Engage and Retain Your Gym Members with These Fitness Challenge Ideas!

The goal of all health clubs is to increase member engagement, because members that actually use your facility are more likely to continue to use the club. However, 44% of all gym members are showing up to health clubs less than four times a month, making them high cancellation risk members. It is difficult to entice those once-a-weekers to come into the club and feel part of the community, as most health club owners know.

Keeping members engaged and interested in your services is an ongoing challenge. As a gym owner, it’s vital to keep rethinking ways of engaging your members. One sure-fire way to keep engagement high is by organizing fitness challenges.

Fitness challenges are an effective tactic to increase engagement and membership retention. Through using mobile apps and wearables, creating challenges has never been easier. Encouraging members to join competitions is an effective way of engaging with clients. After all, who doesn’t like fun and rewards?

Despite the mixed long-term results of contestants on the TV show The Biggest Loser, its commercial success sheds light on how challenges can not only connect with an audience but keep them coming back again and again. That’s why many health clubs have held their own versions of the quick weight-loss contest.

Entice members to participate in a contest or challenge by offering low-cost prizes such as personal training sessions, club branded products such as towels or water bottles and even a free month or two – making it a relatively low-investment member retention strategy.

Contests are great for retention, by integrating social media, email and other technology into them you can not only keep those that are coming to the club engaged, you just may bring back some that have gone MIA. For example, you can:

  • Use Twitter and a custom hashtag to track results
  • Use social media to post winners and prizes on your Facebook page
  • Instagram a picture of the winning recipe from your healthy eating contest
  • Provide email updates to members telling them how to get started

There a many types of challenges or contests that can run, depending on what you offer and the space you have.  We have outlined below six fitness challenges you can use to engage and retain members:

  1. Weight Loss Challenge

Weight loss challenges can be done using overall pounds lost during a challenge, the percentage of weight lost, or better yet, a body composition change. Track weight loss with weekly check-ins and keep a leader board both in your club and on your social media channels. This is a great time also to get participants to enroll in classes or work with personal trainers at a reduced fee for being a contestant, not only improving retention but boosting the bottom line at the same time.

  1. Move Around the World

Offer your members miles for activity time. For example, if a member does 10 minutes on a treadmill, he or she will earn 10 miles. If they take a rowing class for 45 minutes, that’ll get the contestant 45 miles closer to the prizes. Have members track their progress in-club and if possible online and social media and offer themed prize based on the reaching destinations along the way as they travel around the globe.

  1. The Amazing Race

Give each two-person team a list of exercise machines, classes and other fitness requirements throughout the facility and see who finishes first. For example, you can list 20 push-ups, a TRX class, a run in the park and more on the list. Have them record or take photos and tag it on their social media with #[CLUBNAME]AmazingRace as proof. This will not only keep them honest but will make it even more fun while allowing others to see how fun your club makes fitness.

  1. Hold an “-A-Thon”

This can be a dance-a-thon with Zumba, a yogathon, cycle-a-thon or even a run-a-thon. These options are only limited by what offerings you have in your health club and your creativity. Start the contest on a Friday night or weekend morning and let it go until the winner is the only one left “a-thoning.” Have your instructors rotate throughout to keep it fresh and fun. Better yet, is to do your “a-thon” for a local charity making it about supporting a good cause in addition to getting your members active and engaged with your club.

  1. Recipe of the Month

Show your members that you offer more than just a place to work out. Partner with a local healthy restaurant or smoothie bar to hold a recipe of the month contest for your members. Have members vote on the recipe they like the most, and the winner can receive a coupon to the restaurant. Better yet, the restaurant can give them (and the club) props by offering the item on the menu as “Gym X’s” dish of the month by “Member Name.” You can also offer a tasting at the club to encourage members to come in—and help promote your partner. This contest not only encourages members to participate but can also create great buzz outside the club’s four walls.

  1. Offer a prize for check-ins

One of the best and simplest ways to encourage members to come to the club is to reward them for actually coming into the club. Technology makes this even easier and more fun. Have members track check-ins on Facebook and Foursquare. Offer the person that makes it in the most a free month. Maybe the second and third place members get lesser prizes.

So, what fitness challenges are you going to try? We’d love to hear!

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3 Key Things Your Customer Engagement Platform Should Provide

As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, a customer experience platform is one big way to stand out as a health club. It gives your customers a place to give feedback and be heard, and enhance their experience. But as a fitness club owner, what should you look for when finding the right customer experience platform? We’ve compiled three key things your health club management software should do.

