It takes just one good idea to make a positive impact. But you’re in luck, because this issue has 106 carefully curated ideas to improve your gym business spanning the 29 categories below.
Aquatics programming is a great addition to any club due to its wide appeal among a variety of different demographics and abilities. However, there are tons of aquatic programs to choose from.
Here, Debra Harley, a nationally certified water fitness trainer at Baptist East Milestone in Louisville, Kentucky, shares keys to success they’ve found in their aquatics programming and insights into one of their most popular classes.
001. A key to our success is the knowledge that water-based exercises are available to a wide range of people regardless of age or prior physical conditioning.
002. Aqua Cardio Fun is a successful moderate-to-high intensity interval workout that Baptist Milestone members have enthusiastically embraced. Our members feel supported by maintaining social distance while working out in a large group exercise class with mask protocols and state-of-the-art ventilation in our natatorium. This class succeeds with motivating music and an ever-changing program of exercises both with and without water fitness equipment to increase resistance training. Class participants keep coming back as they see results by developing muscle tone, endurance and flexibility.
Architecture & Design
Your gym’s design can be the difference between a good facility and a great one. Here, Adam Sedlack, the CEO of UFC GYM, shares tips for designing a new club from the ground-up, or when renovating a facility for a fresh look.
003. Look at the shell from a customer point of view. Does the shell offer good egress/ingress for customer convenience and path of travel? Traffic patterns improve the customer experience. Where you place equipment, locker rooms, amenities and studios requires the correct roadmap for true fitness fulfillment.
004. Does your finished product have audiovisual technology (A/V) and lighting that matches your value and brand proposition? Lighting and A/V needs to match the profile of your customer. Intersecting the customer journey with touchpoints of A/V and lighting experiences can inspire the customer and help with retention.
You’ve likely heard about artificial intelligence (AI), but how does it relate to your gym business?
005. According to Bernard Marr, a contributor to Forbes, “If your company isn’t using AI in marketing, it’s already behind.”
006. AI can be extremely useful in the development and execution of marketing strategies by sorting customers according to interest or demographic, targeting ads, and much more, wrote Marr.
Here, Greg Dowd, the CEO of ROR Partners, shares tips for using AI as a part of your gym’s marketing strategy.
007. Start with good data. If you feed an AI-enabled marketing or business platform incomplete or incorrect data, the result will be flawed. Have a process to ensure robust data to feed AI platforms.
008. Integrate human intelligence with artificial intelligence. AI without real-world understanding and application could be flawed. Ensure those who are implementing and executing the AI have a thorough understanding of your industry, your business and your objectives.
Cleaning and sanitizing are top of mind for operators more than ever before. Here, two gym operators share their cleaning must-haves and tips in a post-COVID world.
Noah Hastay, the operations manager at Gainesville Health & Fitness in Gainesville, Florida:
009. Autonomous Robots: We use ICE Robotics Whiz for effortlessly keeping all of our floors swept and vacuumed, leaving our employees free to do other tasks.
010. Culture of Clean: Every employee in our organization — from the owner to an intern — is a cleaner. We hire people who have cleaning in their DNA.
011. Systems, Systems, Systems: To run the most efficient cleaning process, a constant focus on the cleaning systems throughout the facility — from trainings to checklists to smarter equipment — is needed in order to be the most effective.
Marvin Gresse, the assistant general manager of Stone Creek Club & Spa in Covington, Louisiana:
012. Pro tip for Stainless Steel: As a standard, we sanitize everything with our hospital-grade disinfectant. For some of our high-visibility finishes, we go an extra step and use baby oil after sanitizing to give a bright shine and protective coating. It makes areas like water fountains, elevator doors and receptacles look great and last, and prevents staining.
013. Attention to Detail: Replace your housekeeping and maintenance cart wheels regularly. Almost yearly we change out wheels to make sure they are quiet and members won’t hear the towel bin coming before they see it. It helps keep a tranquil atmosphere in our locker rooms and spa.
014. Ms. Muffet’s Revenge: To avoid build up of bugs and spiderwebs we use Ms. Muffet’s Revenge. The housekeeping team cleans and scrubs the eaves and overhangs; then they spray this product to repel spiders and insects. It is very effective and lasts for months. It is a huge time and labor saver.
Brian Chesky, the co-founder of Airbnb, once said, “Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with a passion.” With this in mind, what is key to fostering a culture that creates the best environment for both members and staff, and ultimately drives your business’ success?
