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Jan/Feb/Mar 2011


Celebrity power


The winning formula

Case study

Breaking down barriers

FitproBusiness_Jan/Feb/Mar 2011

Table of Contents EDITORIAL

Editor | Tim Webster Editorial co-ordinator | Ashley Newman Communications manager | Stephen Buckley Editorial manager | Ruth Bushi Graphic designer | Leonardo Santiago Antunes Production manager | Vicki McGrath


Fitness Professionals Ltd

Executive directors | Brent Hallo and Jane Waller Global commercial director | Andy Jackson

See references to articles at Contact Fitpro Business at: Kalbarri House 107-113 London Road London E13 0DA Call +44 (0)20 8586 0101 Fax +44 (0)20 8586 0685

04 Trends

22 Interview

06 Comment

26 Industry

The latest research, trends and innovations Are we ready to reinvent ourselves?

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To subscribe to Fitpro Network (aimed at personal trainers) or Fitpro (aimed at group exercise instructors) contact +44 (0)20 8586 0101 or

Fitpro Business is printed by: Newnorth Print Ltd MK42 8NA

Perfect storm or great opportunity?

summary 09 Management 28 Executive Personal training and the new member

Daring to be different

10 Communication 30 Marketing Gym floor interaction

32 Marketing

15 Marketing

34 Leadership

16 Sales

36 Comment

Creative marketing for fitness The winning formula



The power of celebrity

12 Case study

Breaking down barriers

| @fitpro_online

Harnessing social media

Loyalty lessons from Lady Gaga The art of effortless management When will I, will I be famous?


32 22

The IOU guide to retention

20 Management Ethical trading

Editor’s letter Fitpro Business is protected by copyright and nothing can be reprinted wholly or in part without written permission. The statements and opinions contained in the articles of FitPro are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of Fitness Professionals or its affiliates. The appearance of advertisements in the magazines is not a warranty, endorsement or approval of the products or services. Fitness Professionals disclaims responsibility for any injury to persons or property resulting from any ideas or products referred to in the articles or advertisements.


ow, more than ever, it may behove us to start thinking a little more about the psyche of non-users – whose needs we are clearly not meeting – and what we can do to attract more of them. This is a subject that Fitpro Business will be addressing in some depth in the coming year, but here’s a thought for starters: According to the 2010 Future of Fitness report, we live in an increasingly personalised world where consumers expect to have what they want, when they want it, and where they want it – that includes fitness. This being the case, have

we reached the stage where, in order to attract the typical non-user to fitness, we need to create a much more flexible proposition that leverages our expertise via the web, and thus extends the reach of the gym well beyond the four walls of the club? Is there any reason why a 3,000 member fitness centre shouldn’t have another 3,000 members who exercise at home, at work, or wherever, and interact with the mothership online? Take a look at Rob Gregory’s overview (pages 6-8) to find out.

Next Issue released: March 2011

03 FitproBusiness

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N what’s I UT what’s O

Swimsense »

While there are already a number of personal fitness monitors for use on dry land, none have specifically addressed the needs of swimmers. To that end, Californiabased company FINIS Inc. has developed the Swimsense (, a waterproof, watchshaped device that uses motion-sensing technology to record metrics such as completed laps, total distance, speed, average lap time and calories burned. FINIS has incorporated an intelligent feature that is able to differentiate between various strokes, including the backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. Users can view their current performance on the device’s display, or connect it to a computer via a USB, to track historical data and progress from up to 14 previous workouts using an online portal. Swimsense is currently available for $199 in the US, and will be released in the UK in January 2011. Source:

Health campaigns »

Writing for the BBC, Professor Richard Ashcroft says that people are far from rational when it comes to making decisions about their health. “My behaviour is shaped by forces I don’t know about, don’t understand, and even when I do, I find hard to resist or control,” says Ashcroft. He goes on to say anti-smoking campaigns that feature children talking about their parents’ lung cancer are clearly hugely compelling but the evidence that they work is weak. This may be down to the fact that they aren’t particularly seductive unlike the advertising campaigns mounted by the tobacco and alcohol industries who they are competing against. “Health campaigns are rarely about pleasure and enjoyment, and they are rarely cool,” says Ashcroft. So what is likely to create behavioural change around health? “Usually what drives me is circumstance, habit and short-term reward. So the trick is to find ways to rewire my habits, change my circumstances, and make the rewards pull me in ways I want to go, and not in ways that are harmful to me. And that’s hard.” Source:

Finger scanning »

24 Hour Fitness has installed fingerprint scanners as a way of verifying its members’ identity. Fingerprint scanning has been used to thwart identity theft for a while – Disney World scans the fingers of pass holders and, in some countries, scanners are built into ATMs – but 24 Hour Fitness is one of the first health club chains to employ biometric technology. Having submitted to an initial scan, 24 Hour Fitness members are

04 | FitproBusiness

provided with a 10-digit code. On arrival at the club, they tap in the code and place their finger on the pad – if the two match, they are admitted to the facility. This negates the need to carry a membership card and it also saves on plastic – 24 Hour Fitness currently issues nearly two million membership cards a year. Biometric devices can also verify identity based on the contours of the hands, eyes and face, a voice or even a scent.


Revinate »

Working in the hotel market, Revinate ( collects every review, news story, blog post, photo, video and social media mention of its clients and presents them in a single intuitive dashboard that’s accessible online. Revinate can also do the same for competitors’ reviews and social media activity, giving clients a new and competitive insight into their relative strengths and weaknesses. Its Social Media Scorecard converts those online reviews into a detailed guest satisfaction report, tracking key performance metrics and competitive benchmarks. The tool’s powerful analytics, meanwhile, provide real-time, easy-to-use reports that highlight what’s important, with charts, exportable data, competitive intelligence and flexible options. Revinate also makes it easy for hotels to join the conversation by responding to reviews and communicating with consumers via social media. Source:


challenge »

In much the same way as the Plus 3 Network ( matches corporate sponsors with consumers who work out for the benefit of charities of their choice, Bolder ( teams up with businesses to challenge consumers to complete a certain action every week. Consumers who complete the challenge must then log it, along with a tweetlength story about what they have done. In return, they get the promised reward, such as a discount at a particular store. The stories go to the site’s action feed, where the Bolder community can see them, comment on them, and vote for them. The challenges that are voted the “boldest” are featured on the Bolder blog and may receive extra-special rewards. At a time when change needs to happen, consumers need motivation, and companies need to show a little more generosity, Bolder seems to be nicely positioned. Source:

Fun Run Trainer »

Whether you are an elite athlete, a casual runner or just enjoy going for a walk to keep fit, a new Apple iPhone app called Fun Run Trainer, may change the way you use a treadmill forever. Fun Run Trainer is a unique application that allows the user to run, jog or walk anywhere in the world on any treadmill, with a real time video map and precise inclination settings. Some of the world’s most famous streets, such as Wall Street, Fleet Street and the Champs-Elysees are included, and you can also choose from over 200 of the world’s most popular

running events. And Fun Run Trainer isn’t only for treadmill users, it also works just as well for elliptical trainers and exercise bikes. For those that like listening to music or audio books while exercising, Fun Run Trainer comes equipped with full iPod integration. This allows you to listen to music and to be notified when there has been a change in inclination through a headset. Fun Run Trainer is currently available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users through the Apple App Store or iTunes.

