Online Joining – a New Era of Selling

Online Joining – a New Era of Membership Sales

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Sales methods are changing and we need to respond in order to thrive within this competitive online sales environment. We live in the era of “now”. Decisions are made instantly and prospects are driven to “buy now” after seeing something that has inspired them to take action.
The typical membership sales process goes out the window when we apply it to joining online. How can we meet and greet prospects, complete a customer needs analysis and offer a tour of the facility when the prospect is an online faceless purchaser?
Here are some top tips to provide the best sales experience possible online
  1. Sales funnel – inspire them to take action!
    If you have chosen to offer a join online option then the chances are you have digital strategy in place. As part of your digital strategy it’s essential you think about the pre-sales experience, AKA, lead generation.- How are prospects going to find you online?
    – How are you going to inspire prospects to ‘buy now’?
  2. Website & Landing Page – your sales tool
    So your prospect has found your landing page, awesome. Now you need to ensure the online joining experience does what it needs to; leads to a sale- What does your website look like?
    – Does it align with your brand?
    – Is it functional and responsive?
    – Are the ‘sign-up’ steps simple to follow?
    – Does the join online tab feature heavily on your landing page?
  3. Video – the virtual tour
    This is a no-brainer. The prospect wants to see the product. We’ve shifted from in person to online but that doesn’t mean we forget to show the prospect the facilities. Invest in a good quality virtual tour. Allow the prospect to take control of the tour with their cursor so they can view areas of interest to them. They may not want a full 2-minute video when they are keen to see the gym and changing facilities.- Is your video professional looking?
    – Is it responsive?
    – Does it show your facility at it’s best?
    – Is it engaging enough to entice the prospect to take action after viewing?
  4. Lead Page – Capturing your Leads
    Traditionally we would capture leads through the enquiry section of the sales process; however, the enquiry process online has been replaced by visiting your website. Therefore, you need to ensure a lead page is enabled to capture details of prospects who may need a little more time to think about joining.- Ensure your lead page pops-up within a reasonable time frame, say 30 seconds
    – Entice the prospect to leave their details by offering a freebie in exchange for their details
    – Ensure you have an automated flow set up for your database of leads
  5. Automation – you need to be seen to be available 24/7
    So your prospect has watched a video on Facebook, followed the link to your landing page, watched your virtual tour, followed the join online prompts and has purchased a membership…at 2am! Unless you are a robot there is simply no way you can manually keep up with this type of buyer behaviour. So let the robots do their thing!- Set up an automation process to follow immediately after the sale has completed
    – Ensure you have set up abandoned cart in case the buyer didn’t finish their purchase
    – Design your emails to look professional, simple text simply won’t cut it, remember, this is their first impression of you as a NEW MEMBER.
  6. After Sales Care  – Take care of your new member
    This step is so often by-passed regardless of whether the member has joined online or in person. The first 6 months of membership are crucial to the retention of your new member. So ensure you have an intensive follow-up program in place for the first 6 months.
  7. Referrals and Welcome Pack – Your new member is a VIP
    Once you have the member set up within the centre remember to follow your referral and welcoming process just as you would with in person sales. Systems & processes should be in place to ensure these important bonuses aren’t forgotten because the sale was made online.
  8. Retention – ensure they become raving fans of your business
    Even more essential than the buying experience is the customer experience, AKA, retention. The first 6 months should be structured with an intense follow-up process but don’t forget about the ongoing experience. By 6 months you should be aiming for the member to be independent and confident in your facility, but that doesn’t mean forgotten. Ensure you have a robust retention strategy, not just process, in place to continuously improve your member retention.

Check out Otium Planning Group (Sport & Leisure) as an example of a really great landing page; you get the feel for the quality of their service without even needing to move the cursor.

Check out Lifestyle Fitness joining process to see a simple sign-up flow.

If you are thinking about adding ‘join online’ to your sales process please drop me a line as I’d love to support you through that process.

Until next time….


What can we learn from the Disney Customer Experience?

The ultimate customer experience is found at Disney resorts and parks; where millions of $$ have been spent on customer research and improvements. I had the privilege of visiting the Florida one for the first time at the age of 31, dream come true for my son and I!

While enjoying all that Disney had to offer I was absorbing all the little tricks and strategies that Disney had implemented to make the customer experience seamless.

Leisure and Fitness providers should always look outside of their own industry to get ideas on ways to improve the customer experience. Industries such as retail, airline, hospitality and beauty all have some great ways on improving the customer experience.

One of the areas of the leisure customer experience I’ve always disliked (because hate is a strong word!) is the entry.  As soon as you come through to the reception area; one word….barriers. A massive piece of gated equipment saying “you aren’t welcome until you pay or prove you are a member”.

