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What makes a perfect gym? 

Experience
people in the perfect gym

So, is there such a thing as a perfect gym? The problem with the word prefect is it sounds like something is finished. In the fitness world, everything is evolving and innovating. If you finish evolving, you run the risk of being left behind. You could have the perfect gym one minute and then become irrelevant if you start to take it easy and fall behind changing consumer behavior. 

The drive to create a perfect gym comes from having the ability to provide exceptional service to your customers. Successful gyms really do come in all shapes and sizes. By evaluating what makes a gym successful, you can take away lessons and advice from major brands in the industry. You can then apply these to your fitness business and be on your way to establishing the perfect gym. 

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Does the perfect gym really exist? 

There could be such a thing as a perfect gym, but the better question is can anything truly be perfect? There could be a perfect gym for a specific target audience, but that may not look perfect for everyone. You can judge a business on its financial success, but what about the value it brings its members, how do you evaluate that? Considering there are so many different types of gyms, fitness clubs, and studios, it’s not a simple answer. 

Although different businesses work to create success, they do have some similarities. Firstly, successful health clubs know their numbers. They know what they need to focus on and what questions to ask to create a successful fitness business. Factors like member retention, total revenue, reputation, branding, and experience all come into play when talking about the perfect gym. 

Wellness industry: hybrid fitness, connectivity, and inclusivity 

In the last year, health awareness has skyrocketed. The pandemic showed how important it is to stay fit, healthy, and to move your body. Nowadays, an increasing number of people are living a healthier, more active lifestyle. 

Social distancing protocols and Covid-19 restrictions have shifted the fitness industry. With a clear and growing focus on health, the fitness industry is resiliant and looking to support members now and into the future. Here are a couple of standout statistics to show where the industry is heading as a whole: 

The pandemic has highlighted the need to adapt to changing consumer behavior and priorities. Fitness businesses that could provide digital fitness services throughout multiple lockdowns generated a source of income despite being closed. Now, digital fitness platforms are becoming an expected service. This shows how you could be the perfect business one moment and without adapting and shifting your business, you could fall behind the competition. 

While the pandemic drags on, it’s clear that consumers have an increased awareness of health. Hybrid fitness, connectivity, and inclusivity will continue to be key elements of the industry and consumer decision-making going forward. From wearables and online fitness to personal training and digital coaching, there’s a lot of opportunities to create a unique member experience to support your members’ current needs. 

Exceptional customer service is a key part of creating a great gym business. For expert insight, listen to Fred Hoffman, an international fitness expert, on The Fitness Founders Podcast. He talks about customer service in the digital age and how different digital channels and customer touchpoints work. 

What type of gym business is the most successful? 

There’s a lot of variety in today’s fitness industry. Gyms come in all different styles and locations offering a range of training opportunities. From budget big box gyms to boutique fitness experiences, there are several gym niches. The type of gym business that will be the most successful depends on so many factors. Your market research, location, offering, and market fit need to align to achieve any type of success. 

To give you an idea of what makes some of the top gym brands successful, we’re going to look at different types of gyms and how those brands have evolved over time. 

Big box gyms 

When you walk into a gym and see rows of cardio equipment, rowing machines, and free weights, you are likely in a big box gym. The fitness market is saturated with boutique gyms that offer personalized experiences. So, how do big box gyms stay competitive? These gyms tend to have an army of loyal customers due to the sheer size of the brand. By staying innovative and offering a fun curriculum of training, they can make sure members never get bored.   

Brands like LA Fitness, Planet Fitness, and Gold’s Gym fit into this category. They aim to offer affordable access to a wide variety of equipment. Typically, membership includes access to a variety of weight lifting equipment, training props, and group classes. 

Boutique gyms

Boutique gyms tend to be more expensive than standard gyms. They offer a more personalized and unique approach to fitness. Typically, they niche down and focus on something specific, but they do this very well. Here are some examples of major boutique gym brands: 

  • Orangetheory Fitness – the boutique brand integrates technology seamlessly into their workout. Not only is the workout itself very efficient, but the user experience is smooth. By using heart rate monitors, non-fitness experts can perform a very effective workout that delivers results. 
  • Pure Barre – the barre brand originally targeted the stay-at-home mom group, but now includes a much larger clientele. One of the reasons it’s so successful is that it fits a gap for those looking for a low-impact exercise that gets results without needing to do a ton of cardio or weights. The market fit is ideal and the brand continues to evolve and expand with its on-demand workout platform, GO. 

Group training 

Group training is hugely popular. It combines a great workout with a human connection. Many people love to work out alongside a group to help motivate them to keep pushing. You can see how group training is a major element of the fitness industry and how some of the best group training brands continue to innovate. 

  • DanceBody – they have several studio and pop-up locations as well as online workouts and streaming. The dance-based group classes range from beginner to advanced and focus on creating an enjoyable full-body workout. In 2020, they launched a digital platform DanceBody LIVE for on-demand and live streaming classes.  

Boot camps 

Boot camps are not new, but there is a renewed focus on them. Typically, boot camps are military-style circuits performed outside with exercises like pushups, situps, and burpees. During the pandemic, interest in outdoor exercise and fitness skyrocketed. When you take fitness outside, you have all the fresh air circulating and can make use of any extra space for social distancing. Popular brands include Warrior Fitness Boot Camp and Switch Playground who offer a unique bootcamp experience. 

