How likely are your members to keep coming back to you if you expose them to misinformation? Fitness trends are constantly changing, you want stay up-to-date with the most current health and wellness news. It’s not enough to rely solely on your own professional education. In order to stay ahead of the game, you should be in the know on what professional journals, publications and your clients themselves are saying. Being on top of these funnels of information will allow you to become the fact checker, refute any misinformation printed by these publications, and establish yourself as an expert. If clients feel you are the most reliable source, they will turn to you for advice on proper fitness, exercise and nutrition practices.
Be fair, but firm
We’re all only human, which means certain situations can arise where you may need to bend the rules a bit. If you find yourself in this positon, make sure your clients are aware you are bending a policy. For example, if you have a 24-hour cancellation policy but you decide not to charge someone due to illness, be sure they are aware that you are bending this policy for them this ONE TIME but it will not be tolerated going forward.
Have Trainers Assign Homework
Make your sessions last longer by continuing them outside the facility. Clients should be given certain instructions or things to focus on when they are on their own time as well. Give them mini exercises to practice at home, or require them to keep a food and workout journal. Breathing exercises, posture activities and meditation activities are some other great examples to try. Clients can discuss or show what they tracked during their next session or communicate with trainers via email.
Continue Education of Trainers and Staff
Knowledge is power. While the organizations your trainers obtained their certifications from will inform them of what they need to do to keep it current, your trainers need to continue their education in other ways as well. They can easily do this by reading verified fitness journals and publications, as well as attending classes, conventions and conferences to stay on top of fitness trends and news. These are all investments in your business, not expenses.Li
For those of you who were using our older Package Plans, you were basically going in and filling out all the necessary information: from the number of sessions to the dates and time, pricing, etc. All information basically needed to be filled out at the time of sale.
The updated Package Plans feature changes that process. Our Redesigned Package Plans will allow you to preset your usual package details prior to selling, so when it does come time for the sale—it’s ready and done—in just a few steps.
How is the new Package Plans feature?
It’s a great improvement compared to what you’ve been used to. The benefits of the new Package Plans eliminates a lot of steps during the sale, which was the goal when designing the updates to the new Package Plans feature. More steps when setting up, less steps when selling. That is our goal with Package Plans.
What can you expect from the New Package Plans feature?
Ability to set end dates and auto calculate the package length
Bug fixes brought to our attention during the opt-in period
Documents can be added to packages
Clients can agree to the document during the sale of the package
Members can sign documents electronically using signature pad, touch screen, or mouse
Capability to effortlessly create predetermined plans using a 2-3 step wizard • Ability to quickly sell packages using a 3-step wizard
Flexible billing installment possibilities for your clients
The following is an EZFacility blog that was printed in the National Fitness Trade Journal Spring 2017 edition.
Manager, Director, Leader. These are some titles you’ve earned before becoming the business owner. As the business owner, you have effectively attained the right to control your business identity, and every business owner of course, should have control.
The funny thing is though, clients want control too and in today’s digital environment there are many ways to pull off the ol’ smoke and mirrors trick to keep clients happy while still guiding the identity of your business.
But this is where we should stop.
A big aspect of your business identity is its relationship with your clients. Tricks should never be an approach to any relationship not the start of an honest business. It should also never become a last resort for any matter of business because then the business identity turns into The Ventriloquist, making clients “believe they are in charge” when they’re actually the dummy, thus increasing the risk of a fallout.
The Big Game is almost here and it can really help your business. Yes, that’s absolutely right. As long as you tread extra carefully from using trademarked words such as “Super Bowl”, the Big Game can help improve the status of your business. The idea of celebrating while presenting your business may sound like a huge multitasking feat-but with the help of social media, the idea is a lot easier (and even fun) to accomplish. Here’s how you can get started right away.
Words and Phrases To Use On Social Media Posts: The Big Game, The Big Day, The Big Football Game, Pro Football Championship, American Football, The Game, Football Fun, etc.
Facebook Live is Your TV
A 30 second TV advertisement during the Super Bowl can cost as much as 5 million while videos shared on Facebook can cost a total of nothing. According to Salesforce, 73% of Super Bowl viewers use two devices while watching the game.This allows a wonderful opportunity to use Facebook and its many methods of post engagement, namely Facebook Live. By going candid, clients will be drawn in by a casual aura-and it doesn’t have to be a long video. It could be a 10-second clip of asking gym patrons for a cheer vote of their Pro Football Championship winner.
Twitter is Your Radio
In a statistic run of Twitters activity, audience views during Super Bowl 50 were at 4.3 billion. One way to take advantage of Twitter during the game is through the rotation of play by play tweets known as live tweeting. Note that the The Big Day doesn’t have to be the main event of a live tweeting session, especially if you want to put your business directly in the spotlight and not beside it. Think Budweiser (Yes Really) According to a 2012 study from the American Veterinary Medical Association, 36.5 percent of the United States population own dogs. It’s possible Budweiser was aware of this when they added a puppy to their iconic Clydesdale in their latest commercial hit. (Fun fact: the Clydesdale was first introduced in 1933 during the end of the Prohibition Era as a method of transportation. As of this time, it is now recognized as a promotional symbol.) It’s important to recognize what Budweiser has done better than other businesses, and that is creating and maintaining a good business icon. The steps to establishing a mascot tend to be costly but with free-to-use social media platforms at your disposal, there’s nothing to lose when you put your pet on camera.
The Power of Food
According to the National Retail Foundation, viewers of Super Bowl 50 spent an average of $82.19 on food, team apparel, and decorations. Another zero cost strategy would be to share a healthy game day recipe on social media. You can even take the project one leap further and post your own how-to video across Facebook and Twitter. If the content resonates with fans, use it for other popular events and holidays. (And congratulations by the way, you got yourself a theme going!) Contests One of the best ways to ensure client engagement on social media is by using the words “contest” or “prizes”. With some imaginative thinking, you can turn the next Big Game into an effortless marketing campaign for your business facility without giving up a single penny.
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard about the new augmented mobile app exploration game, Pokémon Go, that has become an almost overnight sensation.
Downloads of the game have surpassed even the most well-known apps, including Tinder, Snapchat and Bumble and it’s percentage of daily active users has doubled that of Twitter. Users around the world are spending a shocking amount of time travelling around communities, visiting local restaurants, stores, and other businesses in their search for Pokémon. Some even go so far as driving to other nearby towns in attempts to “catch” more rare types of Pokémon.
Many businesses, both big and small have caught on to the possibilities of this growing phenomenon and are capitalizing on it by using creative marketing campaigns and app purchases to drive large amounts of traffic through their doors, with the ultimate goal of converting players into paying customers.
Health Clubs can easily jump on this growing craze at virtually no cost and with minimum allocation of time and resources–all you need to do is know how to play the game.
There are many different ways you can use Pokémon Go to attract local players to your location and, hopefully, convert them into paying customers.
1. Is your Club a “Gym” or a “PokeStop”? The two types of locations this game that attract players in droves are called Gyms and PokeStops. Thus, either of these locations can be used in any strategy you choose to promote colossal sales. Pokémon Go runs off of an augmented reality HUD (also known as a heads-up display) of the real world. Each player creates an avatar “trainer” in the game that explores the virtual world as they navigate the real one. Players flock to PokeStops to collect rewards, collect Pokeballs and collect potions. PokeStops are usually buildings or businesses (in the real world). Although there is no official map that lists and locates all the Gyms and PokeStops, players have uncovered a workaround by using a searchable world map developed for another game by Niantic called “Ingress”. Players realized that the map for Ingress maps almost every PokeStop and Gym, the only difference being they are known as “portals” in Ingress.
To access this map, install the Ingress app on your phone and sign in with your google account. (If you don’t have one it’s very simple to make one and takes very little time). Once set up, you will be directed to a searchable map with all the listed “portals” which, again, are actually Gyms or PokeStops.
While many of these stops are businesses, even if you’re isn’t, there is most likely a PokeStop or Gym nearby that will still drive traffic your way.
2. Host a Lure party! Many businesses are jumping on this marketing strategy. Here’s how it works. A “lure module” is something you can buy in the app to lure wild Pokémon to a location, which, needless to say, attracts players to that location as well.