The dread customers, and staff, feel when their card or receipt won’t scan and the anxiety customers and members feel approaching those gates or turnstiles. Ahhhh! Barriers to entry are barriers to exercise, and don’t we have enough challenges with that as it is?

I’ve always thought “there has to be a better way” and a mentor of mine from the past opened up my eyes one day several years ago when he told me he planned to remove the gates at one of the leisure centres that had just been built! I visited said leisure centre in the UK last year, and they were gone! The staff alone I know would’ve been pleased let alone the customers as these gates were an ongoing technical problem most days!

So the challenge we would be faced with if we removed gates and barriers is how to manage payments, visits and access.

This is where retail seem to have it organised pretty well.  They have a customer service desk for exchanges, refunds and customer issues. They have a self-serve area with a member of staff ‘floating’ to help customers and then they have the manned counters for those who don’t want to use self serve.

Think iPads, individual manned counter desks (not huge intrusive barrier creating desks), think floating staff,  think self-serve, think PayPass and fastpay, think prepaid cards, think RFID bands as standard practice or fingerprint scan and you can begin to see where we could go with this.

I’ve seen a leisure facility in the UK operated by Fusion begin to put things in place for this vision; the customer service desk is set away from the self serve and the manned desks,  but there were still turnstiles in place and no ‘floating’ staff, so we as an industry are still not quite brave enough yet – unless there IS an operator out there doing this? If so let me know so I can share this as an innovative practice to my network.

When a new facility is due to open I’d love to see the customer experience put at the forefront of the design; including access, recording visits and taking payments.

Heres an excerpt from an article about how the changes at Disney’s access point came about….

“Officials hope the changes at the Magic Kingdom make it a more welcoming visit: Instead of structures that block people from entering, visitors are simply greeted by a Disney cast member as they walk into the park. Eventually, all guest tickets will be radio-frequency enabled to further expedite the process.

The new ticketing system means that a full family with two strollers and two adults can now go through at the same time — something that was impossible before.

Disney’s use of the iPod touch at its Central Florida resort is similar to what Apple has done at its retail stores, where checkout counters and cash registers are a thing of the past. Instead, employees at Apple’s own stores are also equipped with iPod touches that can be used to finalize a purchase and scan a customer’s credit card.”

To infinity and beyond!

Until next time…


Top Tips to Maximise your Personal Trainer’s Success

Personal Training tends to have around a 4-6% membership penetration rate within leisure facilities. This figure is significantly lower compared to the private sector, especially in specialised facilities that focus on delivering one-on-one or small group sessions. Therefore, it is worth carefully selecting how much time, energy and resources we spend on developing this area of the business when we have limited resources available to us. Secondary spend is a useful revenue stream as long as it does not detract from your membership revenue stream. It could be suggested that if the resources used on developing this particular secondary spend product were redirected to the sales and retention of members it could result in a better return on investment (ROI).

However, if we select the secondary spend products (and there are many more options available than personal training by the way) with a well thought-through strategy then the ROI could be beneficial. If you have, or intend to, select personal training as a secondary spend product then here are some tips to maximise personal training success in your facility:

