Increase membership and reduce complexity: Four streamlining techniques Gyms and Fitness Clubs can use to smash stagnation in a challenging and changeable economy!
This week we are continuing our focus on the fundamentals, this time by exploring the potential for streamlining and optimisation available to independent gym and fitness club owners. All of these techniques can be reviewed and considered with near immediate effect by owners and management, though some may require further commitment after the initial review to be fully effective.
Our goal here was to create a quick and instructive article that will get gym and fitness club owners thinking about certain BAU (business-as-usual) operations within their fitness facilities that they may have taken for granted or let stagnate accidentally.
It is no secret that the fitness industry has been through a period of intense change over the last four years, and that trend shows no sign of abating. Whether it is a reorganising of power and profitability amongst the big chains, ever-greater technological innovation or the shifting of consumer habits and member priorities, this industry does not stay still and neither should its denizens!
As such, we are here to find where chaff can be cut, where orthodoxy can be overthrown and ultimately where we can create the most value for members and the most profit for owners!
Want to jump straight ahead and see our 4 techniques? We won’t keep you waiting any longer!
Technique 1: Independent gym owners should be questioning the 24-hour opening time doctrine
Is it worth keeping the lights on?
With energy costing more and more, it is time to ask whether the 24 hour model is still optimal, aspirational or even viable in the 2023 landscape.
We have seen significant discomfort being caused to the likes of PureGym and The Gym Group through their insistence, or rather, dependence on the 24 hour model.
Whereas the large, budget chains may have locked themselves into the 24-hour model, independent gyms and fitness clubs have no such obligation.
With technology making the adoption of the 24-hour model increasingly viable, it was gradually becoming seen as the optimal mode of operation. The Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine may have heralded an end of this increase.
Indeed, it now increasingly seems like the 24-hour model could soon be viewed as a luxurious remnant of a more prosperous age. There will still be gyms where it can operate and even thrive of course, such as the eternally busy city centres. But the time where it could be viewed as the norm irrespective of location seems to be quickly fading.
Is there truly any need for a PureGym or any gym to be opening in some sleepy dormitory town all night, every night. Do the membership fees of the five night owls that come in to work out really justify a full night of operation? It is dubious as to whether they ever really did, but the energy crisis has put the answer into black and white.
As such, we are seeing many gyms either revert back to, or away from, 24 hour operation. The benefits to this shift can be numerous. Saving electricity, increased security, diminished risk to equipment, dedicated repair times, the list goes on.
Technique 2: Effective, Intuitive, Contextual Automation
Perhaps it is fitting that for an article based entirely around streamlining processes for independent gyms and fitness club owners, this next technique is another ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’.
This time we are focusing on automation. While there are many, many forms of automation in even the most basic gym or fitness club these days, one area where this is becoming increasingly normalised is the entrance/exit area of any given fitness facility.
The benefits of automation in this area can seem numerous and apparent. There is the potential for decreased staffing costs, increased security and increased flexibility.
But the wrong system can cause issues. Too often we’ve seen a system get implemented and abused. One of the most common shortfalls that occur is with keypads. While a unique pin that opens a gate or unlocks a turnstile may seem like the sleek image of the future, it is highly susceptible to abuse and exploitation.
This helps to highlight that it isn’t enough to automate and innovate. It is about doing so with an end goal in mind, and with an output that you wish to see.
If a gym or fitness club is operating in an error that is prone to breaches in security or abuse, the implementation of a full-height turnstile has been proven to reduce the amount of incidents remarkably.
Equally, if there is a large amount of pin code/passcode sharing, a fingerprint system can eliminate nearly completely and instantaneously.
Only with the specific contextual application of automation with specific goals in mind can automation yield impactful results. Without this vital step, it might create more issues than originally intended!
Technique 3: Demographic Messaging
Too often we find that gyms and fitness clubs are not aware of the messaging they are sending out, the brand identity they are cultivating and how it can affect the overall tone and success of a fitness facility!
This is a trap that is easy to fall into. We have all seen posters, flyers and banners that haven’t been updated since before the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. It is safe to say that the lockdowns, followed by the subsequent energy prices put many businesses into a sort of fight or flight survival mode. The rolling crises that have followed have kept many businesses in that mode of operation until today.