Businesses typically will buy a package of lure modules and advertise a “Pokémon Go Lure Party” for one night. Each lure is active for 30 minutes so businesses will set them to be back-t- back in order to attract the most amount of players possible for the entirety of the party. This can be extremely effective if your business is or is near a PokeStop. It’s easy to set up and costs virtually nothing. Let’s break down the cost just to show how little you need to spend to reap massive rewards:
Let’s say you decide to spend $100. This gives you about 14,500 Pokecoins which is the in-game currency. An eight-pack of Lures costs about 680 Pokecoins. Let’s break this down some more to see the real ROI this presents:
14,500 Pokecoins/680 = 21 eight-packs of Lures
(21*8)/2 = 84 Hours
$100/84 hours = $1.19 per hour
So, at the price of about a dollar per hour, you can attract crowds of players to your place of business. We also recommend offering special deals for Lure Party attendees to encourage even more participation.
3. If you are located near a Poke Gym, host a Battle! There are three different “Teams” that “trainers” (users) can be a part of in the game. These teams are called Mystic, Valor and Mystic. Teams “battle” each other at PokeGyms and the winning team “takes control” of that gym. As a result of this, users are constantly meeting at gyms anyway, so there is no need to purchase Lures, so you’ll have a constant influx of new potential customers.
To find out if your business is close to a gym, you can refer back to that Ingress map or open the game in your phone and look for tall building-like structures with Pokémon at the top. They are pretty hard to miss so you will see right away which ones are closest to your location. Businesses can take advantage of these PokeGyms in a number of different ways. Most of these methods rely on some creative marketing on your part. Here are just a few ideas:
Customized Pokémon Gym Badges: Everyone loves getting free stuff. You can easily customize these badges to incorporate your business name and logo when ordering from a supplier. Simply search online for “Pokémon Gym Badge” and “custom orders” to find suppliers.
Winner Discounts: Advertise which team has current control of your gym and offer discounts on memberships, packages, merchandise, etc for that team. You can do this on a poster, sandwich board, or any other physical advertising materials you have at your disposal.
Utilize Social Media: I’m sure by now you’ve seen followers on facebook posting screenshots of the game. Follow their example and post ongoing battles with searchable hashtags such as #pokemongo or #teamvalor.
Organize a PokeHunt: Here’s another example of a lucrative creative marketing tactic. This strategy is allows for a little more flexibility as it doesn’t rely solely on how close your business is to a Pokestop or Pokegym. Organize a Pokémon hunt that ends at your businesses with an after party to make a lasting impression and facilitate brand recognition. This is fairly simple to set up as it just requires an advertisement stating the start time of the hunt. Allow time for players to show up, and then have your staff (wearing your logo of course) lead them on this excursion. This is a really great way to promote brand awareness and establish your business as an inviting community that players or potential clients want to return to.
Social Media Deals: Last but not least, offer discounts for clients who post pictures of Pokémon they find at or around your facility with a hashtag that names your business. This spreads awareness on social media and let’s other players know what types of Pokémon are near you.
While it is still in its early stages, the Pokémon Go app has already presented numerous possibilities for businesses both big and small. As new updates and developments are added to the game, the opportunities will only continue to grow. If you’re business hasn’t jumped on the Pokémon Go band-wagon, it’s about time you started!
I’ve addressed this area before, but I cannot stress enough how crucial social media is to your fitness or sports business. Last time in my blog, 8 Best Practices For Promoting Your Business On Social Media, I spoke about all the tactics you SHOULD be using with your various social media platforms. But, what is also, if not more important, is what you should be making sure NOT to do.
The following is a list of major “DON’Ts” to abide by in the digital space.
1. Sending automated twitter messages to new followers.
I know it’s hard to avoid the siren call of “automated” anything. Let’s face it, we don’t want to waste time individualizing each reply, but, believe me when I tell you it goes a long way. I can’t even tell you how many times I have received an automated reply that goes something like this:
“Thanks for the follow! Get my free e-book here!” or, “Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc., or my favorite, “How have you stayed motivated this week, download my blah blah blah.”
The point is, automated messages–no matter how witty and clever you think they are– give the impression that 1. I am just a number 2. You just want to clog my inbox with promotional materials instead of get to know me and my specific needs and 3. I am just not intelligent enough to realize this is an automated message and you don’t really care how motivated I was this week.
Key Takeaway: Automated messages are no beuno.
2. Grammatical Errors.
You may think it’s no big deal to make a mistake here or there, but if you think your followers aren’t judging you for each wrong use of “there”, “their”, and “they’re”, you’re dead wrong. Also consider your client demographic. Do you work in a high-end gym or boutique? If you do, grammatical errors can be extremely off-putting.
3. Responding to public negative feedback in a condescending or defensive manner.
Even if the feedback is completely untrue, responding in a kind, gracious manner makes you look really good. Getting into long-winded debates over what did or didn’t happen and what is or isn’t true not only leaves a sour taste in this complaintant’s mouth but also for your other followers and potential clients. Be the bigger man (or woman) and take this feedback as constructive criticism. It helps to think of complaints as gifts. For every person that voices a complaint, there are probably at least a dozen others with the same complaint who would rather leave than voice their concerns. Use this negative feedback as constructive criticism to improve on and build your brand and business.
4. Not having a “like” or “follow” button on your business website.
Do we even need to explain?
5. Not taking interview requests.
Interviews are a fantastic way to promote your business! Always say yes and always respond in a timely fashion. Even if the publication asking for an interview isn’t industry-specific, you are still reaching a variety of audiences and the more your brand is out there circulating, the more publicity and attention your business will get. Plus, while the interviewer may be from a smaller publication now, that doesn’t mean they will stay that way forever! And, on the same note, when the press publishes nice things about you, make sure to acknowledge them in a gracious manner. Keep that positive rapport going to capitalize on possible future feature pieces.
6. Not responding to tweets/posts/comments from people who are NOT followers.
This an opportunity to build a relationship with non-clients. Interact with these users, educate them about your brand and mission (without shoving it in their face) and eventually they just may become clients.
7. Failure to acknowledge bloggers/publications in your local area.
Follow them, repost their relevant content, like the heck out of their posts and invite them to participate in events and social functions at your facility. Start small and target local channels before attempting to step into the big leagues.
8. Having no social media presence at all.
This should go without saying—especially in a world where almost everyone is online and on some form of digital platform. The benefits of promoting your brand on these different channels is astronomical and should NOT be ignored. This is the easiest way to tap into a myriad of audiences from different demographics. While you’re at it, start up a blog too and develop a consistent schedule so subscribers know what to expect each week.
Can you believe we are already half-way through 2016? We’ve gathered up 4 of the latest fitness trends that have surfaced this year as well as what’s to come.
1. Exercise as an Experience
This developing trend views fitness as a lifestyle rather than a painful chore to “get over with” before moving on to more enjoyable activities. You may have noticed the emergence of smaller, specialized, boutique studios such as Crossfit, yoga, boxing, MMA and indoor cycling in recent years. This trend is a direct result of clients looking to get stronger, fitter and participate in a more social, intimate, and less stressful environment. Studies have proven that partner workouts or workouts done with a friend produce better fitness results and increase client motivation to reach fitness goals. These smaller studios provide a place where people with similar interests and fitness goals can come together and view exercise as a social and enjoyable experience. That’s not to say larger health clubs can’t tap into this specialized fitness trend. Many facilities are incorporating these boutique classes into their list of offerings. For example, there has been a notable increase in large gyms adding Zumba classes, boot camps, barre classes, and ever increasingly popular themed races and outdoor obstacles to establish their facility as a hub that people are drawn to have an atypical, community experience outside the gym walls. There has also been an increase in demand for body weight training exercises (which actually ranked No. 2 as a trend to watch for 2016 and beyond) as well as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) which involves short burst of high energy exercises followed by short periods of rest and is crammed into a 25 to 30 minute workout. Clients are looking for a less time consuming workout that they can easily fit into their work and social schedule that still produces almost immediate results.
2. Professional Trainers and Instructors
Gone are the days when fresh out of college staff are sufficient enough to teach clients proper form and offer fitness advice. Credentials matter. Recently, professionals certified by ACE or ACSM and other recognized agencies are in high demand. Health clubs should strive to ensure at least half of their staff includes individuals with certifications from accredited agencies. These trainers are able to challenge customers, keep them safe AND develop workouts tailored to a client’s needs. When clients see results, this increases their motivation to reach their goals and they’re willingness to keep coming back to your club! The focus should be on developing trust between trainers and members rather than spending the majority of their time recruiting new clients.
3. Functional Fitness
To put it simply, clients will get bored of the same old routines, so switch it up! Keeping workouts fresh will keep members motivated and enable faster fitness results. Interval training has been shown to be extremely successful as it allows the combination of different exercise methods to create versatile workouts. Some of the most popular examples include body weight training with elliptical running, indoor cycling with boxing, strength training and rowing and more. The key is to provide trainers with as many workout methods as possible to keep clients interested and dedicated.
