Survival in 2021 Requires Getting Done the Job of Meeting Consumers’ New Demand

(Photo courtesy Myzone.)

(Editor's Note: This sponsored story is part of Club Industry's report, "Fitness Industry Trends to Watch in 2021," which can be downloaded for free by going here.)

As we settle into 2021, some things are clear: 17 percent to 25 percent of clubs are never coming back into operation after pandemic-related restrictions. About 60 percent to 75 percent of members are returning to clubs, covering operating expenses but leaving profit margins dry. Big tech companies are attempting to substitute for what clubs offer, and the market cap of digital fitness players such as Apple, Google and Amazon is equal to that of the GDP of Japan.  

We also have vaccines on the way to returning us to “normal” life and a population hyperaware of their general health and immunity to infection. The forces are pushing and pulling in a complex way. 

If your business has survived, it is time to capture the commercial treasure on the other side. Not just to return to 2019 levels but to capitalize on excess demand in the wake of club closures. Consumers’ fresh new demand is to help them improve their immune system. If you miss helping them meet this demand, you’ll miss the biggest tailwind in our industry’s history. 

Some operators argue that hybridization will be the macro theme of 2021; others say that strategy was just a 2020 quick fix. I am in the former camp and believe hybridization will be the key trend, but why? And how to address it? 

If you are unfamiliar with Clay Christensen’s “jobs to be done” theory, check out this short video on YouTube; it is as relevant now as it was before the pandemic. The theory suggests we are never selling a product to a consumer. Rather, the consumer hires us to get a job done, and the trick is establishing what that job is. Products change, but jobs often remain the same. 

Ask yourself and your members: what is the job to be done? Your job is to help build and sustain an exercise routine so members can “fill in the blank” -- for example, lose weight, reduce stress, build immunity. Whatever the goal, you can help build and sustain an exercise routine to achieve it. 

Doing so can take several forms. You could require members to book classes via a scheduler because then they must make a commitment. A calendar reminder would then trigger them to follow through. Classes where members join and follow along are easier and reduce resistance. During class, acknowledge members by name to recognize their efforts and build community. Commitment to a behavior, triggers for an easy action and rewards are powerful components of sustained routine. 

As you offer virtual products, stick to your core job to be done. Book members into virtual workouts for a formal commitment, then remind them to check in. Leverage live video coaching to allow the coach to interact, recognize and reward. Then, overlay gamification so a workout at home and a workout at the gym matter the same. Lastly, position your brand as the big tent of fitness in a member’s life. Product offerings change with the times, but the core “jobs to be done” remain the same. 


Emmett Williams has worked worldwide in the fitness industry, returning recently to Australia after nine years in the United States. Having built and owned gyms on one side of the ledger, to having owned and grown international sales and marketing company CFM on the other side of the ledger, Williams now allocates most of his time as partner in wearable technology company Myzone. He has been named to Fitness Australia’s prestigious Roll of Honor for excellence in leadership, and he accepted IHRSA’s Supplier of the Year award on behalf of Myzone. Williams is on the board of IHRSA’s Industry Partner Council as well as the Global Health and Fitness Alliance. 

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