Member Retention

5 Opportunities for Gyms Post-Pandemic

If a gym has made it through this pandemic, they are stronger than many. But even gyms that have “made it” through may still be in distress.

So, what do they have to look forward to? Where are the opportunities, and what can they take advantage of to get back into a more comfortable situation?

I asked some prominent members of the Level Method legion about their perspective including co-founder Nathan Holiday. They are very insightful.

Full answers are at the end of the article but I boiled down the top 5:

1. Less supply for similar demand. As some gyms close and others move to a more online-based model, there will be less competition for the brick and mortar gym model as things begin to open back up.

2. Improved business knowledge and structure. The pandemic has forced a renewed focus on gym business fundamentals AND the addition of new business skills and awareness to leverage moving forward. Top referenced characteristics:

  • Awareness of online model competition (how to define and develop value vs that competition or leverage characteristics of it moving forward)
  • Importance of relationship development and support for members
  • Effective leadership through challenges and every day communication
  • Implementing new opportunities in systems and processes learned about in quarantine (don’t slack on implementing things you learned!)

3. Increased health awareness and importance.

The public focus on the effect of compromised health in relation to the ability to defend against the virus has created a new urgency to get healthy. This will likely cause an overall increase (and possibly dramatically so) in the fitness market. Be prepared to speak to this in your marketing efforts and take advantage of being in a position to help this new perspective.

4. The ability to feed the need for community. This period of time in quarantine has left people feeling lonely and isolated. A group class gym represents an incredibly positive and safe way to serve the human communal instinct that has been neglected. A gym can serve many fundamental human needs specific to this time in our history. This is another potential concept to note in marketing post-pandemic.

5. Leveraging quarantine “loss of gains” to renew focus in members. For members, this is a chance to take huge strides to get back on track toward fitness goals and meet and surpass previous fitness levels. Use any fitness losses as MOTIVATION to reignite the passion for what your service can provide. One positive of losing fitness is that it can bounce back quickly and give more opportunity for the addicting feeling of making gains having powerful moments. Level Method gyms not only know how to maximize and leverage this concept, but their members also have a very well defined and solid baseline (in a wide array of fitness metrics) to reference, build toward, and surpass.

Please read on for the exact responses from the Legion.

Chris Gerhardt - Kinect Fitness

How does the Corona pandemic create opportunities for gyms moving forward?

The greatest opportunity in my opinion is to maintain a laser-like focus on supporting members that were already customers and turning them into customers for life.  Using the pandemic situation to show people you really care and to provide leadership in uncertain times will build a foundation to catapult you ahead as you reopen.  People also need stability and community more than ever right now.  We have the perfect opportunity to offer just that!  I believe those who see the pandemic as an opportunity and position themselves to serve customers at a level far above their expectations will thrive after it is over.  

Are there any major changes you foresee in the way gyms should operate moving forward?

I believe it will be more important than ever to keep your word and take care of your customers;  New online options will likely arise.  They will likely be lower cost than boutique gyms and potentially more personal than big-box gyms.  If we see a lasting recession value perspective may change drastically.  These factors, as well as a seemingly new high sensitivity to health, I believe, will require that gyms maintain an intense focus on what is right for the customer and be prepared to provide just that.

Is there anything specific you can share that you will be implementing to take advantage of these opportunities/changes?

LOL, yes, just a few things.  I spent time while I was closed rebranding, reworking our systems, and in preparing to launch Level Method upon reopening.   Preparing for an opening using a measured system to assess fitness and progress people back to, and beyond, where they were pre-pandemic could not have fit better than it did with Level Method.  It also gives us the tools to maintain the required focus that our customers want and deserve.  Additionally, I will begin offering a membership with online coaching support in conjunction with an in person gym membership.  This will allow us to further personalize the experience of customers who want a higher level of attention.

Nicole Benge - Breakthrough Strength & Performance

How does the Corona pandemic create opportunities for gyms moving forward?

I believe the pandemic creates opportunities for quality gyms to stand out in their online presence and in their excellent customer service. This situation motivated us out of our comfort zone into our creativity.  Learning how to effectively coach clients online, improve their performance and skill, and provide quality training programs became a must if we wanted to stand out as a quality facility.

Are there any major changes you foresee in the way gyms should operate moving forward?

For our facility, moving forward regardless of the restrictions from our state, will look much different than it did previously. We will be keeping a lot of the sanitation processes we have implemented due to the pandemic. We will put into place a different membership structure to help do our part in contact tracing. Clients now have to register online for ONE class time and remain in that time spot. Prior to all this, our clients could jump around the schedule so to speak and attend any time spot they wanted. This new way is much nicer for knowing how many people to expect in a class time and to know when it is time to add new times.

Is there anything specific you can share that you will be implementing to take advantage of these opportunities/changes?

We believe we have done an exceptional job delivering value to our clients over the past eight weeks of being closed, Level Method played a huge roll in that. We are currently putting in place a referral program for both in house and remote clients. We believe we built an even greater trust with our clients and when people trust you the buy from you and they refer to you.

Nathan Holiday - Level Method

How does the Corona pandemic create opportunities for gyms moving forward?

There are many, but here are 3 big ones:

  • More Clients for the Resilient. An unfortunate Pandemic-related fact is many gyms will simply not make it. That is just the nature of business and life… but with that said, the gyms that are resilient, and make it through, will have a much greater demand for their services.
  • Increased Health Awareness. The impact of COVID on individuals who have neglected their health is obvious and frightening. It’s pulled back the curtain and exposed the importance of physical fitness as a whole, and more people will be seeking solutions (at least for a period of time).
  • Reminder: Back to the Basics. The pandemic has forced the re-visiting of some business fundamentals like relationships, support, accountability & community. Taking these lessons back to “Normal Times” will drastically increase the success of many gyms.

Are there any major changes you foresee in the way gyms should operate moving forward?

The entire gym world was forced to pivot to an online-based model -- and with it, lots of speculation on what the best kind of business is ie -- virtual vs in person.

A pandemic of this sort hasn’t happened in 100 years. To argue that a brick & mortar location is unstable because of a single freak event is short sighted. And while there is, of course, a temporary increased demand for online options -- everything swings like a pendulum.

And the truth is, in-person gyms attract clients who are specifically interested in what the gym is: a physical gym, with people, and a community, and classes. That was what they originally signed up for, and is most likely in line with a core set of beliefs. Sure, some folks might want to switch to program design once they’re familiar, but most want to go back to ‘the way things were.’ People want things to go back to normal.

With that said, on a more micro level, many details will need to change to meet new expectations, stay within proper regulations, and remain safe under the new conditions.

Is there anything specific you can share to take advantage of these opportunities/changes?

  • Prepare to support a percentage of gym members who would rather remain part of the community from afar for the time being. Continue to give them outstanding value in whatever ways you can.
  • Refine your marketing message and brand positioning regarding the conditions of the fitness market -- appeal to the big fears and big desires to keep everyone safe and healthy.
  • Obviously, be very safe and careful as you re-open a physical location -- and hammer on the communication letting them know what you’re doing.
  • Leverage past Level Method metrics to use as inspiration for their bounce back from any lost fitness and to motivate them through to the next level!