The system states: If you build it, they will come.
The system states we should:
- Open elaborate, state-of-the-art training facilities complete with rows and rows of cardio machines, select equipment and free weights — basically a Noah's ark two-by-two system inside a gym.
- Kit out group cycle, TRX, yoga and Pilates rooms with high-quality sound systems and fancy lighting.
- Use interior designers to pick out the right color schemes to help members feel a certain way when they enter our facilities.
The system states we should:
- Run ads and discounts to sway potential members to experience a test drive.
- Shower new members with swag bags full of branded gear, shaker bottles and samples of fat-burning pills to say thank you.
- Give them a free personal training session to get them started on the right foot.
We all follow the same system to attract potential members to our facilities, but does that system keep them coming back?
The system we follow focuses on attracting members with the hope that no one asks deep questions once they are on board. The system we follow is about initial hype but not about building relationships. The system we follow pursues monthly EFTs but overlooks members when they are gone for weeks.
The system we follow is outdated and far from being current for the needs and wants of the millions of unfit and unhealthy individuals who need our expertise desperately. And it fails to deliver on our promises to our current members who are already investing in our services.
How do we fix a system that has been in place for decades? How do we make course corrections in the middle of the busiest sign up times of the year?
Here are five unsettling questions to redefine and remind us about what is most important to retaining a client for life:
- Are we achieving long-term results for our members, or are we just a place to sweat?
- Are we changing members' eating habits, or are we just selling them supplements and protein shakes that never address real fat loss?
- Are we making a measurable difference in our local communities or simply providing services?
- Are we capturing the hearts and imaginations of those who consider themselves unfit and unhealthy by connecting with them when they walk in, or do we focus on connecting through social media?
- Are we organized around a mission, or are we organized around an antiquated gym system inherited from a previous generation?
If we want to know what gym operators mean when they say something, watch what they do. Actions don't only speak louder than words; actions should be used to interpret words we use in every aspect of our system.
When we engage with actions of caring, loving, connecting and serving on a daily basis, we secure our members' attention and retain them for life. If we connect action to eating real food, sleeping more and stressing less by reducing our training time, we can correct the mistakes of the more-is-best past.
If you were starting from scratch, would your operating system be current, community focused, team centered and driven to change the lives of your members? It's a simple but emotionally and extraordinarily uncomfortable question to ask. Bring together three potential leaders in your facility and ask them to answer this question and then ask them how they would design your facility.
If you after doing this exercise, you gain some game-changing ideas, I'd love to hear about them in the comments section below.
Brent Gallagher is co-owner of the 4,500-square-foot personal training studio West U Fitness in Houston with his wife, Cassie. The facility offers 30-minute training programs and a teaching kitchen for nutrition health. Gallagher has been featured on the Dave Ramsey Show and NBC Nightly News. He can be reached at [email protected].