As the world opens back up, gyms, studios and fitness centers are slowly but steadily regaining their footing. According to research from Jeffries, which has been tracking visits to gyms such as Planet Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness, foot traffic at gyms across the United States were back to 83% of January 2020 levels.
While this is great news overall, gyms still have their work cut out for them. The pandemic opened up consumers’ eyes to the myriad of fitness activities available to them outside of the gym (e.g., virtual classes, home equipment, etc.), so if you own or manage one, it’s important to continuously engage your members to ensure that they keep coming back.
A big part of accomplishing that lies in offering an excellent gym experience to everyone who visits your locations. Consistency plays an important role here. If you want to encourage repeat visits, ensuring that gym goers have a great experience at each and every visit, and across multiple locations is an absolute must.
This article will shed light on best practices to ensure that you’re constantly providing a top-notch gym-going experience. Go through the pointers below and start putting them to action in your business.
Start with a clear North Star for your brand
In order to offer a consistently amazing experience for your guests and members, you first need to define what that means for your brand. What is your gym’s ethos? What is the image you want to project?
These are simple enough questions, but the answers you give can guide important decisions around gym design, amenities, equipment, offerings, and more.
Are you a gym that’s geared towards body builders or everyday people? Do you cater to young urban professionals or want to position your business for an older clientele? Whatever the case, knowing the image you’d like to promote can help determine what your locations would look like and what they would need to offer.
A gym that wants to draw in body builders, for example, may have more heavy duty equipment compared to those that cater to a wider or more casual clientele.
A gym that wants to attract a certain market segment may decide to have offerings geared towards that specific audience. For example, Curves, the gym chain geared towards women, offers classes that casual female gym-goers would tend to enjoy. Curves has sessions on balance as well as functional strength training classes, which focus on the movements that women perform daily.
Your brand’s North Star can also inform your decisions around where to open other locations. If you decide that you want to provide a high-end, luxury experience, then the neighborhoods in which you set up shop should reflect that. On the other hand, if you want to be seen as an accessible gym, then opening up branches in less expensive areas may make more sense.
Ensure that your hiring and training practices are on point
Beyond equipment, design, and amenities, the people working at your gyms play a major role in creating the ideal ambience and experience.
As Kristin Horowitz, CEO at The Pad Climbing, puts it, “staff make the location.”
She says that the first step to creating a consistently excellent gym experience is to identify your gym’s culture and determine the characteristics that you want team members to possess.
“If your culture and hiring processes are consistent, you will find the right people, they will love the environment they are in and be relatively easy to encourage to be consistent in their processes and procedures,” adds Kristin.
“I see gyms assuming that all people are the same or simply not even thinking about the staff being the key. Branding might be consistent but without staff buy-in, the experience isn’t.”
EJ Kritz, EVP of Training & Customer Experience at ath Power Consulting, has a similar take, and adds that gym managers must have the resources they need to effectively recruit and retain the right staff.
“One thing gym chains need to focus on (outside of consistent design) is consistent hiring practices. The brand should agree on a persona and the intrinsic behaviors for employees that they believe best bring the brand and guest experience.”
He continues, “Next, they need to arm each location’s manager with the training and tools needed to consistently recruit, hire, and retain those individuals.”
Create documents and SOPs, then ensure they’re easily accessible
Once you’ve nailed down the type of experience you’d like to create, document all the steps that need to be taken in order to bring it to life. All your gym locations must have standard operating procedures (SOPs) that employees can refer to when running each location day to day.
Your SOPs should cover things like:
- Ensuring gym safety
- Interacting with guests and members
- Maintaining equipment
- Cleaning and sanitizing the location
Strive to digitize these documents and store them in the cloud to ensure that they’re easily accessible.
Avoid equipment disparities
Gyms with multiple locations should ensure that there’s consistency with the gear and equipment they have, says James Jackson, a certified personal trainer at Critical Body.