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Are we ready to reinventourse

06 | FitproBusiness





e’ve spent 30 years or so proving that realistic market penetration for the existing health and fitness model in the UK is around 12-14%. If we think that tinkering with it is going to change that number to any great degree, we are in serious denial. In fact, without radical change this statistic will, at best, remain static. The speed with which technology is changing the world is so great that we will have to reinvent our product just in order to survive. Music, newspapers, retail, and now banking have been forced to go through this process (with many new competitors emerging as a result), and I suspect we are about to join them.

Technological change

The first sign of technological change for our industry was the birth of Nike+ (now over four years old). This has been followed by a multitude of digital devices designed to help us keep fit. I now receive better coaching from my watch and mobile phone than I do from my health club. It’s ironic of course that, with the data we have about our members and the face-to-face contact we have with them, we’ve been usurped by companies which are much further removed from their end customer than we are. So it’s not difficult to predict that technology is the key to our reinvention, and that our domain needs to extend beyond the four walls of a club or centre.

However, before this can happen, operators and suppliers need to redefine their purpose in a way which is meaningful and relevant to their customers. The fundamental question here is: Do we really care about our customers? Maybe some of us do, but such is the systemic over-promising and under-delivering in the fitness industry that customers no longer believe that we do – and frankly that’s all that matters. The starting point in this self-analysis has to be: What business are we really in and what needs are we meeting? My view is that we are in the business of helping people create a habit, and there is a pivotal point where we change their motivation from being extrinsically driven (you want to lose weight, look good, etc.) to being intrinsically driven (you work out because it makes you feel better). This journey has five key stages: a goal and needs analysis, personalised

If you can’t take the people to the gym – take the gym to the people exercise prescription, tracking and progress checks, and ongoing support and motivation that leads, finally, to selfsufficiency.


Whatever problems we think we are solving, it’s what our customers FitproBusiness | 07


think which is most important, and our ideas must therefore be driven through engagement with them. To engage with our customers, they first need to trust us, and in order for them to trust us we need to do what we said we were going to do, when we said we would do it.

are to capitalise on the opportunities that lie before us, we need to leverage this success with the very tools we appear to view with such trepidation. Looking outside the industry, there are plenty of examples to give us inspiration.

and obese year-on-year and our industry’s role in improving the health of the nation has never been more necessary. In order to fulfil this role effectively, we need to collaborate and partner with other organisations and businesses, as well as the Government, to deliver jointly created solutions. In essence, our clubs and centres need to function more as resources and platforms than just facilities where you go to exercise. If you can’t take the people to the gym – take the gym to the people. A large majority aren’t ready to join gyms because they’re still too intimidating, but many people are happy to exercise at home or outdoors. These people need support, education, and nurturing, so why aren’t we taking the opportunity to position ourselves as experts in their minds by providing a much more powerful online fitness proposition?

Sustainable future

Social media offers us a perfect opportunity to connect with our customers, but very few businesses in our industry have adopted these tools. Why is this? What are we afraid of? Being open and transparent is what the consumer wants and expects, and encouraging engagement is surely a sign of strength. I can only surmise that, as an industry, we’re not feeling very strong.

Consumer view

Increasingly, the consumer’s view is being shaped more by what they get when they type a brand name into Google, than any self-promotion. Evidence already shows that consumers trust the opinion of their peers – even those of people they don’t know – more than communication from companies. Fast forward another 5-10 years and it is predicted that all marketing will be via word of mouth or what has been described as “world of mouth”. Let’s not downplay what we have achieved – our industry has transformed the lives of millions of people – but if we 08 | FitproBusiness

Marmarati I love the story of the “marmarati” and the launch of Marmite XO. In short, Unilever launched a new type of Marmite by using its most loyal fans. Thirty advocates of the brand were invited to join the exclusive inner circle of the marmarati. Part of the inauguration ritual for this group included uploading incontestable love for the brand (see marmarati/). The results were amazing. These 30 people initiated 150 blog posts and more than 2.4 million hits on the web, and they drove an increase from just over 100,000 fans on Facebook to over half a million. Don’t make the assumption that this cost a lot to deliver either; it didn’t. They used a small group to engage a very large unpaid sales team. Do we have any raving fans and success stories from our clubs? Sure we do, so let’s tell the world.

Collaborate and partner

The population is getting more inactive

Virtual trainers, exercise tracking software, electronic health records, health risk assessment programmes, and exercise communities are part of this solution. We also need to embrace many of the things that might currently threaten us. For example, playing games such as Wii Fit and its new, more advanced successors from Sony and Microsoft may be the only way to engage many teenagers. For those who haven’t seen it, the Future of Fitness white paper is an interesting read which suggests various scenarios we should expect to see over the next 10 years (http:// If we are to enjoy a sustainable future, we need to reinvent ourselves. We need the imagination to sow the seeds of a revolution, and we need the belief and commitment to see it through. We need to look at our existing challenges from a different perspective and we need to leverage technology to help us address some of them. And, deep down, we need to truly care about our customers. That’s a culture change though, not a technological one. fpb

Rob Gregory is one of the industry’s leading thinkers and commentators, with close to 30 years’ experience working at a senior level in both the supplier and operator sides of the health and fitness sector, both in the UK and overseas.


Personal training and the new member Annette Lang discusses how to use personal trainers to nurture – and keep – new members.

