As countries around the world are working to regain control from the COVID-19 pandemic, some are already beginning to relax restrictions imposed upon businesses to help reduce the economic impact of this virus and begin the process of returning to some form of normality.
While the thought of returning to business, as usual, is sure to be an exciting prospect for club owners, after such a disruptive and widespread event as this pandemic, people have received a shock to the system. This virus has already had a direct impact upon billions of people around the world, whether it be through ill-health experienced through actually catching the bug, their regular routines going out the window, loss of or insecurity in their employment, or an increase in anxiety levels. However, the flow-on effects of these direct impacts will also have a profound influence on fitness businesses through their impact on consumer attitudes, behavior and values.
The process of growing your gym membership base back to pre-COVID levels (and beyond) will require careful consideration of the new market conditions, as this will have a strong influence upon your ability to regain gym visitation, usage and membership. In essence, your usual gym marketing strategy may not now work as well as it did before lockdown, or could be made more effective if certain measures were taken to suit the new needs and expectations of members.
As this pandemic is still actively unfolding and is unprecedented in modern society, it is difficult to pinpoint what the exact impact it will have upon the market for gyms post-lockdown. However, that being said, there are still things your gym can begin incorporating into its marketing to give yourself a head start.
Post-lockdown marketing tips for gyms.
Reshape content to suit member’s new purchase evaluation criteria
This relates to the criteria used by customers to evaluate their purchase decision of a service. Essentially, this refers to the mental checklist used by members when they are deciding whether your gym is the right fit for them. Typically, evaluation criteria of someone looking at a new gym might include things such as–quality equipment, friendly staff, engaging class instructors, tidy facility and amenities, good value for money or the club not being too busy. However, due to COVID-19, things such as cleanliness and the ability to maintain physical distancing while working out may also become important factors contributing to a prospective member’s decision.
This highlights the importance of emphasizing measures being undertaken within your business to reduce the risk of virus transmission–such as your strict cleaning and sterilization regime, social distancing measures, and consequences for those not following house rules. Incorporating elements into your marketing material to assure people your club is virus-conscious will be important post-lockdown.
This could be in the form of taking photos or video of the measures in place and incorporating it into your regular social media posts or ads, mentioning it within your ad copy or even just adding an icon to your website, promotional material or posters like the example below.
Allow contact-free sign ups & bookings.
Reiterating the importance of new social distancing requirements, offering members the opportunity to sign up and use the club without direct contact with staff can also be a useful method to increase sign-ups. Incorporating a gym member portal into your website with an online sign-up form and gym class timetable for bookings can reduce person-to-person touchpoints and can make members feel more at-ease with joining and using your club. Click here for a guide to setting this up.
Reconsider pricing and memberships
Due to the economic instability, many people have taken measures to tighten the purse strings and reduce their regular expenses in response to the uncertainty they face with employment. This is a barrier to entry for people wanting to workout at a gym due to the regular ongoing cost associated with a membership.
Growing membership post lockdown may see more price-sensitivity among potential members, therefore your club should take this into consideration when thinking about membership types and their price points. Obviously one method for this would be offering a discounted membership, or doing so for a limited time as this reduces the perceived financial risk of becoming a member at your club.
There are pros and cons to offering a no contract, or open term memberships during a recession. On one hand, they are a good way to secure long-term and more reliable income for your business, however, from the perspective of a member they can be a liability that can cause a significant amount of stress in the scenario they lose their job.
Clubs typically price these out so they are less attractive for a member than long term contracts, however, due to these unique circumstances and the heightened risk, progressing members towards long term contracts may be more difficult. As such, it could be a good time to get more creative with your memberships and promotions to do this in a way which is beneficial for both parties and makes members feel more comfortable.
One idea could be running an open term membership at a discounted rate (potentially at the same price as a lock-in contract or less) for a limited time (e.g. 3 months) to make new members feel comfortable joining a club during a time where their income is uncertain. In a few months' time, around when the discount on these open-plan memberships is about to lapse, you could create a discounted 12-month membership to offer those members who are sensitive to the price returning to regular levels. This gives them a compassionate option to keep their membership at an affordable rate while securing regular cashflow for your business.
Increasing the frequency of which members are allowed to pay for their membership is another method you could consider to lower the financial risks for members. Instead of offering only monthly memberships at a price of $100, chunking this cost into weekly payments of $25 is much easier for someone to manage if they are strapped for cash.
Take a strong remarketing focus
During the pandemic, there’s a good chance you lost a sizeable number of members who decided to cancel their memberships–if this is the case, all is not lost. If you use a club management system, you should still have their contact details stored in your historic members reporting. This is a great asset to your business, as it allows you to utilize this information for remarketing purposes.
Reaching out to recent historic members who canceled their memberships through remarketing campaigns can be a valuable method for regaining your lost membership–particularly if used in conjunction with some of the membership initiatives outlined above.
The circumstances of these historic members may have changed, things may have settled down to a point where they feel comfortable working out again or your new membership types might appeal to them. Reasons such as these are why it’s important you reach out to these people before they get snapped up by another club. Utilize their contact details to reach out to them directly over the phone or via email to inform them of your club reopening or discounts on offer to encourage them to rejoin. For a less direct approach, you can also utilize your email list of historic members in remarketing advertisements on social media or google display ads to show ads specifically to this audience only – click here for more information on how to do this with GymMaster.