Using Software to Communicate Efficiently: The Key to Running a Successful Full-Service Health Club
My biggest challenge in running a full-service Health Club…
I’m Dylan Benett, the Marketing Director for Mesa Fitness Health Club. We are a two-location health club with loads of amenities. Our motto is that we have all you need under one roof to achieve your fitness goals. Sounds good, right? But what does it take to run a club that has so many offerings? In fact, what does it take to run two?
The answer is Communication.
And that’s where the challenge lies. Health clubs need communication at two levels – with members and with staff. With full-service clubs, there are so many moving parts – multiple departments, classes, amenities, instructors, trainers, management, and more. Naturally, we often find it tough to communicate efficiently on all platforms.
Let me give a recent example:
We run an annual 12-Week Fitness Challenge to get our members excited about their fitness goals at the beginning of the year. It’s one of our biggest projects every year. For 2022, we wanted to try a load of new stuff. For example, we hosted weekly contests, giveaways, and activities to keep our participants motivated to complete the challenge. We also created a Facebook Group specifically for the challenge participants to help them connect and stay up to date with the challenge, get feedback, and keep them up to date on our weekly events. While some weekly events did very well and received a ton of positive engagement, some contests fell through the cracks. They almost acted as filler content – not well communicated to our members, to our staff, or both.
Our communication strategy isn’t foolproof yet, but here are the software products we currently use to combat this challenge.
1.Club OS – A CRM system that helps us track and communicate with our prospective and current members about happenings in the clubs. We use it to send a bi-weekly newsletter via email to inform members about events, new classes, new trainers/instructors, staff anniversaries, and more. It helps create a sense of community and keeps us well connected. This is also our primary communication channel for connecting with prospective members.
2.OptiSigns- A digital marketing software for in-club communication. We have TVs in various sections of our club for consistent messaging between the digital and the physical. We use this software to announce new classes, events, new trainers, and more. Additionally, we play various video content for entertainment or education purposes.
3.Smart Health Clubs Branded App – Banners are a great way for us to make announcements about events and new classes at our clubs. The “Feeds” section is where we communicate between the two clubs to keep them up to date. Additionally, we use the Feeds feature to talk to our members – a Motivational Monday, trainer tips, educational seminars, and more.
4.Slack – Staff communication between multiple clubs is paramount to ensuring a seamless member experience. To ensure the entire team is on the same page, we primarily use Slack. Slack allows us to create specific communication channels for each department, club, or the entire staff. We communicate through our “Full-Staff” challenge for big events such as our 12-Week Challenge, an annual Summer Challenge, or any other major event happening between the clubs.
5.DataTrack and ABC Fitness – This is our billing software, which connects between each of our clubs and allows us to connect with our members based on their membership and purchase preferences. We’ve been using this same software since the beginning!
I chose software for our club by looking for three main things, or what we call, “The Big Three.”
1.Functionality –The most important quality when looking to adopt a new software is its Functionality. How will it help us solve the issue at hand?
2.Ease of Use – We are looking at a software update or solution because we need the process to be easier. When looking for a solution, we look at how easily we can learn and adopt it, and how the final product will help our staff or help improve the member’s experience.
3.Time – How long will it take to set up and get the software running? How long will it take the team to learn and understand?
Once we have established our Big Three, there are a few bonus things to look for.
Pricing is at the top of that list. Does it fit our budget? What aspects of this software make its price worth it? Is this software worth it at the price point it’s at?
The team behind the software can also be a deciding factor. How do the company reps interact with us during the sales and onboarding process? Are they the kind of team we want to have a long-term relationship with? Do they make the process easier for us to pick up?
Branding – Can we showcase our own brand through this software? Smart Health Clubs (SHC), in this case, is second to none. We were really able to create a custom branded experience on our app through app icons, colors, backgrounds, banners, and more. It can be very easily individualized. We want our branding to be consistent across the board, so having that individualized branding experience is part of what set SHC apart for us.
Ultimately, we want the software solutions we choose to improve our member experience, and increase our member loyalty. Here’s how we do it:
1.Keep Members Informed on Schedules on 3 different mediums: Communication is again the most important aspect here. Keeping members informed about everything happening at the club is so important because it allows them to maximize their experience. One of the ways we do this is by utilizing multiple platforms to communicate with members on events, new trainers, new classes, or services (such as one-on-one training or small group training). For example, our class schedules are available through three different mediums (Web app, Mobile app, a downloadable pdf) so members can view and book however they’d like.
