Is It Time To Sack Off Membership?


The single, most significant change that fitness club operators could do today that would help them transform the financial performance of their site is this…

Stop being a slave to Membership!

Fitness businesses do not have to be run with a subscription model underpinning them.

In the early days sessional visits were the way that the whole industry was run.

Under certain conditions, membership is no longer the most effective revenue model. We’ve reached that point.

Over the last decade, the rise of the low-cost sector and the predominance of online administration has led to a reduction in membership rates across the board.

At the same time, the cost of employing exercise teachers has gone up but also so has the value that people are prepared to pay to take a class either on a per session basis or by buying a bundle of classes in advance and calling them off as they need.

Imagine your own club, trading at say £30 per month with all classes included.

Within that group of group exercise fanatics, you will have some who are attending maybe 2 classes back to back, 2 or 3 days per week. 24 classes per month. Their spend per class is about £1.20.

The biggest user group will be taking about 10 classes per month averaging £3 per visit.

Outside these clubs, the fitness world is paying anything from £5 – £25 per class depending on where and what so you can see that however you cut and slice this, regardless of your own member usage analysis results, it’s not in your financial interest to carry on like you have been.

The best news for operators is that the potential market for group exercise is about 4 times that of conventional fitness memberships so why wouldn’t you want to go after that market?

Exponentially more people wanting to buy to attend a class at fees 4-10 times more than you are getting at the moment. Do the maths and smell the roses fitness world.

I would go further and say that it’s not even in your customers best interest to maintain this current obsession with membership.

  1. Peak time classes full 100% of the time. I can’t even take a class even if I am a member because they’re so popular.
  2. Programme stagnation. There is no money to invest in more classes so clubs struggle to react to new trends and booms.
  3. Non-members can’t access the class programme because there is either too much demand, the technology doesn’t allow them too, or they simply don’t know what you have got going on.
  4. The increasing reliance on virtual classes. This becoming insidious, and is so, so dangerous for fitness clubs to go down this road. Don’t you remember Blockbuster? The place we used to go every Friday and Saturday to rent our films for the week.

Along came Netflix and who needed Blockbuster anymore?

Online, exercise class streaming services, they’re all starting to gang up to take your members off you!

So, what’s the 8-step solution.

  1. Re construct membership to include facilities excluding the group exercise programme.
  2. Reprice the single sessional price of your exercise class as high as you dare.
  3. Retail bundles of classes online with a sliding scale of price discount linked to volume.
  4. Recruit the right technology so that users can easily buy and book from home or phone.
  5. Recruit the most successful freelance teachers in your area. (You can now pay the sort of wages to attract the best.)
  6. Develop the programme quarterly to maximise usage.
  7. Promote the programme hard using online and offline tactics.      
  8. At some point in the future, the wheel will turn full circle and you can bring back, an  all-inclusive membership option that will give you a very competitive edge in your local market but at a greatly enhanced price that makes sound financial sense for you! 

So, go ahead and try out these steps. Good luck!



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