4. Think outside the box…err we mean gym!
In the world of smartphones and social media, we are more connected than ever before. This means that trainers can influence client lifestyles and continue to assist with fitness goals outside of the gym. Apps that track nutrition choices, out-of-the-gym physical activities, heartrates and more are being adopted by health clubs to help trainers add value to existing workout regimes.
Additionally, clubs have begun adding outdoor activities such as obstacle course training, boot camps, marathon prep training, and sports league pre-season training to their repertoires. This is a great way to connect with clients’ interests outside the gym!
The key thing to take away from all of this is to keep the big picture in mind. If you are considering adding one or all of these trends to your club, understand that this is an ongoing social experience that will need to be constantly updated year to year. Give clients as many opportunities as possible to find their fitness niche, have an enjoyable and successful workout experience, and establish yourself as a trusted health and wellness community hub.
If you are a human living on planet Earth, chances are you pay a LOT of monthly bills. You have your car payments, your cable bills, cell phone bills, mortgage or monthly rent and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t have Netflix these days? With all of these obligatory payments each month, chances are you are going to be extremely picky about how you spend your precious leftover income. A recent study found in the fitness industry that most people who cancel their gym membership –for reasons other than relocation or medical issues—do so because they aren’t utilizing their membership to its full potential and are sick of watching their monthly dues sucked from hard-earned paychecks.
With the rise of boutique clubs offering loyaly programs and services at lower prices, gym owners are now put on the spot to create rewarding experiences and perceived value for members. The cost to save a member is much less than the cost of acquiring a new member, so there is a tremendous benefit in having a set of efforts, activities, and resources allocated to trying to prolong the experience with the existing member. Now, more than ever before, gym owners need to focus on making clients feel motivated and confident in their gym membership investment.
So, how can fitness facilities compete with lower-priced alternatives and meet member retention challenges head on? Here are 5 key gym membership retention strategies to increase loyalty and customer satisfaction:
1. Exceptional Onboarding Process and the Right Staff.
Start off on the right foot and straight off the bat. You don’t want members to feel lost, intimidated or overwhelmed when they first sign. Make it a policy to place a personal phone call to a client two days after they join or send them a handwritten postcard. Let them know that your club is full of friendly people that are easy to connect and relate to! When it comes to hiring your coaches or personal trainers, focus on quality over quantity. A critical component of exceptional customer experiences is matching a client with the right trainer and allowing for smooth connections with other members. Hire people who are great listeners and fully committed to keeping in line with your club’s image and goals. Trainers should easily be able to identify client needs and interests. For example, if a client is into group classes, trainers should know to pair them up with other attendees and create a mini “fit fam” they can turn to for support and help to reach their goals. It’s also important to avoid “friction points” during the onboarding process and the first few weeks. For example, avoid frustrating situations such as forgetting to give them their membership cards or neglecting to teach them how to book a class or use equipment properly. You must give them the tools to succeed in order to build customer loyalty to increase retention.
Who doesn’t like presents? Offer rewards and incentives to keep clients coming back. This is extremely critical for the first few weeks and months. Offer a $25 reward for attending a trainer’s program or for getting their picture taken. Offer a free class to clients who attend classes twice a week for 60 days, or 3 free PT sessions once they reach 3 months. Maybe after one month, you give them one month free (who doesn’t like free!) or a special discount at your smoothie station—the possibilities are endless. The point is, you need to keep your clients interested and perceive the value of returning to your club.
3. The 21-Day Rule and Effective Software for Tracking Activity
One of the most frustrating issues clubs face is figuring out WHY a client leaves. Most of the time, it could have been anything. Did they dislike one of your instructors? Was the music too loud? Did they face gymtimidation? WHAT WAS IT? The challenge is your lack of information. Aside from asking how a client is doing every time they sign-in at the front desk, how can you track client activity and identify “fragile” members before they leave?
The solution here is an all-in-one management software. Most gym software out there has more sophisticated tracking tools that will allow you to identify information such as who hasn’t been visiting your gym as often. Once you have this precious information, you can start putting together a strategy to interact and re-engage them. You can also use sophisticated tracking tools to easily see which classes have the highest attendance and focus your marketing efforts on promoting them even more.
Using these tools, you can then implement the 21-day rule. The rule is simple: if a member has not visited your facility after a full 21 days, your club reaches out to re-engage them. Be sure to establish a membership retention team to reach out 21 –days, 60 days or even once per quarter. Methods of re-engagement can range from sending an encouraging email to personally checking up on the client the next time they attend a class. Your goal is to reignite their motivation to be a part of your club’s culture and “family”.
4. Cutting Edge Fitness Center Classes
Last but not least, offer fitness classes and programs catered directly to your gym member’s interests. Keep on top of trends! Want to compete with that boutique Crossfit gym down the road? Offer Crossfit classes and, while you’re at it, create a Groupon to encourage clients to bring a friend! Do your research to make sure you remain on the cutting edge.
These are just some tried and true tactics to combat retention issues; but in reality, the possibilities are endless. Start with these 5 key tips and use what works best for YOUR facility. Need help making your fitness center or gym more efficient? Check out our gym management software.
Remember a little something called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010? This federal statute has completely changed the landscape of corporate fitness programs. In an effort to reduce health insurance costs, the ACA established new incentives and policies to increase the accountability to corporate fitness and wellness programs.
These incentives can be broken down to two types of programs:
Activity –Based: With “activity-only” programs, employees simply have to engage in a certain activity in order to be rewarded. For example, employees might be required to run for 45 minutes three days a week, follow a particular exercise plan, or stick to a strict diet. The point is, they don’t have to reach a specific weight, measurement or numerical goal to be rewarded.
Outcome-Based: This type of program requires employees to attain a specific wellness goal. This can include hitting a specific numerical goal, such as weight, BMI or blood pressure measurement. This can also mean quitting smoking or drinking. When employees achieve their measurable goal, the benefits kick in. Some corporate programs will issue up to 30% in refunds when a goal is met.
What does this mean for fitness clubs?
Well, first of all, if your club currently doesn’t offer corporate wellness memberships, you are missing out on some serious revenue. To keep up with ever-changing corporate programs, clubs have had to rethink their programming and product strategies. Clubs must offer outcome-based membership programs that include efficient documentation of results. Club operators must track everything from participation to outcomes including biometrics, health improvements, smoking cessation, etc. so that corporations can present these results in comprehensive formats for insurers.
Health facilities can capitalize on this new trend in corporate fitness incentives. Instead of just offering corporate memberships with lower pricing, clubs can work with corporate HR departments to add certain programs and services to these memberships in order to add value and increase the company’s wellness benefits. For example, one company worked with a client corporation to create a 12-week program that aimed to lower cholesterol. Employees that participated in the program reduced their cholesterol by 5%, resulting in about $18,618 in healthcare savings for their company. Clubs can also work with corporations to create competitions. For example, create a weight-loss competition where the team wins a monetary prize and a full refund of their registration fees if they maintain their weight for a specified amount of time. The possibilities are endless!
The goal is to establish your club as a valuable centerpiece to the companies’ wellness program. Don’t simply watch from the sidelines. Set up your club to be part of the ongoing effort to promote health and wellness in the work environment. It’s not going away any time soon!
It’s no longer a secret that blogging is one of the most important features on your website if your goal is to improve SEO, increase conversion rates, and generate leads.
97 Display manages hundreds of fitness websites globally, and our most successful clients have a few things in common, one of which is that they all blog.
Blogging doesn’t have to be scary. Many of our clients aren’t professional writers and fear that the content they produce won’t be helpful or that people simply won’t read it. Ultimately they fear wasting their time over something that may not generate any immediate results. But the fact is that blogging can be used for technical and SEO benefits… not just for audience education. This means that even if no one ever reads your blog it can still be beneficial to your website! Let’s discover 3 ways to supercharge your blog for SEO:
1. Backlinks & Sitelinks
Your blog is one of the most natural ways to include large numbers of backlinks & sitelinks on your website.
Backlinks: hyperlinks on your website to other URLS (such as your social media business profiles)
Sitelinks: Hyperlinks on your page to other pages on your website (such as “click here to view our new schedule)
Backlinks and Sitelinks are beneficial to your SEO because it communicates to Google specific keywords that your URL is talking about. The more backlinks & sitelinks, the more confident search engines are about the content on your site and the more likely you will rank higher in search engines.
