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Inside the Club: Can You Become the Stickiest Club in Town?


shutterstock_179167064I remember when I started at Club Solutions Magazine in 2009 there was a lot of discussion about providing value to members to battle the low-priced-model clubs that were entering the market. However, over the years I’ve watched more clubs adjust business strategies to follow the low-price model as opposed to discovering an area for differentiation.

When I think back, some of the early ideas I remember hearing were massage, tanning and Group X classes. It’s funny how each of those things seem strange today. Tanning has lost a certain foothold within many gyms, Hydromassage can be found in a lot of low-price clubs, as well as Group X.

But even today we get emails discussing how the low-price model is bad for the industry and is creating a bad taste in the consumer’s mouth within markets. So where is the next step in combating competition?

Like I mentioned earlier, it seems that a lot of clubs are gravitating to the low-price model. However, we are seeing growth in the boutique fitness business — CrossFit, personal training and Group X studios — that are actually charging more than double of most fitness clubs.

Competition is healthy for the market, but can be terrifying as a business owner. What can be even more scary is when you adjust to follow the low-price model to compete with gyms across town, and then another low-price model opens just down the street. I’ve seen it happen more than once near our office.

What I’ve also seen has been the opening of niche fitness facilities that tend to compete strongly with other gym models within the same market radius. But how do you incorporate this programming, continue to offer quality service and maintain a strong instructor base?

For boutique fitness facilities a lot of customers get drawn in by the instructors. A lot of what quality CrossFit gyms preach is a combination of community and coaching. Depending on who you talk to, you may also hear that results are plenty from those members. However, let’s be realistic about the membership — people are people and results don’t come from one particular program.

What does help boost results at these studios is the stickiness of the facility. Whether it’s community among members or quality coaching, members are continually coming to the gym and exercising regularly, which leads to results.

What’s more intriguing about these facilities is the rate at which people come. Members that fall into the community aspect of the facilities stick to the regiments that are developed by the individual gym. In this sector of our business, gyms have discovered how to differentiate themselves without worrying so much about price.

Where the larger clubs can use these insights is by realizing that members aren’t always so much hung up on price as hey are value. But how do you create community and value in your large facility with thousands of members?

With a large facility and multitudes of personalities entering your doors each day, it’s important that you strike at large segments of your population. For example, say out of a 100 person sample of your members you have 50 excited about Group X, 30 for club sports, 10 for strength and 10 for cardio. As the vast majority of gyms have strength and cardio already embedded, strike at the Group X and club sport population. Bring top-of-the-line Group X into your facility with the best instructors in your city — if you need to train them in-house, so be it. But this can’t be the same Group X experience you’d find at any other club. It must be unique.

Secondly, drive at the club sport population. Have continually rotating sports that range from basketball to flag football to kick ball. Capitalizing on those particular populations will create excitement within the groups. Again, this must be different than any other. It must have an easy enrollment for everyone, not just those people that can design a team with friends.

If you can do this all properly, all of a sudden 80 percent of your population (in a 100 person scenario) is binded to your gym.

When this is performed correctly you’ve created the stickiness that will keep members from going to other clubs or chasing price. They will develop friendships in your facility and will be drawn to each new sport or Group X offering.

To do this properly though, it can’t be an afterthought. These structured programs must be advertised as the best thing about your gym. You’ll need to market yourself and design programming that helps people to enroll and have fun.

This is a true differentiator for your club, where price is simply a potential quick fix. Take a look around your city and see what might be missing. Can you enhance the programming to a certain percentage of your population and truly become the stickiest club in town?


Tyler Montgomery is the Editor-in-Chief of Club Solutions Magazine. For thoughts on his blog or the industry, reach out to him at tyler@peakemedia.com.


Tyler Montgomery

Tyler Montgomery is a former writer for Club Solutions Magazine.

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