Chantal: I know that today you’re planning on sharing some of your innovative program ideas to help retain members and non-due program clients, but you’re also renowned for making clubs the place to be all year round. So I was hoping today if you could start by summarizing some of those must-haves for a quality fitness business.
Paul: Absolutely Chantal. Well, I think everyone from the fitness industry knows the key to retaining your clients is your club has to be C.H.E.A.P. And when I say cheap, I’m not talking about price, I’m talking about my acronym, C-onvenience, H-ospitality, E-nvironment, A-ffordablity and P-ersonal. Let me explain.
So with Convenience, number one, location rules. Every report you read will tell you, people wouldn’t drive past a good club to get to a great club. But if you can’t be the closest club, if you are suffering from competition moving in your neighbourhood, look at reciprocity. What that means is, try to make sure that you gang up with other clubs. So that you aren’t just selling your one location, your offering the convenience of your clients being able to train whenever they find themselves on a daily basis.
Now, IHRSA, way way back in the early days with their passport program did this, way back in 1989, my own club Busy Bodies, we had reciprocity with other gyms around Australia. I know that Active Management itself has a program of reciprocity. And if you don’t have one in place, maybe you could join a group or franchise that does. So, being able to say to somebody, “We are your convenient solution.” And then there is that convenience of time, 24-hour access. And doesn’t mean you have to have a complete club 24-hoursr access.
If you can at least say there’s a zone in your club that members can swipe a card, on a Sunday night at 7 o’clock, when you’d rather not have staff there, an access, even if it’s a small area, a work out zone that gives them a limited work out, that’s going to help a lot.
We’ve done this with several clubs with great success and what that means is you don’t give up the fight for 24-hour access to those other clubs in your neighbourhood.
Then, you’ll look at Hospitality, friendly. Number one, a great hello and a great good bye. Every time I go to my favourite sushi store, they not always great me on the way in, but there is a massive farewell on the way out. The fitness industry can learn a lot from that. Things like knowing people by their name goes a long way. Now, this is a little bit cliché but when you don’t have people around your clubs, they’re hard to deliver. Be proactive. The good old sending out a birthday card is a great idea. But even things like a welcome video. Maybe you can email and introductory video that you’ve recorded just on your own little smartphone that tells people about your club and so if you can’t visit them personally, you do it digitally. And systemize it and be consistent. Whatever you put in place, don’t ever fall on your standards. If you offer complimentary towels, better make sure there’s always a towel. If Friday is a fruit Fridays, don’t ever forget to get that fruit. Because the moment you break an expected pattern, that’s when people start to get disappointed.
And the final one, what about random acts of kindness. In my gym, we just had our printed shirts up on the wall for sale. If someone came in and they forgot their workout attire and are about to walk out the door, I would rip the shirt off the clothes hanger, give it to them free of charge. Nine times out of ten, they come back to thank me and pay me anyway. And if they didn’t, guess what, my shirt is walking all over town.
Then we talk about the Environment. Your club has got to be the classics; clean, well-equipped, but make sure the equipment that you choose is to service the clients that you want to attract. Part of retaining clients is retaining the clients that you want by not attracting the clients that you don’t want and your members don’t want.
You know what type of people you need in your club to survive. You know what market you can niche in. Look after those people and don’t equip for the ones that you don’t want. And finally, I’m sure you have staffing in the peak hours. There are business models out there that really cut back on staffing. I’m not saying they’re not profitable. But if you want to retain clients, people are critical. Peak hour services, peak hour support, got to have it. That means you can now identify, who needs to help, and who doesn’t. Those who don’t need help, just pick all those other things, hospitable, great facilities, etc. But for those who needs help, make sure you give it to them. They become independently loyal to your club. The affordability therefore speaks for itself. It’s not about price. It’s about value. Do people look at what they pay for your membership and ask why am I paying that? Or do they ask, how do you do it for the price?
And finally, it’s got to be Personal. Yes, good old know-their-name, know their friends. Make sure their program is personalized for them. Not just something off the shelf and then it’s ultimate goal is that they feel, they can train in your club independently but they also feel part of the community they would never want to leave without.
