Right now, what is your number one most nagging question about running your business?
When I ask this question to fitness business owners, half the time what I hear is something like this…
- How can I fill my fitness classes?
- How do I keep adding new members?
- How do I track new members for retention, deal with failed payments, and deal with no shows and late cancellations…
These are exact quotes from people I’ve surveyed. And if you’re asking similar questions, then I have something to tell you: you’re thinking about it wrong. If you’re looking for new members to solve your business woes, then you’re barking up the wrong tree. Or rather, the wrong forest… because ‘new members’ is too wide of a term. You’re much better off if you focus.
Attract more of your best customers
Let me instead ask a different question. Who are the absolute best customers of your business? What are they like? What do they all have in common? Think about it for a few seconds.
Chances are, it’s not hard to think of who these people are. They are probably the people who just popped into your head when you thought about it. Your best customers are the ones who love you (and tell you so).
They also… …pay on time. …regularly attend classes, and …even bring friends and family to classes.
When you have your best customers in your studio (or gym, or box), your business feels successful. It grows steadily, and it’s got a great culture — a community — where everyone feels like they belong. When your business is doing well, you can step away from being the administrative hub of the business. You can hire more easily, and get away more often. Your business runs smoothly.
When business owners talk about improving their business and getting more customers, what they often say is “I want more students” or “I need to grow membership”, don’t be afraid to be clear about your standards with yourself. Do you want lots of new customers who only attend one class and then never return? Would you accept new members knowing they would be late with payments? Would you accept a regular member who speaks ill of your business? I doubt it.
It’s likely that you don’t want just more customers. You want more of your best customers. But, how do you get them?
To grow your business in a sustainable way, you want to attract more customers who really sustain you. You run your business for them, so why not make business decisions with their perspectives in mind?
Getting in your customers’ heads (without being creepy)
At TeamUp, we are obsessed with the “customer experience.” We make software that powers independent fitness businesses, and the competition in our industry is fierce. And, just like in fitness, we work on a subscription model, except instead of “members” we have “customers.” Just like in fitness, our customers can leave to a competitor at any time.
To thrive in the fitness software industry, we take customer happiness to a radically new level. So much so, that we have applied everything we’ve learned about understanding our own customers and packaged it up to help independent fitness businesses do the same thing.
We want our customers, independent fitness businesses, to be successful. So, we’re giving out everything we know about customer research to anyone who will listen. We call this endeavour the Fitness Journey Project.
Free customer research for independent fitness businesses
The Fitness Journey Project is a large scale customer research project for independent fitness businesses. TeamUp is taking this research into our own hands, because it’s not easy, and because independent companies often don’t have the resources for this kind of project. We’re excited to offer it for free.
To understand students, you have to research. Research, a.k.a. ‘listening in an organized way’ is not hard, but it is time-consuming. So, we did it for free for four independent fitness businesses, and we share the results here.
To research customer experience, we use surveys to give us numerical (or quantitative) data, and interviews to give us quotes, context, and qualitative data.
With any research project, it’s important to know what you’re searching for… what is it that you are trying to solve? The Fitness Journey’s question is: what does the student (the fitness customer) journey look like?
From the moment they realize they need to exercise, to the moment they’re so happy with your business that they want to bring their friends, how do customers find your business, decide to pay for a membership, and stay as recurring members?
We organized the research to answer our research question at these five stages of a fitness student’s “journey”:
- Unaware “I walk to work, that seems like enough”
- Aware “Lifting my child is starting to hurt my back, I need to do something about it.”
- Interest “This pilates studio is a block away from my flat, I should check it out!”
- Action “I can schedule in a free day pass online! I’ll give it a shot”
- Referral “I haven’t felt better in my life! I should invite my sister to join me.”
How to use high-quality customer research
You want more of your best customers. So, what do they look like? Asking yourself this question is the first and most important step to changing the way you consider your business. Evaluate what your “best” customer looks like. Who would you like more of? Just a few distilled characteristics, written down and thought about, can shift your perspective.
With high-quality customer data, you can understand your business from your customer’s point of view. You’ll be able to evaluate where customers start to drop out of your service, and how to make each step in the customer journey a better experience.
Attract the kind of customers who are perfect for you. When you ask the right questions, you’ll know exactly why students choose your business over others. When they’re almost ready to buy a membership, but still a bit unsure, you’ll be able to answer their questions and hesitations upfront, without having to sell them with a personalised conversation. With qualitative data, you can cater to your customer’s practical and emotional needs, because you have the context it takes to understand what they’re going through. You can speak their language.
You can cater to your customer’s practical and emotional needs because you can speak their language.
With data about how your customers came to love you, you’ll be able to adjust classes, schedules, or services. When you understand what students are looking for, you can make big business decisions with clear data. Most importantly, you can build membership plans and marketing strategies for your customers’ needs — not just yours.
Ultimately, your job as a business owner is to build a bigger, stronger community around your company. With student data, you can double down on the most powerful parts of your brand. When you are intentional about the environment you create, you’ll get more referrals and grow your membership. When you attract the right people, you can build a strong, positive community around your business.
And isn’t that the best part?
If you would like to find out more about The Fitness Journey Project you can find out full results in incredible detail here — goteamup.com/fitness-journey