How to Bootstrap Your Sales and Marketing for your Gym during the Pandemic

The pandemic is affecting every gym operation differently — some gyms are going to go out of business, some will manage through it and be okay, some will benefit hugely from it simply due to the kind of gym or service they offer.

However, we simply can’t stop marketing and communicating with our members and prospects, and now is the time to think about what we can do, with what we have, where we are (play the hand we’re dealt).

So, with that in mind, here are some ideas for effective marketing activities you can do that cost little or no money, and that every gym should probably be doing more of anyway.

Some may work for you; some may not, but take a look and see what you think:

1. Reach out to past telephone and web inquiries that never bought

Try reaching out to potential members that have made inquiries previously but never joined or never went through the full sales cycle.

Your email database is going to be a great asset for you right now, so leverage your database to communicate with all of your prospects.

2. Leverage your gyms vendor network

We can’t go to networking events right now. Therefore, we have to do what we probably should have been doing a lot more of anyway: proactively reaching out to our top vendors and our top contacts and communicating with them more.

If you’re a gym owner or manager, if you’re in a sales role, now is a great time to be reaching out to your main contacts anyway — and finding ways to add value and help them solve some problems can make your relationship even stronger.

3. Write more blogs and articles, publish more

If you have a website, which you all do, this is going to be your single, main asset, so you want to double down on it.

You should focus especially on anything related to how you are safe place to work out and how you can get results for your members.

4. Repurpose your articles onto LinkedIn, Medium or AmericanTowns

Obviously social media platforms are free to use, but they’re really noisy. We have to find ways to cut through that noise.

The one way to do that is to republish your top-performing articles on your website currently (and the ones that you’re writing) onto your personal LinkedIn profiles, Medium or AmericanTowns as articles. This gets them in front of your network, your vendors, and your audience.

5. Embrace video production across your entire team

We want to create video. We want to get out there and we want people to see our faces, to hear our voices. Want people to see our body language.

You don’t have to have all the gear. A Smart Phone, a low cost microphone, a tripod, etc. It doesn’t matter, really. Balancing your Smart Phone on top of a pile of books and being able to do a video right now is good enough.

Keep it specific. Address main questions, fears, and anxieties. Do some walkthroughs or demos. Keep it short and just get it out there. Perfection is not what we’re aiming for. We want to get it done.

6. Create a proactive plan for saving member cancellations

We need to get ahead of concerns before they become problems. Proactively reach out to your members at risk.

Put yourself in a position to understand how the pandemic is affecting them. This gives you the opportunity to think about how you could provide more value at this time.

It may mean that you have to think of a new service or a new product or a new way to provide value. This just gives you that chance to get ahead.

7. Proactively reach out to prospects

The first thing to remember here is that people will still buy, so you want to be communicating with your database. Member referrals, former members, missed sales, internet leads; telephone and web inquiries, corporate accounts, etc are some quick opportunities.

Instead of waiting for them to move through the buying process, call them, text them email them and create a personalized connection with them. Reach out proactively instead of letting them go through the process organically.

8. Follow up quickly and personally with all gym inquiries

Give all your inquiries super service as much as you possibly can. In other words, not only are you going to act quickly and get back to people in good time, but use video when you do it to make a personalized connection. Do everything you can to make your buyers feel special (because they are).

9. Publish content where your prospects are

You need to be leveraging social media platforms, wherever your prospects are hanging out at the moment: current members, potential clients, and potential members. Let go of the need to have all the content on your website.

Put the content on the platform where your prospects are. It might mean publishing whole articles on LinkedIn, Medium and AmericanTowns and link back to your website

10. Ask for referrals. Who do your members know that could join?

You should communicate with people who are either current members or current clients of yours, or people who have been previous members and really liked what you did for them.

It’s always good to reach back out to them, with a personalized touch, to see if you can help them in any way.

Also, you can ask them for a testimonial or a case study, and then ask them, if they did enjoy what you did for them, is there anybody else that they know right now that would benefit from working with you?

11. Embrace live chat for your website

Finally, live chat. Get Facebook Messenger onto your website, so your members and prospects can communicate with you directly. I have seen member and prospect interaction go up as much as 4x by using Facebook Messenger as the live chat feature.

This is going to be especially important for gyms that used to rely on prospects coming to see you in your studio or in your gym.

Let’s get back to the basics — to what gym sales and marketing’s all about. That personalized communication with members and prospects in a way that’s going to help them to feel like they want to be part of what you do at the gym.

