Friday, 12 August 2011

Lessons from Budget Clubs – Part 3 – Turning numbers into people

We’ve talked about how budget clubs (or low-cost gyms) are changing the rules on contracts, sales and service.  We looked at the power of data to motivate members and adapt communication.  This final article in the series explains how budget clubs manage to get more personal with their members.

The definition of a ‘club’ is an association of two or more people united by a common interest or goal.  The feeling of being member of a club has been lost at many ‘traditional’ gyms, where the club is effectively just the building.  Successful budget clubs recognise this, and are working hard to bring members together in different ways, such as group inductions, personal training, and of course, with social media.

It all starts with the induction – or does it?  Traditional clubs often mandate an induction for all members, regardless of ability.  The club chastise staff if the member manages to bypass this ‘essential’ hurdle on the initial journey. In contrast, budget clubs often give members the choice whether they want an induction, perhaps based on previous experience (those new to exercise must have a one-to-one induction, whereas experienced gym-goers can choose a one-to-one, group, or no induction).  As long as each member has completed a PARQ, the induction is not mandatory.

Following the induction (or not) comes the offer of Personal Training (PT).  Many members paying less than £20 a month at their budget gym can find a little extra money to buy a few PT sessions*.  Some use PT as a programme review every so often, especially when encouraged to do so with a promotion or voucher.  Some budget clubs promote PT as a value-add and Group PT as affordable alternative.
Now we’ve all been offered ‘free PT’ sessions, and it is not effective.  Instead, tell your customers that they can buy a voucher, or give them a voucher with an associated value which the PT has to collect/redeem.  Set the appointment date and write it on the voucher.  Another benefit of linking a value to that PT session means that more members turn-up for booked sessions!  Text message reminders also ensure appointments happen, as mentioned in the last article.

Finally, we come to social media.  All types of clubs from local authorities to private chains and budget gyms are becoming more active on social media.  However, the online buzz being generated by low cost clubs is massive compared to the traditional market.  Budget chains have a centralised strategy and a real purpose about their social media.  There is a focus on sales (hundreds of pre-sales being generated by social media), but once running, the focus shifts to community, sharing, and connecting with members, rather than selling to them.
Regular tweets engage members in events, and surveys help to garner opinion.  Clubs connect with members not by following them, but by re-tweeting, answering, and thanking members for mentioning the club.  After all, members are promoting the brand to their followers.  As well as promoting events and offers, facebook is also used for monitoring and responding to customer service queries, which can be a lot more efficient and effective for a club with fewer on-site staff.  PTs are encouraged to interact on the club’s facebook page too, as this is a sales channel for them, and creates more content for the club.  Online video and photo channels show prospects what to expect inside the clubs, often with a focus on community and belonging.  One budget chain displays videos on the street outside the club to encourage gym-phobic people to come inside.

So it is easy to get more personal with your members, even with limited resources.  Budget clubs manage well with very few staff and little money!  Having a clear induction process, following up with well delivered campaigns involving Personal Trainers and using social media to reach out enables low cost gyms to appear very personal to their members.

Budget clubs are changing the leisure industry landscape.  The business model is being shaken up, data is being used to motivate members, and the personal approach is turning numbers back into people.  We hope you have enjoyed this series, please add your comments below, or contact us for more

* If you struggle to see how a member of a budget club manages to pay for PT, consider the budget supermarket or fashion store.  Many people buy day to day groceries or clothes at the budget chain, and then treat themselves to a steak from the expensive local butcher, or accessorise their outfit with expensive jewellery or item of clothing.  Many members who pay less than £20 a month at their budget gym can find a little extra money to buy a few PT sessions.  

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