Communication is the lifeblood of any relationship. When it comes to the gym business, where you have multiple member contacts every week, communication is probably the single most important factor that determines success or failure. 

The right sort of communication at the right frequency will create happy, contented members who feel valued. The wrong sort with inconsistent frequency will breed members who are ambivalent and likely to leave at the drop of a hat. 

Communication, then, needs to be at the core of everything you do. In this article, I’ll lay out seven things you can do to establish a culture of great communication that will build a strong, inclusive, valued membership. 

Why Communication Matters

We live in an ambivalent world. People don’t talk to each other anymore. Heck, they don’t even look at each other when they pass by on the street. Most people don’t have very pleasant experiences when they go to the supermarket or the bank, with staff projecting a cold exterior. 

You should view your gym as a refuge from all of that. From the moment a person, whether they are a member or not, enters through your front door, they should be metaphorically embraced. That starts with a genuine, warm welcome. Members should be greeted by name. On the way out, they should also be acknowledged and asked how their workouts are progressing. 

Consistent, meaningful communication with your members will let them know how valued they are to you. They’ll be nurtured to feel part of the team and they will be better equipped to successfully meet their fitness goals. 

Communication is especially important during the first 30 days of a new member’s gym life. That is the time that they need the most support to solidify their gym habit and confirm to themselves that they have made the right decision. 

Here’s an overview of the seven communication-building strategies that the best gyms use to create happy, contented members.

  • Use the Right Social Media Tools
  • Create a Customer Service Logbook
  • Have a Communications Calendar
  • Promote Proactive Communication
  • Optimize New Member Communication
  • Keep Your Content Up-to-Date
  • Collect Customer Feedback

Use the Right Social Media Tools

Social media offers plenty of opportunities to engage with your members. With so many tools available, it is easy to divert your focus into channels that are not very productive. 

Your Website

Obviously, you need to have an engaging website. In my experience, gyms generally don’t do a great job here. 

The first thing you need to do when thinking about your website is to understand the mindset of the potential client who visits the site. They don’t want to do a lot of research. They want the information to be easily accessible, reasonably priced, and effective. That’s it. So that is all that you need to communicate.

Imagine if you were really hungry. You turn up at a restaurant and a ravenous state. The last thing you want is to have to wait for 30 minutes to be seated, then have to sit through as the waiter goes through all the specials and the drinks, and then wait another 45 minutes for the food to be made. When you are really hungry all you want to know is that the food is going to be clean, safe and reasonably priced.

The same thing happens when people go to a gym website. The visit is usually prompted by some sort of emotional spike. It could be that they have a wedding or other event coming up or that they suddenly feel fat or unattractive to their partner. Whatever it is, the thing that got them to your website is usually an emotional trigger. This is similar to the emotional urge to eat that you have when you are extremely hungry.

So, you need to provide enough information for the client to understand, this is what I need to do to get to my goal. They should have enough information to be able to contact you and take the next step.

The purpose of your website is to get people in front of your face. That can only happen through an exchange of information. You need to give them enough information that they can contact you or leave you their information so you can contact them.

Your website is not going to get as much viewership as your presence on social media. So, you need to focus your content on social media and on your blog. When it comes to your website they are probably only going to visit it once or twice. So, you need to make sure that the visit provides exactly what they are looking for without any hassles.

Facebook

When it comes to the chat box that you feature on your website, I recommend using Facebook Messenger. It has proven to be highway successful for many gyms, increasing the number of direct daily contacts quite significantly. 

Speaking of Facebook, here are some tips that will help you make your Facebook page an effective communication tool …

  • Post tips and great content regularly – your best posts should go on your personal and group profiles.
  • Create posts that provide ‘behind the scenes’ insight into your business – provide screenshots and look inside videos that personalize the business.
  • ·Have a good offer – this could be a free trial, a challenge or the offer of a free cheat sheet.
  • Offer plenty of free content without asking anything in return.

In-App Messaging

If you don’t have an app for your gym, I strongly recommend getting one. In-App messaging allows your members to communicate with you 24-7. It is right there on their phone, which is going to be with them all the time. That allows for instant communication. 

Customer Service LogBook

A customer service logbook is a written record of communications with customers. It may be an actual hard copy logbook, However, a shared Google spreadsheet is probably more practical. The idea is that every customer communication that requires follow-up is recorded. Important information that other staff members need to know about should also be recorded.

An example of information about a member that would be good to share in the customer service log could be when a member relates that a loved one is suffering from a serious illness. This will allow other staff members to show empathy for the situation when they are communicating with that member.

A written record of all member interactions that require follow-up will establish a system whereby every inquiry is followed through. The logbook can be quite simple. It just has to capture the following information …

  • Name
  • Contact Information
  • Query
  • Who will follow up and within what time frame

You should train your staff when they are interacting with members who have a query to give them a promise as to when someone will get back to them. I like to have my staff tell members the specific name of the person who will contact them and that they will do so within 48 hours. My policy, though, has always been to follow up within 24 hours. When you get back to them ahead of time, you will be over delivering. That shows the members how valued they are.