Here, Karen Raisch-Siegel, the executive director of LifeWorks of Southwest General in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, shares tips for building a great company culture within a gym:
015. Your front line staff work directly with their supervisors, not necessarily you. To make sure they are being taken care of, take care of their supervisors. Work with them, coach them and make sure they are doing right by their teams. Are they recognizing employees? Are they holding them accountable? Build trust. The staff need to trust you will do as you say.
016. Round on your staff. This means to sit down and have meaningful conversations. Sample questions to ask: What is going well and what is not going so well? What is one positive thing that has happened? Do you have the equipment and supplies to be efficient and effective? Is there anything you would like to share? Where do you see yourself in five years?
BONUS: Smile, laugh and enjoy your work. If you want a culture to build a strong positive member experience, you need to have a strong, positive employee experience.
The Marketplace: CMS & Technology
017. • Club Automation
Club Automation is the leader in member management software, powering some of the largest fitness businesses across the U.S. and Canada. With a full range of services and real-time insights for an ever-changing environment, we offer unrivaled, end-to-end solutions for clubs, helping you provide members with the best possible experience.
847.597.1764, clubautomation.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
018. • Easalytics
The Easalytics Personal Training Purchase Probability model uses proven proprietary machine learning technology to predict the likelihood of each member to purchase personal training services within the next three months. Hassle-free deployment and a monthly subscription fee provide a low-risk way to leverage your data to maximize member lifetime value.
860.785.8050, easalytics.com, email@example.com
019. • Exerp
Exerp is the only CMS purpose-built for large fitness chains. We serve some of the biggest brands around the world, offering a highly flexible, comprehensive and open platform to help you drive growth, streamline operations, optimize IT spend, enhance member and staff experiences, innovate quickly and protect your brand.
+1.561.398.2204, exerp.com/contact, firstname.lastname@example.org
020. • Intelivideo
Intelivideo’s best-in-class, on-demand, live streaming and digital platform enables operators to quickly hybridize their fitness experience for members. We offer a simplified launch process to guide a fitness business of any size through its digital transformation. Intelivideo will help you launch and monetize a successful digital fitness platform from apps to content management to customer activity.
720.379.6150, intelivideo.com, email@example.com
021. • Jonas Fitness, Inc.
Jonas Fitness’ club management software provides operators the right tools to attract new members, boost retention and increase collectability. Our flagship software solution, Compete, is a user-friendly, integrated software and payments platform that helps you efficiently manage the entirety of your club operations with ease.
888.590.0026, jonasfitness.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
022. • MXMetrics
Win in 2021 by listening and engaging with your members, which leads to higher-quality reviews, more referrals, higher levels of satisfaction and loyalty, and operational excellence. MXMetrics is the only member experience platform that specifically was created for the fitness industry. To learn more contact email@example.com.
023. • Myzone
Discover three ways to up your game with MZ-Switch – the world’s first heart rate monitor that you can wear on your chest, arm, wrist and in water. Track your real-time heart rate and effort on-screen and move through the zones to earn MEPs. Wearable three ways, simply switch between the chest belt, wrist strap and arm band, depending on your choice of physical activity.
312.870.4800, myzone.org/mz-switch, firstname.lastname@example.org
024. • Polar
The Polar Ignite 2 fitness watch is sleek, simple and smart. With daily, personalized guidance for your workouts, sleep tracking and recovery measurement you can understand your body better and form healthy habits that work for you. All in a beautifully designed watch that looks and feels good 24/7.
800.227.1314, polar.com/club, email@example.com
025. • Smart Health Clubs
COVID has changed the world. Today, consumers are seeking wellness like never before. This has resulted in a significant increase in demand for the digital delivery of wellness and fitness solutions. With the Smart Health Clubs’ all-in-one member engagement platform, clubs can now train members by live streaming their classes and then offering them on-demand.
951.205.1136, smarthealthclubs.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
026. • Upper Hand
Built for businesses that hustle as hard as their members, Upper Hand’s fitness management software empowers studios, clubs and gyms to grow their revenue streams, increase member satisfaction, and run their operations more efficiently. Experience the new way of doing business.
317.721.1641, getupperhand.com, email@example.com
027. • Uscreen
Launch your own on-demand and live streaming service for web, mobile and smart TV devices, no coding skills required. Supercharge your members’ workouts with the Apple Watch Fitness app. With robust built-in marketing tools and third-party integrations, Uscreen is a trusted partner and a true powerhouse for your online fitness business.
028. • WellnessLiving
Equip your fitness studio with WellnessLiving, the most affordable, user-friendly all-in-one business management software solution. Streamline class and appointment scheduling. Take your business virtual. Accept payments from anywhere. Boost client retention with built-in rewards, email and SMS marketing. Simply grow your business. Book a demo today.
