Roundtable Recap: New Year Trends
On January 19, Club Solutions Magazine presented the first installment of a monthly virtual roundtable series centered on thought leadership.
Panelists included Joe Cirulli, the founder and owner of Gainesville Health & Fitness; Vicki Brick, the CEO of Brick Bodies; Mark Miller, the COO of Merritt Clubs; Jon Brady, the president of Midtown Athletic Clubs; and Maria Gonzalez, the CEO of ClubFitness Greensboro. The discussion was led and moderated by Rachel Zabonick-Chonko, the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. Sponsored by Club OS.
The following is a summary of top takeaways from the discussion, centered on the biggest trends in the fitness industry in the new year:
Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic
- The pandemic taught us first and foremost, the industry was caught off-guard by the crisis. Operators need to be prepared for every worst-case scenario.
- COVID-19 revealed that the industry has a lot of support.
- Ex. REX Roundtables, alliances, Club Solutions and IHRSA.
- Look at all opportunities to grow.
- What does the future of fitness look like?
- What can the industry do today to prepare for if something like this happens again in the future?
- The pandemic created a lot of fear and revealed the importance of a leader being strong and optimistic.
- Offer hope to your staff and members.
- During the worst of times, you have to have the most hope.
- Be hopeful, but don’t ignore reality.
- The pandemic was a wakeup call to club operators to see how much we have to improve and grow.
- The world needs health clubs now more than ever.
- Both physical health and mental health are crucial right now.
Communication and Marketing
- How we as an industry position ourselves going forward is important.
- Typically, clubs are marketing to the same 20% of the market.
- The message of safety and cleanliness, wellness and mental health is more important than ever.
- We need to mature our messaging. Start using different body images and appealing to different groups of people.
- 80% of the population hasn’t been in a gym. Ask yourself why?
- Broaden your appeal to other people, not just your typical gym goers.
- You can only push how clean your facility is so much. If your members are scared, they aren’t going to come back until they are ready, and likely vaccinated.
- Doc Morris’ kettlebell commercial is a great example of how to have an emotional appeal with your marketing.
- The Maryland coalition has had great success building relationships with their politicians.
- Show up — the more you can get in front of them the more impact you can have.
- Everyone is concerned about being healthy and it’s our job to tell our story.
- The first layer of a successful political relationship is by starting with your city and county commission.
- Build those relationships.
- Remind them what you’re doing and provide them with updated data when possible.
- Creating these relationships started as a reactive approach — it is necessary to switch to an active approach.
- Have them view you as a partner.
- Talk to them in their language and meet their needs first.
- Partner with medical alliances to gain credibility. Doctors and nurses are going to gyms — they need an outlet for mental health during the pandemic.
- Proper marketing — get a greater understanding of your markets, use the right wording, etc.
- Look at the little things such as word choice and age groups you are targeting.
- Many clubs are seeing rejoins happening online.
- Virtual and outdoor fitness will continue to be popular after COVID-19.
- The importance of employee benefits has risen.
- Dive into your benefits packages. Who gets it? How does it work?
- Become a better employer.
- Provide your employees with mental health resources.
- Try to give employees more flexibility with virtual meetings.
- 50% of Americans have experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Find time to be available and open to your employees.
- Your attitude matters. Have conversations about the future rather than everything that is going wrong.
- Engage your staff in these conversations.
- Find ways to cater to your local needs. Help with virtual schools, help with local sports teams, etc.
- Offer free access for first responders and healthcare workers to virtual options.
- Virtual fitness allows clubs to be omnichannel.
- It is rapidly advancing.
- Consumers are craving flexibility in their fitness options.
- Virtual fitness will vary on who delivers that content and how they deliver it.
- There are barriers to entry with the big companies offering it. Such as having to buy an Apple Watch or Peloton bike.
- Many clubs scrambled to put together a virtual offering. Many are still using Facebook, Zoom, etc. Clubs don’t have resources like Apple.
- Some clubs are struggling to see how to monetize virtual fitness. 80% of members have equipment at home, yet they still join the gym.
- Is it a fad or a trend?
- Wait and see — too many things we can focus on internally.
- More people are working out than ever before.
- Many people utilizing virtual workouts are beginners. You need to create a non-intimidating member experience to welcome them in.
- People want human interaction, so they will return to clubs.
- Virtual fitness is convenient, and it is important to have as an option.
- Know what you are good at.
- Other brands going the virtual fitness route will bring awareness to your gyms. Once they gain confidence with virtual fitness, they will move on and join your clubs.
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