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    Acquisition & retention

    The power of challenges to motivate members

    Are you looking to improve member engagement and retention at your club, while also driving acquisition? A gym challenge could be just the answer you’re looking for.

    Les Mills

    60-second summary

    1. With 85% of all gym members now also doing workouts at home, clubs are confronted with a new form of challenge to maintain member attendances at the gym .
    2. Smart use of in-club fitness challenges can drive member engagement, satisfaction and loyalty.
    3. Challenges and gamification provide a great way to attract Millennial and Gen Z members – a growing demographic who now make up 80% of the fitness consumer market.
    4. There are endless options (see below) for what you could do, but to run a successful challenge, you need your team members to be enthusiastically involved from the outset.

    Member retention continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing the health club industry. If anything, as opportunities proliferate to exercise outside the health club environment, it’s getting harder – not easier – to keep members loyal.

    With 85% of all gym members now also doing workouts at home, clubs are confronted with a new form of challenge. Where once those wanting to get fit would choose between going to the gym or going for a run, now there’s a whole array of options available to them, from celeb-led online workouts to mass participation events, and from boutique studios to app-based training programmes with elements of gamification to build excitement and engagement.

    And when people do come to the gym, their expectations are higher than ever. Innovations not only in the area of fitness, but in almost every walk of life – from retail to hotels to at-home technology – are driving an expectation that businesses, whatever their product, will have somehow transcended that product. To be successful in today’s consumer-led market, businesses must create and sell Experiences with a capital E – something their customers will want to be a part of, share and talk about.

    The role of the challenge

    So how can health clubs do this? If members – or potential members – are seeking new and exciting ways to exercise, how can we inject this excitement into the gym environment so we become the fitness destination of choice? How do we turn a gym visit into a true Experience?

    There are many ways to approach this, but one that’s been repeatedly shown to have the desired impact is the fitness challenge. Done well, these are a great way of building community and shared purpose among your members – there’s always a real buzz around a great challenge. This in itself drives member engagement, satisfaction and loyalty.

    But a challenge also drives loyalty simply by harnessing human nature: the desire to better ourselves, to prove our worth against others… to win. And to keep trying – that is, to keep coming back to the gym – until we do.

    Key considerations

    Whether your proposed challenge is a complex, multi-discipline, month-long one or a simple ‘how many press-ups can you do?’ event, there are a few key points to bear in mind:

    Give your challenge immediacy and relevance: Are there any big events going on – World Cups, Olympics, or even just well-known local events – that you can piggy-back on as a theme? This will immediately give you more cut-through and get members intrigued.

    Think about your current members: Make sure you set up a challenge that’s going to appeal to a reasonable proportion of your members. Don’t create super-tough challenges that will only appeal to the fittest 1 per cent: they will likely be loyal to your club anyway. Make sure your challenge caters for all levels, so everyone feels confident about taking part – you can even have different categories with their own winners and prizes.

    Think about your future members: As well as your current membership, think about the type of members you’d like to entice into your cl ub. As they now make up 80% of the fitness consumer market you’ll certainly want to target Millennials and Gen Z to futureproof your membership and tap into this growing demographic. In this case you could run an introductory offer centred around high-octane HIIT classes, with a strong focus on Experience and a social media-friendly gamification element to ensure the offer catches the eyeballs of your target market.

    Recognise everyone: You can have winners, but don’t have losers. Recognise everyone who completes the challenge. This is key to making challenges seem accessible even to your less fit members – and if they regularly take part, soon they’ll be a lot more fit!

    Make it easy to take part: Ensure the sign-up process is simple, so you maximise the number of members taking part. The more members doing the challenge, the more of a buzz you’ll create and the more successful it will be. Also, consider making the first step of the challenge a comparatively easy one to complete: this will give everyone an early sense of achievement and encourage them to keep going.

    Make sure your staff are onboard: To run a successful challenge, you need your team members to be enthusiastically involved. Get their input from the outset, brainstorming ideas for challenges, and consider setting up a leaderboard for your staff – who can sign up the most members for the challenge? Participating members could even be split into teams, with a staff member leading each team and motivating them along the way.

    Don’t over-complicate things: Your members might be used to clever apps that track all their data digitally, but creating this sort of tech just for one challenge can be an expensive process. And in any case, the fun of the challenge lies in taking part. As long as you have a way to measure and track the results, even if it’s pretty low-tech, that’s fine.

    Cast the net wide: Don’t think of your challenges as being only for your members. By sharing leaderboards and details of the winners on your social media channels, you’ll not only make sure all your members are talking about the challenge – you’ll also show your club off as the fun place to work out in town, potentially gaining you some new members.

    Simple works well: So, what challenge will you create for your members? Remember, they don’t have to be complex affairs. What makes or breaks a challenge is the buy-in of your staff – their ability to get members engaged and make it fun.

    With that in mind, here are a few really simple ideas for challenges – all of which need nothing more than a bit of LES MILLS SMART TECH to run. Hopefully, these will get your creative juices flowing!

    SMARTBAR™ CHALLENGE: Do 10 squats with the heaviest weight you can each time you’re in the gym. By how many kilos / pounds can you improve your maximum weight within a month?

    SMARTSTEP™ CHALLENGE: Be part of the ’50 Club’ – 50 tricep dips, 50 press-ups, 50 handstand bunny-hop jumps across the bench, 50 box jumps, 50 mountain-climbers. Three times a week for four weeks. Everyone’s a winner, but the fastest circuit – done at any point in the four weeks – gets the main prize.

    MBX MAT™ CHALLENGE: For how long can you hold a plank? How many crunches can you do in two minutes? How many push-ups in a minute?

    The GRIT Challenge

    Alternatively, if your members need a tougher trial, look no further than the LES MILLS GRIT™

    Challenge campaign – an eight-week challenge based around GRIT’s high-intensity workouts.

    Once again, in terms of equipment, SMART TECH is all you’ll need to run the GRIT Challenge: SMARTBAR, SMARTSTEP and MBX Mats. However, do make clear that all participating members will need a reasonable level of fitness.

    The challenge – which was created to help clubs engage with members and promote class attendance – is slightly atypical in that, rather than encouraging members to compete against each other, it’s a challenge where they compete against themselves.

    The sense of community is still there though – of urging yourself and those around you to keep going – as it’s the same group of people taking part throughout the eight weeks. The prize: results that will be obvious to each and every member by the end of the eight weeks.

    The challenge is based on research done by Dr Jinger Gottschall at Penn State University in the US. In her study, two groups of 42 fit adult exercisers were taken through a six-week prescribed training schedule. Group One did three hours of cardio and two hours of strength training each week. Group Two adopted a similar approach but substituted one 60-minute cardio session for two 30-minute GRIT workouts. There were no changes made to either group’s diet.

    While both groups achieved phenomenal results – significant increases in cardiovascular fitness and functional strength, and significant decreases in body fat, triglycerides and waist circumference – the results of most GRIT group members were more than twice as good as Group One members in the same time period.

    Off the back of these amazing results, we’ve designed a GRIT Challenge for health clubs – including videos and other promotional material to help you get members to sign up. It’s an eight-week challenge to really drive the results home!

    So, rather than just running GRIT as part of your studio schedule, why not complement this with some GRIT challenges? Sign members up and track their results with measurements before and after the eight weeks. If it proves popular, it could become a regular – perhaps quarterly – offering at your club.

    Check out our series of GRIT Challenge videos on Youtube.