One of my favorite way to naturally include backlinks on your blog is to end EVERY blog post with this:
“Learn more at our social media channels!
Timothy’s Fitness Facebook Page
Timothy’s Fitness Twitter Page
Timothy’s Fitness Google+ Page”
Where each of the lines hyperlink directly to the respective social media page.
BUT DON’T STOP THERE!
Next: Go to each other the social media channels and link back to that specific blog post.
● Facebook: New blog post! Learn more about our group training spring schedule:
This will create a web of links back and forth between your blog and your social media channels.
Get into the habit of doing this! Over time you’ll build a strong web of backlinks between your website URL and your social media channels which will clearly communicate to search engines the content and services of your website…. which is essential for top rankings!
2. Be Smart With Your Blog Titles
Your blog title is the most important aspect of your blog post. It is what tells search engines what your blog is about and it has the most SEO influence.
Avoid titles like:
“Ten Fat Burning Tips for January”
For a fitness business website, this title has no strategic keywords in place. It has no location keywords, and no service keywords. While it may read nicely it’s missing out on the natural opportunity to plug more strategic keywords on your website as titles!
Here is an example of an SEO friendly alternative:
“Beat the Cold: Denver’s Best Fitness Program Tips for Burning Fat this January”
This title communicates the same content but includes valuable keywords such as “Denver” and “Fitness Program.” This is especially helpful for small towns and surrounding suburbs that you want to rank in. Remember, you can always go back in time to old blog posts and update titles with these keywords!
3. Include Video & Image Tags. Videos and images will increase user engagement and improve the likelihood that your readers will actually read your blogs.
Just placing images & videos on your sites without tagging them, however, does nothing for your SEO.
An image is a perfect place to place otherwise awkward keywords in a perfectly “Google-friendly” way. Anytime you upload and image to your blog, simply name it something keyword rich- like “Denver Personal Training and Fitness Classes” EVEN if the picture is something completely unrelated.
Search engines will crawl your blog, however they can’t see your images – they can only see your description of the image. By naming your image something keyword rich you’re telling search engines that this image has to do with your specific keywords. This is HUGE! Any image or video gives you an opportunity to plug as many keywords as you can into the description or title of that image.
Since your website visitors most likely won’t see the title of your image, you won’t have to worry about how readable your keywords are- just make sure they are there!
It’s the idea that when we feel we have made progress towards a specific goal, we are more committed to reaching that goal. If we do not recognize any progress we are making towards a goal, the more likely we will abandon all efforts to reach it. So, the key to this phenomenon is perception.
So where is this going?
Loyalty Programs. Yes, it turns out that this psychological concept has resulted in the ever-increasing popularity of loyalty programs across all types of businesses. Coffee shops, large-restaurants chains, merchandise stores, and spas have all adopted this trend, and more recently, so too has the health and fitness industry.
So what loyalty and retention strategies can you use to accomplish this?
There is a myriad of strategies to choose from. Awarding clients “free” points up front is a great tactic. Punch cards have proven to be extremely successful across all businesses. The idea is that once a person has had all the slots on their card punched, they will be rewarded. For example, you can give members a “punch” every time a member comes in per week or uses a certain machine. A great tactic that coincides with this is to start them off with three or so punches (for signing up, being a new member, etc.) so that they feel they are that much closer to their reward. This plays right into the Endowed Progress Effect because we know that people work harder to achieve a goal when they feel like they are close to reaching it. Rewards for full punch cards can range from a discount, free item, or a free class or program.
The best part is, you are rewarding members for actions they are most likely already doing including attending classes and referring friends and family, but you have just added a huge incentive to increase this behavior. That client may not be more inclined to refer more friends, purchase more classes and buy more merchandise just to reach that full punch card reward. The revenue and recognition possibilities from these programs are endless! Excited yet? Well, before you begin your new endeavor into loyalty programs at your facility, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Ability to Document Progress:
We mentioned before the Endowed Progress effect is based on perception. This means that clients need to see physical proof that they are making progress for these programs to be effective. Make sure you are able to document when clients reach each milestone.
2. Instant gratification:
First, clearly define each milestone of your motivational program and then ensure that clients who meet them are rewarded immediately. If clients have to wait forever to receive their prize, they will lose steam in their efforts to reach the next milestone or their ultimate goal.
3. Achievable goals!
It is physically impossible to lose 30 pounds (at a healthy pace) in a week! Therefore, make sure to speak with clients about their goals and manage expectations. Remember the flip side of the Endowed Progress Effect: When there is no perceived progress, this results in demotivation.
4. Invest in management software that tracks client progress:
If your programs rely on client information that you cannot integrate with your current software solution, this is counterproductive. If your software solution cannot provide accurate results, clients will become frustrated and less motivated to keep working towards their goals.
5. Valuable and Relevant Rewards:
If you are a fitness facility, rewarding members with ice cream coupons would not be beneficial to your clients and would consider moving business elsewhere. Instead, reward members with merchandise with your company logo, such as shirts, hats, water bottles, towels or any other items that reflect back on your brand and the industry.
A rewards program–if implemented correctly–can be a major source of revenue and growth for your business. Build relationships with your clients by offering efficient, trackable, result-driven programs to promote brand loyalty and establish a community that members and prospects want to return to.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again. It’s an age old proverb and one that many successful entrepreneurs live by. The fact of the matter is, failure happens–things fall through. What defines your brand and business is how you bounce back. True success comes from those who face failure head-on, get back on that horse, go back to the drawing board and never, ever quit.
So how DO you bounce back from a failed business-specifically in the fitness and sports industry? Here are three ways to consider:
1. Explain the failure and don’t make excuses: Transparency is key
Transparency is key and clients will appreciate your honesty. Own your failure–everyone makes mistakes. By admitting your mistakes and making it clear how much time and effort you will allocate to improving your products and services, you will give them the impression that you take your business extremely seriously.
2. Analyze the fail
The trick is to view failure as a great learning experience. Before you embark on a brand new business plan, take dedicated time to evaluate the factors and elements that lead to the failure. You need to really understand what worked and what didn’t. This way, you don’t have to completely scrap your old plan. Instead, you can build upon what worked and reevaluate what didn’t. Did clients love your product but hate your customer service? Were your prices too high? Dig deep and really analyze your client data.
3. Ask for Help
Don’t do it alone. You need to find other professionals and services that can help streamline your business. Are you tracking everything –from memberships, class packages, rentals– on paper? This can be both time consuming and stressful and can also lead to numerous inaccuracies and financial loss. An all-in-one secure management software is key. Not only can you track all your client data and class schedules, you will also be able to set up automatic billing, create a customized app for online purchases, send targeted email campaigns, access accurate reporting and more! The more you streamline your business processes, the more time and effort you can put into creating those exceptional, personalized customer experiences at your facility.
4. Refocus your brand
While you are analyzing your client data, identify your target audience. Was a vast majority of your clientele composed of young adults? Senior citizens? Elite athletes?
Once you recognize your main client base, focus your efforts on delivering products and services to this specific demographic. You need to create exceptional client experiences to attract and retain members. For example, if the majority of your clients are between 15 and 25 years old, you may want to focus on group classes or specific sports skills training to get these youngins’ in the door.
5. Actually Do it.
Now that you have evaluated what works and what doesn’t, refocused your brand, sought help and created a new business plan: set it in motion. Don’t let the failure freeze your ambitions. Most successful businesses fail more than once but it is only after failure that you will find success. Bounce back!
The last thing we want to do while on the job is crunch numbers. However, the fact of the matter is, for a business to succeed—especially in the fitness industry—calculating your retention rate is vital, and this means we need to do a little math.
Calculating retention rates can be VERY confusing, but we’re here to break it down to some more manageable formulas. The key thing to take away from all this is, regardless of the equations you use, keeping members satisfied is a sure way to keep your retention rate high.
What Is Retention and Why Should I Care?
In laymen’s terms, retention is the percentage of the members that stayed in the past year or 12 months. It costs a LOT more to attain a new client than it does to keep loyal members, so it’s pretty safe to say that membership-based facilities should focus energy and resources on retaining members to be successful. Although reaching sales quotas and getting new faces in the door are important parts of the business, if you are not keeping those members, you’re working harder for the smallest profits.
How Do I Calculate My Retention Rate?
One of the biggest mistakes club owners make is they just total cancellations in a year and divide this by the membership total at the end of the year. Don’t make this mistake. Instead use any of the methods listed below.