Chantal: Thank you so much for that Paul. Now, you believe that all new clients need to attain a level of independence and you’ve got ways to achieve that. Can you share some of those with us?
Paul: By all means, look, the fundamental of every individual client is you need to know that they feel comfortable when they come into the club. In my very first talk with our listeners a couple of weeks ago, we spoke about establishing the client’s confidence, habit, enjoyment, challenge, knowledge and social sense in the club.
Those six things have to be an all time high for this client to understand your club. And if any of those are missing, you’re in trouble. So, first thing we do is we sit down and we do our goal setting. Good old smart goals. You know, specific, significant stretching goals that test the client. Measurable goals that are meaningful and motivational, agreeable goals; ones that are attainable and can be achieved.
Realistic goals, relevant to the lifestyle and the ambitions that they have, and tied down so that there is some accountability there. Then, you need to benchmark. You know what their goals are from where they want to be. You then need to benchmark with them now. What their mindset is, what their physical condition is, and their amount of responses, how they feel. Because the best thing about our clubs isn’t how great our members look, it’s how they feel.
Then, we need to plan. We need to make sure the client has a clear guideline. Your good old FITT principle. Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type. Now, all of these things are done in what we call first personalized profiling session. I insist in all the clubs that we work with that every individual member gets to sit down with a coach and go through those stages of goal-setting, of benchmarking, and planning and they know that plan will design an individual program. Now, the individual program concept doesn’t sound that radical in the fitness industry. But we don’t just do it once, we have a very specific approach to teach new people what to do to get them started, give them a week to try it, and then come back and perfect it. And it is that comeback and that boost, that’s the one that makes the big difference.
It’s where we perfect our technique, make sure the intensity is bang on. And if there’s any exercises inappropriate for the client, they either don’t like it, or it’s aggravating an injury, they have a week to road test it to find out what going to work and what’s going to be changed.
Now, the next stage in our lifestyle is to get our eating habits right out of the club. What are they doing in restaurants? What are they doing in the supermarkets? What’s in their kitchen cupboard right now? So, I believe that every client has to have the opportunity to talk to someone and say, “We have this kind of lifestyle choices, and can we make them better?” We don’t do diets; we don’t do anything too specific. But we look at the lifestyle habits that people have. And any of our qualified fitness coaches that are properly trained are perfectly positioned to deliver this level of eating habit guidance.
The next stage is absolutely critical, it’s the results phase. We believe that every member who joins our club, should, within four to six weeks, see noticeable improvements in the right direction in how they think, how they look and how they feel. Remember, the best thing about coming to our clubs is not how great you look but its how you great you feel. So, there’s a massive emphasis on things like, having greater energy levels and measuring that. Being able to see that they wake up in the morning feeling like they’ve had a better night sleep. Coping with a stressful situation in life better, feeling happy when they look in the mirror with what they see and finally, their overall self-esteem.
These are the things we’ve learnt to benchmark. And then from that, a periodical progression to make sure that their programs don’t get stale. See, our bodies need adaptation, they need stimulation, they need to be shocked. And I don’t mean shocked to the point of soreness, where they don’t want to come back. I just mean just change it up so we don’t get bored and your body doesn’t get stuck in a rut. We then, have a really important part of the process, celebrating the achievements of our clients. We want to make sure that the other members in the club are aware of what they’ve achieved. It kind of endorses our approach by saying, “Look, it works.” But more importantly, it lifts that person up.
It makes them as an adult, feel like that child being celebrated with a trophy at school or at the local sports club. It relives that moment of a pat on the back, and you know what, you’re better than you’re ever thought you were. That recognition is as simple as a certificate handed to them in a meeting or could be a major celebration at your next Christmas party.
We believe these steps of getting to know our clients, helping them to train right, helping them eat right, proving that it’s working and then mixing them up periodically. All of those things turn them to a loyal, successful raving fan.