888.668.7728, discover.wellnessliving.com/club-solutions, firstname.lastname@example.org
According to Graham Melstrand, the executive vice president of engagement for the American Council on Exercise, investing in professional development/continuing education for your staff should be a strategic decision and be included in your annual budget. Following are important things to consider:
029. How much should you budget? “Most exercise professionals need to complete approximately 10 hours per year of continuing education to maintain their certification which can be used as a baseline,” said Melstrand. “Continuing education can vary in cost from $10 to $30 or more per credit hour. Consider establishing an accrual model for staff that allows them to ‘earn’ their professional development benefit, which rewards tenure and retention.”
030. Pick the right investments. “Supervisors should work collaboratively with staff to ensure the investment in training and education are aligned between what the professional is interested in and what the employer needs them to be better at, or what programs and services the facility has or intends to add,” said Melstrand.
Over the last year, many employers have begun engaging their employees in discussions surrounding equity, diversity and inclusion. Here, Michaela Brown, the chairwoman of the VIDA Fitness Diversity and Inclusion Board in the Washington D.C. area, shares two tips for successfully having these conversations with staff.
031. “Operators should first assert their forum is a safe space for people with opposing views to share. Do this upfront and do this loudly to encourage open and honest discussions.”
032. “Participate in diversity training that utilizes role-playing and role reversals. These tools will help employees see problems and resolutions from different perspectives.”
033. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many operators rented out their equipment to members, and some have even turned this into a viable revenue stream moving forward. Here, Landon Burningham, the founder, president and CEO of Physiq Fitness in Oregon, shares their experience with equipment lending and why it’s part of their virtual training model.
“Virtual personal training has become more popular than ever, and if brick and mortar businesses want to tap into that market, it’s important they offer something others do not,” said Burningham. “In my business, we found one important factor when implementing virtual personal training was to ensure the clients had the right equipment that still helped them feel as if they were getting the same value as live training. To do this, we offered to let training clients borrow group fitness dumbbells, barbells and resistance bands at no cost. The only catch was they had to remain a member and a training client and ensure they brought back the equipment in the condition it was received. This kept the value of our live training while giving clients the ability to train in the comfort of their homes. This in turn meant we kept the client and the revenue.”
Many clubs today are having to operate on shoestring budgets or prioritize where funds are being spent. Here, Frank Ancharski, the owner, founder and COO of Club Coach Services, shares three tips for financial planning and budgeting:
034. Manage Payroll Creep. Over time, talented, valuable and seasoned employees increase payroll exceeding the new hire pay grade. Consider adding responsibility and duties from employees who have not been replaced, or new roles or duties the club needs that are being considered. Set a firm payroll budget as a percentage of revenue.
035. Create Pay Grades. The government, businesses and some clubs alike create “levels” or pay grades in which staff move through merit/seniority levels. Levels/tiers can be based on seniority, unpopular shifts, promotions, responsibilities, saving expenses or increasing revenue, performance metrics, or continuing education internally through the company LMS or externally for professional development.
036. Increase Learning Management System Budget. We all have visited the off-the-beaten-track popular restaurant or Airbnb that does minimal or no marketing due to their premium placed on service. Do the same by increasing training budgets and maximize technology for online sales, service chats and social media marketing instead.
Flooring & Surfaces
It can be easy to underestimate the importance of proper flooring when making design and performance decisions for a gym build-out or renovation. However, flooring is ultimately what ties a space together and should be prioritized just as much as other design choices.
Freddy Goldenberg, the owner of The Refinery in Atlanta, Georgia, is a one-of-a-kind facility with flooring that’s not only aesthetically pleasing but truly functional. Here, Goldenberg shares her thought process behind the gym’s flooring and surface choices:
037. The flooring was a very important part of our gym design. One of the focal points in our gym is the use of turf in the majority of our training spaces.
038. We chose the turf flooring for several reasons:
- Safety: The turf surface and underlayment provides the safest surface for joints during high-impact, high-intensity training.
- Looks: The green turf surface provides a bright, almost outdoorsy type feel.
- Durability: It holds up very well in our training environment, which involves dropped weights, sled pushes, etc.
039. We also utilized rubber flooring in our open gym cardio area, wood flooring in our lobby and tile in the locker rooms. The wood floor in the lobby and the turf throughout our training areas really provide a very warm and welcoming environment.
