What makes boutique studios different from big box gyms?
In a widely read article on the rise of boutique fitness, finance specialist Matt Dixon goes through the history of this relatively recent fitness trend. He also identifies some of the key reasons they have pulled ahead off their big-box rivals.
One of the main factors Dixon identifies is that they are in tune with the needs of a younger generation of technologically savvy fitness fanatics. These needs include a highly specialized experience, more convenience, greater flexibility and a baked-in sense of community. More importantly, memberships are less strictly enforced. Usually, members will pay as they go or have month to month rolling contracts.
Meeting the needs of the typical boutique fitness member requires a different type of membership management strategy than would typically be used in a big box gym. The studio needs to have membership management systems in place that make the members payment and class booking experience as light touch as possible. Outside of this emphasis needs to placed on each member’s personal fitness journey and the goals they want to achieve.
In this article, we will go through what membership management actually is, what types of systems and software are needed, and the seven crucial things every gym management software strategy needs.
What Is Membership Management?
Membership management in a fitness studio is a broad umbrella under which many things fall under. In the most basic sense, its the process by which you manage the members of your fitness business. This includes making sure they book into classes, checking their attendance, and making sure they are on track to hit their fitness goals. These days a lot of this is handled by gym management software with the majority of studios going so far as to have a branded app for their members.
On a smaller more personal level though, membership management can also be about making sure your members feel welcome in your studio and having a personal investment helping them achieve what they want to achieve. It is simple as saying hello with a smile when your members come into class and asking how they are getting on in their day to day. The big problem most have with the big box gym experience is the intimidation and lack of personalization. This is stripped away in the boutique studio as the member should feel as welcome as possible.
In a recent episode of the Glofox Fitness Founders Podcast, Ed Haynes discussed the strategies he uses to manage his members in his gym Coastal Fitness Performance Training, based in Hong Kong. You can listen to the episode in the below video or where you get your podcasts here.
Do You Need Membership Management Software?
In a word, yes.
Membership management software or gym management software should be seen as the foundation of how you run your fitness business. When a lot of studios start they manage their members and their business with a pen and paper. Slowly they move onto an Excel sheet or a free and open-source version of the software. As they grow, they usually conclude that they need paid software that will take care of all their management needs.
Good gym management software should allow you to take payments and store credit card details. The software should also make it easier to track attendance, evaluate how each of your trainers is performing, and overall make informed decisions about your members and your business as a whole. Without some kind of paid management software, you will find it hard to compete and ultimately grow.
Another advantage of using gym management software is its communication potential. As we pointed out at the beginning of this article, branded apps have become an integral part of how boutique studios big and small run their business. A branded mobile app is essential as most people now have their lives on a couple of apps on their smartphone. According to research by Nielsen, American adults are spending more than 11 hours per day reading and interacting with media, and 62% of that time is attributed to apps and web browsing on phones. With a mobile app, your members can book into a class, and you can send them news and updates through push notifications.
The Importance of Integrating Other Platforms
One of the most exciting recent developments in gym and studio management is the emergence of an ecosystem of software solutions and management tools. The reality is that no one management software does everything to ensure you have the best functionality in your management systems.
For example, Mailchimp is a popular service for small businesses engaging in email marketing, and having your member data transfer seamlessly from your software to Mailchimp can make things a lot easier. As well as that, integrations with popular fitness platforms such as Classpass and Gympass opens up the door for new people to find your studio and hopefully convert them into members.
7 Things Every Membership Management Strategy Needs
A good membership management strategy uses a combination of technology and face to face communication. Here are seven key things every strategy needs.
1. Attendance Recording
Results keep your members coming back every week. So if you are delivering results through your workout programs, there is little chance of them leaving. And while there is only so much you can do to help them succeed(its ultimately up to them to do the hard yards), you need to make sure they have the best springboard to success.
The Customer Engagement Playbook for Your Fitness Business
A big part of this is keeping on top of their attendance. Using your gym management software, you should be able to see how many classes your members are attending. Every week you should segment them according to how many classes they have attended. Send the members on the lower end of the attendance scale a text to motivate them to go to more classes the following week. Personally intervene with members who have become very sporadic and work out what can be done to get them back on the right track.
2. Performance Tracking
Showing up to class is half the battle. How the member actually performs in these classes is what will make all the difference. As we detailed in our blog on 15 Top Fitness Apps to Get Your Members Moving, there is a range of different apps out there to help motivate your members. Performance tracking apps keep them on top of their workout results and see for ways to improve. This is an integral part of any member management strategy.
Fitbit is probably of the most well-known fitness tracking apps at the moment. It takes the form of a wearable watch that doesn’t get in the way of the workout. The likes of Polar and Strava are popular among fitness studios due to their ease of use.
3. Have a Policy on Payments
Making sure membership dues are paid key to any member management strategy. This helped by having a robust payment processing system that easily collects and keeps track of dues paid. The best way to have payment processing set up is on a recurring basis. The advantage of this for you is that it takes the hassle out of collecting dues manually. It also makes sure you get paid on time. The benefit for the member is that they can focus on attending class without worrying when their membership is due. If a member fails to make their payments, intervene early to see if you can resolve the situation.
4. Make Sure They Get the Message
Good member engagement revolves around a straightforward thing: engagement! And there are a number of great communication tools available to help you engage with their members. We have mentioned Mailchimp already as a useful tool for email. For text messaging Whatsapp is possibly the most popular messaging app right now. These are the more traditional forms of communication. If you have a branded mobile app for your studio push notifications, work fantastically well. In fact, members will engage 20 times more often with push notifications than they do with emails or direct mailers. Whatever tools you use to communicate with members, make sure communication is regular and appropriate for the situation.
5. Build a Community Inside and Outside Class
We talk a lot about member retention because of its importance to overall growth. Community plays a significant role in this, and boutique fitness is one of the significant drivers of community. A recent Neilsen study of more than 3,000 participants of group fitness classes around the world highlighted that more than 85% of class members visit their facility twice a week specifically to engage in group classes. And 43% of members visit their facility four times per week for this purpose.
A community can be built both inside and outside of class. Inside the class, there should be an emphasis on a “team” training together and pulling in one direction. Outside of class, social media us a great tool for bringing members together. Check out our blog on building a community for more information.
6. Gather Feedback Regularly
Legendary writer Ernest Hemingway said that “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” Listening is one of the most under-appreciated skills in all walks of life. In a fitness business, this is just as true. While you may have the knowledge and expertise of running a fitness studio, you are not the person using your services daily. By gathering feedback from your members regularly, you will be able to identify both the positive and the negative aspect of your studio.
This can start from the moment they sign up. On the member application form, add questions about what drew them to your fitness facility or what the signup experience has been like. And this should be happening at all stages of the membership. At different times in the year ask what types of classes the members like or what classes they would like to see implemented. All this information can help you tweak and improve processes and the overall member experience.
7. Run a Referral Program
One of the main challenges that most business owners and fitness professionals face is attracting new members. It’s not enough to just open a gym; you need to be bringing in the right kind of clients. There are 39,570 health club facilities in the U.S so you can bet that the competition is intense.
When it comes to getting feet in the door, a referral program could be just what your business needs. According to Nielsen, 92% of people trust referrals from people they know. As well as that 74% of people regarding word of mouth as a key influence on their purchasing decision.
It’s natural for friends to talk about a fantastic experience they’ve had and share it with their friends. Ignore the power of referral at your peril.