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Success in the Fitness Industry Requires Adherence to Three New Operating Principles

Apple’s market valuation recently hit a record high. As the single most valuable company ever to exist, Apple is worth 54 percent more than runner-up ExxonMobil.

How did Apple become so successful? “The New Rules of Retail: Competing in the World’s Toughest Marketplace,” by Robin Lewis and Michael Dart, offers a thesis that success in today’s retail environment requires three main operating principles: neurological connectivity, preemptive distribution and value-chain control.

As Lewis and Dart explain in their book, neurological connectivity means delivering an experience, not a sale. To do this successfully, you must understand how someone experiences your brand from beginning to end. You must measure the current experience and find ways to improve it by listening continuously to your members and making adjustments in real time.

Preemptive distribution means understanding your role to customers and what you are distributing to them. Is it memberships, access or equipment? Once you understand what people want, you must put it in front of them when and where they want it.

Most club operators think of the location of a gym as its distribution. In many ways, this is true. However, the method for increasing distribution cannot simply be to open more gyms. To believe that what people want from us are simply memberships is a fundamental flaw in the fitness industry. Beyond memberships, we need to distribute valuable and relevant answers for current and future customers.

Social media offers a giant opportunity to deliver the answers that members may seek well before they decide to join a gym. By owning the distribution of preemptive help in a community, you make your facility the go-to gym for people in search of a facility. Sit down with your staff and discuss how that preemptive distribution of help would look inside your gyms.

Value-chain control means controlling your customers’ experiences by training the people you hire to deliver a fabulous experience. Control all of the ways that make your gym environment a community. Do not outsource your personal training. If your trainers, members and instructors walk around the gym with straight faces and do not interact, then your members have joined your facility but they will not feel like they belong. Take responsibility to make everyone feel like they belong, and that means getting involved on the exercise floor, doing social events and introducing members to each other. We also should turn our gyms into communities by designing our spaces to allow for member-to- member interaction.

To put the neurological connectivity rule into practice, collect member feedback and adjust your operations continuously based on that feedback. Add member experience into your strategy, vision and core values. Create accountability for the member experience by measuring it and managing to constantly improve it.

To implement preemptive distribution, offer classes and services based on what your members want rather than on what you feel like delivering. Provide help that is relevant and valuable for current and future customers and deliver it for free through social media. Locate your services near your core customers.

For value-chain control, you must be in control of your staff, be diligent with hiring and be consistent and thorough with their training, which means you should not outsource personal training. Train staff around providing a good member experience every day rather than seeking a sale.

The industry needs a common language to talk about member experience so club operators can share common metrics for measuring and comparing the member experiences. We have created our own metrics for our two Gold’s Gyms. I do not have the space to detail these metrics here, but I will tell you that our scores are high. And doing well in these areas means that we should reduce our attrition, increase referrals and increase the likelihood that someone will rejoin if they cancel.


About the author

Blair McHaney is president of Confluence Fitness Partners Inc., which operates two Gold’s Gyms in Washington. He previously served as president of the Gold’s Gym Franchisee Association and is an educator on customer experience management.

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