An Outsourced CEO and expert witness, Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting, turnaround and brokerage firm specializing in the gym and sports industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars, webinars and workshops across the globe on the practical skills required to successfully to overcome obscurity, improve sales, build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. In addition, his company will buy gym equipment from gyms liquidating or closing. Visit his Web site at:www.fmconsulting.netorwww.jimthomasondemand.com.

Preparing Your Gym for a Comeback

As of this writing many gyms across the USA are slowing beginning to relaunch their business and others will be conducting a relaunch in the coming weeks. One thing for sure, we’re not going back to the same place we left a few weeks ago. It’s a different marketplace and it’s a different economy. We will need a plan. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you begin; 1) what are you willing to give up to hit your goals? 2) What will you have to change to hit your goals? 3) What will you have to learn to hit your goals? Now, here are some things to consider:

1. The need for certainty. This is where it all starts. We need to be sure we get our head right. Of course, we need to understand the problem, but we need to give power to the solutions and what we’re trying to accomplish. Owners, managers and staff all need to work with a high level of certainty and confidence if they want the customer to have certainty. People will still buy.

2. Over communicate. Keep your members in the loop on what is happening and continue to provide them with valuable information on how to get the results that they are seeking. Create signage throughout the clubs on washing hands, cleaning equipment, social distancing and even consider arrows letting people know what direction they should go. Use all forms of communication to let everyone know what is happening with your gym

3. Provide unprecedented value. Give more than ever before. The goal here is to keep all your members and sign up new ones. You will need to provide an unprecedented level of value. Continue your digital programming with hangouts, expert Q&A, lives streams, private sessions, etc. Continue to focus on the member experience and celebrate success stories during the break; celebrate member anniversary dates, etc.

4. Prepare for member health and safety. I suggest doing more than what is required by your state. Temperature screenings for members, guests, employees and any vendors. Increase the number of cleaning stations throughout the gym. Prepare a FAQ to help address any potential issues of members not social distancing, coughing, sneezing, etc. Depending on your member base, consider a specific time for those 60+ to come in and workout. Have plenty of signage throughout the club as well as directional signage moving member down the right path form proper social distancing.

5. Prepare for staff health and safety. With all the talk about member health and safety, let’s don’t forget about our staff (not that anyone would). There will be some staffers that are simply not comfortable returning just yet and that’s okay. Perhaps they can help work on your digital product. The key thing here is to educate everyone on what you are doing to keep them safe. Many clubs are conducting temperature checks on staff twice per day. Two a day cleanings, rubber gloves, masks if desired.

6. Marketing to your members. This is one to start doing right now. Prepare videos to walk your members and guests what they can expect upon entering. You need to let your members know what you’re doing to keep the gym clean, healthy and safe and what you’ll be doing to keep your member healthy and safe. Social media and email marketing is ideal here. Showing new protocols and what to expect will ease potential fears your members and guests may have.

7. Marketing for your business — advance into the marketplace. You won’t be able to use just one or two things and get the results you want. The plan should be to show differentiation and market to an uncontested marketplace. You want EVEYONE to know who you are and what you are doing. Start writing your plan of action now. A press release is a great way to start. This is a great time to conduct a membership drive or a re-grand opening.

8. Prepare to be ready to sell in a new marketplace and a new economy. Include your health and safety standards in your process, but stay on point. Business and sales fundamentals will be more important than ever. You will likely have fewer inquiries and fewer prospects for a while. A good habit to get into…is to treat each guest like it’s the only one you will see that day and work to bring them up to your level of certainty. Get your staff trained and follow up to be sure they are on track. You can’t afford not to. As mentioned, conduct a membership drive, have referral contest, host a re-grand opening, etc. Revenue is the oxygen of your business, let’s keep it flowing. In addition, looks for ways to increase the amount you collect per new membership sale with additional added value. Consider new membership offering to accommodate a new economy.

9. Continue with Digital Programming. Digital programming is here to stay and is something you should continue even when you open your doors. Remember, you want deliver unprecedented value to your customer. Initially, this should be continued at no additional change, but as you move forward this should may be included as part of a premium membership offering or even sold online through your web site.

10. Develop existing profit centers or create new ones for ancillary sales. Since many people have poor diets which lack the vital nutrients the body needs, consider selling supplements online. Investigate selling gift cards online, meal planning, etc. You want to find ways to encourage additional sales to your current customer base.

