Hitting Fitness Membership Capacity
September 14, 2022
No one could have predicted just how much the pandemic would drastically affect the fitness industry, its customer acquisition and membership retention. At the onset of global lockdowns, many health clubs, gyms, studios and fitness centers were forced to close their brick-and-mortar locations due to mandated social-distancing measures in early 2020.
While a number of industry sectors were also acutely affected, the fitness industry in particular experienced a 32.45% decline in revenue during 2020 alone. Altogether, the U.S. fitness industry has lost $29.2 billion in revenue since the pandemic began, according to findings by the National Health & Fitness Alliance. The good news is that the fitness industry is projected to not only rebound but expand exponentially in the next few years. Poised for incredible post-pandemic growth, the sector is expected to grow an astonishing 171.75% to $434.74 billion in the United States by 2028.
After two years in which people social-distanced and isolated themselves at home while getting very little exercise, many people began 2022 with ambitious fitness resolutions. Turbocharged by new options, health-minded individuals were eagerly accessing convenience-based wellness and fitness apps and services offering an array of virtual workouts and classes, rather than visiting fitness facilities.
While this seismic shift towards home fitness and digital options was beneficial for consumers, this trend left many health clubs, gyms, yoga studios and fitness centers struggling with getting people to renew their memberships and returning to fitness centers in person. It also made luring in new members quite the challenge.
In a recent webinar, Mike Arce, CEO and founder of marketing agency Loud Rumor, joined Botco.ai CEO and Co-founder Rebecca Clyde to discuss the strategies for growing fitness studios from presale and marketing, to hitting membership capacity and opening new locations.
As the CEO of Loud Rumor, Arce leads an agency that’s responsible for the success of more than 2,400 fitness studios and wellness companies throughout the world. Prior to opening his agency in 2009, Arce ran his own fitness company, as well as acquired a breadth of experience opening and managing several fitness-club brands, including LA Fitness, Pure Fitness and Fitness 1.
“With more fitness-subscription options available than ever before, ranging from on-demand videos, fitness apps, live workouts to in-studio memberships, it’s easy to see why gyms and fitness studios are scrambling to entice new members,” Arce said. “Loud Rumor’s proven marketing, advertising and business development strategies help fitness studios and gyms to connect with potential members, increase membership, become more efficient and productive, and to grow and scale.”
To address these membership and operational challenges that many gyms and fitness studios are facing, Arce offers some insightful strategies.
How to boost you customer acquisition and membership retention
Think beyond just digital advertising
As the first step, Arce recommends that fitness studios and gyms stop relying so heavily on digital being the only viable platform. When advising clients and customers, Arce encourages the adoption of a well-rounded marketing plan, instead of focusing solely on social media channels like Facebook and Instagram.
“Marketing can be a powerful, revenue-generating opportunity when done right,” Arce said. “But it’s very important to go outside of digital as well.”
Arce recommends that 80% of a fitness studio’s lead flow every single month should be coming from outside of digital. These include referrals, free offers and incentives, and collaborating with other businesses within your market. Be creative with restaurants, massage therapists, chiropractors, physical therapists, acupuncture specialists and martial arts studios around you to work together to build each other’s businesses and make it a win-win situation for everyone.
Get serious about member retention
First impressions matter. If someone doesn’t have a great experience the first time they check out a fitness studio, that feeling sticks with them even if they buy a membership. From Day 1, fitness studios need to show members that they care about them and their fitness journey. This not only sets you apart from the vast majority of gyms and fitness studios out there and makes new members feel comfortable enough not just to join, but to keep coming back for months and months. Loud Rumor offers eight ways fitness studios can address attribution and retain members longer.
Hire great coaches, staff and leaders
According to Arce, recruiting is marketing. To retain more members, it’s important for fitness studios to have the right team on board. When choosing a class or fitness studio, 95% of people say the instructor is a crucial element. The instructor can make or break the class experience.
Arce recommends creating an avatar for each role in your organization that includes their age range, experience level and character traits. After building out each avatar, the next step is to create a job description that would be appealing to that particular person.
“If you’re looking for ideal people to join your fitness studio as employees, reach out to targeted individuals on LinkedIn,” Arce advises. “Engage people directly with targeted searches. Reaching out to people who currently work at other fitness studios and with specific roles is a clever approach.”
Referrals are the best way to grow membership
For a huge segment of the gym-going population, workouts are a group activity. Allowing people to bring a friend through a membership-referral program generates leads and new business. People are four times more likely to join when they’re referred by a friend, and the lifetime value is 16% higher for a referral member than a non-referral. Download Loud Rumor’s free point-of-sale referral script to learn how your fitness studio can gain 5+ referrals for every new member.
“Referrals generate infinite return,” Arce said. “Your fitness business has the potential to get referrals from referrals of referrals, and so on and so on.”
Partner with charitable organizations to grow your business
Another way to boost membership goals and retention rates is to connect emotionally with your members through a shared cause. It also positions your fitness studio as a great place to work. When choosing between two brands, 73% of U.S. consumers are likely to switch to a cause-branded product. And when quality and price are equal between competing brands, social purpose is the No. 1 deciding factor for consumers globally.
Causely helps fitness studios support charities and build their Facebook presence simultaneously. Every time someone checks in to your fitness studio on social media, Causely donates funds to a hand-picked charity. Not only do you get the exposure that comes from your members checking in online, but you also play a part in making the world a better place.
“The reality is, many people want to donate and do good things for other people,” Arce said. “The problem is, not everybody believes they can make a dent just by themselves. People like to be a part of a bigger purpose. It gives people social points when they donate or when they do something good.”
Stay connected with customer-engagement strategies
According to a study by the Fitness Industry Association, how often someone shows up during their first month plays a huge role in how long they’ll stay on as a paying member. The study found that while attendance drops off across all groups during the first six months, members who attend only once a week for the first month were the first people to stop coming. Which is why it’s crucial to follow up with someone after their first visit to your fitness studio. Be sure to send a follow-up email to ask how they’re feeling after their initial workout. Remind them to come back in to finish out the trial period, and offer some helpful tips for post-workout recovery.
Chatbots are also redefining customer engagement for the fitness industry. Botco.ai, a conversational-automation solution for the health and wellness industry, utilizes cutting-edge AI technology to create personalized conversations, answer questions without increasing call volume, and converts two times more of your website traffic. AI-powered chatbots deliver real conversations and better customer engagement for potential members and existing customers. There’s no waiting on hold for a live agent, ever. Your customers and prospects get the answers they need in real time.
When it comes to digital leads, the rule of thumb is to call leads within five minutes of that lead actually coming in. Utilizing SMS (short message service) marketing software, also known as business text messaging software, enables fitness studios to plan and implement marketing campaigns that target mobile devices.
I like automated SMS is because you can literally reach out to somebody within a few minutes of that person opting in,” Arce said. “It triggers after 30 seconds with an automated text, and now you’re engaged in a conversation versus putting it off until later and the prospect forgets all about it.”
Arce added, “SMS is important, but it’s only a tool. It’s not valuable if you’re not using the tool correctly.”
These strategies make a great foundation for getting more members for your fitness studio. Follow these steps and you can’t go wrong. If you’d like to learn how to integrate conversational-automation solutions and AI technology into your fitness studio or to see a product demo from Botco.ai, schedule a call or email Botco.ai at firstname.lastname@example.org.