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The Differentiated Prospective Member Experience

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Let me first lead with this: What you “know” will often put you out of business.

As the fitness industry has evolved over the last two decades, we have witnessed enormous shifts in what would be considered best practices, both in professionalism and scope. This is a totally natural evolution in a maturing market as we all strive for betterment.

Heck, when I first started personal training a hundred years ago, we were coaching clients that it was perfectly acceptable to perform the lateral pull-down behind their head. Today, we know we were wrecking people’s rotator cuffs, but back then, man; we “knew” it was a viable exercise variation that hit the muscle differently. And it’s that “knowing” of a thing that oftentimes hurts your business as well. Let’s take a deeper dive.

With a student-first mentality, I am always keeping a watchful eye on the fitness industry. Over the last few years, I have read at this point ad nauseum about making sure we are all offering an intentionally designed, A-Z, no happy accidents, member experience. I mean, even I recently wrote another blog titled, “Today’s Brand – The Member Experience.”

Although designing a well-oiled member experience is a must in regards to building brand awareness and maintaining strong retention, it is not in and of itself a compelling new business acquisition tool. So here is what we are seeing happen over the last few years out in the field due to this wave of “Member Experience” advice.

  • Fitness professionals “know” they need a well-designed member experience to stay competitive, because we gurus have been telling them that.
  • They heed that advice, create a well-designed member experience, and then generally jam all their prospective members into this new system in the hopes that said prospects will reward them with a new membership agreement.
  • Prospects may or may not connect with your offerings due to the lack of individualization and/or personalization.
  • We really hope that the connection and community created in that initial member experience will overcome the lack of an actual sales process, because, let’s say it, sales sucks, which is why we all simply talk about retention all the time.

This is certainly better than no system, but absolutely why you see your join rates float around 50% or less every month.

One of the seven pillars of fitness sales success I have identified in my Empowered Fitness Sales System over the last 25 years is what I call “Heat Mapping.” Heat mapping is a combination of showing off your facility’s competitive advantages, while at the same time, personalizing and individualizing your presentations. When I go into a center to host workshops or to train, one of the things I like to do is take a basic blueprint of the facility and create what I call a heat map. But let’s take a step back for a moment to discuss why offering a separate “prospective member experience” is as important as defining a “member experience.”

Let’s use technology and frame it within the scope of the member experience and prospective member experience:

EXAMPLE — Member Experience: Behind the front desk when a member first enters our facility are two huge TVs with constantly rotating updates on class schedules and exciting upcoming offerings. Most of the information they need can be found on those displays. BUT because the front desk is continuously busy, and the information has to rotate six different slides of 30 seconds each, it’s a miserable experience. So they just go home and hope it’s on your website.

From a traditional user design perspective, you would say this is a weak system. You would likely remove the TVs, go back to a paper schedule system or even put a sign up on the desk saying something along the lines of, “Our class schedules can be found on our website at…”

EXAMPLE – Prospective Member Experience: A prospect walks into your facility, which may or not be the third, fourth or fifth location visited that day and see this modern and dynamic atmosphere, utilizing technology. They immediately feel this location is forward-thinking and just cool. First impressions are crucial, and we have most likely framed ourselves as different from those traditional other places. We get a +1 on our scale of potential sales success.

In short, what I am saying is, put the TVs behind the front desk for your prospective member experience AND put a TV or two on the floor or in the locker room for your members to get the most from that experience. Two separate, but exceedingly critical win-win experiences that happen concurrently. And that’s just one separator between hosting a well-designed member versus a well-designed prospective member experience.

My recommendation to facility owners and operators is to go back to your locations and create a prospective member heat map of your facility and intentionally design “tour stops” along the way. No, I am not saying go back to conducting a Disney point and click tour. What I am saying is I don’t care if they didn’t mention the pool as something they were interested in during the needs analysis, the pool is value-added, and everyone is going to see it. I don’t, however, feel like all prospects need to see the InBody on our tours. Only those prospects with which the InBody is most applicable will hear about its features and advantages. We can talk about the value of the InBody on day two.

As always, success isn’t a happy accident. Don’t mistake having a well-defined member experience with having a reliable new member acquisition system. Leverage both effectively and the sky is the limit to your continued success.

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Jason R. Stowell

Jason R. Stowell is recognized as one of the highest-grossing sales performers over the last 25 years in the health and wellness industry. As an award-winning leader, Jason provides strategic planning, talent management and expert-level sales training through his Empowered Fitness Sales System workshops and industry-leading sales presentations at conferences internationally. Connect with him now on LinkedIn here

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