“The number one mistake that gym managers make when running multiple locations is having significant disparities in the equipment availability. Sometimes you’re progressing nicely on a particular weight machine. But when you visit another location, the weight increments on the machine are completely different and it just throws off your momentum.”
He continues, “Likewise, gym managers need to offer a similar selection of dumbbells and free weights across each site. This is especially true considering how popular bodybuilding and strength training are becoming today. Members don’t like having to decrease the resistance if they can’t find weights that are heavy enough. So if your dumbbells go up to 110 lbs in one location, then make sure that they’re equally as heavy across all your facilities.”
Remember, people often go to gyms to access equipment that they don’t have at home. As such, giving members access to reliable and consistent equipment no matter which branch they’re using helps ensure that they have a worthwhile experience in all your locations.
Promote a strong sense of community
Aside from your staff, the members who frequent your gym also help create the location’s feel and overall ambience. This is yet another reason why it’s so important to have a strong brand ethos. When your values are clear and consistent, you’ll attract people who resonate with your brand. They, in turn, will reinforce the image and experience you want to create.
If you’re already drawing a steady stream of clients, make it a point to cultivate a strong sense of community. Encourage interactions with people through classes, events, and other shared experiences. Celebrate the wins of your members and make them feel that the community fully supports them.
Doing all these things will keep members coming back — which will ultimately attract similar individuals to your business.
According to Phil Blechman, a senior writer at BarBend, gyms must “work towards creating a strong sense of community that is the same across the board at each and every one of your locations.”
“The gym is a sacred place for most people. It’s where they go to relieve their stress and work towards bettering themselves. Learn to value the connections you have with your members and encourage your staff to do the same,” he adds.
“The atmosphere of a gym is what truly draws in your members, so make sure that you have a strong sense of community and an ideal environment for them.”
Don’t forget about people’s digital experiences
Your members’ experiences aren’t limited to the four walls of your gym. With people increasingly using digital tools and devices to run their lives, it’s essential that you keep up by enabling people to interact with your brand and manage their gym activities through online and mobile channels.
If you host classes or events, make it easy for members to register by allowing them to do it online or through their phone. Planet Fitness, for example, has a mobile application with features that let people view and sign up for available classes.
If your gym is on Facebook, Instagram, or other social networks, use these platforms to extend that community experience you’ve cultivated in your physical locations. Orangetheory Fitness, for instance, regularly features and celebrates various members on its social media accounts.
Have distinct elements present across all locations
You can’t make all your gym locations 100% identical across the board. Factors like the size of the building and local regulations can impact the layout and experience in each branch — and that’s ok. After all, gym locations benefit from having a local or unique flavor.
That being said, you can still maintain a sense of consistency by keeping certain distinct brand components the same everywhere. Adopting the same brand colors and hiring people who embody your brand are all important steps to take in this regard.
In addition, if your gym has a unique quirk or offering, make sure that it’s present in all your locations. Doing so creates a sense of consistency so that members have a similar experience no matter where they are.
For instance, Planet Fitness has the famous “lunk alarm” in all of its locations which is set off when someone drops a weight or grunts loudly.
See if you can adopt a similar strategy in your business. Identify one or two unique components about your gyms, and make sure it’s implemented across the board.
Audit your gyms regularly
Already have SOPs, policies, and guidelines in place? Ensure that they’re being implemented properly by conducting regular store audits. Have an area or district manager visit the gym and check whether or not it meets the standards that you’ve set.
Create a checklist of things to inspect, then take note of any violations and areas of improvement.
This is especially important for multi-location gyms. Auditing your branches will enable you to surface inconsistencies or issues with how your gyms are operated, so you can correct them.
Bindy can help you audit your gym locations by digitizing and streamlining inspections, task management, and communication. Take a free trial of the software and discover how our platform helps you provide a top notch gym experience for all members and guests.
About the author:
Francesca Nicasio is retail expert, B2B content strategist, and LinkedIn TopVoice. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales and serve customers better. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.