No two individuals want the exact same experience from joining a gym. Likewise, no two gyms offer the same atmosphere and experience to their customers.
Trying to please everyone is needlessly complicated and may actually undermine your authority as a "specialist" in a certain fitness niche. For example, no one goes to a box gym chain expecting world-class martial arts training, and no one would go to an old school boxing or lifting gym wanting to join a spinningclass.
Your atmosphere tells your customers what your gym is all about. The fitness niches your trainers excel in, the services yourcustomers are likely to find in your facility, and even the likely cost of a membership are just some of the factors communicatedby the ambience your establishment gives off.
So, what kind of ambience does your clientele expect?
Knowing this can help you specialize and maximize the appeal to the specific demographic that forms the backbone of all of your memberships.
Here are a few of the most common "types" of gyms and the customer base that will likely be attracted to them.
Old school gym grunge
This one is a classic. Picture the old-fashioned boxing or lifting gyms from action movies. No-nonsense workout equipment designed for function over fashion, high-quality barbells still going strong after decades in use, and patrons interested in getting fit and strong are all you’re going to find here.
Though it can be tempting to lump this kind of old-school gym into the stereotype of being a boys’ club – and in some cases, that’s exactly what members will be looking for – modern women’s fitness trends have women seeking out places just like this where they can lift heavy weights in peace and get a great, solid workout.
If this is the type of gym you offer, don’t give in to pressure to conform to mainstream box-gym styles. Lean into your niche and embrace the classic charm your members enjoy. As long as you’re staying on top of important maintenance and cleaning, your clientele likely won’t mind some dim lighting or torn edges on a weight bench. After all, that’s what makes it obvious that the equipment is well-loved and used.
Clean, sleek, and modern
On the exact opposite end of the spectrum, you’ll find the modern box gym. Fancy, state of the art weight machines arefavored over classic barbell and rack setups, and features like a coffee bar or daycare will be likely to thrive near entry and exit points.
The people who join this type of gym are probably happy to hop on an elliptical for some cardio after they hit their bi-weekly boot camp class.
To appeal to this user base, you will need to offer a good blend of convenience with quality. Have enough equipment on standby so your members don’t have to wait and miss their 30-minute lunch-break workout session, and stay on top of equipment maintenance. Torn or frayed cloth benches would not be welcome here. For the general population, aesthetics matter.
Body positivity/no judgment gyms
In a world struggling through an obesity epidemic, gyms that offer a judgement-free workout experience are only going to be growing in popularity.
Friendly trainers, an empowering weight-loss oriented community, and several "easy" options for total beginners to get started with a workout program will all help your gym excel if you choose to specialize in this niche.
Consider that many clients who are overweight will often have a number of "hidden" anxieties and insecurities that are holding them back. If you can address these issues without your gym members having to ask, you will be miles ahead of the competition. Things like posting the upper weight limits of equipment, keeping plenty of space between equipment for people to walk, and separating sections of your gym with dividers for a bit of extra privacy during workouts can help ease the mind of someone who might otherwise talk themselves out of getting started.
Group training and classes
Most gyms offer a mix of classes and independent workout opportunities. Though you will probably still provide equipment for users to walk in and do a solo session, you may find that your gym has moved heavily toward group training as a niche.
You can maximize your group appeal by clearly posting class schedules across a wide variety of specialties and time slots. Members will want to be able to look at the schedule board or check class times online before they show up.
If at all possible, keep time slots consistent. If a member wants to come to cardio kickboxing on a regular basis, he should know with certainty that he should plan for Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6pm, for example.
Your gym may specialize with what kinds of classes you offer. If you have several talented martial arts trainers on staff, for example, you may cycle through Karate, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and other similar offerings.
Other gyms go the route of offering everything but the kitchen sink – spinning, boot camps, belly dancing, yoga, etc. – to draw in a huge array of clients across many specialties. This approach is also fine, as long as your trainers are well-qualified to teach each class and are up for the challenge!
If your gym does offer a standard gym floor with equipment for solo workout sessions, use every opportunity to promote your group classes and encourage a social atmosphere. Ask your trainers to stay active, walking around and assisting people as needed. Post signs for your members to ask if they need a spotter or any advice on a particular exercise. Post clear signs advertising class schedules, and encourage any members who do ask for help to join in on a relevant group to learn even more about the area they needed help with.
Your own unique style
Of course, there are as many "types" of gym as there are gyms in the world. If yours offers a unique, fresh perspective on something that your members seem to be enjoying, consider focusing more heavily on that. Standing out from the competition is a matter of offering something that clients can’t get anywhere else, and doing it well.
Part of being a business owner is experimenting a bit and finding out where you fit in your market. If you’re just getting started with this process, don’t be overwhelmed. You’d be surprised about the feedback you will get from your members. Soon, you will be steering your business in new, exciting directions.