for the long term, think about this idea. The answer may lie less in the facilities and offerings of your club, but more in a shift in mindset to match and meet the way club members are thinking and interacting with fitness today. Consider these four strategies to transform or at least tweak your club’s mindset and approach as the competition heats up towards winter.
Spotlight environment versus equipment
In the 2000s the gym experience was very different. Members looked for extreme experiences – high intensity classes, ultra-endurance out-of-club events and the average club environment was a place for competition and for showing it. But today, members are more motivated by fitness as a component of their lifestyle. It’s less about gym rat reps with free weights and much more about a holistic approach to overall health and wellness. Fitness and working out is a means to staying healthy and feeling good.
If your marketing and member outreach efforts are focused on facility offerings – the number of studios and stationary bikes or images of row after row of cardio equipment, maybe it’s time to switch gears. Invest in photography and video of member experiences: community after working out, a rooftop pool cabana that says the club is also a place to just be.
Share recipes from your healthy snack bar manager over social media and in email newsletters and try spotlighting different lifestyle benefits each week: the spa, recovery and stretch areas, sauna or recovery and rehabilitation treatments. Give members a thousand reasons for being at your club that aren’t just about working out.
Studies show that a little under 50% of gym members go to their club once a week – a shockingly low statistic when you consider the average price of bigger club membership can be between $100 and $300. One of the reasons members come to the gym is they are attracted to routine – a favorite class, a stress busting workout after their least favorite day of the work week. But routine quickly becomes a rut – and lack of variety in the way members work out can lead soon to fall out and a lost member. As fall approaches and many family schedules change, seize the opportunity to launch try and test events, where instructors and trainers open up classes and schedules to new faces. ]
Help members think about trying new classes or activities by promoting club wide challenges on social media and in-club signage. Offer coupons and digital discounts for premium membership offerings to lower tier members and above all, cross promote opportunities for members to expand their minds and change their routines.
Make member experience 360 degrees
For a long time there was the club and there was the club’s website. But locking members into your brand and membership programs is about connecting them at every possible point of contact. Creating a cohesive online and in-club experience is critical to the way members want to engage with fitness today.
That universe must start with a regularly updated, content-rich website with news about the club and classes but also articles to read and educate members, videos to show results from successful personal training and any easy access to any information they need from workouts to nutritional recovery plans. But it also must integrate social media communities of other members, Instagram feeds from instructors and Facebook pages that bring new ideas and ways to engage with your club to members on the go.
The mindset for every club must be about expanding the universe: how do I put my brand, content and expert staff in front of my members wherever they may be looking for fitness content and ideas.
Embrace technological capabilities
Most members have wearable heart rate and fitness trackers today and we're starting to see the integration of those metrics into club cardio equipment and class displays. But technology is now such a central component of member interest that it must be fully embraced. There should be collaboration versus competition between the live experiences members receive in a heart pumping instructor-led class and a class they stream or download at home or on the go via your on-demand platform.
Some club operators may still believe a member taking an on-demand class at home is a member who isn’t in the club – but they’re still working out with your brand on their terms and in a convenient way. Embracing that dynamic and also integrating digital fitness into your club environment will go a long way to showing members that your club is evolving at pace with the latest offerings.
Look too for ways to bring digital content and tech-led experiences to your club environment. This might include a stand-alone, on-demand workout station in open areas of your club where members can tap into a circuit of exercises each day or pull up a specialty class that doesn’t require them booking on-demand studio time. Integrate digital capabilities into open mat, free weight and stretch spaces and you’ll soon have a vibrant, modern and engaging environment for every member.