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Personal training, semi-private training, small group training, zone training, group fitness, group cycling — the list of programming options goes on. So how do owners and programming directors decide what to offer? With proper structure, differentiation and variety, facilities of all kinds can maximize their return on investment while driving retention, referrals and revenue.
An effective group programming offering should be easy for members to understand, with a mix of programs that support each other and don't compete with each other. The ultimate goals of the offering are to improve retention by encouraging members to attend the gym more often and participate in more things; increase referrals by providing an experience members enjoy so much that they want to bring their friends; and drive revenue by enticing more members to participate in fee-for-service programs.
In 2015, IHRSA reported that 42 percent of gym members have at least one other membership at a boutique facility. This stat leads to two conclusions. First and foremost, people will invest in a great product for a specific need, even if it is in addition to a general need. Second, there's an opportunity for facilities to be a "one-stop shop" by bringing in the right mix of programming to meet all needs under one roof. The right mix of programming will both expand your demographic opportunity and help retain members longer with fresh experiences.
One club experiencing success with a diverse mix of programming is Prairie Athletic Club (PAC) in Sun Prairie, Wis., a 250,000-square-foot facility with nearly 17,000 members. Pete Simon, a co-owner who has been in business for nearly 40 years, says, "As our facility and membership has grown, we've found it more and more difficult to focus on just one or two groups of people. Now, with our growth, we need to provide quality programs from infancy to our most mature members. We've always taken pride in programming our facility and never leaving a member to fight for themselves unless they choose to."
While the right mix of programming is important, communicating and executing effectively is equally essential to success. PAC offers a wide variety of programming options, including group cycling, boot camps, hot yoga, CrossFit and more. PAC recently implemented the new MX4 Training System from Matrix Fitness to incorporate a small group training solution into its available programs. Because this offering is being introduced into a saturated atmosphere, it was important to differentiate MX4 in a way that could be understood by staff and communicated to members. MX4 was positioned as a small group training workout for no more than 12 people where participants could enjoy a sense of community while getting personal attention from a trainer without the extra cost of personal training. All staff members were asked to experience the workout and given clear talking points to answer any and all member questions.
"MX4 is the latest addition to our list of programs and is unique in many ways," says Simon. "MX4 takes concepts from other programs and melds them in a way that it is welcoming to the widest demographic. I taught a class last week that included a 75-year-old male with some physical limitations and a 23-year-old female who had just completed her college track career at a fitness level most of us can only dream about. MX4 provides a program where these two individuals can work out together for 30 minutes, fist bump when they're done, and walk away with each of them feeling like they just had an amazing workout and experience."
Feedback like this reflects an atmosphere of community, an important factor in successful group training implementation. Staff-to-member interactions are important, but nothing keeps members coming back like the bonds they forge with each other. The accountability and sense of community that comes with this type of platform is invaluable to retention, referrals and revenue opportunities.
10 Fitness in Little Rock, Ark., is also implementing the MX4 Training System. As the club began to identify its goals, it was important that this new program supported and created an additional value proposition for personal training. To achieve this, PT clients received early access to free demos of the new program. Additionally, current PT members received significantly reduced pricing to participate in the MX4 offering. Clear differentiation between the club's PT offering, MX4 and group fitness classes eliminated any perceived overlap. This helped members see value in everything offered and demonstrated to members that they didn't have to choose just one type of training when they could easily experience all of it.
It is important to create and communicate the mission of each type of program and be sure that there is very little overlap in those missions. Make sure your entire staff — including the front desk — understands every program you offer so that any of them can answer member questions when they arise. Ensure your membership team can clearly communicate the different missions/value propositions for each type of programming you offer, and how they complement each other. Additionally, make sure your success metrics are differentiated between programs to accurately track and evaluate their return on investment. You can also use reward systems — like offering a free 30-minute PT session after completing 10 small group classes — to leverage group programming toward building your personal training business.
Programming offerings continue to grow while commanding a significant fee for classes. To compete in this space, the first step is determining how you are best suited to meet your members' needs. After the optimal offering is identified, a clear implementation plan can be created to educate staff. When everyone is trained, the new programming can be introduced to members. Once members begin to meet and exceed their goals, you'll find that they commit at a higher rate and bring friends, boosting your retention and referrals while driving revenue for your facility.
Key points to consider when designing your menu of program choices:
• How many members/clients do you have?
Rebecca Cofod is the group training solutions manager for Matrix Fitness. For more information, visit www.matrixfitness.com. This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Sponsored Content from Matrix Fitness"