2.Reduce Class Friction: We try to provide multiple avenues to book classes, meet instructors, and stay connected using our website, mobile app, and social media.
In our app, we extensively use the calendar functionality, especially for our Group Fitness and Team Training programs. A year ago, we also started using the calendar functionality for racquetball court reservations. Not only does this make the booking experience easier for our members, but it also alleviates effort at our front desk, too.
One thing that Smart Health Clubs does really well here is providing us with a web-based app to accompany the mobile app. Mesa Fitness has a vast senior population across the two gyms, which can lead to friction when it comes to using mobile apps. Having a web-based calendar allows us to have a bookable schedule directly on our website.
3.Reduce Hassle: We do everything we can to reduce hassle for our members. That means more automated messages and fewer calls. Through ClubOS, we send automated billing messages to our members if their account goes past its due date. Simply put, we try to communicate primarily through text and email so as to not bother our members unnecessarily with phone calls. We also have automated messages that are targeted toward members who may have shown interest in specific classes or training.
4.Connect and Engage in the first weeks of their membership: Connecting with a new member in the first 2-3 weeks of their membership can help turn them from a temporary member to a long-term gym-goer. To attempt to accomplish this, we send push notifications and automated messages to communicate with our new members. After their first week, we send messages such as “How was your first week? What can we do to help?”, and send them class suggestions with a “Hey, have you tried this out?” message. By staying connected early, members are more likely to extend the term of their membership and we can even prompt them to try our higher-level amenities.
5.Break down the Member-Trainer Barrier: A new member will often feel uncomfortable with directly approaching trainers at the club. To help break down this barrier, we offer as much information on our instructors and trainers as possible using our website, mobile app, and even within the club.
Personal Training is one of our biggest departments in terms of revenue, as it is for many clubs. So, we have trainer biographies in multiple avenues to help the members gain comfortability – on TVs, printed posters, social media, and of course our website and mobile app. We also do a video series called “Meet the Trainers,” which is a 15-20 min video where we sit and chat with the trainer, learning more about them as a person, not just a trainer. “Meet the Trainers” is an intimate way for members to gain familiarity with our training staff, which has been proven to be successful for many of our trainers! The Smart Health Clubs app also allows our Instructors/Personal Trainers to add detailed About Me pages with pictures, videos, and testimonials.
6.Provide Unique Experiences: Both clubs have what we call “Cardio Cinema,” which is a combo between a standard cardio deck and a small movie theater. To boost member experience, we provide the monthly schedule for the movies playing both on our website and on our mobile app.
Member Experience has always been a point of emphasis, so we’re constantly working on how to upgrade the Onboarding Process for our members.
One of the things that we want to do is try and drive activity (primarily check-ins) in the first few weeks of a new membership. Based on an IRSHA Retention Report, members who visit the facility 2x per week in their first 3 months of membership are more likely to have a membership for over 2 years. That same report also stated that 33% of new members quit attending the gym after just 3 months, which is often before they can even see any meaningful results. Our goal is to drop that number by helping provide multiple avenues of exercise to help keep the member motivated and excited about coming in.
To do this, we are creating an onboarding program where we allow new members to try all our higher-level amenities, they get access to a Starting Point Session with a Personal Trainer, and an automated system will check in with our new members throughout the first few months of their members.
Now, where does software come in? Automation.
We have 300-400 new members sign up each month (per location), so if we are trying to follow up with that many people by hand, things tend to fall through the cracks. With automation, we can better connect with our new members.
Our current automation allows us to segment our membership base by demographics, membership type, club access level, and even allows us to track the classes they are taking and purchases they make in the club in order to provide them with relevant suggestions.
By using automation, we can help new members build confidence early, keeping them engaged and motivated, and turning them into long-term members.
Let’s be real. No business on earth today can function without software, especially a full-service Health Club and all its moving parts.
I hope this article provides some insight on how to select and use software to transform the communication strategy of your Health Club.
How are you tackling the Communication challenge in your club? I would love to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments.
Regional Marketing Director of Mesa Fitness, Colorado is Guest Blogging for Smart Health Clubs here.