11. Not every gym will return. Some gyms will not return because of financial reasons and other simply will not want to continue, which is okay. This presents an immediate opportunity to grow your business. In nearly every case, this will be done with no money out of your pocket and you will be able to increase your recurring dues, perhaps your personal training, email lists, renewal lists, have URLS and phone numbers pointed to you and more. This is something to investigate immediately.

Now, let’s make this the greatest comeback ever!

An Outsourced CEO and expert witness, Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting, turnaround and brokerage firm specializing in the gym and sports industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars, webinars and workshops across the globe on the practical skills required to successfully to overcome obscurity, improve sales, build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. In addition, his company will buy gym equipment from gyms liquidating or closing. Visit his Web site at:www.fmconsulting.netorwww.jimthomasondemand.com.

a message from Jim Thomas

While all of us in the gym business settle in and wait for the pandemic to pass, we need to recognize that this could end up being a significant opportunity for your gym if you choose to expand and advance into the market place. But, it will require work. Don’t just sit and wait, develope a strategy, so that when this is over, you’re prepared to advance.

Here is some impotant information to remember:

  • People will still buy from you, but you will have to ask. Don’t let anyone guilt or shame you into thinking that selling is a bad thing. In many ways, you can treat this like a pre sales.
  • The economy will prosper soon. This is temporary. This will end. Let’s be sure we’re ready.
  • Gyms will re-reopen. There will be pent up demand for your services and products. Be prepared.

Prepare a plan of action and business strategy for the new normal:

  • Keep Selling. For a visual, treat this like a presales, make it simple and easy to get started and add value. Memberships, paid trials, personal training, supplements, etc.
  • Keep your current members. You’re only temporarily changing how you will coach your members (you’re not closing). Help your current members stay with you. Stay in touch with your members. Commnicate, even over-communicate. Such things as online classes, Q&A sessions, sending a work out of the day, check in on them, accountablity sessions, etc.
  • This one is big…be prepared for business after this ends. Don’t find yourself doing nothing and expect to flip the switch. Develope your plan and take action!

Are you ready to keep your members and capture market share?

  • Take control of the current situation and get a grip on things. Write out a plan that allows you to preserve cash, keep your current members, continue to sell, and develope a strategy that allows you to advance, not retreat into the marketplace. Turn off the TV.
  • Leverage an online and remote strategy to serve your members and prospects. Live classes, video, accountabilty calls, coaching calls, have fun with it just like you would inside your gym.
  • Prevent objections and sell during this time; Make this simple. Provide value.

Thank you.

Jim

An Outsourced CEO and expert witness, Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting, turnaround and brokerage firm specializing in the gym and sports industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars, webinars and workshops across the globe on the practical skills required to successfully to overcome obscurity, improve sales, build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. In addition, his company will buy gym equipment from gyms liquidating or closing. Visit his Web site at:www.fmconsulting.netorwww.jimthomasondemand.com.

How to handle a pay raise with gym staff in a challenging economy

I speak with many gym owners and operators who have concerns on how to hand out pay raises when times are tough. Although… difficult times can be nothing more than an excuse not to offer a pay raise even though there’s merit. My answer normally will surprise the concerned gym owner when I tell them my solution to pay raises is the same no matter if it’s good times…or not so good times.

Gyms need talent. There is a shortage of talent. Talent will cost money otherwise you will lose your best people to other industries.

As we all know, sales can have a way of being a moving target…so if you continually compensate your staff around a fixed compensation plan, you are setting yourself up for a fall. I like to see gyms offer some form of a guaranteed opportunity, but with plenty of upside based on production and job description.

· You have a budget, right? Give staffers responsibility for certain line items. Say the budget for towel service is $2,000 per month…any savings they can generate in that line item would result in a 50% bonus off the total savings. So, if they save the club $500, they would receive a $250 bonus. It’s a win-win.

· Additional compensation does not have to come in the way of direct dollars. Work a half day on Friday, but receive compensation for a full day.

· Make childcare available for a reduced cost or even free. This offers a potentially significant savings for the employee plus the added bonus of convenience.

· Where it’s possible, offer flex-scheduling. This is a nice perk for those who have children or simply like the idea of beating rush hour traffic.

· Everyone is in sales…or they should be. Have a commission plan for every employee in your club. And then teach them how to promote and sell.

· Offer more training and continuing education that’s job related. Help make them more valuable to you…and increase their confidence and self esteem at the same time.

· Have a monthly contest. Of course, a sales contest would work in many departments, but you could also have a cleaning contest based on daily inspection scores. How many more memberships would you sell or how many members would you retain with a cleaner facility?

