Dublin Gyms – Good beats the Big everytime

Big isn’t always beautiful when it comes to choosing the right gym

Catering to the customer’s personal needs is the sign of a good fitness club

The school holidays are here and it is time for teachers to cut loose for the summer months. I’ve recently been approached by a number of them who want to change their body shapes by joining a gym.

With so many fitness chains available, they are confused as to what they should look for.

Large gyms consistently fail potential members. When a would-be candidate arrives in a gym, they end up with a tour of a fitness supply store, with all the great equipment the gym owns listed off in detail: here are our 60 treadmills, our 40-inch plasma screens; here are the rooms where we teach our 40 classes a week etc.

Gyms are missing the quiet frustration of their guest, who is sitting there, blankly staring, and wanting to scream: ‘What about me? What about what I want?’

Gyms need to slow down and stop pitching their sales stuff, and actually spend time to let the person know that they care. Asking and listening builds trust, and trust leads to more sales, which is the goal anyway.

The problem is that a caring attitude has become a lost art in gyms and the young salesperson lacks the real-life experiences to empathise with the potential member.

Gyms are selling products that a consumer no longer wants. Their marketing and advertising might list oceans of treadmills, cross-trainers, saunas and jacuzzis. Where are the benefits to the client or testimonials from members who have achieved weight loss or have increased their energy?

The average person doesn’t want lists of machines because they have never heard of them. Nearly 80pc of our population has never even set foot in a gym. These people want to keep up with their kids, spend time doing activities with their spouses at weekends, and basically just feel better and drop a few pounds during the process.

They did not come into a club to buy a membership; they came to buy a solution for a specific problem and so gyms in Dublin should provide and sell the solution, not the membership.

What happens is that large chain gyms resort to discounting. Discounting is easy to recognise with a tangible product like last year’s digital camera. But in a service industry like fitness, it gets harder to figure out the reality. ‘Buy this membership today and I’II knock €100 off the joining fee’ is the standard sales close used in too many clubs around the country.

The number may change but the tool is the same: you leverage the buyer using a fear of loss. Buy today and save; come back tomorrow and lose.

This system makes it bad for everyone else in the fitness industry. It’s a plain lie — I know it, the potential member knows it, the sales guy knows it, but gyms have been using it so long they just can’t help themselves. Whoever paid the full price?

What gyms are actually saying is that if you don’t buy today, we will punish you by threatening to charge you more.

Clubs should treat their members with respect. The future of fitness is changing. People are realising that you don’t need €10m worth of equipment to get in shape and smaller gyms who specialise in niche markets are proving more successful than large gyms who try to be all things to all people.

Customer service is the last great differentiator in the club industry. If gyms master customer service and create an experience, they can compete against almost any club because the good beats the big every time.

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