040. Although a costly component, the flooring can definitely set the tone for the type of environment you are creating. I utilized Fitnessmith out of Boca Raton, Florida, and DLDT Associates from Alpharetta, Georgia, as consultants on the flooring selections.
Fitness trends are constantly changing, especially in the world of group exercise. Here, Doris Thews, a fitness industry consultant and the 2019 World IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year, shares the top two trends she’s seeing in Group X:
041. Innovation: Keep your eye on innovation because your competitors are. Clients still want to be “wowed” when they decide to return to the gym. Innovation will be needed to create new experiences that will inspire members to keep coming back to the gym rather than staying home and using the latest and greatest fitness app.
042. Offer quality virtual programming to retain members: When the pandemic started the consumer understood if the new technical experience was not professional grade. Now a year later with all the new fitness apps available, consumers have more options. Retain your members by making sure your virtual programming is as equally professional and innovative as the live, in-club experience.
Advice on leading in the current times.
043. Diva Richards, the founder of Hard Work No Excuses: In a world that goes more virtual every day, connection is still vital. It’s essential your team and those who support your businesses feel valued, making connections one of the primary drivers that will help your business continue to grow.
044. Paula Neubert, the president and general manager of Club Greenwood: Your team is the foundation of your organization. Therefore, you need to support them and help them through these chaotic times. Change is something many people have a hard time handling, and the past year has been all change. Be attentive to their feelings, and understand they could be experiencing challenges that go well beyond your company.
045. Rachel Cosgrove, the owner of Results Fitness: Be aware of falling into a victim mindset in times of uncertainty. Tap into your superhero mindset by doing two things:
- Get crystal clear on your vision for your future by writing down your goals.
- Invest in yourself to grow through adversity.
046. Mark Harrington, the president of Healthworks Fitness Centers and co-founder of GymIt and Republic Fitness: As we are all changing our clubs to adapt to the “New Normal,” we need to make sure we lead our team with a vision and clearly explain the why behind the changes and how they will improve the staff and member experience.
Marketing & PR
During the March 16-17 Club Solutions Connect virtual event, marketing experts shared specific strategies for using data and metrics to drive sales and marketing ROI in the months ahead as part of a panel discussion.
Panelists included Lyle Gadin, the vice president of client strategy at MOTUS Consumer Insights; Jake McCabe, the vice president of marketing at Genesis Health Clubs; Bryan K. O’Rourke, the owner of Moon Mission Media; Lisa Maguire, the marketing and advertising director at Hockessin Athletic Club; and Merikay Marzoni, the director of marketing and public relations at Fitness Formula Clubs.
Here are some of the top takeaways:
047. During this moment in time, it’s a lot harder to think long-term regarding brand awareness/goals, because there’s a lot of pressure to get results now.
048. Member segmentation and context are important to understand.
049. The experience you’re marketing has to match the in-club experience. Clubs need to build consumer confidence, which can be measured through Google Reviews.
050. Be willing to pivot. What worked yesterday may not work today. What didn’t work a few years ago may work now.
During the Club Solutions Connect virtual event, Wayne Morris, the assistant vice president of health and wellness solutions at Ochsner Health, addressed the role medical fitness could play in the commercial fitness industry’s future. Those included:
051. Integrations with medical records.
052. Virtual/digital platforms.
BONUS: Mergers and acquisitions. “I believe one day soon the healthcare system will be able to prescribe exercise based on a patient’s condition to a digital platform,” explained Morris. “The patient will then follow a prescribed exercise plan, track their progress and the results will be delivered electronically back to the physician. Currently all of this technology exists, but are you ready for this? Are you ready to have this type of evolution? It’s going on, but the fitness world is not in this world just yet, where you are pushing and pulling data back and forth between you and a physician.”
It’s no surprise we are living in a digital age. According to BuildFire, the average smartphone owner uses 10 apps per day and 30 apps each month. Having a mobile app for your club is a great way to connect with your members and set yourself apart from your competitors. Here are tips on how to integrate a mobile app seamlessly.
Sandra Lei, the senior marketing director at California-based In-Shape Health Clubs, gives her best advice:
054. Your mobile app should be intuitive and easy to use with features that improve the member experience — think easy check-in, personal metric tracking, self-service tools and easy-to-find information to keep members informed.
Mehul Chaudhari, the vice president of strategy and analysis at VASA Fitness with locations throughout Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma and Utah, shares two tips:
055. When creating your app, thinking like the user is paramount. It should be easy for members to have access to the most frequently used features from the home screen, so they can get what they need in as few taps as possible. We have found some of the most helpful features for members are class schedules, barcodes and billing/account management. It’s also important to consider how to communicate to your members through the app using push notifications and alerts. We recommend building all functionality natively into your app to allow for a seamless user experience.