Non-member mindset

Those of us who have been in the health club industry for years feel very comfortable in the gym environment. The fact that most people in our communities do not have memberships to any fitness facility and have never walked through the front door of a gym may, therefore, seem odd to us. I have been told by those very “nonmembers” through the years that they feel like they need to get into shape before they would even consider coming into the gym. However, my assurances that we want to help everyone – even them – with an exercise programme doesn’t always convince. Joining a gym is just the first step. Statistics show that when someone joins a health club, they are very vulnerable to dropping out. If we don’t nurture this person, giving them enough attention and support, there is a good chance we won’t even see them often enough to help them with their fitness programme, and no way will they ever purchase additional services such as personal training. So, how can we inspire these individuals? How can we help those who have had something happen in their lives that has motivated them to buy a health club membership? This is a very fragile time and we can help them in building a habit of actually coming in, using the membership and thriving because of it.

New trainers

There are specific things we can do with the newer personal trainers as well as the more experienced ones. Many new trainers come to us without much

experience in “selling”, although that is what we need them to do. As managers and leaders, we can take these trainers and help them develop a lecture or workshop that can be provided for free to members and guests, with the more experienced trainers working as mentors. We also need to provide opportunities to rehearse, as a new trainer will feel more comfortable going up to someone and giving them a flyer about a lecture if they have practised the script and feel competent about a specific topic.

acting like we want to be there and help people. I tell trainers they should not be walking through the gym and texting or appearing unavailable. One specific idea is for the experienced trainers to walk up to the five people doing their same stale programme on the treadmill, and announce that in two minutes they are starting a fiveminute interval programme and the members should get ready to participate. This is an easy way to get people to try something different, without feeling like they are being “sold”. After the interval programme, the trainer then has the invaluable opportunity to connect to five new people. Encouraging the new exerciser to develop the habit of coming to the gym takes focus, but with these simple techniques, our personal trainers can help do that. fpb Annette Lang is an international presenter and author of Morning Strength Workouts, Prenatal and Postpartum Training Fan and numerous DVDs. She is also a certified personal trainer based in New York and contributor to

New members

As personal trainers develop confidence through education and experience, they feel more comfortable in the gym. Now they should really target those newer members, or those who come to the gym and do the same thing over and over again without taking advantage of the numerous services we have to offer. I use the metaphor of planning a party. Tell trainers to treat each shift in the club as if they are getting ready for a party at their home. You would work hard at making sure each person feels welcomed and comfortable. You would ensure that everyone knew where the food was, where the drinks were and how to change the music. This is how we need to act in the gym.


We need to talk to that new person who has walked over to the same treadmill each time they are there, but have not ventured out to try the other types of equipment, or have never walked into the group fitness studio because they feel intimidated. This is done by being aware of our body language and looking/ FitproBusiness | 9


Gym floor interaction Want to make better contact with your members? Get your trainers talking, writes Kris Tynan.


here are several reasons we tend to fall down in terms of interacting with our customers: 1. Floor instructors are generally young and inexperienced and often lack the confidence to approach people and open conversation. 2. The training courses they undertake cover few, if any, of the sort of skills that are needed to communicate and interact effectively. 3. Operators put the interaction issue into the “too hard basket” and then justify that decision by saying that floor instructors don’t stay in their role long anyway, so it’s not worth committing the resources required to develop these essential skills. 4. There is not always collective alignment within organisations, especially the larger ones, about the solutions to this issue. 5. Unlike sales or group fitness, there is little accountability in place for gym floor instructors and, to quote an old adage, what doesn’t get measured probably won’t get done.


When I ask instructors to be brutally honest about why they don’t make better contact with their customers, these are the main reasons they give:

"They might be offhand or even rude to me" This is a natural concern for instructors new to the role; fear of rejection is a very human trait. This concern is a perfect fit with the acronym FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real. Talk to your instructors about the 1-in-100 rule; that is, 1-in-100 interactions will be less than satisfactory – the majority will be positive. 10 | FitproBusiness

Kris Tynan

"I don’t know what to say or do" This is largely a confidence and experience issue. As a manager or coach you have to ensure you have provided your team with ideas and options of what to say and do with customers (i.e., you have given them the resources and training to do the job). If you don’t have the in-house resources, there are several good-quality trainers in the UK who can do it for you.

"People don’t want to be bothered when they are training" This attitude is understandable, as most instructors like to stay focused when they themselves are training. However, most of your customers are not like your instructors (who are good at sport and fitness, often to a very high standard). During workshops, it always surprises instructors to be told they are “freaks”. I mean this in the nicest possible way but someone who loves to exercise, thrives on competition and relishes sporting endeavour is not the norm. At best, 5-10% of your membership is made up of fit, sporty people. I call them the As – Advanced exercisers, Athletes

or Aerobic bunnies. Instructors are very comfortable interacting with this group, as they have similar fitness goals and aspirations to themselves. However, most of your membership is made up of Gs; call them the General population or the Grey members. Not standing out or making waves in any way, these people just come in, get on with their workout as best they can and leave again. They don’t ask for help or advice and they don’t complain or draw attention to themselves. They are not as intrinsically motivated as the As; they tend to drop out of exercise more readily when it gets tough and they don’t see results. They are the members who would welcome interaction and communication while they are training, but rarely get it. And, guess what? They are the bulk of the members that make up your attrition figures. Your gym team definitely needs to understand these types of members, how to recognise them and how to deal with them.

"They might ask me something I don’t know" For some reason, instructors think they need to have every answer to every question right on the tip of their tongue. Explain to them that they don’t have to be the fountain of all knowledge. It is perfectly acceptable to say, “I’m not sure but I will find out.” In fact, they should welcome this situation, as it helps their learning process.

"I’ve got other things to do, such as admin and cleaning" This is true; the role of the instructor includes performing tasks such as cleaning, maintenance, admin tasks and writing programmes, in addition to making proactive contact with customers. The trick to getting them all done is to


break these tasks up into smaller time chunks so that instructors are still able to interact. Take the example of a row of six treadmills needing to be cleaned, taking five minutes each. Instead of allocating 30 minutes and getting it all done at once, teach your instructors to break the job up so that they do one or two machines and then put down their cleaning equipment and interact with customers for five minutes.

"My job is one-to-one consultations and writing programmes" While the wording of a job description in itself will not necessarily result in the desired performance, it is a good place to start. Check that the first thing on the job description (as being the most important role) includes something along the following lines: To initiate interaction with as many members as possible during their visits to the gym, with the goal of enhancing their exercise experience.

