The fitness challenge has long been a staple of your typical gym or fitness center. For the class-based boutique studio, this is no different since they are an excellent way of keeping your members engaged and focused on a goal. And keeping your members engaged is the best way of keeping your retention rates high. In this article, we will go through the importance of engagement and retention to long term growth, why challenges are one of the best ways to achieve this and finally 3 ideas for fitness challenges you can run in your studio.
Why Retention Is Key to Long Term Growth
We have talked many times before about the higher cost of getting new members in comparison to keeping older ones, with a couple of reports showing it typically costs nine times as much to acquire a new member as it does to retain a current one. In fact, to show the actual cost in cold hard cash, a member retention report conducted in 2016 by the IHRSA showed that studios spend a median $118.65 on sales and marketing per new member. In comparison to this, they generate $793.40 per current member each year.
This is why member retention is crucial to growing a class-based fitness business. Unlike the big box gyms where the goal is to have as many members as possible, the boutique and class-based gym should aim to retain a core group of members that will fill your classes regularly.
Growing your fitness business in the long term is based on member retention. Taking action on retention strategies early on is critical, something we looked at in our last blog on hard lessons learned from the first year of owning a gym.
Why Challenges Are Key to Retention
One important way of keeping those retention rates sky high is by putting on fitness challenges for your members. You have probably run a challenge or have taken part in one on more than one occasion in your fitness career, so you probably know the inside track on how they are run. However, there are still studios out there who are continually leaving challenges low on their priorities. In reality, making challenges a priority is a simple and effective way of supercharging retention.
This is especially true for a fitness business who are just starting out but even bigger branded studios like F45 and Orangetheory, who rely heavily on brand recognition and brand loyalty, run challenges to keep their members engaged. (F45s Playoff Challenge and Orange Theory’s Transformation Challenge).
So why are challenges so good at keeping up retention? There are a couple of reasons why:
- They create a fun and collaborative environment and change things up from regular class time. If your members feel like they’re part of a team, they’ll keep coming back.
- They are a goldmine for social media content. Encouraging members to share progress on social media is an inexpensive piece of advertising for your studio
- They keep your members engaged and motivated. Fitness is inherently linked to competition which is a great way to encourage members. (friendly competition of course!)
- Recent studies like this one from UC Berkley show the gamification of fitness is something is becoming more and more effective in keeping people engaged in exercise.
Why Challenges Increase Weekly Class Attendance
A challenge is great for keeping your members focused on a fitness goal, and it rewards them for all the effort they have been putting in during class. As well as that it gives them a reason to turn up to class every day. This will especially be key for potentially upping the attendance of those who aren’t coming to class often enough. To give you an idea of who this might be, take a look at the following 3 categories of members:
- Active members: Attending class 3 + times a week
- Low usage: Attending 1-2 times a week
- Drop out/at-risk: attending 1 a week or less
So what you really want is less category 2, and 3 members and more category 1 members, and the best way to achieve this are to give the 2s and 3s a goal they can hit and progress they can track to on their journey to hitting that goal. The only way they can do this is by attending class more often which in turn will give you a better chance of retaining them in the long run.
Now we will go through the 3 different types of challenges you can put on for your members and give you a couple of examples of each. We will also go through some of the advantages and disadvantage of each type of challenge.
The 3 categories of challenges are:
- Workout Challenges
- Body Transformation Challenges
- Social and Charity Challenges
Let’s dive in!
These types of challenges are exercise and workout based challenges that test the metal of your members. The idea behind these is to motivate them to push themselves beyond what they think they are capable of.
Let’s look at a brand we discussed at the beginning of this article: F45. Their F45 Playoffs are designed to test four areas: body, strength, agility, and cardiovascular. There is no good score or bad score, just a benchmark of the person’s fitness levels. If you are familiar with the F45 brand, you will know the type of intense workout they provide. F45 brands the challenge as the “a global benchmark in 10 minutes” and consists of 10 stations, 45 seconds work and 15 seconds rest.
Looking at this challenge should give you an idea of what type of workout challenge you should put on. There are some key points you should think off:
- What is the goal the person needs to hit? With the Playoffs, it is a benchmark of your current state of fitness that you should strive to improve the next time you do it.
- Make sure this goal is something that really tests the capabilities of your members.
- Decide if you want your members to team up or complete by themselves
- Tell them the exercises they need to complete.
- Have a time limit.
- Set the stations and the sets.
- Brand the challenge so its something recognizable you can market to members and non-members alike.
Stick to these key points, and you will not be far of creating an engaging fitness challenge of your own. Try and run these every 4 to 6 weeks to give people the time to attend as many classes as possible.
Body transformations are a little different to weight-loss challenges in that they are more about a total transformation that includes muscle building for strength. Typically these challenges are becoming more popular than weight-loss challenges because of both their physical and aesthetic benefits.
Again let’s go back to another example that we mentioned earlier – Orangetheory Fitness. The Orangetheory Fitness Transformation Challenge is an 8-week challenge that aims to give a total body transformation and more importantly instill the participant with health and fitness habits for life. The challenge is for members and non-members alike. Access is granted to expert coaches who track performance and make sure the participant is on the path to acquiring a healthy lifestyle by providing top workout and nutrition advice. The challenge takes place at the start of the year and Orangetheory market it as the perfect way to kick off the New Year.
So what can we learn from this? Consider the following points when figuring out your own transformation challenge:
- Provide a plan for nutrition as well as for exercise as this is where the crucial changes will be made.
- Make sure it’s not a “get results quick” type of challenge. You want to develop something that actually changes the habits and the lifestyle of the participant.
- Set out a period in which the challenge needs to be completed: it could be 28 days, 8 weeks or 3 months.
- Similarly to the workout challenge, you should brand it, so it’s more accessible to the market.
- Pick times of the year where people desire some sort of change. Typical times include the New Year, just before summer and just before winter.
- Have a system of track performance and results. The simplest way of doing this is by taking before and after performance pics and measurements.
Social and Charity Challenges
Sometimes it’s great to get your members out of the gym and taking part in different challenges that have a social and charity element to them. There is always lots of various events happening all year round in the local area. Examples include 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, and Hell and Back type challenges. Consider these points when setting up a challenge:
- Ask your members what they would be interested in doing.
- Consider picking a local charity to raise money for.
- Tailor classes to train for the specific event.
- Track the event through social and encourage your members to do the same
- Organize a post-challenge social gathering.
Having everyone train together for a common goal is a fantastic way to build a sense of community. Also think of making branded t-shirts and water bottles specifically for the event to give that extra sense of team spirit. As well as that there is the added benefit of getting your members involved in the local community.