Experience And Community from Shared Values
There is a level beyond converting prospects into members and inspiring them to keep coming back. That is where your club is the center of a community of people who love fitness and who associate your gym with connectedness.
There are three authentic values at the core of your gym business. Fostering all three of these is something you have to do to succeed as a competitor in the fitness profession, and it all filters down to transforming your club into a community.
Build Communities for People
The guys and gals who are super-committed to fitness don’t need much encouragement to bring them in and keep them coming back. For everyone else, you need to plug into these three driving values of fitness.While people want fitness and may feel compelled to workout to one degree or another, it’s cleanliness, hope, and a sense of connectedness that keeps them committed.
A gym, like any other collection of people, has a culture, a vibe or dominant persona that represents the personality that will fit in most comfortably. If you have bootstrapped your way this far, you can certainly take it the rest of the way to build rock-solid bonds between people and max out your retention rate.
Community in A Box
If you’ve got cash, credit, or willing investors, you can leverage other communities. The one quickest way in is to tie your gym to an existing culture. You can join a branded franchise, one of the many well-known and established names in the fitness business like Gold’s Gym for example.
When the name that you put over your door is a familiar entity, it will define who you are and the expectations of new members. Fitness franchise companies like Gold’s who’ve been around for decades, can teach you to build a community without making mistakes, and more quickly too.
Networking Skills to Put Muscle Into Your Community
Setting the right tone, actively marketing and working to sell memberships are just the first few steps. Once you begin to grow the membership and filling the floor, you can focus on other, integrative social activities break the ice and build a network of connections.
Consider the concept of Servant Leadership as defined by Robert Greenleaf, which is very useful when you have a following that’s motivated and engaged. The role of the servant leader is, not surprisingly, as a facilitator and supporter. You allow people to play their roles and provide the help and guidance to make their work run smoothly.
Battling The Big Box Machine
If you’re building a fitness club on a tight budget in a competitive market, you can’t take on the big box gym brands directly. However, you have some things that they can’t compete with either.
As a company grows, it gains much, but it also loses the personal touch. When you get to the point where senior management is some vaguely known and scary entity in the distance, the frontline has more to worry about than the experience they create for members.
I suspect this was a significant factor in the decline of Bally Fitness, where a big-name brand faded dramatically once the company lost its shine.
When you don’t fear the corporate head office looking over your shoulder, you can escape from the CYA attitude of corporate bureaucracy and build an authentic membership community that shares common goals, a sense of pride in membership and a welcoming attitude to new members.
The Meaning of A Network
The relationships you build individually are paths in your network. You are a node with connections; all of your contacts are also nodes with many links beyond you.
Your leadership and relationships will make your members your best salespeople; they’ll be ambassadors for your brand, and that’s the most cost-effective marketing strategy you could ever want. When members are out singing your praises and recommending your gym to anyone who’ll listen, they’re not likely to suddenly cancel their memberships either.
Building a community by networking directly with people helps recruitment and retention at the same time. As a leader, you’re going to relate to both your employees and members in a way that brings them together and sets the standard and tone.
- Listen to what your members have to say
- Host events and activities
- Create social media groups and encourage engagement
- Highlight successes and help members to praise each other when they reach goals and win victories
A community grows when members feel that they are alike and share common goals. You can foster that sense by setting the goals for them and networking with them individually win buy-in from them. While your plans and projects have to appeal to members and be credible, with leadership and connectedness, there are no limits to what you can do.
Fagan, Lawrence. Client Retention Habits To Get Your Fitness Club Through The Slow Times. December 14, 2017. https://blog.gyminsight.com/4776-client-retention-habits-to-get-your-fitness-club-through-the-slow-times/ (accessed December 29, 2017).
—. Know Your Gym’s Mission. February 17, 2104. https://blog.gyminsight.com/2444-who-are-you-a-foundation-of-values/ (accessed February 7, 2018).
Goldman, Stuart. It Looks Like Bally Is Going…Going…Gone? December 16, 2014. http://www.clubindustry.com/blog/it-looks-bally-going-going-gone (accessed February 7, 2018).
Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. What is Servant Leadership? https://www.greenleaf.org/what-is-servant-leadership/ (accessed February 7, 2018).