Have a Communications Calendar

The idea of a communications calendar is something that I picked up from a gardening store. Every time my wife came home with the plants, she would bring back a colorful sheet that provided useful tips about what to plant at that time of year and what other garden related activities should be done. My wife would pin it to the fridge and consult it regularly. 

Every time I opened the fridge, which was multiple times a day, the name of that garden store registered in my mind. So, I decided  to copy the garden’s example and create a communications calendar for the gym. But, instead of detailing the plants that were in season, the sheet gave details about all the exciting things happening at the gym that month. It included a fitness class schedule, along with any fitness challenges that were taking place. I made sure to also add in two or three actionable nutrition related tips.

After a few months, during which I received great feedback on the newsletter, I decided that I could offset the cost of producing the multicolor communications calendar by selling advertising space. I figured that there would be plenty of businesses out there that would love to have their message pinned to hundreds of local people’s fridges. 

And I was right. I approached a grand total of two businesses – and secured two advertisers. The first was a local packaged meal service and the other was an Indian restaurant. They both continued advertising until I sold the gym and, for all I know, they are still doing so. The revenue I got from them wasn’t massive, but it was enough to cover the cost of producing my communications calendar.

I was never able to quantify just how much the communications calendar contributed to my retention rate, But I do know that, in customer surveys, nearly every respondent mentioned it as one of the things they loved about the gym. 

Promote Proactive Communication

In my experience, many gyms are doing a lousy job of everyday communication with their members. On many occasions, I’ve seen gym staff laughing and joking with their inner sanctum of member buddies, while the vast majority of members are essentially ignored. Unless the member especially approaches a staff member they are likely to not even be acknowledged throughout their entire gym visit. 

By ignoring their members, these gyms are destroying any sense of belonging or loyalty. If another gym offers a better price, they will be gone like a shot. That is why you need to ensure that your staff members are proactive communicators.

Being proactive means not waiting for members to approach you. Go up to them and engage them in conversation. Of course,  the two key communication points are when the member enters and leaves the gym. 

For years, I have been a strong advocate of implementing a system that allows the person behind the front desk to see some key details about each member on a screen when the member scans their membership card. This will provide talking points for the staff member.

Here is what I include on my system …

  • Preferred name
  • Fitness goal
  • Experience level
  • Support level required
  • An anecdotal note to guide staff (examples: “don’t distract until after workout” for a hardcore trainer or “needs motivational support” for a new member)

This information will arm the staff member to say more than a generic ‘Hi, how’s it going?’ when the member enters.

When it comes to communicating with members during their workout, you have to negotiate that fine line between encouragement and interruption of their workout flow. Your staff should be able to assess whether a member would appreciate a brief chat or whether it will annoy them. Even members who are focused on keeping their rest between sets to a strict 30 seconds, though, will usually appreciate a simple acknowledgment like …

You’re looking leaner, Steve – keep it up!

Every member communication should be respectful, courteous, and friendly. You should also train your staff to always use positive rather than negative language. A simple example of this is rather than telling someone not to leave their weights on the floor, asking them to please return their weights to the rack after use. 

New Member Communication

New members should receive a series of communications to nurture them into the gym experience. I recommend the following email communication calendar over the first month of membership …

  • On Day 1, they should get a welcome message that spells out what their next steps are. 
  • On Day 7, they should get a congratulatory message that reaffirms their decision, and reinforces the benefits of it.
  • On Day 12, they receive a message that provides tips regarding training, nutrition, and recovery that is appropriate to their training level.
  • On Day 14, they receive another message with specific content that is at their level and usable.
  • On Day 30, they have been entered onto your monthly email list for their specific market segment.

I like to include an FAQ section in the first message to new members. You can say something like …

As a new member, I’m sure you have many questions. Here are the ten most common questions that our new members ask, along with our answers …

Keep Your Content Up-to-Date

A gym that is doing a great job of communicating with their members will be making use of the following mediums of communication …

  • Email newsletters
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Blog articles

By keeping this material fresh and current you will be able to keep your members engaged. The more specific your content is, the better. Your members have access to thousands of other sources of fitness content. You want yours to be unique so that they are learning something valuable every time they engage with it. 

Collect Customer Feedback

Great communication goes both ways – and it is responsive. You should be looking for every opportunity to collect feedback from your customers. As well as conducting surveys as part of your email newsletter, have a feedback box prominently displayed where members can put their suggestions. 

Having collected customer feedback, act upon it. Collect all the information together and use it as the basis of staff training. Get staff input on how you can best meet customer expectations. 

Summary

By making it your mission to over deliver on communication, you will be constantly strengthening the relationship that you have with your customers. In the process, your gym will become a trusted and vital part of your member’s lives. 

Here’s a reminder of the seven keys to developing outstanding communications with your members …

  • Use the Right Social Media Tools
  • Create a Customer Service Logbook
  • Have a Communications Calendar
  • Promote Proactive Communication
  • Optimize New Member Communication
  • Keep Your Content Up-to-Date
  • Collect Customer Feedback

 When all of these elements are working together, you will be rewarded with happy, contented members who wouldn’t even think of going anywhere else.

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