Training gyms 

Training gyms create a space for people to focus on a specific sport. From MMA gyms to rock climbing gyms, there’s a huge variety of training areas. These facilities cater to a range of abilities from beginner to expert. Interestingly, these types of places tend to gather a very loyal following as they focus on creating a hub centered around a love of a specific sport. 

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  • VITAL Brooklyn – the 24-hour bouldering gym means members can climb all year round and also access fitness equipment, a sauna, yoga studio, and cafe. They are creating a community and hub where you can align your love of climbing with socializing and fitness. 

Digital-Only gyms 

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen the emergence of digital-only gyms. These facilities focus on the home gym workout crowd and offer a variety of fitness for on-demand and live streaming workouts. 

  • GRNDHOUSE – an online-only boutique fitness experience offering on-demand strength workouts. The diverse team of trainers coach you through each workout and focus on creating a flexible and convenient digital membership for members to hit their goals at home. 

What features make a successful gym?  

As gyms and fitness studios come in all shapes and sizes, the perfect gym can look a little different in each niche. However, there are certain elements that some of the most successful gyms share that help them to grow and establish themselves within the industry. 

1. Unique experience 

Whether it’s a rock climbing gym or a multi-location gym franchise, the best brands create a unique member experience. When you’re trying to determine what people want at a gym, the member experience should be at the top of the list. It’s what stays with customers long after they leave your gym or finish a stream. It creates a sense of loyalty and increases member retention. 

2. Club membership management 

Gym management software can help you to navigate and automate several elements within the business. By doing this, you can spend more time connecting with members and finding ways to elevate your services. Club management software includes functionality that takes out the need for lengthy admin tasks, establishes a client portal, and helps you to streamline your business as a whole. 

The perfect gym software can look different depending on your needs. The main element to look for is a streamlined dashboard and ease of use. From there, you can decide what sort of capabilities you need. 

2. Gym equipment and facilities 

Your gym equipment and facilities impact your overall experience. Poor equipment maintenance and digital user experience can leave your members wanting more. From lockers, shower rooms, and point of sale to the ability to connect wearables to your apps and machines, brands that leverage technology both in and out of the gym tend to come out on top. 

3. Fitness community 

Your fitness community is a great tool for attracting and retaining members. Creating a sense of community at your gym is essential. Some of the top gyms and fitness studios have a tribe-like feel to them. A sense of community establishes a feeling of belonging that is a great driver for motivation. When you feel like you have to show up for your community and work out, it’s useful in keeping members on track. 

4. Aesthetically-pleasing 

While it’s important to have a workout that delivers results within your gym niche, the facility should be aesthetically pleasing. Alongside a gold standard of hygiene and self-service options, equipment should be well-organized. 

If you’re creating a premium, boutique gym then the aesthetic should align with the demands of your target clientele. This also applies to your branding as a whole, the look and feel of your website, mobile app, branding, and gym should support your business goals and objectives. 

5. Digital fitness 

Nowadays, digital fitness is a key part of a successful gym. Consumers want the option to work out from home, in the park, or at the gym. By creating a digital arm of your business, you can create an additional stream of income and add value to your club members. This also puts you in a stronger position going forward if new Covid-19 restrictions come into place. 

6. Convenience and flexibility 

The demand for convenience and flexibility is noticeable in all areas of life. From immediate transport and shopping to food deliveries and workouts, consumers want to be in control and they want results fast.

Services such as same-day delivery mean that consumers don’t just demand convenience, they expect it. That means creating flexible membership options, having the ability to take a range of payments, and providing a service that fits around your members’ lives. 

7. Personalized fitness programs 

Personal training, virtual coaching, and nutritional planning are all increasing in popularity as more people look to put their health first. Creating personalized fitness programs and tailored services drives value to members and helps them to achieve their goals. Whether you offer digital personalized fitness or private one-to-one training, the concept of personalization should weave into many aspects of your business. 

8. Member communication and marketing automation 

In the digital age, how you speak to your members and target potential customers is key to your success. Your members should be kept up to date with any news and should feel appreciated. Member retention is crucial to the sustainability of any member-focused business. Great fitness brands understand the balance between too much and too little communication. They use marketing automation and target customers without overselling. 

Whether you’re speaking to existing members or targeting new members, you’re trying to keep your brand fresh in their minds. Automated push notifications, SMS, chatbots, and email can all be useful for staying in contact with members. 

9. Inspire and motivate members 

How you inspire and motivate members will underpin your success. If you can’t motivate members to achieve results, they will leave. Creating inspirational and motivational content and social media posts helps to support members outside of the gym. Rockstar instructors who can motivate both in-person and online are essential for member retention. 

In summary 

While being perfect isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can stall progress. In the fitness industry, the best gyms continue to evolve and adapt to the market and its members. They spot upcoming opportunities to expand and leverage technology to create a unique and seamless member experience. The perfect gym solution may look a little different depending on your niche, but the main takeaway is to continue to grow. In a world that’s constantly changing, staying ahead of the competition is key to success. 

The Customer
Engagement Playbook
for Your Fitness
Business

Customer engagement is the way in which a brand
connects with its customers on a deeper level than a
simple business and consumer relationship.
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