What makes a gym stand out?

The fitness industry is highly competitive, with thousands of established and new gyms popping up across Australia. Running a gym or fitness centre means you’re having to outperform a countless number of big name brands and smaller rivals, sometimes only a few doors down.

According to market research from IBISWorld, there are 2,854 gyms and fitness centres across the country. And you know what they say – two’s company, but 2,854 is a crowd. The question is, how do you make your gym or fitness centre stand out in this crowd? What can give you the edge in attracting new customers, as well retaining the ones you already have? After all, only 57 per cent respondents in the 2012 Australian and New Zealand Fitness Industry Survey (ANZFIS) said they would rejoin a fitness club in the future.

There are a number of strategies you can take to retaining that wayward 43 per cent – and recurring revenue software can play a significant role in a number of them.


Make use of technology

There’s a reason the 21st century is called the digital age – computer technology is part of our daily lives like never before. We use computers for everything from educating ourselves to shopping, as well as rely on them to do our jobs, depend on them to help run our cities and keep us protected. It’s no surprise, then, that gym customers are increasingly interacting with their gym through technology.

As reported by Australian Leisure Management, 21 per cent of respondents saw e-newsletters as the favoured form of communication, not far behind face-to-face communication. They also expressed a fondness for SMS services and social media. However else you can make use of technology to streamline and simplify the way customers interact with your business, it may be worth taking on board. This could include creating apps for smartphones, as well as incorporating ecommerce payment solutions that make renewing membership much easier.


Find your specialty

Everyone’s got a niche they excel at. The trick is finding the one that applies to your gym. These days, gyms and fitness centres aren’t just places people go to use a bunch of equipment they lack at home. Customers join because they want the kind of personalised, intense exercise assistance that Hollywood stars in interviews brag about using, to get in shape for roles.

According to the ANZFIS, 47 per cent of respondents have used a personal trainer at some point, while in the 2014 edition, 25 per cent wanted their club to invest more in group fitness. Not only that, but the 2015 Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends from the American College of Sports Medicine noted that personal training has been one of the top 10 trends driving the industry for nine years now.

As such, you might consider investing in quality fitness trainers – not just someone who’s doing it as a hobby on the side, but a dedicated and knowledgeable full-time professional. In addition to this, think about making use of specialist classes that teach anything from yoga to boxing and weightlifting. Best of all, if you’ve already undergone direct debit integration, it can be simpler to transition customers to these programs in terms of payments – since it’s all electronic and automatic, you won’t need to worry about late or missed payments.


Great customer service

A simple way you can make your gym or fitness centre stand out from the pack is one that businesses have known for decades: Friendly and helpful customer service. According to the 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer, while only 48 per cent of Australians were inclined to tell someone about a good experience, 64 per cent would tell another person about a bad one.

Therefore, even if you don’t win any customers through exceptional service, your gym will do better at retaining existing customers – or at the very least, it won’t turn any potential customers off. Come up with loyalty programs and discounts that you can grant to your most valuable customers – you can then deduct these automatically using direct debit software. You could even use their payment history to look at what programmes they’re spending money on, and tailor rewards towards that. And remember to hire friendly helpful staff that will go the extra mile for your customers.


Free visits

“Try before you buy” is the clarion call of the consumer. Few of us are inclined to commit to anything without first sampling it ourselves, let alone a year’s membership to something. Taking this idea on board might mean letting customers have a period of two weeks or even a month where they use your facilities for free, letting them decide whether or not they want to join in earnest.

There are two big benefits to this. Firstly, by enticing a customer first and letting them use your gym for no cost, when the trial period ends they’re more likely to sign up for a real membership. They’ve already familiarised themselves with the environment, so becoming full members is not so great a leap. Secondly, the fact that you provide this service could help spread word of mouth, where customers you’ve already hooked through this system tell their friends to come along – they’ve got nothing to lose, after all.