The Typical Life Cycle of a Member

Originally published in Winter 2017 Issue of National Fitness Trade Journal.

When designing a gym or buying equipment, it is important to think about all of our members and prospects, from beginner to advanced. We also need to think about the “life cycle” of a member. Let me explain. I love to work out. I love going into a new club for the first time and seeing what they have to offer. I love attending industry events to check out the latest offerings. I’m guessing by the fact that you’re reading this magazine you feel the same way! We are fitness geeks and we love it.


Unfortunately, most of your members and prospects do not feel the same way. Sure there are the hard-core fitness enthusiasts that share our passion -- the passion of a committed professional -- but many of your members are stepping into your club for the first time in a long time - or ever! What are they feeling? What are they looking for? How often do you stop and think about their experience and what it is like for them when they arrive at your club? As an experienced fitness professional, sometimes it’s not easy to remember what it’s like to be a beginner.

Most likely these members are nervous, intimidated, or feeling uncomfortable. They are probably unfamiliar with fitness and training. It is hard for a fitness professional to capture this kind of cautious feeling, because we love fitness so much. But surely everyone knows how it feels to be in an uncomfortable situation.

It’s something you tend to avoid, and you are not enthused about repeating it!

These are very real feelings and when it comes to our appearance or physical ability, these feelings tend to become magnified. It’s personal, not business. And when it’s personal, it becomes emotional. It’s no wonder that the majority of people don’t exercise and certainly no surprise that over 50% of those who do start, tend to quit in under 6 months.

Most fitness professionals get into the business because of a desire to help others. We want to help others succeed, to feel better about themselves, and to help them improve their most valuable possession - their health. However, if we truly want to accomplish this goal, we must think not only about the fitness enthusiasts but also beginners. For example, beginners are typically intimidated by the latest and greatest high intensity program. Beginners will hopefully grow to appreciate these programs later in their “life cycle” as a member. The growing trend in gyms today is LESS equipment and more open floor space for functional movement. There is no denying this type of space is important but it’s also fair to say it doesn’t serve everyone at every stage of their cycle as a member. Think again about the beginner. They overcome fears and insecurities and muster up the courage to step into your facility. You ask them a bit about their goals and most likely you hear the common answers. They want more energy. They want to feel better. They want to look better. They want to do something about ‘this area’ (patting their belly!).

At this point enthusiastic trainer or salesperson tells them about all of the great offerings in the club from nutrition, to functional and cross training programs. They take the prospect over to the ‘turf’ area and see the fit members jumping around, hoisting kettle bells and launching medicine balls. Whoa! Do they feel like they could do that too? Perhaps. But most likely this beginner sees something they don’t feel they could be successful doing, and their feelings of fear and insecurity come rushing in. Have we increased the likeliness that they will join? Quite the opposite. What if instead this same member was taken to an area where there were selectorized machines. Just select a comfortable weight, sit down and push. Or walk on a common treadmill and push START. Or visit the ABS area where they could try a user friendly machine that helps them work ‘this area’ (see above).

How are they feeling now? Encouraged. Empowered. Like they could be successful and fit in here. Have we increased the chances of them joining? You tell me.

Now we have a member who can WIN in our facility. We have areas where they can come to the club and be successful. When we have a member who is successful and fits in, guess what else we have? A member who keeps coming back! A member who truly becomes part of our ‘club’. After a member truly feels he or she belongs, then we can introduce them to all the other incredible things inside the facility. Offer them other services, ranging from classes, to group and personal training. Some people may be ready for this from day one but clearly not the majority as evidenced by the fact that PT penetration rates in clubs struggle to top 12%.

Certainly the Holy Grail in fitness today is non-dues revenue. With the proliferation of low priced high volume clubs, owners need to find ways to generate additional and ongoing revenue to achieve profitability. But how do you induce the member who joined your club for $10-20 to now spend $50, $75, $100 or more per month? Take your offerings up a notch! Gone are the days where a person will shell out $50+ per hour to have a trainer stand next to them while walking on the treadmill or count to 10 as they exercise. Trainers and training programs need to provide a “wow” experience to justify the investment. Most importantly they need to deliver RESULTS. This is where cross training, high intensity and functional training become critical.

It’s important that facilities offer unique equipment and expertise that is not accessible to members on their own. Many such products exist today including the TireFlip 180®, Battle Rope ST®, Woodway Curve and Vicore TerraCore. These items deliver that WOW factor and truly stand out in the facility. Getting a good workout on products like these are things members talk about, things that keep them coming back for more. Just type one of them into your social media platform to see what I mean! How cool is it to see your member posting about the awesome workout they had on the latest piece of equipment YOU offered them? That is the best kind of “advertising” -- it’s real and you don’t need to pay for it!

If we are to reach our goal of operating profitable facilities while helping as many people as possible to achieve their fitness goals, then we need to think about ALL our members/ prospects when designing our clubs and ordering equipment. Let’s not rush to eliminate this thing or that just because it’s hot - just because it’s what WE would use or the trainer said so. Think like your customer -- whether the beginner, the moderate exerciser, or the elite -- and make sure we accommodate them all. Health truly is our greatest asset. As fitness professionals, facility owners, and equipment manufacturers we can work together and make a difference in people’s lives!