"It’s just easier to talk to people I know" If your instructors speak only to the people they know, they won’t give themselves an opportunity to meet others. And if they also happen to be personal trainers, then this approach certainly won’t help them to build a large client base. You may need to help build your instructors’ confidence by setting them a target number of contacts to make (with people they didn’t previously know) per shift. Have them keep some sort of record of this to hold them accountable and then discuss the results.

"I can’t be bothered" There is no question that all gym floor instructors will have periods of time when they are grinding it out and need to motivate themselves. But if your instructors feel like this a lot of the time, it is possibly time for an honest career discussion with them. fpb © Kris Tynan 2010. All rights reserved. Kris Tynan is the author of The Interactive Instructor. Two free copies are available by visiting Alternatively, the book is available through

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case study


gainst the present economic backdrop, barriers that potential new members face when accessing leisure facilities can seem tough to break down. As a non-profit leisure trust and social enterprise, Tone has both “business” and “social” hats to wear, therefore a two-fold responsibility to ensure that as many people as possible in our communities take part in sports and leisure activities. However, we must get smarter about the ways in which we make our services appeal to new audiences. An increasingly sophisticated approach is needed to ensure that facilities are appealing, and services are tailored and affordable, so that people of all ages and needs can see their own individual path to becoming engaged with physical activity.


Speculate to accumulate

At the local authority end of the market, one of the major stumbling blocks when recruiting and retaining members is the perceived quality of the facilities on offer. So-called “council” gyms and pools can sometimes have a reputation for being out of date, poorly maintained and uninspiring. They are also sometimes written off purely as places for people on low incomes to go, compared to the “exclusive” membership of private clubs. To this end, capital investment in facilities and services is key to breaking down this barrier. Frequently freshening up public

Breaking down barriers

12 | FitproBusiness

case study

areas, keeping up to date with the latest trends in equipment and classes, and marketing the business in an inspiring way will all help potential customers to see past the staid old "council" gym image. In the current climate, finding money to invest in facilities is difficult whether you’re in the private or public sector, but the need to be seen as forward thinking, modern and up to date cannot be underestimated.

be accessible

So, if the crumbling walls and old fashioned equipment have been addressed and the public sees your facilities as high-quality places to get active, how do we then help them get over their initial trepidation about their quest to get fit? To some, gyms and fitness centres are full of male bodybuilders

and impossibly toned female aerobics instructors who will scoff at anyone who is less than super fit. The answer, as Tone sees it, is to offer a complete variety of services that are tailored to different needs – the “one size fits all” approach simply doesn’t work. That way, different groups of people enter our business from different service points and will hopefully, with the encouragement of our staff, feel able to explore other areas when they’re ready. At one of Tone’s leisure centres, we have developed a ladies-only power-assisted fitness and inch-loss centre. The “Feel Good Factory” has its own entrance that separates it from the main facility and is targeted at females who are overweight and/or have limited mobility. Our Feel Good Factory customers appreciate the sense of privacy they’re afforded by having their own entrance and reception, and we’ve had some real success with recruiting members who have never used any type of gym before. The aim for us is to assist the members with their weight and inch-loss to a point that they feel able to try other services such as classes, swimming and the mainstream gym, and for our staff to identify ways in which to cross-sell services and expand their memberships at the appropriate points. Important to the success of this approach is the way that each tailored service is marketed. Identifying the target audience and ensuring that they get to hear about what’s on offer is key. It’s also about profiling different customer types in any marketing you do, both in terms of images and real-life examples. Not everyone will be encouraged to join the gym by posters containing lycra-clad women with washboard stomachs. Some people may prefer to read a genuine story about someone just like them which they can immediately relate to their own life.

Create value for money

For leisure trusts in particular it’s important to ensure the membership packages themselves are affordable and accessible. One way of doing this is to offer a tiered pricing structure with significant discounts for young people, students and older people. Tone also operates a pricing band for people on low incomes, providing an affordable opportunity for them to become members. We’re also finding that offering uncommitted, month-by-month memberships is a good way of addressing

the concerns people have about entering contractual agreements, while still encouraging them to make that step from non-member to member. Adding extras beyond the typical gym, swimming and classes model, such as racquet sports and golf, can also really increase the value of memberships and act as incentives to join.

Think outside the club

Tone does outreach work in rural communities and deprived areas, working with partners such as local NHS trusts, the Youth Service and the police in delivering community activities. By providing services to people “on their doorsteps” we can help break down location and cost barriers. Community-based activities are often funded, therefore are free for participants, and at the very least help cut down on travel costs and time. By engaging with people, particularly children and young adults, within their communities we hope to inspire them to see health and fitness as an important part of their life. As a social enterprise, we invest time and money in our communities but, as a business, we also need to inspire future generations of members. By taking our services out to the places where they’re needed, we are getting our brand out there in a positive way and bringing people one step closer to our other membershipbased services.

The personal touch

In the current economic climate, when a fitness membership is seen as a luxury many people can do without, yet as a nation we’re getting more and more overweight and unhealthy, it’s as tricky as it is important to encourage people to access fitness services. From a business perspective then, memberships are the lifeblood of leisure companies, and barriers that stand in the way of non-members becoming members can’t be addressed in one fell swoop. By creating lots of attractive, affordable entry points to our services, we aim to engage with the maximum amount of people and encourage them to make fitness a part of their everyday lives. fpb

Juliette Dickinson is the managing director of leisure trust Tone. For more information, visit

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14 | FitproBusiness


Creative marketing for fitness Stuck for ideas on how to best market your club? Justin Tamsett suggests some creative ideas to get you going.


raditional forms of advertising such as print media and direct mail seem to result in very little, if any, response, which makes marketing your club even more challenging. This means that you not only need to work a little harder, but also a lot smarter. Here are some simple ideas that will help.

Fun and games

 and out a game card with participation H boxes that get stamped whenever a member works out or purchases products or services. Have members fill out an entire game card to be entered into a draw for a monthly giveaway. Reward perfect attendance. You can


Biggest Loser

give new members a punch card for 12 visits. Every time the member exercises during the month, their card is punched. At the end of the 12th visit they receive either a one-month membership for a friend or two twoweek memberships.

Go guerilla

Read your local newspaper for wedding announcements and hand-write a personal invitation to brides-to-be with a special training offer for the bride and her bridal party. This is good for grooms too. Consider putting money into a billboard on wheels. This can be done by hiring specialist companies, or it could be your company car that is wrapped with your logo and photos.