This can have a knock-on effect in many different aspects of a fitness facility’s daily operations. It can reduce staff morale, damage member retention rates and ultimately start to impact the bottom line.
However this is only half the issue we wish to raise today. The other half stems from the effect that this trend has on demographic messaging. The time period between 2019 and 2022 saw one of the most rapid societal and economic shifts since the second world war. People moved in unprecedented numbers, routines shifted and priorities changed.
With all of this, gyms and fitness clubs must also change. Take stock of the local area, work out who is there now that wasn’t before. If a gym is located within a suburban town, understand whether more people are working from home and whether the population increased as people fled the city centres. Conversely, if it is in a more central, urban location it is equally as important to understand the new, post-Covid landscape. This information will be available and acting upon the changes in the area could be vital to understanding whether the brand identity and messaging of a gym needs to change.
One thing that has become increasingly clear across all demographics since 2019/20 is the rise in the desire for functional, low-impact workouts that boost long term health.
While we appreciate this will not blend with every gym or fitness club’s chosen aesthetic and brand, it is a remarkably broad and versatile message that is finding more and more purchase out there amongst potential gym and fitness club members.
It is important to examine the brand identity of a gym. If it has a name that invokes words and concepts such as ‘XTREME’, it will obviously attract a certain type of person and that is fantastic. But it is equally important to think about who is being pushed away. In an increasingly challenging economic environment, the decision to hyper-focus on specific demographics while neglecting others cannot be taken lightly.
Technique 4: Systems, Systems, Systems
Our final technique represents a big change and a big step for many gyms and fitness clubs, but that makes it no less important.
The systems that power a fitness facility are the beating heart of the operation. Without the ability to efficiently organise and track membership, collect payment, pay staff and allow access, the operation essentially ceases to exist. As with any business, it is much more than just a building. It is an organisation trying to create the greatest value and experience for its members, a complete service.
And in the last twenty years, perhaps more so than any other point in human history, the definition of what constitutes a service has changed rapidly. This is especially true in the fitness industry, where an unprecedented application of technology has rendered many gyms nearly unrecognisable from their 1990s counterparts.
With this in mind, our final consideration for independent gyms and fitness club owners is to earnestly review the systems that power and enable their facilities.
- Are they allowing your staff to operate as efficiently as possible?
- Are they maximising the feedback and data available to the operation?
- Are they giving staff and management the control to implement that feedback?
- And most importantly, is the system giving your members the best experience possible?
If the answer to any of these is anything less than an emphatic “Yes!” then it is time to at least consider other options. We have seen time and time again independent gym and fitness club owners settling with sub-optimal and sub-par gym membership management systems because they either believe, or can’t conceive of a better system out there.
But gym membership management software is a sector which sees development and innovation year on year. Settling on a system because it is ‘good enough’ could be holding a gym (and by extension their members) from experiencing something truly game changing!
Are you interested to see what strategies other independent gym and fitness club owners are using to thrive in 2023?
Then look no further, we have the event recommendation for you!
Ashbourne Membership Management and many other industry faces will be at the Gym Owner’s Workshop conference for 2023! Given that gym membership management is our specialty, we will be covering streamlining, automation and modernisation techniques across the fitness industry, utilising our expertise from across Ireland and the United Kingdom!
Hosted this year at the Talbot Hotel, Stillorgan, Dublin, The Gym Owners Workshop is a nexus for fitness industry expertise and knowledge, specialising in innovation, profitability and growth for independent gym and fitness club owners across Europe and beyond!
Capitalising on the momentum of the Gym Owners Workshop 2022, the 2023 event is shaping up to be even better, featuring more sponsors, more experts and even more talks and workshops!
We are pleased to announce that The Fit Club – Redditch will be giving a case study talk on how they were able to increase their membership from 400 to over 2000! This will utilise some of the techniques talked about in this article and many, many more not mentioned here!
It is one not to miss for an independent gym or fitness club owner looking to expand their operations in 2023 and beyond!