Erica Wolfe-Murray and Vicki Anstey: The Business of Fitness

 

 

To gain the greatest traction for your fitness business in January – it’s crucial that you plan in advance. Don’t leave it to the last moment – you can be sure that all of the big companies have already got their campaigns nailed well before Christmas.  So here are some of our top tips to get your business primed for the new year fitness boom.

 

  • Pre Christmas activity

 

Direct promotional offers to your existing clients before Christmas. These can be anything from additional classes, friend-get-friend referrals, a ladder scheme or suggesting they ask for a contribution towards annual membership as a Christmas gift. These people are buying from you already, they love what you do, so how can you encourage them to up their individual spend?

 

Increasingly, consumers are investing in their health and wellbeing over spending money on material goods – ‘experiences over belongings’, so appeal to this emerging trend. Especially when so much of the ‘noise’ at this time of year will be around consumerism. It will really help you stand out and compete for ‘share of wallet’.

 

There’s always a sense of ‘waiting until the New Year’ when it comes to fitness at this time of the year. You can encourage your customers – and any new clients you may wish to attract – to start NOW and off-set the inevitable effects of festive indulgences!

 

  • Protect your existing client base

 

Protecting existing client loyalty when they will bombarded with other offers and messages from competitive fitness offers is crucial. What else can you do for them, share with them to encourage them to continue their relationship with you?

 

Christmas is often a time when Studios and Gyms close, but there is a huge opportunity to accommodate anyone who is staying at home for Christmas (or visiting your area). Keep your classes running, even if you offer a ‘skeleton schedule’. It may be a little quieter than usual, so focus on class times that are usually popular, or open only in the morning before clients get distracted by other holiday/family activities. If attendance is a little lower, use it as an opportunity to interact more with those who are still attending – they will most likely be your most loyal clients after all – so send time with them and reward that loyalty. Use the learnings you gain from visiting patterns this year to inform next year and the year after. In no time, you’ll have a tried and tested schedule.

 

Building a community around your clients and customers can add to their sense of being part of something bigger than just your training can be a useful addition at the start of the new year.

 

  • Review past data for behaviour patterns

 

If you have been trading for more than a year already, review how your customers behaved this time last year. Look at the data you already own. Do you notice a drop-off? Or did you scoop up some of your best customers then? Do people sign up for longer term contracts?

 

Know what your attendance, adherence, drop out and retention rates are. If you always see a huge uplift in January, there is an argument for NOT investing in marketing at that time as you will benefit from natural seasonal delivery. So plan your activities (and budget) for December, February or even into March depending on when you start to see visits tail off.

 

All this information is incredibly useful to you, so use it. Although year-to-year the behaviour will not be exactly the same, harness it as best you can within your promotional offers, your marketing and how you engage with new participants..

 

  • Focus on your unique strengths

 

Be authentic yet inventive around the promotions you push out. You are unique in how you work and what you offer, so ensure this is core to how you promote your business. The big gyms cannot offer a tailored experience in the way that smaller businesses can so build on this difference. And don’t be frightened to try new marketing ideas – they will make you stand out.

 

Consider Studio or Gym Challenges, fitness advent calendars or 12 days of workout ideas. Offer your customers options for what they might do over Christmas if you are shut for a period of time. Short videos to inspire at-home workouts or go live on instagram and showcase what you do to a wider audience – or allow them to join you if they are travelling away.

 

And don’t forget to LISTEN and ask your customers what they want. Discreet eavesdropping in the changing room or reception is invaluable!

 

  • Plan how to retain New Year sign-ups

 

If you do start to win new clients early in the new year, you need to ensure you encourage them into a long term engagement with you. It’s all very well getting them in on an exciting promotion, but you have to make sufficient headway quickly to build retention.

 

Avoid highly discounted intro offers that attract anyone who likes a bargain, but no-one with any intention of committing long-term. Make sure that whatever regular payment options you have aren’t  a huge (prohibitive) step up from the sign-up offers you create. Ensure that your marketing messages appeal to your clients’ extrinsic motivations (the bigger picture, the WHY, the ‘what’s in it for me’) and not just the intrinsic motivations that are usually centred around a quick-fix or temporary financially-incentivised offer.  Avoid guilt-tripping your clients into action at ALL costs!

 

Get a plan in place to pay these newbies special attention and track who stays, who drops off then ask ‘why?’. Did you adopt different strategies for each? Can you develop a sign-up and follow-on support programme based on the higher retention pattern? Can you involve emotional drivers in your follow up communications?

 

Make it individual, check in to see if certain clients have reached their personal goals – remembering what those are and taking an interest in them, being EMPATHETIC, will go a long way towards engendering long term loyalty.

 

  • Develop a robust annual marketing plan

 

Ensure your December/January marketing is part of a larger year-long plan, not just a two-month wonder. Around 12 % of gym members sign up in January, but almost all of them will have dropped out only 6 weeks later (with some saying they would have cancelled memberships earlier than that if they weren’t tied into minimum period agreements).

 

You want to have your clients returning to you in February, March and beyond. So put together a detailed 3-month plan, a slightly less detailed plan for 4-6 months ahead. Start referring to Spring in Feb/March time and get your clients to visualise what success will look like if they continue to commit to the process now. Continually adapt and update the marketing you are using. And track what works. It is very easy to forget what activity delivered results a few months down the line.

 

  • Use the Christmas break to plan, plan, plan

 

The Christmas break can be used as a real opportunity to take the time to plan the next 12-18 months for your fitness business. Identify 3-4 key goals that you want to target during that time. You could choose to gain additional customers, add further skills to your offer, or it might be identifying how to get closer engagement with your local surgeries and medical practitioners to support them. When you are making New Year’s Resolutions for yourself, don’t forget to include your hopes and dreams for your business too.

 

Whatever goals you have, break them down into actions that you need to achieve on a weekly or monthly basis to get you there. Be adaptable, be prepared to shift the goal posts as you need to, but don’t give up. Nothing good ever comes from easy, keep chipping away and hold onto your vision and your original belief in what you are trying to achieve. Break it down, step by step.

 

And be brutal – aware that any goals you target will have to be on top of your current work commitments. But that is the only way to move ahead.

 

Map the goals large on the wall together with the action schedule to regularly remind you of what you need to do when.

 

By Erica Wolfe-Murray and Vicki Anstey




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