Publicity stunts

Create a Biggest Loser-style contest. One club in the US advertised locally and received 800 applications. After you have picked your teams, send any unsuccessful applicants a two-week club pass including a personal training session. Hold a testimonial competition. Ask members to write about how your club has helped them reach their goals. Give a short-term membership extension to the winner and another free reward for each

Create a Biggest Loser-style contest. One club in the US advertised locally and received 800 applications

submission. Stage professional photo shoots using your members as models and use them in all of your print ads featuring their testimonials.

High-tech marketing

Stream live video to your website so that visitors can watch the action at your club in real time. Show segments of group fitness classes, get shots of members raving about their workouts and loop them with video clips and adverts on your website. Put signatures on all your outgoing emails and change them regularly. Ask carefully selected members if they’d be willing to attach your logo to their signatures in exchange for club discounts in order to further promote your website. Select other business friends with whom to do cross-promotions.

Community support

Get corporate partners to pledge pounds for every pound of bodyweight lost by your members during a six-month campaign. Host a police and fire services fitness competition at your club. You can use it as a fundraiser for these services or their favourite charity. Chamber of Commerce events are good for marketing too. Providing a speaker on health, nutrition, wellness, fitness or weight loss positions you as the health and fitness experts in your community. You should do the same with articles and comment for the local paper. Create an e-newsletter that keeps members informed about what is going on in the club and also links to other businesses (and your club should link to theirs). You might also like to add educational tips and features. fpb See pages 30-31 for another creative marketing strategy: celebrity endorsement. Justin Tamsett is managing director of Active Management in Australia. For more information, visit

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The winning formula Spring Convention presenter Alex McMillan reveals his “real method to selling big”.


ow is it that most trainers struggle to make ends meet while others are making thousands per month in fitness services? It’s no secret that this wonderful fitness industry of ours can be a massively rewarding career but, unfortunately, the brutal facts show us that over 80% of all fitness professionals are frustrated with their meagre pay and major lack of positive cash flow. However, there is a winning formula when it comes to selling fitness. This is a formula that not only converts suspects to prospects, but prospects into longterm raving fans.

Convert suspects into prospects, and prospects into long-term raving fans

winning mindset

Effective selling is really not about selling at all, it’s about finding the emotional drivers first and then the logical reasons for why people will want to buy from you and become your fans. The day we stop trying to sell to people and start relating to their personalities and deeper emotional convictions is the day everybody starts winning big. You need to know and believe that the living soul and body that you are about to relate to is going to be changed, transformed and down right better off because of a relationship/purchase with you, your brand and the services and products you’re about to sell them. If you don’t believe, how will they?

Effective communication

There’s no better way to relate to someone than getting them to talk about themselves. Dig emotionally deep and find the prospect’s “big why” for making change. You will get recurring commitments and produce raving fans when you learn how to find, relate to and discuss your target demographic’s pains and problems. 16 | FitproBusiness

Mass profit tip Then you’ll want to show them how a relationship with you can completely annihilate the “cancer” that’s been plaguing their mind and body, which has been holding them back from living the brilliant life they’ve been looking for. Uncovering the pain allows you to start moving people towards pleasure. Bottom line is, people are better off with you and need your help. They want you to relate to them in a “get real and authentic” way that provides solutions to crush their fears, pains and problems. So, become an ultra-effective communicator and embrace the winning mindset. fpb

To increase your closings and APPS (Average Price Per Sale) you need to know who your niche customers are. For more information on the methods of successful prospecting or communicating with your customers, Alex McMillan will be presenting at the FitPro Spring Convention 2011 in his session The Art of Selling Fitness. To book your place, visit Alex McMillan is the CEO of Fitness Profit Solutions. He is an award-winning international presenter, author, consultant and business success coach. Contact him at

FitproBusiness | 17


The IOU guide to


Missed the Independent Operators Unite event at Leisure Industry Week? Here’s what the experts say you need to be doing now to retain your members.


t this year’s Leisure Industry Week, five experts gathered for The Independent Operators Guide to Fantastic Retention Results. With Dave Wright of Creative Fitness Marketing leading the debate, the panel discussed their views about what the industry needs to be doing to improve retention standards.

Richard Blackmore

Marketing director, Fitness Industry Association “Retention is about a consistent member experience and consistent member communication. Letting members know that we care about them and want them to succeed is absolutely crucial. This can be done in all sorts of ways – from interaction on the gym floor, to investing in new equipment and technology.” 18 | FitproBusiness

Mike Hills

Retention director, The Retention People “Retaining members could be compared to holding on to water. It’s not an easy process, and one that needs a lot of time and effort dedicated to it. Start by looking for the evidence of what really works. Look at the journey from when a member first signs up, right through to when they terminate their contract – the marketing, sales structure, and induction. Each stage needs to be planned carefully and the member engaged with. Add value where possible too. We overestimate how many self-motivated people are coming to our gyms and health clubs. Are you giving them any support? How many of your members would actually score you 9/10 or 10/10? You need to work on getting up to that score.”

Guy Griffths Director, GG Fit

“Use technical systems to record as much information as possible about your members – visits, visit history, goals, etc. Communication is vital throughout the whole process, from encouraging members, to listening to their goals and aspirations, and providing them with a good journey. Remember to keep your staff happy too – if the people in control are dissatisfied, this will reflect on your members who are looking to be inspired and motivated.”


Marc Jones

Head of commercial sales, Aquaterra Leisure

Innes Kerr

Operations director, énergie fitness “If a member doesn’t lose weight from going to the gym, who will they blame? There needs to be constant member communication and they need to be educated on subjects such as nutrition, so that they come to realise it takes more than exercise alone to get the desired results. When a member decides to leave, you need to spend time getting to know the real reasons. It is typical for the level of service to come down for long-term members; you put all your efforts into acquiring new members, and forget about the people already paying for your service. Offer existing members rewards for being with your club over a certain period – you can give them priority booking for classes, free PT taster sessions, multi-buy offers for sunbeds, free guest passes, or a loyalty card for retail or beauty purchases. The list is endless.”

