The fitness center industry is competitive. This type of venture has been a mainstay for decades, dating back to 1936 when Jack LaLanne opened the first modern health spa. Enterprises established to help people stay fit have emerged in shopping centers, corporate facilities and vacation resorts. Marketing strategy has evolved to compete and create a more welcoming environment. This is where it gets tricky. What makes members want to come back and bring their friends?
Why Do Gym Members Stay and Refer Others?
The answer to this question is what every gym owner wants to know and is simply this: give the members what they want. Failure to recognize members as unique individuals is a fatal mistake in the fitness industry where the tendency is to assume fitness is the common goal; sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Perhaps for some but quantifiable fitness objectives do not suit everyone’s personality.
To illustrate, some gyms require members at sign-up to set fitness goals or schedule one session with a trainer as a prerequisite, even if the member’s only goal is a lunch hour break on the treadmill or a Yoga class at the end of the day to wind down. A hard sell of other products or services can backfire, leading to verbal or nonverbal reactions: “Just show me the facility and stop trying to sell me add-ons”.
Then there are the dance class participants. Not everyone who takes a dance class wants to lose weight, get healthy or become a good dancer. Some class members simply enjoy movement or group settings. There are shy students embarrassed when a well-intentioned instructor singles them out to correct form or steps. Teachers have a natural inclination towards constructive criticism but may inadvertently reinforce reservations a participant had about signing up for the class, leading them straight for the door.
Range of Reasons to Join a Gym or Not
Many people join a gym purely for social purposes. A gym membership can be a modern-day version of the Friday night Mahjong or poker game; a gathering place to meet family members, renew old friendships or launch a new social circle. These are commonly the members who wince every time a staff member mentions weight loss or nutrition.
Gym shoppers with a desire to lose weight are easy targets for the misconception that the only change they need is more exercise. Marketing the facility as a weight loss solution may entice this type of prospect to join; a recipe for disappointment if no other lifestyle behaviors are modified. Some club owners respond by marketing a diet plan. Consider the adverse effect when the concept of dieting is perceived as pressure and the primary reason for being there is stress reduction.
Embrace Individuality in Fitness Motivation
It would be prudent for fitness business management to understand the varying intentions and motivations that lead people to sign up for, continue and refer a gym membership. Those who create fitness environments, in the form of ownership, management or instruction, would best serve their clientele by staying in tune with individual needs and avoiding the one-size-fits all approach to customer service delivery. Foster a culture where all are welcome, regardless of why they are there, to sustain a happy crowd who returns with others in tow.