· Combine duties. When someone leaves your company…instead of hiring someone else, take a look around, maybe you have someone who deserves more money and they can pick up some of these duties. The club will save and the employee will get an increase.

· A common mistake in evaluating compensation is to view the employee as an expense…if you can learn to view the employee as your most valuable asset, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

· A final reminder…the most expensive person you have on staff is the lowest paid person who’s worth it.

Now, go give someone a raise!

An Outsourced CEO and expert witness, Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting, turnaround and brokerage firm specializing in the gym and sports industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars, webinars and workshops across the globe on the practical skills required to successfully to overcome obscurity, improve sales, build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. In addition, his company will buy gym equipment from gyms liquidating or closing. Visit his Web site at:www.fmconsulting.netorwww.jimthomasondemand.com.

Branding Ideas That You May Have Forgotten About That Will Work for Every Gym

No doubt that we live in a digital world with many opportunities for branding and to create awareness of our gym or studio. But with that said there are many opportunities to brand and promote your gym outside of digital. In the end, your goal should be to be known by everyone in your trade area, so you want to utilize every option you can. Here are a few ideas that tend to be forgotten:

  1. Business Cards

Think of this as your own personal billboard and rather than hope that someone you just met will remember your email address and phone number, business cards are your tangible reinforcements. A high-quality business card could be what earns you that callback, which is normally the goal of giving them out. It’s important that your cards properly represent you and your gym brand and add that extra bit of credibility. Use both sides of the card.

2. Snail Mail

Snail mail still works. As a matter of fact, because it is less popular, your personal hand-written thank you card could be the way you effectively get in contact with someone that might normally be hard to reach. For example, are you sending hand written thank you cards to your new members? To clubs guest that’s don’t join? To Members who bring in a guest? If you are looking for differentiation, this is a good place to start.

3. Public speaking opportunities

Public speaking is like giving your blog post a vitamin B shot…it’s a great way to network and gain credibility with an entirely new audience. The idea here is to put effort into the content you present and make sure you leave a lasting impression while educating and sharing “how tos.” Take that “how to” blog you wrote and use that as your guide for a speaking engagement. Even if you don’t immediately walk away from the speaking event with a lead, your gym will be attached to the memorable seminar on how to lose weight (for example). By doing this, the next time expertise is needed for that, your name and gym will ideally pop into their mind.

4. Testimonials and Social Proof

Testimonials and social proof will most always stand the test of time. Every gym in existence is going to give their members and prospects reasons that they are the best. They will brag about their results, their customer service, why they are the best facility in the area, etc. Hearing from their actual members is a whole different story. Testimonials are a candid, inside look at how a gym really operates and handles their membership base. In fact, many people won’t make buying decision to join a gym before reading testimonials.

5. Promoting a community event or local charity

Another great way to gain credibility and get your name out in the open for others to see is to sponsor a community or charity event. Not only is it great PR for your company, it shows that you care about your community and giving back. We have a gym recently partner up with a local charity to sponsor an attempt to teach the world’s largest group exercise class.

6. Making outbound calls

Of course, not everyone likes making outbound calls, so the key here is to hires staffers who can find motivation in the follow up. The next step is to set them up for success. They’ll need a list of potential leads such as missed sales, former members, corporate leads, etc., a proven script or method of calling, and a strategy. They’re going to get a lot of no’s, what is their rebuttal attempt? Their follow up and follow through? This can be a very successful method if properly executed. For many gym owners this is either a gigantic problem or a gigantic opportunity.

7. Attending local trade shows

Participating in a local trade show is definitely worth the time and effort, especially if you are open to penetrating your immediate area. Even though we live in a largely digital world, people are still attending these events knowing the importance of face to face networking and brand recognition. Similarly to public speaking, this strategy should be thoroughly planned. The goal is to be remembered at this event, not to simply be a participant promoting your gym.

Some other forgotten ways to brand your gym are street signs, joint marketing ventures with local businesses, flyers, press releases, and networking groups.

Now, go brand your gym!

An Outsourced CEO and expert witness, Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting, turnaround and brokerage firm specializing in the gym and sports industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars, webinars and workshops across the globe on the practical skills required to successfully to overcome obscurity, improve sales, build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. In addition, his company will buy gym equipment from gyms liquidating or closing. Visit his Web site at:www.fmconsulting.netorwww.jimthomasondemand.com.

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