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Sell Passes and Memberships

How To Handle Memberships for Your Fitness Business During COVID

Recurring memberships ensure financial stability for your fitness business, but you must consider program changes during the coronavirus pandemic.

August 27, 2020

Recurring memberships are one of the best ways to build and ensure long-term financial stability for your small fitness business. Now, more than ever, as you navigate the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic and its eventual aftermath, it is critical to strategically provide – and clearly communicate – the value of your gym or studio’s membership program.

Not only have your current and potential new customers been forced to adapt to working out at home through on-demand and live class videos, they’ve also likely tried alternative ways of staying fit — many of them outdoors — like running, swimming, biking, paddling and climbing. Like any change, some of your students have probably thrived and adapted quickly to this “new normal,” while others have struggled or been resistant.

Right now, no one knows how this unprecedented experience will ultimately change fitness businesses or how we all work out. But what we do know, is that things will likely not be the same for a very long time. And those fitness studios and trainers who survive will be the ones who continue to innovate and adjust.

According to a TD Ameritrade survey released in late July, 59% of Americans say they have found more affordable ways to work out during the pandemic and don’t plan on renewing their memberships when gyms reopen.

There are proven ways to engage and retain your valuable members now, and build on what you’ve learned during the COVID crisis, however.

“Gyms and boutique studios that proactively adopt new ways to retain customers and increase revenue per customer are best placed to succeed when the virus’s impact on the economy subsides,” according to U.K.-based L.E.K. Consulting.

Here are a few actions that experts recommend:

Double-down on Digital Offerings & Generate Community Online

Shying away from launching or expanding live and on-demand video-based classes out of fear of undermining traditional membership value is a mistake, recently released survey results by L.E.K found.

“While consumers have readily embraced innovative digital, at-home fitness offerings (e.g. Peloton, Mirror, Tonal), studios and gyms have engaged with this trend slowly, due to the fear that digital services would de-value the in-studio experience or add too much complexity,” according to L.E.K. “However, our research has consistently shown that digital fitness complements rather than replaces the physical experience: the L.E.K. Digital Fitness Survey shows that approximately 90% of digital fitness subscribers state their likelihood to use a traditional gym is either the same or greater than before their digital fitness usage.”

The key to engagement online is to provide a strong user experience and ways for existing and new students to connect with each other and you.

  • Take time to host pre-and-post class chat sessions. Zoom is a great tool for this and comes standard with your Punchpass software.
  • Refreshing your content regularly, and providing a variety of levels and types of classes. Get specific tips on how to build a successful online content library in our recent blog post.
  • Offer organized challenges with leaderboards and prizes. Keep students feeling seen and acknowledged by forming teams and/or offering prizes.
  • Launch an online community, such as a Facebook Group and post regularly. Feature videos of you and your instructors giving motivational talks and demonstrating moves of the day, and sharing other healthy lifestyle tips.

Tier Your Membership Pricing

Like most small gyms or fitness businesses, you may have offered only one monthly membership option prior to the coronavirus crisis. As you expand and diversify the way your students can access classes, it’s a good idea to create levels of membership to match the varied needs of your customers.

For example, you may want to offer a basic online membership that includes unlimited access to your on-demand classes at the lowest rate.

Tier two would include on-demand content and access to your live video-based classes.

Tier three, at a premium level, could include in-person classes plus unlimited access to your online live and on-demand classes. This is a good option for those ready to come back, but who want to keep their at-home workouts going. You can head off challenges with limited class capacity and scheduling.

Promote add-ons like challenges, workshops, trainings, private instruction and other special programs.

It’s easy to set up and manage membership and special event pricing using Punchpass.

Offer Members-Only Access to Special Perks

Those regular students who’ve stuck with you through it all — and anyone who’s willing to go all in and buy a membership right now — are heroes. Treat them like gold. Think of ways that you can leverage unused assets to create big value for them.

Include use of props and equipment – delivered to their door, or for curbside pick up – as part of an unlimited membership program.

Give away those branded t-shirts that have been sitting in boxes in storage all Spring and Summer to each member. Consider having some printed with inspirational messages like “I’m Staying Strong with [Your Studio Name Here] #TogetherAtHome” or whatever motivates you and your community.

Offer a complimentary private session for each member – either online or in-person depending on your situation. If you have staff, assign these special VIP sessions to your team.

What better way is there to make use of the extra time we all have than to build authentic connection and value? 💛