“Joining fees have come down lately but you need to have confidence in your gym package and stop offering discounts. Stop trying to fix people too, but instead provide a service that facilitates change – it’s the only way to increase the 12% penetration figure. Customers join and say “fix me” and so we give them a programme and tell them to do it three times a week. That’s a big ask. We need to be supporting people through this huge lifestyle change. Contracts are there to tie people down, often as the only way of holding on to them (or their money). If members were given a good enough experience, gym contracts wouldn’t be necessary. People continue to go to pubs even though prices are increasing. They’ll save money for this pleasure, and they don’t need to be tied to a contract to do so. The fitness industry needs to get to this stage. You need to be identifying customers who are at risk of leaving and then interact with them, before it’s too late. Evaluate the effect your fitness team is having on retention, and empower your staff to seek out customers who need help and to take the responsibility to help them.” fpb FitproBusiness | 19


Ethical trading More companies THEN EVER are being scrutinised by consumers. Lynda King Taylor looks at corporate social responsibility and its impact on the bottom line.


recently asked a random sample of people from all walks of life which was their top retailer and why? Ninety percent said John Lewis and also their food flagship, Waitrose. John Lewis employees are partners or co-owners of the business; as such, they are ambitious both in their policies and in the way they work and do business.

integrity and respect; this is at the heart of our commercial success.” Today, John Lewis has a CSR reputation covering all areas from animal testing to additives, carrier bags to climate change, product to packaging perfection, and recycling to responsible resourcing. This is their brand and their behaviour.


A recognised leader in CSR, John Lewis is trusted by consumers and customers – internal and external – especially as a result of taking a stand on the issues that matter. As a responsible retailer, John Lewis believes it is important to communicate clearly what these issues are, how they impact on the business and the position they take on them. And they use every available medium to do this with customers, communities, employees, environmentalists, suppliers and stakeholders. You seldom get a second chance to impress; with this operation, there is no need to, as their reputation precedes them.

I wouldn’t usually quote a mission statement but this one is pretty illuminating: “The John Lewis Partnership’s reputation is founded on the uniqueness of our ownership structure and our commercial success. Our purpose is the happiness of all our members, through their worthwhile, satisfying employment in a successful business, with success measured on our ability to sustain and enhance our position both as an outstanding retailer and as a thriving example of employee ownership. With this in mind, our strategy is based on three interdependent objectives: partners, customers and profit.” As a partnership, the firm recognises that the management of social, ethical and environmental issues involves everyone. They believe their long-term future is best served by respecting the interests of all stakeholders: staff, suppliers, customers and the wider community. They actively seek opportunities to improve the environment and to contribute to the well-being of the communities in which they trade.


Building a corporate culture based on these principles ensures corporate social responsibility issues are deeply embedded in the way John Lewis runs its business: “We deal with our customers, suppliers and all stakeholders with 20 | FitproBusiness



Let’s take another organisation – one with a product to which some may not immediately warm. Ladbrokes PLC is a world leader in the betting and gaming market. They take up to 10 million bets each week and over £14 billion in stakes each year across Europe and Asia. They demonstrate robust “responsible business” behaviour, from the boardroom to their betting shops, which, according to their CEO, “Is not only central to our licence to operate; it also fully supports our strategy for growth.”

Best practice

Professionals and punters know the Ladbrokes brand is internationally synonymous with integrity and fair play,


upholding best practice in industry standards. This provides added assurance for their customers and employees. The company believes in social investment and encourages employees to become active members of their local communities.


Ladbrokes is involved in a number of initiatives across the UK in support of community safety, including an ongoing relationship with the police and Crimestoppers, the organisation which encourages people to give anonymous information on crime to the police. Ladbrokes’s 2,133 shops on British high streets display Crimestoppers posters and leaflets detailing the hotline number. Their reputation for social responsibility has paid off; Ladbrokes has been recognised by two of the foremost Responsible Investment Indices. Their “heavenly” corporate responsibility standards were recognised by both the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) and FTSE4 Good Index. They were the only UK-based company, and one of only two global betting and gaming companies, to be included in the DJSI index series for 2008-9.


Profit is too often proffered as the only measure by which businesses judge their success. Too often the pursuit of wealth – some would say global greed – has been deemed the dominant motivation of management. Some senior executives are seen to be constantly in pursuit of greater personal wealth at the expense of consumers and communities. As shown in the examples above, the creation of wealth is not the only valid business objective, albeit a vital and valuable one. Old beliefs are being challenged and we are starting to see societies, and the conditions governing them, changing too. So, it would seem that in business there can be profit in building goodwill. Enlightened enterprises and entrepreneurs know this: it is common sense. Sadly though, common sense is not so common. fpb

Editor's comment Another great British institution – Marks & Spencer – has recently declared that it intends to become the world’s most sustainable retailer by 2015. As part of its sustainability plan, M&S is promising to help its customers to make a difference to social and environmental causes that matter to them (via charitable donations and cause-related partnerships) and also to help them live more sustainable lives. Since there are no benchmarks against which to measure sustainability, the “world’s most sustainable

retailer” is a relative term but, nevertheless, at a time when consumers are showing a desire to associate with ethical brands, this would appear to be a very smart move. Given the fact that fitness clubs and centres are already in the business of helping people feel better about themselves, it shouldn’t take a huge leap of faith to suggest that we might also be able to transform ourselves into a socially responsible industry fairly easily. Should it?

© Lynda King Taylor 2010. All rights reserved. For more information, visit

FitproBusiness | 21



social media Fitpro Business talks to managing director of Oxygen Consulting Ray Algar about hOW THE WEB IS CHANGING THE WAY WE WORK.

Ray Algar

22 | FitproBusiness


FPB: How do you believe the web is changing the way businesses interact with consumers? RA: Well, I wonder when Tim Berners-Lee invented the web in Switzerland in 1991, if he envisioned a future where consumers would harness its power to bargain down the price of virtually everything, and make organisations more transparent and accountable for all they do. The web is allowing consumers to connect on an unprecedented scale and to use their collective wisdom to exert significant influence over how organisations are perceived, and which products and services other consumers buy. High-speed internet access matters because it helps to improve the online experience and therefore encourages consumers to spend more time on the web. And over the next 10 years, the European Parliament has an ambition to bring affordable superfast internet access to every European home. FPB: How is the “second generation web” different from the early web? RA: The early web was predominantly used by organisations as a oneway broadcasting channel; consumers tended to be passive recipients and did not have any significant online voice. The second generation web (some call it web 2.0) now has consumers at its heart and it is therefore a far more interactive experience. Fundamentally, the web has become more conversational in nature and hence more social. Consumers now expect organisations to actively participate in this new conversation by using social media tools such as blogging (Word Press is a widely used platform), social networks (Facebook), video sharing (You Tube), and picture sharing sites (Flickr). The emergence of social media creates an exciting

