The Power of the Personal Touch at Your Fitness Business
By Nt Etuk
Fitness is a people business.
By now, those of you who are familiar with my writing or speaking recognize this as a familiar refrain from me. Fitness is in the midst of a massive upheaval. The amount of competition in the industry from other studios and online competitors is staggering, and only increasing.
In such a world, the one, true advantage that studio businesses have is their community. The connection of the people in your studio—the energy that they get from each other—from the front desk to the instructor to the other members to you (the owner) is everything. That is what makes the difference between the studio a client commits to, and the studio they drop.
So the real question is… what are you doing to enable deep, personal connections among the people in your community?
Make no mistake. This is a conscious effort, and everyone who has been successful at doing this has put very hard thought into it. Below are examples of a few ways you can foster meaningful client relationships. Analyze your business for the “personal touch,” and see where you are strong and where you could use improvement.
Many studios design their space for interaction. Studios that have benches or chairs in the front area welcome people to stay and mingle. Lockers that are in wide open areas, but far enough away from the class to not be a distraction, enable people to connect after a hard class.
In many studios, instructors are encouraged to introduce classmates to each other. Other popular tactics, used by studios such as The 12 and The Madison Improvement Club, include incorporating high fives or other forms of positive interaction between participants. Some studios, such as Switch Playground, pair each client with another person, which almost forces them to mingle.
It’s amazing how many people miss this small but powerful component. Often, you have to train your staff, instructors—and sometimes even your clients—to be open and willing to meet each other. Telling your front desk person to introduce two people at the desk simultaneously increases the odds a substantial connection is made. Advising your instructors to introduce two people in line waiting to speak with them significantly ups the likelihood they will continue to interact.
This sounds strange, but no studio owner runs an enterprise without fitness software these days. Some software is specifically geared to create a deeper connection between people. For example, some of the texting software (or automated email packages that have texting capability) such as MINDBODY Marketing, ZipWhip, Brandbot, or Loyalsnap allow messages to seem as if they are coming directly from a person at the studio. Just by nature texts feel personal to clients.
Other software, such as FitGrid, allow more direct communication between instructors and clients, exchanging messages through an instructor that is familiar to the client, rather than an automated program. This gives a much more personal feel and is extremely well received by clients.
Regardless of how you do it, measuring yourself on the “Personal Touch Scale”, as I like to call it, will be a useful exercise for your business. Keep your members connected and watch your retention soar.