056. Think of your mobile app as an extension of your brand. It’s best to create an omni-channel experience that allows members to have a similar experience whether they are physically going into the club, onto your website or into the mobile app. Members should be able to start in the club and then finish on the mobile app, or vice versa.
The COVID-19 pandemic helped reveal the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. While many gym members are great at implementing a workout into their busy day, they may not be succeeding when it comes to eating nutritious food. Here, Carolyn Fetters, the founder and CEO of Balanced Habits, shares tips for helping your members stay on track through nutrition programming.
057. With the world opening back up, consumers will be venturing out into social scenes with food and adult beverages. The tendency will be to indulge with this freedom. Providing guidance will be very important to keep people from going off the deep-end. Consider laying out a percentage system based on a number of healthy meals and exercise sessions. Indulgences should be based on a meal not an entire day.
058. A positive outcome developed in 2020 was people getting in touch with their overall health and wellness. They started cooking for themselves, grocery shopping more purposefully, and developed a new awareness of how their immunity is boosted through nutritious foods. This is good news for club operators who offer nutrition solutions to provide more education and support, maintaining this positive momentum.
Operating a health club is no easy task. While there are many successes, there are also many challenges.
Nicholas Barshick, the COO of Chuze Fitness, with over 30 locations in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico, shares tips he’s learned from his biggest operational challenge — expanding while simultaneously enhancing culture.
059. Growth is exciting, yet it comes with challenges scaling company culture. It’s easy to lose the small company feel that originally attracted senior employees. It might seem backward, but focus on the needs of the team first over business performance and even the member experience.
060. A little bit of thoughtfulness and presence go a long way. It doesn’t take much effort to have a meaningful conversation or to simply do something kind. The strength of relationships matter more than what procedures or operational standards you have in place.
Joe Melendez, the operations director for Gainey Village Health Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, shares operations tips to help those wearing multiple hats in their facility.
061. Add tasks that absolutely need to get done to a calendar app, like Google Calendar or the calendar app on your phone. When MelendezI asks, “What’s on my schedule?” Siri reads back his notes for that day to ensure nothing is missed. Use technology to your advantage.
062. “Spend a full day reanalyzing daily procedures,” said Melendez. “Many expenses and workloads can be reduced when you find ways to make life easier if you had to do that job every day. You may find yourself thinking, ‘I can’t believe I never thought to do this before.’”
Outdoor fitness has been gaining popularity over the years, but it saw a major jump in 2020 when clubs created outdoor areas to continue operations during indoor shutdowns.
Here, Ralph Rajs, the COO of Forma Gym with two locations in California, shares tips on making the most of your outdoor space.
063. Be prepared to reformulate your outdoor area seasonally or as members’ needs change. Think of your outdoor space as always evolving. Observe how members are using the space and rotate out low-use equipment.
064. Put thought into the details of your outdoor area. Spending just a little extra on lighting, flow and music can transform a parking lot into a cool outdoor workspace where people are excited to go. Branding elements as simple as vinyl banners give a big bang for your buck.
Jarrod Saracco, the COO at World Gym International LLC, shares tips on deciding if an outdoor space will work for your facility.
065. Understand your market. Outdoor fitness isn’t the solution for every facility, nor for every market. Lots of factors play into this decision, so don’t get caught in the hype of “if everyone is doing it, so should we.” Analyze and strategize — then if you go for it, be sure to maximize.
066. Check your insurance policy. This isn’t a sexy tip by any means, but it’s extremely important. Many operators have overlooked their need for potential additional coverage for outdoor activities. If you are going to take things outside, be sure you have the necessary insurance coverage for it. The last thing you want to do coming off of a rough financial year is spend money on legal fees fighting a lawsuit you aren’t covered for.
Sheldon McBee, the personal training director at the Universal Athletic Club in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, shared tips on offering personal training.
067. Personal trainers, nail your “win-back” strategy. Acquiring new clients is challenging, but there is an oft-forgotten market that exists. These are lost leads and clients. We all lose clients, but these are still opportunities to nurture. Plan win-back campaigns with celebratory exit interviews, ongoing email tips and personalized touchpoints with incentives for them to return.
068. Make a real difference with virtual coaching and not virtual training. A great virtual coach should be excellent at cueing through the digital lens. Coach with enunciated words, clear visual demonstrations and purposeful external cues where clients feel how to move versus think how to move. Be brave and ask for client, peer-to-peer or personal feedback on recorded sessions.