opportunity for clubs to engage with existing, prospective and future members in ways that would have been impossible only a few years ago. Consumers are enthusiastic about the web and they are also becoming more comfortable with making online transactions (western Europeans spent €68 billion in 2009, up 12% year-on-year – this number is forecast to rise to €155 billion by 2014). However, if clubs and centres struggle to offer simple things, such as joining online or an engaging and proactively managed Twitter channel, I wonder if they are ready to capitalise on the opportunity. FPB: What does this new conversational web mean for the health club industry? RA: It means that what clubs do and how they behave is transparent in ways that were unimaginable just a decade ago. Service, both good and bad, gets amplified by the web due to the “network effect”. Consumers who are plugged into the web have the ability to interact with thousands of people. For example, if just 10% of the 7.4 million UK health club/ centre members discuss their service experiences online just three times during a year, then 2.2 million opinions get posted to discussion forums, blogs and online communities, on everything from the tepid swimming pool water during last night’s swim to a video rant on You Tube about an unnecessarily long notice period to quit a club. Once online, these opinions are quickly captured by search engines and they therefore have the potential to spread. The implication for the health club industry is that consumers are using the web to gain insights from past and present members to aid them in choosing which club to join. For those clubs providing remarkable service, this presents an exciting opportunity. However, for those clubs peddling mediocrity, it presents an enormous threat. At for example, I can see the recommendation rate for an array of gym brands. This site asks the simple question: “Would you recommend this gym to a friend?” I usually find a recommendation rate of around three out of 10. If I was a club owner, I would always be thinking about how to use the web to

promote the great things going on inside my club, and I would be working tirelessly to improve my online recommendation rate. FPB: Tell us more about your European Web and Social Media report. RA: The report looks at how the web and social media is having a transformational effect on organisations. It contains several interviews from outside the fitness industry because I want to show how the web is fundamentally challenging how organisations interact with consumers. There is also a case study on a water charity that uses social media to show donors how funds are invested to bring fresh drinking water to impoverished people. I also wanted to use the report to illustrate the fact that social media is more than just setting up a Facebook page or Twitter account. A core part of the report is an audit of how leading club brands across the UK and Europe are presently using social media. This will allow the reader to see, for example, how socially engaged the French club industry is compared to Russia and the UK. FPB: What do you hope the report will achieve? RA: I would be delighted if the report stimulates the industry to really understand and embrace the strategic significance of social media. Setting up a Twitter account and then using it to simply broadcast membership offers is not embracing the power of the medium. In fact, I would recommend a club does nothing rather than abuse social media in this way. As well as publishing the report, I have set up an online group where people can come together and discuss its findings and share ideas on how to embed social media into their organisations. fpb For references, see

Download the report for free Fitpro Business readers can register for a free copy of the European Web and Social Media report, supported by The Gym Group, at the following address: http:/

FitproBusiness | 23


Active Wall & Floor Active Wall & Floor from Pulse is a modern-day, culturally relevant fitness gaming solution that allows for all ages and abilities to be integrated into one environment. The wall and floor are made up of LED-lit and pressure-sensitive tiles, which detect the location and force of participants or objects, creating a realistic gaming experience. Both products are ideal for creating a secondary income stream through free play, pay-per-play and coin-operated sessions, with regular upgrades of exciting new games and activities. The operator’s admin screen provides statistics on usage and length of play, and there is instant player feedback and a motivational leader board. There is also the option of using props, such as balls, beanbags and woggles, that can be ideal for team relay games and crosscurricular activities in an educational environment.

Woodway Curve The Curve treadmill’s unique design allows any user to instantly achieve the speed they desire without the use of elevation or a motor. By using the patented Woodway slatted belt track and frictionless drive system, it allows 24 | FitproBusiness

members and provide existing members with something unique, fun, competitive and different to mainstream exercise equipment. Both products provide a full cardiovascular workout, the wall concentrating on upper-body exercise, and the floor, the lower body. The product helps users improve coordination, focus and spatial awareness, and keeps children active and engaged in a safe environment, with an endless variety of educational and motivational games and activities. The equipment is also ideal for elite users and specialist sports training, with the wall being used by Manchester City Football Club for goalkeeper training. Active Wall & Floor are the perfect accompaniment to any gym to attract new

the track to run smoothly when walking, jogging and even sprinting. The Curve is a totally “green”, electricity-free treadmill using human power. This not only increases the intensity of the workout but also provides a solution for reducing the power requirement costs for your fitness facility. Since its launch, interest in the Curve has been huge. Facilities striving to offer customers that extra something special have found the Curve to be an excellent product. It not only looks and feels different to a standard treadmill, but it performs differently. “The Curve is going to change the way people look at treadmill performance

Website: Contact: 01260 294610

training,” explains Eric Weber, director of sales and marketing for Woodway. “This is the first treadmill to truly react to the user’s abilities and not restrict them to the motor’s speed or acceleration, while still providing you with the exceptional feel of the Woodway surface. We are thrilled to achieve this advancement while completely eliminating the need for electricity, making this product even greener than our existing energyefficient treadmills.” So, why not let members burn their calories instead of burning your electricity? Website: Contact:

IONS X.Cube EXF Fitness Perform Better USA unveiled its X.Cube at LIW in September to unprecedented levels of interest. Managing director Charles Burch said, “Since EXF was founded over 15 years ago, we have attended LIW most years during that period, and in all that time I don’t remember a new product generating such immediate attention and general buzz of positive feedback.” Perhaps one of the reasons for its success is that one look at the X.Cube tells you everything about it. The unit is a compact, space-saving piece of training apparatus that combines over 40 exercise elements, essential for totalbody elite performance conditioning as well as general strength and fitness work. But this is no conventional multi-gym. X.Cube harnesses all the elements of “heavy training”, such as a benching and squat rack for all Olympic lifting movements, while piling on the options and variations, including dipping, pull-up and monkey bars, step-ups, battling rope attachments, weight hoisting, rows, band work, suspension training and much more. And this vast array of exercise disciplines only requires

Freedom Climber Climbing has always been a great exercise, producing lean, strong bodies.


