Look after your members by creating a community they’ll never want to leave.
If you run a local, in-person fitness business, you’ll know how important your members are. They don’t just bring in revenue, they create the atmosphere that gives your business the X-factor.
Creating a thriving member community means your people feel part of something special.
Plenty has been said in recent years about the power of community in fitness. CrossFit and boutique facilities have led the way, but what can we all learn from industry success stories to create a powerful community that retains members and attracts new faces?
Why does member community matter for a fitness business?
In an ideal world, you don’t want people to just turn up and train. You want them to talk about your facility when they’re not there. You’d love them to support each other, be social outside of sessions, and tell people how amazing their gym is. That’s the power of community.
Creating a thriving member community means your people feel part of something special. Even if they’re injured, ill, or away on holiday, they feel connected to your business. They’re proud to train with you, and can’t wait to come back.
When you have a strong sense of community at your facility, it doesn’t just keep members around for longer. It boosts referrals, becomes a brand USP, and makes your classes a more enjoyable experience for everyone!
How important is community to your member experience?
Research tells us that a strong community feeling actually increases the perceived value of your business. (Leisure Sciences, 2016) As the fitness sector becomes busier and more diversified, we all need strategies to help us stand out and keep people engaged. Community is an intangible but magical way to elevate your business in the eyes (and hearts) of members.
If your members don’t feel part of something, they won’t feel too bad about missing a session or even cancelling their membership completely. On the other hand, if they feel like a valued part of a strong community, they’ll never want to leave.
Creating a strong community is a powerful weapon against economic downturn, competition, and attrition.
3 examples of great communities in the fitness industry
One thing CrossFit does amazingly well is create a strong bond between members and between other CrossFit boxes in the local area (and indeed around the world). You can spot a Crossfitter a mile away, and it’s this sense of identity, pride, and fitting-in that makes the CrossFit community practically indestructible.
2. Boutique studios
Every boutique studio offers something different, but they all create a memorable user journey with community at its heart. Thoughtful use of onboarding, social media, events, and insider-only benefits make boutique members feel part of a family.
3. Yoga studios
Even if a yoga member does other styles of training, when they are at the yoga studio they are fully invested in all things yoga. This is achieved by an immersive use of sound, lighting, scent, and atmosphere that delineates yoga from the outside world, making users feel part of something special.
How can local fitness facilities create a strong community?
Take time over every member sign-up (even if part of it is automated or done via an app). Members should feel welcomed and at home. Make sure they know where everything is, how sessions or classes work, and make sure staff know their name.
Every touchpoint of the member journey is an opportunity for you to create a stronger community. Not all members will want to be part of every Facebook thread or charity quiz, but make the most of each opportunity for engagement.
Don’t sign people up and leave them to it, only to get in touch when their renewal is up. Be consistent with your communications, whether that’s via email, social media, or silly signs on the whiteboard in the gym. If you have staff, make sure they’re on board with your style of communications. Stay in touch with members, make sure everyone knows about every social event, and make an effort to message about key milestones (birthdays, anniversary of joining, 100th class…)
Everyone loves a bit of swag, so make sure your member journey includes at least one freebie (even if it’s just a Velcro patch for their gym bag). Branded merchandise strengthens people’s sense of belonging.
Make good use of online community, too. Striive can help you create a digital community that doesn’t rely on any of the major social platforms! Some people will never engage with online stuff, but the ones who do will really drive a buzzing sense of community.
Summer BBQs, Christmas parties, charity events to support members, group outings, mass entries to the town’s annual 10k… there’s no end to the ways you can use social events to create a strong sense of community that will reward your members for sticking around.
Most people love a bit of competition, even the ones that say they don’t! Run regular in-house challenges to help members push themselves and celebrate progress, all whilst getting to know people better.
It’s the little things…
Birthday messages. Sharing discount codes. Encouraging friendships. Allowing people to turn up early or stay late to chat. It’s the little things that create a true family-feel that will elevate your fitness business from “the place I go to work out” to “my second home”.