Chantal: You know Paul, I’m certain that the personalized approach that you’ve just stepped us through would make all the difference, but what’s coming to my mind is I’m thinking that’s a lot to take on board. It can feel quite overwhelming for someone that doesn’t have a program already. In your experience, is it difficult to deliver? Is it expensive to go through that process?
Paul: Well look, the answer is no, it’s not expensive. Interestingly enough, when we do our studies on the cost of delivery for this type of approach, it works out less than the full cost of their first month’s membership. Now, that might sound like a fairly significant investment when you’ve got hundreds of members, but if you’ve got hundreds of members to stay several months longer, then it’s a massive profit opportunity. Not doing it, simply means, you better get ready to replace those members. So, I guess it does take a systematic approach, yes, it does require a small investment of some of the revenues we attract from our client initially. But if we are not willing to invest in them, we better get ready to replace them.
Chantal: Let’s talk about now about clubs that offer personal training or perhaps they offer non-dues based programs. In those examples, how do you actually differ your approach?
Paul: Well, significantly, a lot of the things discussed are relevant for any situation. You know, a personal trainer still needs to know their clients. They need to know their goals and need to set them up a proper plan. Every personal trainer out there will agree with that.
The thing is, they don’t always get the chance to do it for the full membership. They only get a relatively small percentage of the clients take that opportunity up. So, my first recommendation will be, try to make sure that the trainers are involved in getting everybody through in an initial on- boarding process.
But for the clients who invested in a PT, there’s a couple of extra things that I would like to recommend. Number one, with personal trainers, the question that you’ve got to ask is, “What is the one thing that I can bring to my client that they can’t get themselves?” Now, for some people that is simple the accountability showing up. For others, it’s the variety. For others, it’s the goal-setting. For others, it’s the intensity; being pushed at the right intensity. For others, it’s avoiding injuries, or avoiding hurting a health complication that they might have.
Just make sure that personal trainers are very clear. For each and individual client they’ve got, what is the one thing that a client can’t go elsewhere or get? And then, be the world’s best at honing in on that; constantly reminding the client that is your number one goal. Not ignoring all the other benefits you offer but never forgetting that, that is your singular source of retaining that client.
The second thing that I recommend is on-going results checks is a quick way of attaining it for every personal trainer out there. Do a results check with your clients every single week. Now, I don’t mean the same measurements every single week. If I throw it out there and said, “Okay, what if it was an anthropometric measurement such as measuring their waist?” I would do that once a month.
But then, a week after that, I might do their body fat measurements. And the week after that, I would do their blood pressure resting heart rate or a 12-minute treadmill test. And maybe, a week after that, we do some other type of test that is very specific to the client’s goals. And then on the fifth week, we go back to what we did on the first week. So that every week, we are remeasuring something about a month later. And that way, the client is always getting good news, always getting feedback.
But you’re allowing yourself that 30-day window for those results to kick in. Too often, we leave people hanging and waiting for the whole story, once every four or six weeks, when we can divide that up into chunks and then again, rotate it week after week. So there’s a couple of tips for people running programs out there. If you’re running boot camps, if you’re running training courses, again, look for an opportunity to measure something about your participants every week. Maybe the first week of the month we do a push-up test. Maybe the second week of the month it’s a chin-up test. Maybe the third week of the month it’s a big test. But every week of the month, that group has the opportunity to test themselves individually and against one another.
Chantal: Paul, those insights that you’ve shared with us today have been so valuable. Can you give us a bit of an idea of what we can look forward to in our next and our final episode for this Intensive Series?
Paul: Absolutely. Well, the final session will be Measures of Success. I want to show our listeners out there, how easy it is to monitor not just reactively what’s happened to your retention in the past but how to get measurements to predict the longevity and likelihood that your clients will stay with you in the future.
I’ll show you some few tips on how to set some measurements up, not just for your fitness team, not just for your finance team but for every single part of your team in the club.
Chantal: Well, we look forward to you joining us for that final week and thank you once again for joining us for week three. Thank you so much Paul!
Paul: My absolute pleasure, Chantal!
NEXT EPISODE: MEASURES OF SUCCESS
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