After over a year of enduring shutdowns, a drop in memberships and a plethora of other challenges, many health clubs are looking for profit centers they can easily add to help revenue efforts. A great profit center that has gained traction recently is recovery. Here, Jacqui Gonzales, the account manager for Therabody, shares two tips on why and how recovery can make a great profit center.
069. Picking the Right Partner: Find a recovery partner that not only provides quality products, but has experienced teams that can help adapt their solution to the needs of a specific club and model. Look for a partner that can do this while providing club operators the opportunity to properly monetize a unique recovery experience that is broad enough to appeal to all members and specialized enough to help drive ancillary revenue via multiple departments.
070. Revenue Diversification: Providing recovery services and amenities for each department like personal training, group exercise and retail helps build on each of those revenue buckets and can provide information on where to further allocate or reduce resources based on performance.
Every facility knows the importance of retaining members, not only to keep profits coming in but also for the greater culture of the club. Andrew Barranco, the regional operations manager at Merritt Clubs with nine locations in the greater Baltimore area, shares three tips on member retention.
071. We have found one of the top drivers for member retention is directly tied to the welcome desk team being friendly. It’s the initial experience and final one that can leave a lasting impression.
072. Teach your teams to be happy through this acronym. These even can be used to identify happy people in interviews:
Helpful – look for opportunities to assist members.
Approachable – body language, position and stance are important keys to being open and friendly.
Pleasant – be a joy to interact with and smile.
Prepared – be knowledgeable, expect questions and know how to respond to them.
You – own it. Being happy and friendly is a choice that reflects on you personally.
073. Invest in a clean facility: Investing the time, energy and expense of maintaining a clean facility is worth it. Well before COVID-19 we saw value in standing out in this area. Making cleaning a team sport is critical to your retention efforts. Members see the pride staff take in the facility, appreciate their efforts and benefit from the results of a well-maintained and clean workout space.
As a club operator, risk management should always be at the top of your priority list. A great way to lower risk and ensure your facility is covered is through proper waivers. Here are three tips to keep in mind when it comes to your facility’s waiver.
Brian Rawlings, the practice leader for FITLIFE:
074. Review and update waivers on a regular basis, taking into account new exposures or safety trends that need to be addressed. This includes having layers of waivers, each addressing the different levels of risk for specific activities.
Max Goodman, a partner at the law firm SmithAmundsen, LLC:
075. Get Specific or Get Sued: Waivers provide an easy way out of expensive lawsuits in most states. Properly-worded waivers provide a detailed list of your gym’s activities from which members might suffer injury. Waivers only protect against lawsuits where the member is injured in a manner outlined in that waiver. General waivers for “all injuries suffered on premises” are ineffective.
076. How to Ward Off Minors’ Claims: Few states allow waivers to shield gyms from minors’ negligence lawsuits. Best practices include: (1) requiring a minor and a parent/guardian to sign waivers; (2) adding an “indemnity” agreement requiring parents/guardians to cover amounts stemming from minors’ lawsuits; and (3) including a clause requiring arbitration. As a back-up, invest in safety, employee training and insurance.
After experiencing a global pandemic that caused many financial stressors, club operators are looking for ways to improve their sales process and bring in more revenue. Carly Hodson, the vice president of Crunch Fitness in San Diego and Fresno, provides two tips on driving sales post-COVID:
077. The key to successfully driving sales post COVID-19 is effective and relevant marketing. Now, more than ever, individuals are conditioned to use digital means to eliminate excess touch. This can easily be incorporated into business-to-business outreach to drive sales and lead production while being mindful of the existing COVID-19 sentiment.
078. The most forgotten about and critical sales tool post COVID-19 is managing attrition. You need to develop a compelling save offer for scenarios you may not have had to overcome in the past. Be flexible to making strategic changes to increase retention. Review social media platforms, Google reviews and Yelp regularly to have a pulse on your business and understand inefficiencies post COVID-19.
Small Group Training
Some club operators have called small group training (SGT) the post-COVID solution since it combines the social interaction of group classes with the one-on-one connection of personal training. Here are tips on how to implement SGT successfully.
Tim Forrest, the president and founder of Zone Fitness Clubs with two locations in Florida:
079. The key to success. Have clear goals, monitor the numbers and inspect what you expect from the execution of the approved workout curriculums. Focus on getting members results and a session experience they love, trust and get the proper workout intensity to achieve results.