By far the easiest way to track retention is by using the following steps:
1. Start with a 12-month chart and record the beginning monthly membership for each month.
Use the equation:
Previous month’s beginning membership + number of sales in previous month + number of reinstated (unfrozen) memberships.
PMBM + SPM + RM
2. Subtract the number of canceled memberships and the number of frozen memberships.
3. Total the canceled membership for the last 12 consecutive months.
4. Total the beginning monthly membership for the last 12 months and divide by 12 which indicate the average beginning monthly membership.
5. Total the number of canceled membership for the last 12 consecutive months. Divide this number by the number of average beginning monthly memberships in the previous step. This answer is your annual attrition.
For annual retention, take the number from step one and subtract attrition. The process is pretty easy, but make sure you are meticulous in your calculations.
Another popular formula for calculating retention rates:
Member retention rate = ((ME-MN)/MS)) X 100
ME = number of members at end of period
MN = number of new members acquired during period
MS = number of members at start of period
I know you’re probably starting to get painful flashbacks of high school math class, but don’t be intimidated. These formulas are actually pretty simple to use. Think about it:
If you start with 100 members in your club’s first month, and factor in the 15 members who canceled their contracts and 20 new members, then you are left with 105 members at the end of the month. Using the numbers above, your equation should look like this:
((105-20)/100)) X 100 = 85 percent of your members are still active.
Both formulas work for large clubs and small boutique facilities. Tracking retention rate is the foundation of growing a business. Whichever method you choose, make sure to take a serious approach to keeping members loyal and reducing your attrition.
Have you ever wondered if there’s really any point to your retention strategy? You offer everything under the sun, do double back-flips, and consider giving away your first-born any time a member tells you they’re ready to leave, and then they go ahead and leave anyway. Ever get the feeling that there’s just nothing you can do?
The fact is, everyone in the industry wonders, but it’s something we try not to acknowledge. We hold on to the idea that we must continually try new approaches and inexhaustibly explore all possible avenues, plus a few impossible ones, and never give up on the lofty goal of retaining 100 percent of our members. Well, what if that’s the wrong approach? What if, instead, we conceded that we never will retain 100 percent of our members, and that our energy would be better spent on other aspects of running our clubs? What if we actively prioritized new sales over member retention?
These are questions Rob Bishop and Barry Klein, owners of Elevations Health Club in Scotrun, Pennsylvania and regular contributors to Athletic Business magazine, hash out in a recent article for Athletic Business. Having focused on retention over sales for two decades — never employing salespeople or using high-pressure sales techniques — Bishop and Klein found themselves one day wondering why, despite all their daily concerted efforts to get members to stick with their gym, they nevertheless almost always lost the members they were expending energy to retain. As long-time gym owners, they considered their “retention program” nothing more than everything they did everyday and every dollar they spent on their staff, facilities, and programming. As they put it, “Is your club clean? Are people greeted properly? Are members well-integrated into your facility with training programs, group fitness classes, seminars and other offerings?” Those elements, along with other offerings vital to the success of any club, are critical for keeping any member signed up for any length of time, they argue.
Given that, they realized that most members “cancel for reasons that are beyond our control — relocation, financial reasons, work conflicts. And while reasons such as ‘no time’ might be shorthand for ‘I don’t want to be a member anymore,’ it’s clear to us that once someone has crossed that threshold, we are not going to bring them back.”
If that’s the case, they ask, what can gyms do? The answer may lie in shifting the focus of your business premise, so that rather than privileging retention, you start thinking more about sales. “Our point isn’t to give up,” they write. “It’s to focus on something we think we can more directly impact and to some degree control.” Thus, Bishop and Klein are trying out a “sales focused” approach that aims to attract many happy members. Basically, they consider happy members ambassadorial assests — vital elements of the community who spread the word to new potentially happy members. It’s a subtle shift, but focusing more on sales than retention — while still aiming to keep members as happy as possible from day to day — allows the duo to value referrals even more than a forever commitment from a member (which, they say, is an ideal that doesn’t exist). For example, if the stated purpose of “bring a friend” event is to acquire new members rather than to keep existing members engaged, they now might find themselves, if spots are limited, turning away a member in favor of a guest. This isn’t something they ever would have done previously.
That’s not to say it isn’t still worth trying to keep members forever. Who knows? Perhaps it’s possible and the industry just hasn’t yet discovered the right lever or formula? Still, it might be worth exploring strategies that are potentially more realistic — if for no other reason than achieving greater peace of mind. “The real difference will be this,” Bishop and Klien write. “When a member who has sent us 10 referrals suddenly cancels, we’re not going to stress about it anymore…. The trick is to have a gym full of happy members, regardless of how long they are with us.”
For most fitness businesses that employ a comprehensive software solution, it’s impossible to imagine day-to-day operations without that solution. And these days, it’s almost impossible to imagine a fitness business that doesn’t use a software solution. Fitness facility management software allows for the optimization of resources; the streamlining of daily tasks; the automation of payments, reports, and communication; and the maintenance of member profiles and marketing efforts — among countless other benefits — to a degree that simply can’t be achieved without software. Yet, what good is any of that if the program you’re using fails in the customer service and support department?
Even if you’ve got the absolute best-performing software solution imaginable, if that solution doesn’t provide a top-quality customer service department for training, support, and troubleshooting, it’s ultimately not worth much. This is the case in all industries, but it’s especially key in the fitness industry, in which software solutions are so integral to the running of all aspects of a business that the customer service you provide depends on how well your software is running. If there’s a glitch, or if you just have a simple question, you have to know that troubleshooting is available immediately and efficiently.
How do you judge the quality of a software program’s customer service? First, check out the product’s website. The support feature should be prominent and available with a single click, and it should quickly and clearly explain how to reach a customer service representative. Ideally, it offers both a phone number to call and an online form you can submit. If you fill out an online form, you should receive an answer promptly. Both online and phone responses should be polite, friendly, and helpful, and the representative you’re dealing with should bend over backwards to make sure your questions are answered and your needs are fulfilled, and that you’re walking away a satisfied customer. If any of these elements are not in place — you can’t find the support page easily on the website, there’s no phone number to call, there’s a number but your call is handled incompetently, you submit an online request and do not hear back within 24 hours — you might be using the wrong software.
In addition, your software support team should offer training. There should be online courses that quickly, clearly, and effectively show you, the end user, how to optimize the product, and there should be opportunities for personalized training support. Again, if the product you use does not offer these customer service basics, you’re probably using the wrong one. After all, what good does your software do you if you don’t properly understand how to use it?
Ultimately, the management software solution you purchase should be backed by a company that employs an easily reachable team of dedicated, knowledgeable professionals who genuinely care about your business. If it’s lacking in that department, you would do well to seek out a software package that fulfills that most basic of business needs: help and support.
Recently, my son and I were in an old-curiosity-shop kind of store on a quaint little Main Street. It was the kind of place seemingly designed to ignite the imagination of a nine-year-old boy, full of tomahawks and fishing equipment, moccasins and hiking boots, old-fashioned toys, unidentifiable objects, kitschy souvenirs, wind chimes. We’d spent nearly an hour poking around in there, and I was on parenting auto-pilot: “Mom, can I have this?” “No.” “Why not?” “Because.” “Mom, can I have this?” “No.” “Why not?” “Because.” Finally, my son stomped his foot and shouted in frustration, “Don’t just say because!”
What struck me was his reason for getting frustrated: It wasn’t so much that I was saying no to most of the junk/treasures that he wanted to purchase, it was that I wouldn’t give him reasons for my refusal. When I looked him in the eye and explained how I felt — the real feelings behind my “no” — he relaxed. We left the store with just a tomahawk (don’t worry, it’s wooden) and a better understanding between us.
All of this was still on my mind when I was reading IHRSA’s blog the other day, and I stumbled on an article about the best ways to understand a prospective’s motivations for seeking a health club membership. The fact is, when we understand another person’s reasons — when we have more from them than just a “because” — we’re able to make things happen. My son could calm down and accept my refusal to buy him all the things he wanted when he understood why I was refusing. You can make sales to prospectives more effectively and up your member retention when you understand why your clients are seeking — (or renewing, or considering giving up) — membership. As Casey Conrad Tamsett, President of Communication Consultants in Wakefield, Rhode Island, puts it on the IHRSA blog, “If you don’t know why a guest happens to be standing in front of you, or what a member wants from your club, how can you possibly meet their needs?”