  • Be immediately responsive
    Feedback should be coming in to you every single day. A customer experience platform should allow you to be immediately responsive to that feedback, whether it’s positive or negative feedback, in an organic way. Even though you’re using a software to facilitate the interaction, it should still feel like a human-to-human interaction for your members.
  • Information for all levels
    The information you receive from your customer experience platform should be relevant to all areas of your fitness club. Whether you’re a 90-location chain or a single-location business, there will be different areas of your business that need feedback. This goes from the front-of-house employees who greet customers walking in the door all the way up to owners, CEOs or a board of directors. Your customer management platform should provide your health club with information and data relevant to all levels.
  • Improvement plans and ideas
    The data and feedback you receive from your customer experience platform should give you room to grow. What good is data if you don’t know what to do with it? Your customer engagement platform should help take your fitness club or gym to the next level with a plan to continually improve the customer experience.

Are you ready to get started with a customer engagement software? Contact the team at MXM to learn more.

How to Start a Gym Member Referral Program

There are thousands of ways to start a gym member referral program these days. Most referral programs offer an incentive of a free months of membership to your referring member. But, why not give out cash instead? If you own a gym, and you don’t currently run a ‘refer a friend’ type of program, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to increase membership and build community in your gym. Referral programs have been around forever, yet some businesses still aren’t using them to their full advantage. Referral programs are a simple and cost effective way to get more people walking into your business.

Here are some basic  facts: friends like to work out with each other, friends like to tell friends about good deals, and people like to get rewards and “points” for doing stuff. These three reasons alone should be enough encourage for you to start a member referral program at your gym. Once you’ve decided that starting a refer a friend program would be a good marketing strategy for your business, it’s time to work out the details!

 

1. What Promotion Will You Offer

You need to decide what promotion will be worthwhile to offer for a referral. A refer-a-friend gym promotion only works if the promotion is good for the new member and the benefit is great for the referrer. Most gyms give out a free week pass for the new member. That work, but you might want to go with something a little more valuable for your referral deal. Maybe a 50% discount on a month of service, or 6 months for the price of 3. Make it a worthwhile promotion so that the person really sees the benefit of taking advantage of the deal. Let’s be honest, there’s nothing worse than winning some type of contest and getting a horrible prize as a result. The same mentality goes for your fitness center’s referral bonus. If you are not willing to give your current members some quality prizes and incentives, why should they care about referring friends to your business?

2. Reward for the Referring Member

Make sure that the reward for your current members referring friends will be worth it. There are many ideas behind what makes a good referral deal. We personally think that giving out cash per referral makes the most sense. People like money, and they’ll work hard to get it. If you’re giving out a free membership, you’re going to attract some people to your referral program, but you’ll refer a lot more if you give out cash for the referral. However, there is still the old reliable “Free Month with Every Referral.” Either way, if you’re charging $150 a month for membership, and you’re giving your current members a $10 discount per referral, don’t even bother! Why would a member bother telling their friends if it isn’t worth their time? However, if you were to give away one free month for every referral that becomes a paying member, now we’re talking! You won’t even lose any money as a result. The new member will be paying the membership that the referring member would have paid, and then in month 2, you’re getting BOTH members paying membership. This is a win-win!

3. Marketing Materials for the Member Referral Program

Once you have established a good deal for the new gym member, as well as a worthwhile reward for the member that did the referring, it is then time to market and promote your deal. Pay someone to make you a nice marketing banner and referral cards! Make your banner self-explanatory….”Tell your friends about our gym and get a free month of class!” The referral cards should have your business info, as well as an area for the referring member to write their name so that they can get the reward should someone present the card when signing up for the gym. There seems to be a common misconception that print is dead; it isn’t. It’s more popular than ever in all actuality. So get out there, print some flyers, and get them up around your business!

4. Use the Power of Social Media

Social media have amazing uses. Use your social media pages to spread the word about a referral program. If you’re offering 1-free month of gym usage, you might get a guy who goes out and finds you 12 new members. He’s going to get a year of free gym membership, but you’re going to get full-price memberships from 12 new members. Now that is a pretty good tradeoff. Plus, if that guy is out their talking about your gym, you’re getting added publicity as well. So, make it a point to let EVERYONE know that you’re starting a referral program and that, if they really work hard, they can get free gym for a year, etc.

5. Promote Your Referral Program to Current Members

While you’re promoting the referral program on your social media, make sure you let all your current members know about the promotion. Give each of them 5-10 of the referral cards that you had printed up. They can give these to friends, coworkers, relatives, whoever. As long as someone comes in with that card, the referring member will get credit. Have a stack of referral cards at the front desk as well, so that people can grab a few on their way home from tonight’s workout. You’ll be surprised as how many cards you go through when you have a worthwhile deal for your referring members (free month of gym use per member referred or something similar).