  1. Employ or contract the right people
    During the selection and recruitment process ensure you assess their people skills, because it is the candidates people skills that will make or break their success. Try this idea next time you are recruiting; send the candidate into the gym, ask them to talk to members for 30 minutes, watch how they interact with members, listen to what the candidate is saying to the member and then see what feedback the candidate gives you about the members response. You could even ask the members how they felt when the candidate approached them. How about being really brave and recruit people based on their people skills and then develop them to gain the technical knowledge? Qualifications are important, but people skills are essential!
  2. Provide your Personal Trainers with the tools to achieve success
    Ensure the basics are covered by providing them with printed materials such as flyers and business cards and add some bio on your website and in the centre. However, we need to think beyond the basics reminding ourselves that relationship building is the key. Therefore, you should think about pathways and programs that lead to building relationships, trust and a sense of community. Retention expert Paul Bedford and a Sales expert Casey Conrad both agree that it takes around 6 months after the initial membership sale to have built a strong enough relationship with the member to engage them in Personal Training. Having said that, we know that PT starter packs sell well at the point of membership sale because the member is in ‘buying mode’, but these starter packs rarely convert to long term PT clients. Choose your strategy in advance before selling any packages that you think are ‘quick-wins’.
  3. Successful Personal Trainers focus on retaining clients
    We know how much hard work goes into building a client base, so once your trainers have one why would they want to start again every 12 weeks? Successful trainers provide clients with smaller goals that the client can achieve along the way to their bigger goal.  If the client FEELS good on a regular basis because they are achieving small milestones along the way, then why would they want to give that up? Shift your business focus from SELLING personal training to RETAINING clients and making them FEEL good. Business savvy Personal Trainers will select a target audience; for example, research shows that males over 45 are likely to continue with Personal Training for the long-term, so trainers may decide to focus their efforts on attracting this group as they know they will retain them as clients for longer.
  4. Provide pricing and packages that make the pathway to on-boarding clients simple
    As research has shown that it can take up to 6 months of relationship building before a member may be ready to consider personal training it is essential that the pricing, packages and pathways are in place ready for the member to access with EASE. Personal Training is considered a luxury product. I heard a phrase the other day that summed it up quite well, “why take the limousine when you can take the bus?”. With so many other products and programs on the market now, traditional one:one Personal Training is no longer the only personalised option out there, pair this with the number of Personal Trainers that are now in the industry and you can see how different the Personal Training landscape is now. So, bearing in mind we still need to pay our trainers their hourly or contracted fee, we must get creative with how we can bolt on so much value that the product is too good to miss! Here’s some ideas for you:
    – 12-week programs are all the rage right now, so can you work something around one of those? (bear in mind 12-week programs may not lead to good client retention, so select your strategy carefully).
    – Instead of offering personal training in packs how about shifting them to a Direct Debit Personal Training Membership?
    – How about removing single sessions and offering personal training as a ‘fitness commitment contract’ that is spread over a defined length of time?
    – How about offering online personal training programs?
  5. Provide the personal trainers with systems to build relationships Many facilities combine gym instructor and personal trainer roles to allow trainers to build relationships and ultimately a client base, however, my opinion on this is that the role of the gym instructor and the personal trainer are different, and a potential danger is that this approach could negatively impact on member retention. Remember that memberships are the lifeline of the fitness facility, so select your strategy carefully; you don’t want your lifeline to suffer for the sake of an increase in a secondary spend product. Having said that, opportunities do need to be provided if you are going to commit to the Personal Training product. With the knowledge that it can take up to 6 months of relationship building before many members will feel confident and trusting enough to engage with personal training, think about how you, as the program manager, can provide those opportunities. An idea we have used before and I have seen used since, is offering an initial ‘getting to know you’ session that starts the conversation and gives the Personal Trainer the opportunity to meet members on a no-obligation 1:1 level. The question is whether the facility pays for the Personal Trainers time or whether the Personal Trainer provides it as part of their agreement. I’ll leave that one to the budget holders! From this session there must be a follow-up process, preferably automated, but must be separate from the membership retention process. The PERSONAL approach must be considered when we are talking about PERSONAL training.
  6. Be honest with your Personal Trainers right from the start
    Explaining right at the start that the trainer will need to invest their time in building trusting relationships with members before they are likely to result in clients will pay off in the long-run. Preparing candidates right from the start that you expect relationship building to occur prior to payment will enable the trainer to have a better understanding of what it takes to build a solid client base. You could even employ them initially on a lower rate of pay for the first few months while they build the platform for trusting relationships and then increase their pay once you can see their client base is becoming established; like a sliding scale.
  7. The Personal Trainer needs to be accountable and own their tasks
    In the past I’ve seen trainers pass their phone calls to member service officers. This is a no-no! Personal trainers need to own all aspects of their client’s support. If you are finding that you, as the program manager, are receiving complaints from clients because they’ve had no follow-up or contact from the trainer then you need to deal with this issue quickly. A process should be in place for trainers to follow, but it’s ultimately their responsibility to own their tasks. Remember, it’s PERSONAL training.
  8. Remind Personal Trainers they have access to thousands of potential clients!
    A leisure facility has a few huge advantages over the private sector.
    1) leisure facilities have thousands of visitors annually; learn to swim parents, sports spectators, members etc
    2) leisure is either state or local government meaning potential local corporate and resident opportunities
    3) access to large events planned by the city/council/state
    4) They have access to parks, beaches and community facilities (subject to any insurance restrictions) Remind your personal trainers that they have the potential to tap into a wide range of people, but they need to come to you with ideas and commit to them!
  9. Invest in your Personal Trainers
    Those leisure facilities that are seeing levels of success have invested in developing their trainers. Whether it’s formally or informally; sales training, customer service training, systems, processes, CPD courses, marketing etc. Don’t leave your personal trainers off your teams annual training and development planner.
  10. Involve your Personal Trainers
    Even if your personal trainers are contracted they need to be aware of what’s going on. Remember to include them in communications and team meetings. Ensure they have the opportunity to have their say and contribute their ideas. There are some very knowledgeable, talented and dedicated trainers out there, pull on their expertise to help keep your team motivated and positive even when the going gets tough!
  11. Successful Personal trainers hold their clients accountable to their goals
    If a personal trainer has made the time and effort to develop a program and arrive prepared for the session but the client doesn’t attend or doesn’t follow-up with the exercises prescribed outside of the facility then the trainer should be addressing this with the client. The client wants to see results and they expect them. So it is reasonable for the trainer to give a little bit of ‘tough love’ at the start of the clients journey; perhaps by developing a PT:Client commitment agreement (not a legal one of course), just to remind them of their goals when they begin to show signs of wavering from the plan. This agreement should be placed alongside the long-term training plan the trainer has set for them. Remember, clients are paying for results and expect them; but it’s a joint effort between trainer and client. Some of the most successful personal trainers have even refused to train clients based on their initial session because they could tell the client wasn’t going to commit to their own goals
  12. Get your Personal Trainers involved in Group Fitness
    I have found that a good synergy is personal trainer/group fitness instructor. An obvious connection is to utilise your trainers for class cover of selected classes, however, they also have a great opportunity to showcase their knowledge by supporting group fitness instructors during a class by offering technique correction and demonstrations!

