Small group training (SGT) is a great offering that allows you to combine the social interaction of group classes with the one-on-one connection of personal training. It’s a great program to drive profits both in-house and virtually.
Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas, Texas, is one of many clubs that offers SGT. “Our SGT studio allows us to make use of the Precor Queenax X3 500 with the versatility to space our people appropriately to the recommended six feet of physical distancing,” said Mary Edwards, the director of fitness and a professional fitness trainer at Cooper Fitness Center. “Participants have their own training station with suspension fitness options as well as functional training tools for an effective workout.”
However, when Cooper Fitness was forced to close due to COVID-19 in 2020, they immediately shifted to create a virtual SGT option that did not exist pre-COVID. Edwards said they adapted their program so members and SGT participants didn’t need equipment to participate virtually. Instructors made use of and offered modifications for household items like laundry detergent bottles, backpacks full of books, a toolbox, water jugs, etc., allowing anyone to partake in the program.
“It was important for us to continue offering SGT as a group option and not shy away from it due to COVID-19 constraints on our current business environment,” said Edwards. “We chose to think long and hard about how we could manipulate our programming to meet the guidelines of physical spacing.”
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, SGT was one of the fastest growing exercise options in the industry. While some facilities were still able to offer the program during the pandemic, many other gyms are wondering how to gain that momentum back in a post-COVID environment.
For Tim Forrest, the president and founder of Zone Fitness Clubs, getting the SGT momentum back post-COVID is about executing all options that help keep members safe, enable them to enjoy their workout experience and provide the necessary support with their workout programs so they can get the results they seek.
Zone Fitness Clubs introduced welcome-back initiatives to assist with this process and to help with SGT. Some include education seminars on how members can restart their fitness program and shed pounds, adding both 30-minute and 45-minute sessions to help offer more options for members, introducing discounted one-month and package options to entice new participants to kickstart their program, and more.
“The key to our success is staying focused on putting members first and making sure we are getting them results, which is our No. 1 priority,” said Forrest. “We handle every SGT client like a personal training client. We track them monthly for results with an InBody analysis and offer recovery options with HydroMassage, Theragun and stretching sessions. Plus, we offer our SGT clients full nutritional, meal planning and supplement support.”
Partnering SGT with other programs or amenities is a great way to maximize your profits. At the Cooper Fitness Center, they are relying more on package pricing options to entice people to utilize SGT, rather than recovery or results.
“We are finding more members are methodical about planning their workouts and not taking advantage of drop-in options at this time,” said Edwards. “We are also pushing the virtual and in-studio programming options more using our marketing data warehouse through email and social media channels.”
Edwards elaborated they have relied heavily on their customer relationship management software email marketing campaigns for SGT. For instance, they have dug deep into the last two to three years of SGT participant data to be very specific on how Cooper Fitness Center is targeting offers and messages, with both virtual and in-studio options.
“We have leveraged our loyalty program to provide current members with classes,” said Edwards. “We want to meet our members and participants where they feel most comfortable. It is a concerted marketing effort to rebuild and drive this SGT business. We are also offering two complimentary SGT classes to every new member joining the club to expose more members to this valuable training opportunity. Any current members who have never tried the offering can also take advantage of two complimentary classes.”
Forrest agreed SGT programs need to have their own marketing plan, sales presentation, workout curriculum and business plan, even though it’s a division of the personal training department at Zone Fitness Clubs. He went on to say a key to success with SGT is to have clear goals, monitor the numbers and inspect what you expect from the execution of the approved workout curriculums.
All of this can be achieved by having the correct instructors running your SGT classes.
“Having the right trainers to execute the SGT sessions is critical,” said Forrest. “I see too many clubs pushing all trainers to host sessions with little to no participation. All SGT trainers need to execute and support the growth of their individual sessions and the time slots they own.”
According to Edwards, it’s imperative as a program director to stay in tune with instructors’ engagement levels — both in their programming and adherence to the facility’s safety protocols. “I encourage finding ways to pour into their creativity cup so they can stay enthused about the SGT experience and keep it fresh for participants,” she said. “Gather your team and have them share and brainstorm programming ideas to improve upon current programming organization.”
Whether by encouraging your instructors to be more creative or packaging with other amenities, there are various ways to maximize your SGT profits. While the pandemic paused many of these classes, Edwards believes the industry can bounce back and carry on the momentum.
“I firmly believe once we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, people will desire to socially engage with their health club, fellow members and fitness professionals again,” said Edwards. “SGT provides the ideal platform for camaraderie, accountability and individualized training guidance. If we keep working on promoting SGT and fine-tuning our offerings to meet people where they are and fit their needs now, these efforts will continue to pay off long-term.”