The question is, how do you go about discovering your prospectives’ and members’ true motivations? Justin Tamsett, Managing Director of Active Management in Sydney, Australia, advises, “In your first face-to-face conversation, when asking about them and their life, you need to show an authentic — not a feigned — interest.” In other words, you have to earn a client’s trust before being allowed to understand his or her true motivation. Earning that trust is a process, Tamsett says, one that begins with your staff’s commitment to making the moment of initial contact a special experience. “You need to convey the fact that you genuinely care about them,” he says. And that caring has to carry through, with every employee in the club working hard to regard the visitor as a guest.
Keep in mind, though, as Conrad warns, that most people purchase gym memberships not for logical reasons but for emotional ones. “Their ‘trigger,’ the factor that brought them to your door, usually is related to some significant personal experience,” she says. But that experience is hidden under layers. Conducting a needs analysis, in which you peel back the layers with careful questions, gives prospective clients a chance to open up. You have to spend the time listening until you get to the feeling that prompted action — just like my son had to spend the time listening to my underlying feelings in order to understand my reasons for saying no. Of course, it’s a give-and-take: I had to be willing to reveal my underlying feelings to my son before he could listen to them. But if you create the right environment in your facility, one in which the client is respected as more than just a commission score, one in which employees work hard to gain clients’ trust and form true relationships with them, the willingness to open up will come naturally. And the opening up will lead to more successful business operations.
At the climbing gym I frequent, there’s a man whose left arm ends in a stump. He’s a veteran who lost his hand in Iraq. I know how hard it is scaling those thirty-foot walls with all my limbs intact; watching this guy, I can’t help but feel humbled and awed. He does it with no special accommodations. He just figures out what will work for him, and up he goes.
Indoor climbing is especially flexible in this way — the whole point is to do what you have to do to get to the top, no matter what particular challenges you might be facing. But, what about other, less universally approachable sports or exercises? What about just watching sports? How can we make participating in sports, working out, and being a fan in the stands more accessible for anyone who wants to take part?
There are a few things to consider as you gauge your facility’s accessibility and think about what changes, if any, to make. First, there’s the ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act. Enacted in 1990, this law requires public places and commercial facilities to comply with guidelines that allow for wheelchair accessibility and other disability considerations. Facilities constructed before 1990 are not required to meet the specific stipulations of the ADA — such as that wheelchair spaces be at least 36 inches wide, with equal, adjacent space for a companion — but such facilities are under obligation to remove existing barriers. And any facility refurbishing its space must bring it into ADA-compliance.
So, for example, when Hampton-Dumont High School in Hampton, Iowa, decided to replace its fifty-five-year-old wooden bleachers recently, it had to create a new deck with room for six wheelchairs, plus companion seats, and a ramp. The project’s total cost was about $20,000 — but the alternative, building an entirely new stadium, would have cost the school at least a quarter of a million dollars. The lesson here is that changes you make to bring your facility into ADA-compliance, whether you run a gym, niche fitness center, or sports venue, need not cost a fortune. The money you spend will pay off. In Hampton-Dumont’s case, the school forged a better relationship with the community after the reconstruction because now no one was shut out. In the end, more tickets were sold at events.
If you’re not ready to refurbish, there are other steps you can take to make your facility more welcoming of people with special considerations. If you’re a gym with regular exercises classes, consider the possibility of designing a wheelchair class. You’d need to hire an experienced instructor and make sure the room where the class will be held is completely accessible. Also consider hosting workshops about exercising with a disability, and see whether you can create areas in your free-weight, cardio, and machine spaces solely for wheelchair users or others who need particular physical accommodations.
In addition, think about how you can make your commitment to inclusivity known. No matter what kind of facility you run, the more you spread the word about your accessibility, and the more you make it known that you welcome all kinds of members, the greater your standing in the community will be, and the more chances you’ll have of attracting an untapped segment of your local population.
Overall, you want to think in terms of being an ally to folks who are differently abled. As an organization dedicated in some form or other to physical activity, you bear a particular onus: how to enable physical activity for everyone. When it comes to issues of accessibility, gyms and sports facilities have a chance to shine.
For a few years, my son and I loved going to Bucca, a pizza place in our neighborhood. The food, first of all, was excellent and affordable, but what we liked most were the friendly staff that greeted us by name when we walked in and the cool décor: Bucca’s manager had a photography hobby and covered the walls in photos that were always interesting to look at and discuss. We were crushed when we walked by one day and found the name changed to Bucolino’s. The menu was similar, but when we entered no one recognized us and, worst of all, the photos were gone. In their place were bright, graffiti-style murals that might have been welcome in some other context, but that felt so jarring and ugly in our beloved space.
We ate at Bucolino’s only once. When I asked the waitstaff what had happened, all I got in response was a curt “new owner.” This new owner was too busy to speak with us. It’s a shame, because the food was still pretty great, but no one had made any effort to sell us on the new identity. I kept thinking that if the new venue had tried to reach out to Bucca’s customer base, maybe we would have felt differently; maybe we would have given it a chance. So I was interested to read a recent blog on IHRSA’S website that takes up the issue of new ownership. The blog asks: “How can we market a club that’s under new ownership to let consumers know we’re making major changes to what had been a mismanaged facility?” Bucca had never been mismanaged, but the question stood: How do you let your customers know things are going to change?
Paul Brown, CEO of Face2Face Retention Systems in Queensland, Australia, told IHRSA, “When you take over the reins of an existing business, be excited, be bold, and be loud.” Joe Cirulli, Founder and CEO of Gainsville Health & Fitness Center, suggests making it a priority to ensure the facility is in tip-top shape, connect with existing staff and make efforts to meet their needs, and use word-of-mouth advertising to let the public know. All of these pieces of advice are good ones. I wish Bucolino’s had followed them. If you’re taking over a new facility, spread the word, and — whether there were problems that need fixing or you’re taking an already great business to new heights — advertise widely and positively about the change. A few specific steps to consider taking:
• Hold town-hall-style meetings with members, seeking useful feedback. This could be done in real life or virtually. Using social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to elicit members’ ideas about what to keep for the facility’s new incarnation and what to alter would be a great way both to let your customers know about the change and to include them in your process.
• As Brown suggests, “Solicit editorial coverage in local and regional newspapers and websites. Invite interviews and offer to submit prewritten pieces.” The goal in taking these steps would be to inform the public and give yourself some degree of control in the way news of the new ownership is announced and received.
• Plan a grand relaunch celebration. Go out of your way to make the new incarnation a big deal. Rather than doing it without a word, like Bucolino’s did, almost even pretending it didn’t happen, blow horns and send up flares. Invite local dignitaries and offer incentives to get both members and prospectives in the door. During relaunch events, make yourself available and accessible to anyone who might have questions about the facility’s new direction.
• Save yourself time and money by investing in an all-in-one gym management software to streamline your business practices. Do your research to find a software solution to address all of your needs. For example, more health and fitness management software include features such as trainer scheduling, membership management, a point of sale system, and a sophisticated member check-in system compatible with most mobile devices.
It doesn’t take much to make a facility under new ownership as great — or much better — than whatever existed before. But you do have to make some efforts.
I have a confession to make: Exercise bores me. Don’t get me wrong — I love staying fit, and I love the way I feel after a great workout, but no matter what exercise routine I try, after a while I get bored and want something new. For a while I was into spin classes. Then it was Zumba. Then aquatic aerobics, HIIT-style repetitions, and just plain jogging. Now I’m all about indoor climbing. I was starting to think there’s something wrong with me, but then I stumbled across a post on the “Be Active Your Way” blog, a publication of the Department of Health and Human Services. Written by Alexandra Black, a dietician and IHRSA’s Health Promotion Manager, the article is not about keeping exercise interesting — but it nevertheless put my mind at ease and inspired me to continue trying new routines.
What the article is about is this: using trial and error to determine the best workouts for individuals. “Each person,” Black writes, “has a unique genetic makeup, different life experiences, and varied medical histories that make it nearly impossible to prescribe one great diet or one great fitness plan for all.” Because of this, she says, the best way for individuals to figure out what works for them is through trial and error. The health and medical industries are beginning to recognize this, and the result of moving away from a one-size-fits-all mindset is better care and better long-term health for people. Black puts it this way: “As the trend towards individualized healthcare continues, we’re recognizing that every person is different, and that treating them as such — both in healthcare and in wellness — is often where the real magic happens.”
Which brings me back to my boredom issue. Reading Black’s thoughts on trial and error made me realize that the only way for me to find a routine that doesn’t eventually bore me is to keep trying new ones — and that it’s okay to do so. Maybe I just haven’t found the right one yet, and I need to keep searching until I do. Or maybe it’s the case that my genetic makeup, life experiences, and medical history make me a person who needs constant changes in her workout routine in order to most benefit from working out. Whatever the case, thinking about fitness as something that requires an individualized approach completely changes the way I think about working out. It gives me a feeling that I have permission to keep trying whatever I want to try.
