In an industry that is more competitive than ever, gyms are constantly on the lookout for the latest concepts and technologies to set themselves apart from their competitors. But there are, however, simpler and, above all, more sustainable strategies to stay ahead of the pack.

“It is in differentiation, and not in uniformity, that the path to progress lies”

Louis Brandeis, legendary American judge and champion of civil liberties at the beginning of the 20th century.

One hundred years later, that adage still rings true for many fitness club operators. In an increasingly competitive market, they remain on the alert every day of the “new trend” that could distinguish them from their rivals. But as brilliant and captivating as the latest technological innovations may be, is this really the miracle solution to meeting any challenge? And what is it that prevents your competitors from launching the same product, the same concept … thus leveling the playing field?

There are plenty of examples of gadgets and fleeting fads that the industry would rather forget (like nude yoga!), But it’s hard to find an example of a club that has been able to stand out in the long term thanks to a revolutionary product.

Likewise, it’s just as difficult to remember a club that has been able to make full use of all of its services. There is always room for improvement to become better than the others, yet we are obsessed with everything that is shiny, everything that is new. And this is a mistake. It would be like investing in a state-of-the-art solar panel roof when the foundation of the house is in ruins …
The pursuit of differentiation can quickly become a costly distraction if the essentials of the club aren’t working 100%.

Today, some of the most successful companies in the world have been able to dominate their market by analyzing the average experience offered to customers and coming up with something better. Apple has done this several times, most notably with the iPod and iPhone. The best-known brand in the world has not been a pioneer with its MP3 player or smartphone either, but has on the other hand been able to guarantee its products the best possible user experience and above all, to make this message clear in its marketing.


As Martin Seibold, the famous mainstay of Fitness First, has often said, “The key for clubs is to ‘get perfect first, then differentiate themselves’.

Consumers will always be looking for the best experience. While many clubs make the mistake of focusing on finding their point of differentiation, few put importance on their bases, which ultimately results in an offer that is different, because it is worse!

The smartest strategy is to provide room members with the best-in-class products conceptualized by expert vendors who have spent millions of dollars perfecting them. Brands like Apple relentlessly focus on their core offering, tapping into the expertise of their partners to get the best components.

Likewise in the fitness industry, without decades of experience in a specific area and a ton of resources, it is highly unlikely that a club will ever come up with a revolutionary sports equipment or training program. world class which is better than those already on the market and which would allow it to differentiate itself. But by choosing the best products in a category and marketing them better than the others, you can build a solid pool of fans who are happy with their experience.

To measure the quality of the member experience, the most reliable performance indicator is the club’s overall attendance figure. It helps determine member retention, motivation and commitment to the sport, as well as the price they are willing to pay each month.

When it comes to group lessons, there are many ways to improve the member experience and therefore the retention rate.


YMCA of Greater Naples (United States)

With a wide range of members aged 9 to 99 and growing competition from nearby clubs and shops, this 10,000-member general club needed to increase group class attendance and ensure an instant return on investment.

Their strategy: to implement a phased campaign of strategically positioned new program launches throughout the year, to regularly attract new members while strengthening the engagement of current members.

The Grand YMCA of Naples first launched the HIIT LES MILLS GRIT ™ class series on January 1, 2018 to attract Generation Y and Z. They then added the yoga-inspired BODYBALANCE ™ program to their offering to give a new momentum and attracting the senior market, before launching LES MILLS BARRE ™ in August and LES MILLS SPRINT ™ in December.

As a result, they saw a 55% increase in current attendance over one year and attracted a host of new members, with group training now accounting for 70-77% of total club attendance.

Diana Sideri, School Director: “By regularly adding new courses to the schedule, we are attracting an ever larger audience. The club is full all day, and a full club is a happy club! “.


SC Fitness (Portugal)

SC Fitness in Portugal is a chain of 37 clubs including 15 low cost clubs, 21 traditional clubs and 1 premium club. The club’s pioneering approach to inducting members sets it apart from its competition.

José Teixeira – Director of Customer Experience – relies primarily on using data to improve the member experience. By analyzing the reasons they leave the club – five years of data collection including 65,000 exit interviews and attendance statistics for 85,000 members – he found that members who participated in group workouts remained subscribed three times longer than others.

Question: How to get more members in group lessons?

José designed an initiation program prescribing group training for the first six weeks of each new membership following the principles of the LES MILLS SMART START ™ program. He also created a membership loyalty card and encouraged instructors to support the process by offering them higher rates of pay if they attract more members to their courses.

As a result, the number of group course participants increased by 3%, as did overall membership. Even more impressively, the club increased the total value of Lifetime Membership by 117% as members stayed longer due to their increased engagement. As a result, group training now accounts for 44% of total club visits and is the most popular selling point among members.


Village Health Clubs(UK)

This chain of 30 high-end rooms was facing increasing competition from generalist and premium clubs. To stay the course, the team decided to focus on training the instructors.

The goal: to increase the capacity of courses and the attendance of members at their 30 sites without increasing fixed costs. The instructors had to be taught connection skills, the secret to engaging all the participants in the course. To achieve this, the company funded LES MILLS advanced training for 90 group course instructors to achieve certification.
In three months, group lessons have reached their peak, with average attendance up 40% in some clubs, while the best performing club has recorded an average of 78% to 96% attendance. Retention has therefore been strengthened in all 30 clubs.

“We were once known for our group class offering, but today we really stand above the rest,” said Chris Southall, Recreation Director at Village Gym.

“We have always been aware of the benefits that a great group training offer would bring to our clubs in terms of membership acquisition and retention, but one thing is for sure, what really makes the difference is the people. who provide these courses. So we made sure that our team of instructors were able to deliver exceptional lessons every time and at every club. “


Les Mills Wellington (New Zealand)

At the Mills Wellington – one of the 12 upscale clubs of the Les Mills chain in New Zealand – increasing attendance had to come through studio optimization and design.

The challenge for this 7,000-member club was to improve performance in group lessons, but they did not have enough floor space to expand the studios. Their strategy was therefore to reduce their number and expand their areas. After analyzing the attendance and capacity of each studio (see table below), they decided to drop Studio 3, shrink the boxing studio and use the remaining space to expand the other studios. They also added a room for virtual lessons and optimized the schedule.

With just 3% of the additional floor space in the group lesson studio, group lesson attendance has been increased by 48%. Studio 2 tripled in size and increased its weekly attendance by 186%, and the revamped “cycle” studio tripled its attendance.


Tahoe Mountain Fitness (USA)

To increase its attendance and therefore its income, Tahoe Mountain Fitness, a thriving gym boutique based in the Lake Tahoe seaside resort, has based its strategy on high-level marketing.

This recently opened club had to find a place in a highly competitive market. To create a premium service offering and therefore stand out, the brand has chosen to invest in high-end programming, highlighted by events at each launch and relaunch. Their very successful marketing strategy has kept the buzz going and therefore regularly attracted new members.

The club has invested in 7 Les Mills programs and built an immersive studio for the THE TRIP ™ cycling program in order to solidify its boutique offering. To promote them, the club has been able to use the images and videos made available by THE MILLS in a relevant way. The very chic decoration inside the club also helped to seduce the members, often drawn to brands with a strong personality.

It is therefore by emphasizing quality programs and building a brand identity that Tahoe Mountain Fitness has justified billing for its services of up to US $ 32 per class. His attendance increased by 10% per month.


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