6. Make Good on Your Deal and PAY for Referrals

Don’t forget to hold up your end of the bargain and start giving out that cash. You can call it a “Free Month of Membership” but make sure you’re paying out in hard currency. Not some flimsy little piece of paper. Make a show of it and give the member a month’s membership worth of cash after the workout of the day. They’ll be able to walk home with a fat stack of dollar bills in their pocket, and the other members will see that you’re actually true about the referral program; paying out hard-earned cash for every referred member. Once members start seeing you give wads of cash to members for referring their friends, you better believe other members will start telling all their friends and coworkers about your gym.

7. Inspire Your Members to Spread the Word

The best possible scenario you will have for your gym referral program is that you have lots and lots of members bringing in lots and lots of referrals. That’s where the benefit of giving out cash instead of membership months makes the difference. If someone gets a free month of membership for every referral, it might not be worth the effort. However, if you’re giving out cash, someone could potentially make a couple extra hundred bucks per month just by becoming your salesperson. If you give out $50 for every referral that comes in your door, and someone gets 10 referrals a month, that’s $500. That’s a nice chunk of change for them to put towards their monthly espenses and bills!

It doesn’t take much effort to start a referral program, but it sure is a worthwhile gym marketing strategy. Figure out some referral program ideas for your gym, create the referral forms, and you’re good to go!

 

 

It’s always your fault…

“It’s always your fault if you’re any damn good at all.”

Ernest Hemingway

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I love that quote.  It speaks to the heart of how great companies operate and how great companies THINK about the customer experience.  How many time have we all heard “perception is reality”?  In other words, if a member thinks your staff is unfriendly and rude, then that is their reality.  But that doesn’t take it far enough.

I was on a call with one of our larger customers that have done a spectacular job implementing their operational customer experience management program AND getting results across the board.  Not just with their customer experience metrics but financial results as an outcome of a greatly improved experience.  For the sake of this article I will call them, Enlightened Fitness Co.  No that’s not their real name so go ahead and use it in your next brand roll out!!

We were discussing some of the initial hurdles and how they overcame them.  She told me that some of the early feedback was hard to take.  I get it.  I have had the same thing happen.  You pour your heart and soul – and money – into your operation and someone says, “you suck.”  To overcome this they decided that a key teaching point would be “perception = reality”.  But they did more than acknowledge that a member’s perception was that member’s reality, THEY TOOK OWNERSHIP OF IT.  And there is a big chasm to jump from acknowledgment to ownership.  BIG.

On to another customer who we recently lost after a few short months – we almost never lose a customer.   They had implemented the first tactical elements of a good program but had not yet fully embedded all the practices that truly move a company forward.  But they were doing a great job closing the loop and following up with members.  Then we got word – “Please cancel us.  Our members only advocate for themselves and don’t think about the whole club.  The negative feedback has worn on us and we don’t want to see it anymore.”  Uhhhhhhh…..what to say…what to say….

First of all, I’ve been there.  You take it personally, which is actually okay and I believe important.  Bit as Enlightened Fitness Co told me – “You need to take it both personally and professionally.”  You take it personally so that you have the urgency and emotion to want to make changes.  You take it professionally so that you apply critical thinking and planning to actually make improvements.

But don’t give up!  Don’t whine that members “advocate for themselves”! OF COURSE THEY DO!  All customers advocate for themselves!  What the hell do you expect???  Customers aren’t there to stroke you.  They are there to give you a dose of reality – THEIR reality. Take responsibility for making your organization more fun and easier to do business with.  Fix stuff faster.  Be more helpful and friendly.  Clean better than you are currently.  Replace OLD stuff.  Paint.  Sing.  Dance.  And most of all, don’t kid yourself that your “member onboarding process” is great or even mediocre until you go inspect every aspect of it to ensure it is working as intended.  Then make it better. Make it a great workout experience and accept the feedback – then action it.

That’s what the “damn good” organizations do.

7 Practices of Customer Experience Management

What is customer experience management? Anyone can collect customer feedback but turning that feedback into actual operations activities is the key. We call that OCEM or Operational customer experience management, Team Meetingwhich involves listening to customers and improving their experience by implementing changes based on that feedback. OCEM is not new to large enterprises that have big budgets along with a host of analysts and researchers as well as a driving desire to differentiate themselves from competition. But OCEM may be new—and a challenge—to smaller companies.

The fitness industry has pockets of companies with incredible customer loyalty and experience with OCEM. No matter what kind of fitness facility you run, you are a service business. You pay people to do things that are supposed to make the members’ experience better. OCEM systems tell you if that is working. They measure what, up until now, has been lost in the ether of the club. The following are 7 ways that great companies use OCEM. Let us know how we can help you put these things into practice.