Why am I sharing all this? Because chances are that an individualized fitness approach is something that would appeal to your members too. Of course, if you have personal trainers or some kind of personalized workout program, you already promote individualized fitness — but doing so explicitly could put your members at ease (enough so that they renew their memberships and talk your facility up to all their friends and social network connections). Defining individualized fitness and explaining its benefits — through posters, emails, social media, and one-on-one sales and promotion pitches — can help your members feel freer to engage in their own trial and error, giving new workouts and exercises a try, experimenting until they know what works best for them. And helping them in that way greatly increases the chances that they’re going to keep coming back to you.
When you hear the words whole-body cryostimulation, an image of Han Solo slowly and dramatically freezing in carbonite while princess Leia watches along in horror may spring to mind. The act of “freezing” is involved in this process; however, (thankfully) it’s not as dramatic as it sounds. While the chemical reactions within the body may seem straight-up science fiction, many elite athletes swear by it. According to recent studies published by Pubmed.org, Cryotherapy has proven to be extremely successful for treating not only inflammation in muscles after excessive exercise, but a variety of other ailments including chronic pain, arthritis, and even mental ailments such as stress and anxiety. However, the question remains: How safe is this method and should you offer it at your facility?
What is Cryotherapy and how does it work?
It’s not new. In fact, Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) was first used in clinical settings, to treat patients with medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Over the years, it has been adopted by many professional athletes–most recently the Green Bay Packers American football team—as well as both elite and recreational athletic training facilities. Health and wellness spas have also expanded their offerings to include Cryotherapy.
The idea is similar to that of ice and heat therapy used by most athletes–and anyone who’s experienced sore muscles–to reduce swelling (think ice baths and the ol’ go-to “icy-hot” packs). However, a Cryotherapy chamber can reach temperatures as low as -264 degrees. Clients strip down and don a protective bathing suit as well as socks, gloves, and mouth and ear guards to protect them from the subzero temperatures. Only a few clients can go through a session at a time as they are guided through a series of chambers filled with nitrogen. After a few seconds–or a few minutes if you’re a real daredevil–you move to the next chamber with each being colder than the last. The cold temperature shocks your body into “survivor mode” as capillaries expand to hastily push more blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout your system and to your vital organs. Essentially, this process removes toxins and inflammatory components from your blood and then, once the body reaches normal temperatures, the new nutrient-rich blood flows back throughout your body.
Okay, so it still sounds a little like science fiction.
While there has been a significant spike in Cryotherapy users and advocates, it remains a very controversial method as the Food and Drug Administration does NOT recognize the benefits of Cryotherapy chambers and does not regulate the devises. The safety of this treatment is still under scrutiny, and many agree that more testing should be done to find hard scientific proof that this method provides quantifiable health benefits for treating pain. Among the many new fitness trends for 2016, injury prevention and recovery will be just as important as how we train. So, if a facility is looking to cash in on this growing trend, it would be wise to learn all it can about the Cryotherapy process and all safety procedures involved. Do your research and know your facts. Before incorporating this method into your facility, look up professional, scientific journals on the subject. You can also talk to facilities that already offer this method and find out how to properly maintain and operate Cryotherapy chambers. Make sure your staff is fully trained to operate the machines properly and safely. Furthermore, it would be beneficial to require a pre-training class with your clients before they begin use to ensure all safety measures have been taken. And lastly, stay up-to-date on news and testimonials about Cryotherapy. If you see a rise in accidents or injuries, make sure you have an emergency plan prepared. Your clients’ safety is of the utmost importance so be sure to keep that in mind when you are doing your research and deciding whether or not offering Cryotherapy is right for your facility.
I’ve written in this space before about greening sports — using sustainable energy sources, choosing healthier and more efficient building materials, recycling, avoiding cleaners with harmful chemicals. But if you run an athletic center with fields, how do you green those fields? It’s ironic, of course — nothing should be greener. However, in order to stay in perfect shape for game day, natural turf fields require a regimen of chemical applications, mowing, and irrigation that consumes valuable resources, creates waste, and potentially damages the environment.
The good news is, there are a few steps you can take to reduce harmful practices. Consider the following:
1) Choose chemicals that are more environmentally friendly. In an ideal world, we’d eliminate the use of pesticides and fertilizers altogether. Unfortunately, the world isn’t ideal. To maintain budgets and properly oversee highly-trafficked fields, facilities have few alternatives but to treat fields heavily. And, while Environmental Protection Agency regulations have banned most hazardous chemicals from products used for field maintenance, there is still a wide range of products available, some of which are more harmful than others. Whenever possible, choose organic materials for fertilizing and pesticide treatment, not synthetic ones. Coffee grounds, chicken manure, and turkey manure are good alternatives.
2) Reduce water consumption. You need water to keep those fields bright and healthy, but keep in mind that water is a precious commodity: The State of California recently announced it is suffering its worst drought in 1,000 years. How do you use less water and make the most of the water there is? Install systems for reclaiming stormwater and runoff. And then make sure you manage irrigation properly. If it rains one day and there’s plenty of moisture in the soil the next, don’t keep the irrigation system running. Also, consider irrigating only when wind is low, in order to keep evaporation rates down.
3) Re-evaluate your machinery. If you’re using straight-up fuel to power your mowers, look into the possibility of obtaining equipment that runs on biofuels or other clean alternatives. If that equipment does not fit in your budget, cut back on mowing frequency.
4) Think long-term. Whatever you’re doing with your fields today, ask how those practices will affect the immediate and larger environment in the future. If you renovate your fields, can you pulverize material and stockpile it for use elsewhere — on a golf course, for example? Can you create a pond or holding tank to capture water when you irrigate, and then find ways to re-use that water? Can you use material from old fields to fertilize new ones?
5) Ask the experts. Entire university departments exist to research sports turf maintenance. If you want to take a stab at greenifying your fields, reach out to people in the know. They’ll be able to tell you the best type of grass for your locale and particular uses, how often different grass varieties need mowing, what kinds of computerized weather and irrigation systems you might consider installing, and a host of other details that will get on the road to ever greater sustainability.
I was surfing around on the Internet the other day when a jarring Club Industry headline caught my attention: “American Physical Inactivity Reaches Six-Year High, Club Memberships Increase.” It doesn’t seem to make any sense, but according to a recent report from the Physical Activity Council (PAC), a group made up of IHRSA and five other sports and manufacturer associations, it is the case that 82.7 million Americans (28.3 percent) were physically inactive in 2014, an increase of 0.7 percent from 2013. It is also the case that health club memberships have grown by 18.6 percent since 2008, with the total number of health club visits in 2014 surpassing five billion for the second year in a row. Health club members checked in an average of 103 times in 2014, an all-time high.
What does it all mean? The data, based on nearly 11,000 online interviews carried out with a nationwide sample of individuals and households, suggest that the country’s fitness-related crises — obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and the like — are here to stay, and perhaps only getting worse. But at the same time, more and more people are joining health clubs and they’re visiting their clubs more often.
It can be hard, with statistics, to make meaningful interpretations and arrive at some kind of truth. But it seems safe to say, at the very least, that the news from the Physical Activity Council is both good and bad. As Tom Cove, PAC chairman and president and CEO of the Sports and Fitness Industry Association put it, “While we can look at [the physical inactivity] number in a negative light, I would like to use it as a wakeup call to not only our industry but the rest of society. It’s time we put our time and resources into industry initiatives and national campaigns to increase physical activity.”
In other words, the number may be alarming, but we can use it to start instigating change. And there’s no group better positioned to do so than the fitness industry — especially given that other statistic, the steadily growing popularity of fitness centers and health clubs. Joe Moore, IHRSA President and CEO, explained it this way: “These numbers demonstrate the important role health clubs play in helping more and more Americans improve their overall health and wellbeing.”
Thus, while the two statistical figures seem contradictory, they’re really sending the same message: Venues that enable and promote fitness and opportunities for exercise are a vital part of the equation when it comes to keeping the country healthy, and we, as an industry, need to step up our efforts to reverse the trend toward greater physical inactivity.
In practical terms, maybe this means it’s time for your club to become more involved in your community and to actively seek out members of the community who lack physical activity. Programs that create incentive for such people to try out your facility and that then support their efforts to sustain a more active lifestyle could work wonders—and could lead to benefits for both them and your club. We spend so much time focusing on physical activity, but maybe what we need to do now is shift our attention to physical inactivity.
