Making Your Health Club Viral in Three Steps

Pat Rigsby is the co-owner of several businesses in the fitness industry, including the Fitness Consulting Group. He also serves as an industry consultant focusing on the development of profitable personal training departments. To learn how you can improve your club’s retention, referrals and profitability, sign up for Rigsby’s free newsletter and get his three free business building reports at Rigsby can be reached at [email protected].

Your club should be viral. But what is viral, you may be asking? Viral is a marketing phenomenon that facilitates and encourages people to pass along a marketing message. It generally refers to viral Internet marketing, but it can be used to spread the word about your club in other ways, too.

So, how exactly do you go about becoming viral? Follow these three easy steps and you’ll be well on your way to going viral.

Step One: Message

Your “message” is what you communicate to your existing and future members—and this sometimes affects what your members say about you.

The areas to improve in your message are your brand, your sales and marketing materials, and your values. Let’s look at these a bit more closely.

1. Brand. Your brand is your company’s identity in the eyes of your members. Branding is a big topic, so for now, it’s important to know that you can (and should) improve your brand, but that doesn’t mean you should change it frequently.

In fact, once you have a good branding message, you should stick to it. If you change your brand all the time, the “branding effect” will be greatly minimized, if not totally eliminated. Further, make sure that all of your marketing materials include your brand, since it will become your business identity and be what is conveyed when people spread the word about you.

2. Sales and marketing materials. Your sales and marketing materials include any form of communication that your members or potential members see. This includes business cards, websites, sales scripts, T-shirts, lead boxes and anything else that spreads the word about you.

Although becoming viral is bigger than your sales materials, at some point potential members (even if they are driven by word of mouth) will come in contact with these materials. The more “right” you get these materials, the better, of course. Continually improve the effectiveness of these messages, focusing on the changes that are the easiest and/or have the most impact.

3. Values. Your values are what you stand for as a business—and I mean what you really stand for. Many business owners profess that their businesses stand for many noble things, but their actions prove otherwise. Whatever your values are, they will most definitely be communicated to your members, either intentionally or unintentionally. In fact, the unintentional communication (the communication that occurs by just being who you are) is perhaps the most significant.

Step Two: Quality of Service

At its core, quality of service is what your business is. You are exchanging access to your facility and services for your members’ money. The greater the value you give your members in exchange for what they give you, the more likely they are to be delighted—and that delight translates into your business going viral. Word of mouth is key to going viral.

But that’s only part of the picture. Giving someone high value for their dollar is a great start but may not be enough to get people to talk about you. To do that, you need to be so excellent that you are buzzworthy—or worth talking about.

How do you do that? Go beyond what they ask for when they become a member. Provide something so amazingly great that people exclaim “wow!” after having done business with you. Have you ever done business with someone that was so good you had to tell others about it?

You should continually strive to improve your customer service, training knowledge and the quality of your programming, but remember that members also want a consistent experience, especially if it’s good. Eventually, you need to stop making big changes and focus on small tweaks that most people won’t notice. At that point, your services will have become such an integral part of your message that the changes should not be publicly announced.

Step Three: Member Experience

Some business owners make their businesses buzzworthy purely on the power of the member experience. Domino’s Pizza did this by being the fastest pizza delivery in the world. It wasn’t great pizza, but that wasn’t their brand.

If you are excellent in both your quality of service and member experience, you are well on your way to building a viral business. If your quality of service leaves something to be desired, here are ways to improve your members’ experiences:

1. Shorten the path between your members’ problems and the solutions. Help them get the results for which they originally joined your club.

2. Make the process of doing business with you as easy as possible. Answer the phone quickly, reply to e-mails in a timely fashion and treat people the way you want to be treated.

3. Treat your members with respect. Respect their time, their effort and everything else about them. Remember that they trusted you in what is typically an insecure time for them.

4. Make it more than a workout. They can get workouts anywhere. You need to provide atmosphere, energy, motivation and a genuine sense of caring.

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