The concept of experience marketing is generating a lot of buzz among business consultants and academic thinkers right now. It encapsulates the emotional and subjective associations that come with using a product or taking part in a service. It is how your members feel about how they get along at your gym. It is all of the subjective associations and emotions they have relating to everything from the hygiene levels to the staff’s attitude and the results members get from their workouts.
As long as members are happy enough to keep coming back, whether it’s class-by-class or month-by-month, they can bring income and value to your business again and again. At a higher level of experience, happy customers can become advocates for your business. They give more value to you as they gain the kind of energy that drives enthusiasm. Of course that is influenced by personality, the more extrovert and ambitious may have more energy and social influence to share throughout their personal networks. To create an environment that produces advocates you have to work hard to provide the best possible experience for all members.
The big picture you are trying to see and control is the state of mind and association that is going to most reinforce the desire to continue to attend and be a member in your gym. Your gym will have a particular character and group dynamic based on how you set it up, the niche that it serves and the personalities of members and staff. For example, the experience you have in a Cross-fit gym is different from the experience at a Crunch Fitness franchise and both are different from the experience of taking part in a Spartan Race event.
Pillow Fights in Central Park
I believe that using the gym should be about satisfying human needs. Not just the basic needs for physical fitness but also the higher needs for social connection and being part of the action. That is why people join the sort of activities and events known as flash mobs where large groups coordinate online to appear as if by chance and begin dancing in Union Station or to hold huge pillow fights in Central Park. It occurs to me that the entire city of Las Vegas is about experiences.
In spite of that (or perhaps because of it), one of the things that people are seeking in their experiences is authenticity. When all the manipulations have been tried and become tired cliches through bad sales pitches and contrived reality TV, I think that we have a growing need for experiences that are truly authentic. Experiences need to be rewarding and genuine without a sense of betrayal or disappointment.
The Experience That Keeps On Giving
Having a role-playing theme such as medieval costumes and jousting tournaments, might just be going too far. Still, we do all play institutional roles as representatives of the business: Sales reps, trainers, and diet and injury advisors. So I think you can say that there is some role-play to the experience but you know when it is too much. It is just a way of thinking about haw to provide the business environment that is going to keep the membership happy, paying their dues and signing up for extra classes and training services.
Experience marketing is the mind-set that takes into account all of the things that will keep members happy, understanding the things they value, providing great customer service and being responsive to their needs and complaints. The experience doesn’t have to be flawless or something that has never been seen before. It just has to be positive and it helps if once in a while members’ expectations are blown away and any surprises are ultimately positive. It needs to be authentic with a rewarding sense of participation, without any significant disappointments.
There are many ways that you can guide your membership’s experience. The place to start is by developing the experience marketing mindset and looking at the big picture of how your members experience your gym, what experience you would like them to have and how you can make it better.
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