As the world’s clubs face lockdown to help curtail the spread of coronavirus, operators worldwide are scaling up their efforts to keep members active and engaged.
Physical activity is one of the best ways to boost our immune system, and that means, now more than ever, members need our support to stay fit. And as social distancing takes hold, billions more people are seeking fun ways to stay fit and healthy to protect themselves from the threat of coronavirus.
Although hugely challenging, the current climate presents an opportunity for clubs to reinforce their role as a source for social good and demonstrate our sector’s ability to help people stay healthy even when they can’t make it to our clubs.
But what should we be saying to members? And how should we be reaching them? Here are five top tips for keeping club members engaged during the coronavirus outbreak.
1. Develop your voice
Whether your club is completely closed, operating a limited service or gearing up to re-open, one principle all experts agree on is the importance of clear and regular communication to keep your members informed and reassured.
Considering your brand’s voice – particularly what you say and how you say it – is essential, notes Peter Croft, Chief Strategy Officer of Perfect Gym Solutions.
“It’s important to know your purpose, communicate your value and deliver high-quality content to ensure your members thank you for the services you’ve provided and the health benefits you’ve helped them achieve,” he wrote in a recent paper for EuropeActive. “This value will inevitably protect your revenues and strengthen your brand in the future.”
With members ready and willing to hear from you, now is the ideal time to build rapport with your audience by choosing the right communication channels (be it via email, SMS, social media or your website) and doubling down on providing value.
Les Mills partners can access a host of images and video assets on Brand Central to engage their members, while all clubs can tap into the latest fitness news and advice for members via Fit Planet.
2. Serve up scorching content
Keeping members informed is one thing, but keeping them moving is equally vital for boosting engagement. They say ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and club operators are rapidly ramping up their digital fitness solutions to help members keep moving in the home.
Clubs worldwide are harnessing the skills of their Instructors and PTs to provide digital workouts for their members. Les Mills partners will soon be able to access a series of bespoke workouts for their Instructors to live stream to members.
Colin Grant, CEO of Asia’s 30-strong Pure International Group chain of clubs recently told IHRSA how his facilities created regular video content to motivate members while clubs were closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“In our closed clubs in Shanghai and Beijing, we had our teams send daily workouts through our official member app to support their exercise routines,” he said.
“We did a lot of communication and education to our members and highlighted the fact that your first defence against getting sick is leading a healthy lifestyle.”
Meanwhile, thousands of clubs are using LES MILLS™ On Demand (LMOD) to support members with access to their favorite LES MILLS workouts such as BODYPUMP™, BODYCOMBAT™, and BODYBALANCE™.
Les Mills partners currently have the option of providing their members with a free 60-day trial of LMOD to keep them active and engaged if they can’t make it to the club. For more information, contact your local Les Mills team who will take you through the available options, or register your interest here.
3. Share the experience
Building online communities and creating shared experiences are ideal antidotes to the loneliness of social distancing.
Encouraging user-generated content from your audience is a great way to build engagement and foster two-way conversations between your club and members. On your social media pages, try having your team prescribe challenges and ‘workouts of the day’ from platforms like LMOD, then ask your audience to share their before-and-after photos and videos to ramp up the sense of community.
On Instagram, tools such as polls, questions and sliders are making it ever-more fun and user friendly to boost engagement and encourage audience interaction among fitness communities. Polls such as “How are you working out today? Cardio or Strength” or “How do you want to feel today? Powerful or Calm” have proved effective ways of engaging fitness fans on Instagram and sparking meaningful conversations.
4. Keep your members accountable
It can be hard enough to keep members exercising regularly when your club is open all day, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that keeping members active at home will require a little extra effort from both you and them.
If your team is less busy than usual (chances are they will be), task them with being ‘Accountability Coaches’ to individual members or groups that might need extra support to stay active.
And there are other ways you can help members hold on to their hard-earned exercise habits. For Retention Guru Paul Bedford, helping members keep up their usual routine is critical.
“A lot of the data we have around exercise retention shows people tend to have patterns whereby they exercise on the same days and times every week,” he said in a recent video.
“So when someone’s pattern of gym visits is interrupted – as is currently the case with coronavirus – they should continue to use those regular to exercise when they’re at home.
“Clubs should consider how they use their communication channels to prompt members, helping them to avoid losing their routine and positively reinforcing their behavior when they exert effort to stick to it.”
5. Project a positive future
As bad as things are for everyone right now, we will come through this challenge and it’s important to stay focused on the light at the end of the tunnel.
With health and fitness on course to become a top-tier priority for people of all ages, the response of our industry over the next few months could well set the trajectory for our future growth and unlock new opportunities.
For your members, keep them updated on every club development and start to think about how you’ll build a buzz through relaunch events once you get the green light to reopen.
“We’re currently preparing our rebound plan. The two keys to a successful rebound plan are timing and tone – it can’t be too soon and you can’t be too aggressive,” added Pure’s Colin Grant.
“In the coming weeks, we’re aiming to get our suspended members reactivated, then we’ll speak to terminated members and try to bring them back. We also need to get new guests in, so we’re looking at ways to do that.
“We’re also focusing on upskilling. Right now you can do a lot of training for your team that you couldn’t normally do when you’re open, so that’s another focus.”