Mary Edwards, the director of fitness and a professional fitness trainer at Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas, Texas:
080. Following the rules. It’s imperative as a program director to stay in tune with your instructors’ engagement levels — both in their programming and adherence to the facility’s safety protocols. You want to keep your committed SGT participants feeling safe. You may discuss this in group meetings or even survey your participants to welcome their feedback.
Alicia Whitis, the east region fitness studio manager at Wellbridge with multiple locations throughout Colorado, New Mexico, Missouri, Georgia, Florida and Maryland:
081. Find a niche that creates your brand. What special population, demographic, equipment or result is your specialty? Be a champion for that group, equipment or skill. Create a lasting group around your niche by bringing together like-minded individuals who work well together and have similar limiting factors.
082. Build rapport that creates a positive culture. Be fun, show personality and lead with energy. Small group settings provide the opportunity to educate clients. Take time to point out the benefits of a specific skill to affirm your qualifications and build value in your training.
Social Media Marketing
Social media is a great way to engage your customers and potential new ones while they’re away from the gym or studio. As you may remember, the start of the pandemic brought nearly every instructor promoting his or her classes via any method possible and often for free.
As the pandemic and gym closures have stretched for over a year, it’s clear the instructors should not be giving content away, and health clubs who want to stay relevant and hold onto their member base should be providing a virtual training solution on par with the high-end level of training and classes they are accustomed to. Here are a few tips on keeping your club relevant in 2021.
Sarah Sager, the social media and marketing coordinator for Foundation Fitness and Stages Cycling:
083. Health clubs and fitness studios should be investing in a quality virtual training solution that connects your members to your brand by delivering classes, training, promotional opportunities and general club information. Sharing via a mobile app or social media such as Instagram and Facebook Groups helps spread your club news and can draw potential new members. #stayrelevant
084. Don’t shy away from humor — even allow for a bit of self deprecation. Projecting professionalism and brand identity is key, especially when promoting a safe workout environment, but people connect more readily with humans than companies. Mix-in posts about “stand-out instructors” and include an occasional “face-palm” event to keep it real.
085. The best way to stay relevant on social media is to work it. Be genuine, unique and clever if you can. The auto responses are there to halt a conversation and don’t do much for you in the social media algorithms. If you “like” someone’s post, take the extra 30 seconds and give legitimate props. Leave the “Thanks!” and “Love it!” to the robots.
Grace Koval, the former director of marketing at Arizona-based Mountainside Fitness:
086. Create FOMO for prospective members. Posting a sweaty after-class photo will visualize the community aspect of your club and that working out can be fun.
087. Utilize Instagram Stories and Reels to make sure your brand is in front of your followers. Staying up on trends and memes will also keep your brand relevant.
BONUS: Humanize your employees. Share their backstory or hobbies outside of work to make them more relatable to members. Trainers can be intimidating to some members. Sharing their hobbies or story outside of work will make them more approachable.
State fitness alliances have been a bright spot through the pandemic. Gyms have come together to help improve the fitness industry’s image to outsiders, and get decision makers to be aware of the importance and impact of the health and fitness industry.
088. According to IHRSA, since 2020, 18 fitness alliances have popped up across the country. These include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington.
Following are tips from Greta Wagner, the executive director of Chelsea Piers Connecticut, on joining or forming a state fitness alliance:
089. Join or start an alliance to have your voice heard. Prior to the pandemic, government regulation of the health club industry generally centered around contractual obligations and disclosures to members. Now, every facet of our business is under the microscope of government regulation. As a collective force, we can shape the future of the fitness industry and work to promote sensible and business-friendly approaches to regulatory issues and compliance.
090. Join or start an alliance to improve your business. An alliance offers a think tank of regionally similar, like-minded people who share the same business challenges. State alliances provide a platform for networking and cooperation, leadership on advocacy issues, professional development, and training resources through the IHRSA relationship. We need to think of ourselves as allies, not competitors.
Technology presents itself in various forms throughout fitness facilities. From front desk check-in to smart watches that track workouts, there are a plethora of ways to integrate technology into your facility. Here, two experts share a few of those ways.
Lindsey Leemis, the founder and CEO of Twist CRM Integrations, on customer relationship management (CRM):
091. Automate: Utilize the power of your CRM to automate touchpoints. One great place to start is by automating your new member onboarding by tracking club check-ins, on-demand workouts logged and other key engagement metrics in the first 90 days of membership. Many clubs find success in creating automated triggered rewards based on activities completed for new members.
092. Report: Reporting is critical to track KPIs to help your club reach its goals. An important report for club success is a pipeline report for opportunities. This report is focused on your marketing and membership team. It tracks marketing lead count, marketing lead hand-off or sales-ready leads, contacts being currently prospected, tour completed and contacts closed.