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Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2018

ACSM have released the Fitness Trend predictions for 2018 and HIIT once again makes it to the top; overtaking wearable technology…

  1. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): HIIT involves short bursts of activity followed by a short period of rest or recovery, these exercise programs are usually performed in less than 30 minutes.
  2. Group Training: Group exercise instructors teach, lead and motivate individuals though intentionally designed group exercise classes. Group programs are designed to be motivational and effective for people at different fitness levels, with instructors using leadership techniques that help individuals in their classes achieve fitness goals.
  3. Wearable Technology: includes fitness trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors and GPS tracking devices.
  4. Body Weight Training: Body weight training uses minimal equipment, making it more affordable. Not limited to just push-ups and pull-ups, this trend allows people to get “back to the basics” with fitness.
  5. Strength Training: Strength training remains a central emphasis for many health clubs. Incorporating strength training is an essential part of a complete exercise program for all physical activity levels and genders. (The other essential components are aerobic exercise and flexibility.)
  6. Educated and Experienced Fitness Professionals: Given the large number of organizations offering health and fitness certifications, it’s important that consumers choose professionals certified through programs that are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), such as those offered by ACSM. ACSM is one of the largest and most prestigious fitness-certification organizations in the world.
  7. Yoga: Based on ancient tradition, yoga utilizes a series of specific bodily postures practiced for health and relaxation. This includes Power Yoga, Yogalates, Bikram, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Kripalu, Anurara, Kundalini, Sivananda and others.
  8. Personal Training: More and more students are majoring in kinesiology, which indicates that they are preparing themselves for careers in allied health fields such as personal training. Education, training and proper credentialing for personal trainers have become increasingly important to the health and fitness facilities that employ them.
  9. Fitness Programs for Older Adults. As the baby boom generation ages into retirement, some of these people have more discretionary money than their younger counterparts. Therefore, many health and fitness professionals are taking the time to create age-appropriate fitness programs to keep older adults healthy and active.
  10. Functional Fitness. This is a trend toward using strength training to improve balance and ease of daily living. Functional fitness and special fitness programs for older adults are closely related.

The full list of top 20 trends is available in the article “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2018.

Give me a shout if you wish to brainstorm ideas on ways to ensure the top ten trends are intergrated into your programming ready for 2018.


Get to Know your Numbers


Get to Know your Numbers

One common factor I’ve noticed across successful fitness businesses is how well the owners and managers know their numbers. Private businesses need to know their numbers in order to survive and thrive, but in government run facilities it’s not uncommon to find that the numbers aren’t well known, and even if they are they are often vague and possibly even inaccurate.

This is dangerous practice. If you don’t know your numbers how do you know how you are performing today compared to yesterday and how can you plan for tomorrow?

Make it amongst your next quarter priorities to work out how to get to know your numbers better. Get to know your membership numbers; not just the total but the complete breakdown, work out your cash vs DD ratio, keep track of the membership finances drilled down to the cash vs DD breakdown, work out your retention – your TRUE retention not your monthly cancellation rate (this is a common mistake facilities make when calculating retention).

Use your membership management system to support data extraction…but be careful…some systems are either not built to produce quality and accurate membership reports or they require an extensive data cleanse to allow the system to report accurately.

Also, don’t forget about your KPIs. Review your actual KPIs not just the data alongside them. Are your KPIs relevant to the audience reading them? Are they relevant or are we just collecting data for collecting datas sake? Think what KPIs are strategic, management and operational. Break them down accordingly and remember to delegate the ownership of these to the relevant employees. Managers will be pleased to acknowledge that it’s not solely their responsibility  to own these numbers, it’s a team effort!

Drop me a line if you need support with your performance management. I can draft various tools to assist with recording and monitoring your numbers.

Until next time,