  1. They set OCEM goals and measure progress. The key to OCEM is to talk to your members about customer experience, then measure it. As one company leader put it, “By the time poor customer experience shows up on your profit and loss, it’s too late.” Every gym owner should use a system to capture member feedback and benchmark against widely accepted methods for quantifying customer experience.
  2. They embrace all feedback. The best companies do not get bogged down in dogma. Negative feedback as well as positive feedback are embraced and deeply investigated to recover customers and improve the future experience for all. Every individual piece of feedback matters.
  3. They close the loop. When customers provide feedback, they get responses. Your members want to know that they have been heard. Your OCEM design should allow each of your locations to receive a stream of feedback at a pace that is easily manageable by the front line on a daily basis.
  4. They socialize feedback. These operators share with their staff the company’s scores for friendliness, cleanliness, overall experience or likelihood to repurchase. Staff discuss and dissect the numbers in meetings. Customer comments are used to support the desired culture. This is easy in the gym environment, and it is fun. I send comments to our entire staff about twice a week emphasizing what makes us different and thanking the staff for doing what we cannot do without them.
  5. They nurture staff engagement. Part of the reason you need to socialize customer data is that it increases staff engagement. Business owners make sure all corners of their operations are aware of key loyalty metrics relative to goals and to peers in the system.
  6. They know that customer experience leads. Downward trends in customer experience scores are the leading indicators for customer exodus. Awareness around customer experience allows one to see what has not been visible and to respond before it hits the profit and loss statement.
  7. They never stop. These companies listen, respond thoughtfully, recover customers, make changes to delight and keep customers, set targets and measure the effectiveness of their efforts. This is how OCEM works and how companies differentiate by enchanting their customers. The playing field is wide open in the fitness industry. Operators with the right philosophy, the tenacity and the willingness to learn from enterprises more experienced and more profitable than ours will reap the greatest benefits.

We love NPS!

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We love NPS. It’s simple. We started measuring NPS (Net Promoter Score) right after reading Fred Reichheld’s December 2003 Harvard Business Review article. LOVE NPS!   It is a great “North Star” for getting company-wide focus on the member (customer) experience. It remains one of our company’s four main KPIs. The target for our health clubs is to maintain a Trailing 90 Day NPS > 70.

But we learned quickly that to really enable the management of the member experience we needed to better understand the member experience. The “likelihood to recommend” question was a great start. But it hid many of our company’s shortcomings as it wasn’t an accurate representation of the entire MEMBER JOURNEY. By itself, it didn’t uncover our members’ deeper ideas, concerns and even valuable praise. We also struggled with accountability – How do I, as a front desk team member, ACCOUNT for my impact on our NPS?

When companies deploy an NPS only approach to Operational Customer Experience Management (OCEM), we see it result in a series of tactics to find “Detractors” and to mitigate their risk of cancelling. This tactical approach to OCEM returns only a fraction of the value one should be leveraging when going through the trouble of collecting member feedback. It also does not reveal the issues (sometimes major issues) your Promoters have with your company.

The first rule of OCEM is to really see yourself as the member sees you. You need metrics that you can track to their entire journey and once they give you that quantitative feedback, they are now primed to give you richer qualitative feedback.

For example, while I am writing this I reviewed feedback from a “Promoter”. This person gave a 10 on Likelihood to Recommend (LTR). They gave their reason as “Great club! Super clean.” Okay, if those are the only questions I allowed her to answer then our job with her is done! But read on. Once this SAME MEMBER had a chance to reflect on (and score) her whole journey, she added the following: “I have had 3 trainers. One left after 2 sessions, the next one was fired after we trained for several months and the third was promoted to another club within one month of us training, Very discouraging. No continuity. Why would I buy another series?” THAT is the information I needed.  Buried in her journey was a major issue. Now, instead of the false pat-on-the-back we would have given ourselves, we have uncovered an issue. In fact this may not be a small issue. Conducting root cause on this might reveal a HUGE opportunity to improve the experience for all of the personal training clients.  But if you are only asking the LTR question and “what was your reason?” you are not getting the value you need.

But we are still talking about tactics. What about your strategy? In order for you to be successful with your strategy, do you need to have a customer service oriented culture? Chances are, if you are in the fitness business the answer is “yes.”

The challenge with an NPS only program is that is very hard to move your customer-centric plans from being just ink on paper to the blood in the veins of your entire team. Getting the feedback to align with the member journey so that every team member takes ownership of the customer experience is how to make that happen.