093. Segment: Split your current email lists in half by using demographic information in your CRM. By segmenting down the size of your lists, you create more targeted and meaningful conversations with your prospects and members. By honing your segmentation, you will see increased open rates, greater email relevance, and lower opt-out/list decay.
Leah Seacrest, the corporate vice president of fitness for Regymen Fitness with locations throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Canada, on wearables:
094. The direct benefit of the use of wearables in a fitness studio is the immediate feedback the user receives on their performance. They can gauge their effort based on the parameters given. This in turn creates awareness of how they should feel during the workout.
095. In a class setting, using a wearable where the current effort is projected and a coach can see serves as another layer of accountability. If a coach can see the effort of each participant, they can better motivate based on the purpose of the workout. It gives the coach more insight on how to better coach an individual based on their goals.
Virtual & On-Demand Fitness
The coronavirus pandemic forced many clubs to quickly shift to virtual fitness classes, an outlet most hadn’t implemented yet. And while many clubs made this shift to help with retention efforts during shutdown, it has become clear virtual and on-demand fitness are here to stay.
Sandy Wiedmeyer, the fitness manager of Pleasant Prairie RecPlex in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin:
096. When choosing a platform for delivery, consider scalability. Consider all the areas and means for delivery to find the solution that will work long term. We are beyond determining the quick fix we needed when many of us shifted to virtual. Think of this as a permanent investment and shop it that way.
097. Virtual is like adding a whole new department to your business. Have a plan in place for managing the content, the talent, the customer and the IT side of the business.
098. Plan for variety. Your virtual offerings should include a mix of modalities that have something for all of your customers. Don’t forget your virtual offerings should be just as robust as your in-person offerings.
William Alves, the association director of healthy living sales for the YMCA of Greater Boston:
099. Invest in good equipment and a good internet connection. The amount of challenges that can be avoided with uploading content or streaming a class is enormous when there is a dedicated line just for your online content.
100. Spend time coaching instructors and trainers on the difference between teaching a class in-person and teaching one for a camera. We have a director here who works with all the instructors prior to our live streams. That really supports them and helps guide them through the process. Our live classes are exactly that, so any errors will be seen, but there is a good amount of coaching and support that allows them to be successful.
101. For quality purposes, have a set area all your filming will happen in and stage it correctly. People want high quality and that goes for both the class, and the look and feel. If the video is choppy and it’s shot in someone’s living room, some may not buy into that for the long haul. Having a professional space that is staged, good class instruction and a great video feed enhances the experience for everyone.
102. The last important item is having an idea for what your virtual offerings are going to offer your members. When everyone closed down, we launched virtual as a replacement for the in-branch experience, but now facilites are reopening and classes are being offered again so now this offering has to be complementary to what is also being opened. It is important to know that ahead of time and plan for it.
PJ Taei, the founder of Uscreen:
103. Know your audience. In a crowded noisy world, it’s important to know who your ideal customer is. Work hard to learn more about your potential avatar, find out where they hang out online or in person, and what their demographic is — learn as much as you can about them. This will make targeting them easier for the content you create and the advertising you invest in.
BONUS from PJ Taei: Stay authentic. Authenticity is key. Your members chose you for a reason. They love your trainers, your content, the music, or the way your club is clean and tidy. The same applies to online. Stay authentic to your brand, know who you are and offer your secret sauce. Be authentic and true to who you are and why your customer chose you in the first place.
More and more health clubs have implemented youth fitness classes at their facilities to ensure kids have a healthy outlet, rather than just a babysitter when they visit. Here are three tips on being successful in youth fitness.
Ben Griffith, the regional director of youth and family recreation for The Alaska Club with multiple locations throughout Alaska:
104. Find something kids enjoy. Mental attitude is just as important in fitness as it is with anything else. Kids are more likely to stay active if it’s something they enjoy doing.
105. Walk before you try to run. Take it one step at a time. Too often we try to jump head first into something. In fitness, that usually means trying a more difficult exercise routine than we are used to doing. Taking on more than we are ready for could lead to failure, which might discourage youth from trying again. Start off slow and steady, then gradually build up.
Colleen Bernardis, the youth programs coordinator for Club Greenwood located in Greenwood Village, Colorado:
106. Make sure your staff makes a connection with each and every family that comes in by ensuring they learn the parents’ and children’s names, figure out what the child likes to do when at your facility, and be sure to report back to the parents when the children get picked up, letting them know what the kid spent their time doing and telling them how much fun they had.
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