Machines in group workout classes: It’s a trend that started slowly and quietly picked up speed, until all of the sudden it’s everywhere. What began with stationary bikes in the exercise room has exploded into treadmills, rowing machines, stairmasters, and ellipticals in the exercise room, and health clubs around the country are benefitting in terms of both retention and secondary revenue. If you haven’t yet begun offering machine-based group classes, or you haven’t yet expanded your offerings beyond daily spin classes, it’s time to consider the possibilities.
First, understand what kind of machine-based group workouts your community would be interested in. Take an online poll or ask members to fill out a survey when they walk in. Ask questions carefully: You want answers not only from members already familiar with exercise machines but also from members who do not regularly use them. Ask survey-takers what machines they have used in the past, what machines they might be willing to try, whether they’ve ever taken a machine-based group class before, and what might incentivize them to try one. Once you’ve gathered enough responses, assess the results.
Weigh the intelligence you gathered from members against your capacities as a club. If the majority of respondents said they’d like to try, say, a rowing class, consider whether you already own enough rowing machines to begin offering such a class. If you don’t, do a cost-benefits analysis to determine whether it makes sense to purchase additional rowing machines. If your members’ responses to survey questions leave you with no clear direction — that is, equal numbers want rowing classes and treadmill classes — you’ll need to decide whether you have the space, machinery, and resources to offer both. If not, you may need to make an educated guess about which one seems more likely to attract members (and new clients).
Next, plan out the logistics. Machine-based class programming is necessarily more involved than other kinds of class programming; you have to know what space in your facility can serve as a dedicated rowing classroom or stairmaster classroom — or, consider whether it’s possible to hold the class right in your current cardio center. Perhaps the machines you need can be isolated to one side of your cardio room and reserved for forty-five-minute stretches at a few points during the day or week when you offer the class. While this kind of planning is under way, consider what new equipment you might need to purchase, and how you’ll go about doing so. Will you take out bank loans to cover the cost? Will you lease machines? If the latter, what type of lease will you seek? It’s best to start a few direct conversations with both banks and leasing companies so you can decide which option will work best for your facility.
Once you have those details plotted out, try offering mini trial classes. You can consider these market research. If you pitch them to members as focus groups that will allow them to have a hand in shaping the class experience, you’ll likely find enthusiastic participants. After the trial classes, survey participants to find out what they liked and didn’t like. Ask specific questions: Did they appreciate whatever music and lighting effects accompanied the class? Do they have suggestions for improving the instruction? Did they like the warm-up segment of the class? The cool-down? What would they change if they could change anything?
Finally, when you have the form of the class fully figured out, advertise it like crazy. Post videos, photos, and testimonials on social media sites; paper your facility with informative flyers; give trial participants incentives to spread news of the class by word-of-mouth. Soon you’ll find yourself wondering why it took you so long to set one up, and you’ll be considering what new machine-based class to develop next.
Recently, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) submitted a letter to Congress, urging the governmental body to redefine the U.S.’s approach to healthcare. Rather than focus on treating people who are ill, our healthcare system should emphasize illness prevention, ACE argued, while also empowering sufferers of chronic disease to manage their discomfort. As the letter put it: “[O]ur healthcare system needs to shift from one almost solely focused on responding to people who are ill to investing in preventing people from getting sick in the first place and empowering those with chronic conditions to helping themselves when they can.”
Among the intriguing policies that ACE enjoined Congress to adopt is this one: “Allow for financial incentives through tax policies to encourage increased participation through physical activity to reduce the chances of incurring preventable chronic diseases.” What this amounts to in plain English: “Reimburse people who pay to work out!”
In addition to benefitting large swathes of the population, ACE’s proposed financial-incentives plan could, of course, have beneficial effects for the fitness industry. The plan is ingenious. If individuals are reimbursed through tax policies for payments they make to gyms, sports centers, and other fitness facilities, then those individuals will have the opportunity to work toward better health at a lower cost. The facilities they sign up with will enjoy the benefits of a growing membership along with, ideally, built-in incentives for members to stay on-board. And, as citizens become healthier, managing their chronic illnesses and preventing the onset of new disease, the government, over the long term, will begin to see the overall cost of healthcare fall. Everybody wins.
Other proposals in ACE’s letter are equally hopeful. “Make science-based, interdisciplinary coaching, counseling, and support for sustainable behavioral change a functional, integral component of the nation’s healthcare system.” Elsewhere in the letter, ACE describes its members as “advocates for extending the clinic into the community with science-based preventative services delivered by well-qualified professionals not necessarily thought of as healthcare providers.” Put these two together, and you have a movement to enable greater health and healthier decision-making through the involvement of a population of workers not as overburdened as doctors and other medical professionals but qualified to provide health-related guidance — that is, personal trainers, nutritionists, physical therapists, masseuses, and others who make the fitness industry their home.
Another policy ACE pitched to Congress articulates this even more directly: “Extend the healthcare team into the community by tapping well-qualified health and fitness professionals to deliver preventative services and programs focused on behavior change directly in the community, reimbursable by health insurance.” A side benefit of a policy like this one is that health and fitness professionals could be held in greater esteem by the population at large, their knowledge and their services valued for the truly life-transforming elements they are.
All in all, ACE’s letter to Congress is one to read, promote, and actively support. As one of those health and fitness professionals who stands to benefit so much, call your local Congressperson and make your feelings about the letter known. Echo ACE’s words: “The single most effective path to manage rising healthcare costs is to reduce the cost of managing choric disease.” Then explain how your work has proven to you over and over again the truth of this statement.
As winter is a time for hunkering down, it seems appropriate that I haven’t been able to get myself to the gym for several weeks now; all I want to do is curl up under a blanket. I have, however, managed to find a few exercise podcasts and videos and start working up a sweat in my home office. I know I’m not getting quite the level of exercise I need: no equipment, no trainer, no instructor, no fellow sufferers. But it’s hard to kick my own rear in a gym-ward direction when I know I can get at least some sort of workout at home.
I’m not the only one. I have a couple of friends who swear by the stationary bikes in their living rooms; one guy I know has an entire weight room in his basement. And recently the Wall Street Journal reported that, while sales of traditional home fitness equipment have declined in the past few years, and while the percentage of Americans with gym memberships has pretty much held steady, sales of lower-priced fitness items, like yoga mats and workout DVDs, have increased. The fact is that sometimes fitness centers are competing for customers not only with other fitness centers, but also with those customers’ personal spaces. What can be done to pull people — yes, people like me — away from the yoga blocks in their closet or the medicine balls in their bedroom and into the gym?
The key is to offer benefits that outweigh the benefits of working out at home. The way I see it, working out at home has three major benefits: It saves money, it saves time, and it’s oh-so-convenient. But I know that going to the gym instead of exercising at home would get me to my fitness goals faster. There, I can use equipment that much more efficiently burns fat and increases muscle than anything I can do at home. More importantly, I can call upon the expertise of trainers and instructors who can show me how to position my body just right or explain why I’m at risk of injuring myself if I’m performing reps incorrectly.
But the best thing, the thing I most lack at home? External sources of motivation. No matter how great the podcast I’m streaming might be, it’s nothing compared to the rush I get when I’m trying to run faster than the guy on the treadmill next to me, or the comfort I feel when I mess up a Zumba move and a sympathetic classmate tells me not to worry about it, or the simple satisfaction that comes from not being the only one, all alone, trying to keep myself healthy and live right.
So your task as a health club owner or manager is to remind me why I’m better off at the gym. Have your fitness concierge (you have one, right?) send out emails to folks like me to tell us what the gym can offer us that we can’t get at home. Post videos on social media that show me other people who managed to get themselves to the gym that day. Even ask one of your trainers to call and check in on me — you can bet that being held accountable by someone I’m eager to please is going to finally get my butt out the door. I know I’m saying the onus is on you, but that’s really how it is. You got the gym up and running; it’s your job to get me coming to it.
Keep in mind, too, that you actually can compete directly with some of the home-based workout benefits. Given that convenience is a big factor, you can offer special deals to people who live close to your facility — within a few blocks, say, or within a mile or two. You’re convenient for at least some people. Make it your business to make sure those people know it. And given that saving time and money is a big factor, you can consider offering winter discounts and designing (and widely advertising) super fast classes, ones that get members in and out of the gym in under thirty minutes.
It might be hard to lure people like me out of our houses before the crocuses start blooming and the birds start singing, but it’s not impossible. Make it worth our while.
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