Enter the science of great technology, survey design and a systematic approach for closing-the-loop, fixing individual issues, performing root-cause analysis and building culture.

The member experience is a complex thing to understand. It should not be treated as a transaction. When done right this complexity can be presented in simple and beautiful ways that engage your entire company. I started with Einstein and will finish with Oliver Wendell Holmes – “I wouldn’t give a fig for simplicity on this side of complexity. But I would give my right arm for simplicity on the other side of complexity.”

This blog was originally published Nov. 24, 2015 by Blair McHaney. We hope it fires you up to start really understanding what your members think about you.

It’s a Tuesday to You but a Lifetime to Them

I have only been in the health club industry for about 7 months now, not long at all compared to the people around me. That doesn’t add a whole lot of weight to my words (no pun intended) does it? So why take to heart the things I’m about to tell you? In the practical sense I have about 30 years of firsthand experience in the weight loss/health and wellness industry as a consumer. I grew up overweight, was that awkward kid that ate cereal out of a coffee mug so no one would know – sometimes food was my only friend. I blossomed into a heavy teenager, compensating for my looks with a sharp wit and an intense desire to please everyone around me. “She’s so nice, has such a great personality.” Yeah, I was that girl. On to my young adult years, I was up to almost 350 pounds. It wasn’t like the movies, there was no montage with a sad soundtrack that fast forwarded through my weight gain. I was present in every moment. Every bite, every time I drove the three blocks to work instead of walking, every time I told myself – Monday. I’ll start Monday. New Year’s is coming, I’ll eat what I want until New Years, then I’ll change everything. It’s Thanksgiving though, who wants to eat healthy during Thanksgiving? It’s my birthday! No one will mind if I eat half the cake, and so forth. A lot of you won’t be able to relate, and that’s ok. I used to be the exception, but unfortunately in this day and age my story is starting to become the rule.

At this point I should probably tell you that on August 24th, 2016, I reached my first milestone of 100 lbs lost. Yay me! How it happened… it wasn’t easy. I bounced from gym to gym searching for that golden epiphany for years, but was always turned off by the cold tiger_mountain_trailand empty feeling that I was just a mark on the dues line for the membership counselors and trainers I interacted with. Nothing stuck, there was no personal connection. I finally moved to Alaska for work at the end of 2010. I know our current and potential members aren’t going to move to Alaska and start hiking, it obviously won’t work for everyone, but it worked for me. I was in love! Not with a person, but with a state, and a new state of being. I could pick a trail, and just walk. At first it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, I could barely walk up a single flight of stairs, but I put one foot in front of the other and got started.

I finally had my turning moment a few years ago. I was on a trail, embarrassingly easy for most people, but hell on earth for me. I was sweating profusely, panting, and walking so slow that it hardly felt like moving at all. Then I heard a voice behind me. “Keep it up! You’re doing great, good for you!” A very fit man on a mountain bike flew past me, giving me a thumbs up as he went. For whatever reason having a random stranger take just a moment to throw some encouraging words my way meant more than a lifetime of people who really loved me saying the same things. It was just a regular moment for mountain bike guy, a Tuesday if you will, but it meant everything to me. I picked up my speed, hiking harder and higher than ever before. My entire life changed after that. It hasn’t been easy, I still struggle on a daily basis, but I will never forget that moment, my catalyst.

That’s why I got into the business after all this time. I want to give my members those moments – just a second of contact that might change everything for them. I want to be that shift in their state of being, pass on the gift that was given to me. Medallia is the perfect vehicle for that change! When I went to Chicago for the MXM Institute I figured it would be a good introduction to the system, how to run the mechanics of the software, how to process the survey responses, help my team with reports and metrics, etc. I had no idea that the entire focus would be the customer experience and how to elevate it. I was enthralled the entire time, surrounded by industry people who genuinely cared about their members. We were there shoulder to shoulder, absorbing all of the information given in an effort to make sure we are providing the best possible environment to foster health and wellbeing. Medallia is a great conduit, the best way to have open and honest conversations with our members. They are talking loud and clear, and thanks to the program we get the opportunity to listen, process, and in turn provide those moments that could be life changing.  If you get the chance to go to the institute, please do. It is your opportunity to get refreshed and reconnected with the reason you got into the industry in the first place. You’ll go home afterwards knowing that it may only be an average Tuesday in your club, the 100th time you answered the same question, the 100th time you caught the eyes of a member and gave an encouraging smile, but it might be a lifetime to the people you’re here to help.

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This blog is courtesy of one of our clients, Cheri Terhorst, the Member Relations Coordinator at Club Northwest in Grants Pass, OR. We made Cheri’s acquaintance at our inaugural MXM Institute in Chicago.