4.8sq m of floor space (although some attachment options require movement around its perimeter), which makes it ideal for installations where space is at a premium. The integrally built flooring is purpose built to the very highest and most punishing standards and is hardwearing, sturdy, noise and shock dampening. The X.Cube is built by EXF at the company’s Suffolk base and each one can be manufactured to meet the specific requirements of customers. It is this flexibility of production and adaptability of the product that has seen X.Cube already placed in a wide variety of environments, including schools, gyms and topflight rugby clubs. Burch added, “The beauty of X.Cube is that it provides so many training solutions to so many people, whether they are students, general gym-goers or full-time

The revolutionary new Freedom Climber provides clubs with a new way to offer this fantastic functional exercise, giving a great total-body workout, while targeting the upper body and core muscles. Engaging and challenging, a fourminute workout not only provides toning strength exercise, but is also a good cardiovascular workout. The stretching, rotational movement of the climber provides excellent training for balance, flexibility, hand grip strength and co-ordination. With no space or safety limitations, the new system has made it possible for all clubs to install a climbing trainer without using up valuable floor space. The unique rotating disc system mounts

sportsmen and women. And because it is so functional and efficient, it is also an ideal tool for trainers, conditioning coaches and gym managers.”

Website: Contact:

to most walls, keeps the climber close to the floor and uses the climber’s action to create movement. Resistance can be varied for weight and abilities. Group sessions and circuit classes incorporating a one-minute stint as one of the stations, are now possible for instructors, to add variety to their existing classes. The Freedom Climber can be installed in the gym, studio or stretch area, without the need for high ceilings. It gives members a real alternative, providing a challenging and fun exercise. Programming and challenges can also be set using the digital workout tracker. Website: Contact: FitproBusiness | 25


Perfect storm or

great opportunity? Mike Hill and David Albutt from Leisurenet look at how the Government’s public sector spending cuts WILL AFFECT THE FITNESS INDUSTRY.


he inaugural Fitness Industry Confidence Survey (FICS) has been launched at an interesting time for our industry. Measuring the attitudes and confidence levels of senior executives in both the public and private sector, it reflects some of the confusing messages that are prevalent in the economy.

Economic outlook

More than half of all respondents to FICS (54%) said that the economic climate as it relates to the health and fitness industry will get worse in the coming year. Some believe that the industry is facing a perfect storm of falling yields, increased attrition and slowing sales. Conversely, some operators are confident about their ability to weather the storm and they see opportunities in the years to come. Steve Philpott, CEO of DC Leisure, says, “We’ve weathered the recession well and feel stronger for the experience. Our outlook is now very optimistic because of the great opportunities going forward, particularly when it comes to improving the health of the nation. However, the combination of a rise in VAT and the uncertain economic outlook has made us all feel very cautious about the short term.”


With spending cuts leading to significant redundancies, the public sector is going to be directly affected. And, in the short term at least, there will be repercussions for the private sector: how many private club members work in the public sector and face redundancy? 26 | FitproBusiness

In local government, most of the services across culture and sport are discretionary. Cuts mean competition for each pound spent and this is where those services that are mandatory – such as education and housing – have an undeniable advantage. However, there is some good news for leisure services: 1. In some areas it’s tough to cease provision. For example, it’s very difficult to shut a park or an open space. 2. Cutting services such as pools, play schemes, etc. is likely to make the Government deeply unpopular. 3. Most managers in the leisure sector are very good at minimising the effects of cuts by re-using facilities, forming county sports partnerships and sourcing alternative funding, and those skills will be hugely valuable going forward. Interestingly, Sporta, the representative body for Trusts in the UK, is already experiencing greater interest from councils where services are still provided in-house.

Public sector

The key issues for public sector providers are:

Demonstrating value The argument that cutting funding for sport and active leisure will have a negative impact on the nation’s health is a powerful one.

Influencing local decisions Local leisure providers need to link in with the Government’s new Big Society agenda, which is all about communities taking on local service delivery – often replacing what is currently being provided by local authorities. In fact,

the Government is looking at the idea of having a “right to request”, with local communities being able to lobby their local authority to set up replacement organisations. Leisure Trusts in particular are in a great position to build on their current situation and relationships here. Craig McAteer, the managing director of Rochdale Boroughwide Cultural Trust, says, “Trusts have proven themselves to be viable alternative delivery models for councils not only wishing to reduce their costs, but also improve service delivery, increase income and improve community accountability. The challenging times ahead provide real opportunities for more local not-for-profit organisations to grow, and our model fits in perfectly with the Government’s new Big Society agenda.”

Personalised budgets Social services are beginning to give people the right to decide how to spend their money. The question is: Will clients of adult social services, for example, choose to spend their money on physical activity?

Partnerships to reduce overheads We’re seeing councils share chief executives, so expect the concept of


combining resources to proliferate across all services. As an example, the minister of libraries has asked for a reason why there should be exactly 151 library authorities in England – why not 100 or 50?

Delivery options Expect councils to be more open to procurement options, allowing them the flexibility to look at private-public partnerships and joint delivery of services with neighbouring councils.

2012 The Government has withdrawn the targets for participation in activity, but it is still looking for a “soft legacy”. So we may see some shortterm protection of leisure and activity during which other ways to accommodate cuts can be explored.

National Lottery The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is likely to decide that Lottery funding should revert to its original good causes. This means that there will be more capital available for the development of physical facilities, such as leisure centres.

Income generation The protection afforded by the 2012 Olympics and the availability of Lottery money may allow time to build up income-intensive services such as health and fitness.

Private sector

So what does all of this mean for the private sector? It means private clubs will be affected unless their members don’t work in the public sector, don’t have mortgages and don’t spend money on taxable goods. The FICS gives some indication of the thoughts of private sector operators about the current climate and about the future. It suggests that primary income streams are holding up relatively well but operators do expect a decline in secondary revenue (personal training, treatments, clothing sales, etc.) as discretionary spend comes under increasing pressure. This may not be helped by the forthcoming VAT increase due to happen in January 2011, which will either have to be absorbed by operators or passed on to customers in the form of increased prices. It also suggests that membership enquiries are increasing but so is the competition. As consumers continue to shop around for the best deals, the sales environment remains challenging to say the least. Arthur McColl, business and brand director at LA Fitness, says, “I’m not convinced the industry is facing the perfect storm, but I do think in tough economic times it’s too easy to cut costs and short-change the consumer. In a climate where disposable income is being squeezed like never before, we have to deliver real value for money in order to justify our existence. “This means a relentless focus on delivering the basics well. Organisations that are able to control costs and still invest in the customer – look no further than Aldi, Premier Inn and Ikea for examples – will have a massive advantage as the economy recovers.” In the next three years, smart marketing, great sales processes and customer retention will become more important than ever before. With potential customers on tighter budgets and more competition across the board from budget to premium offerings, the winners will be those organisations that develop a reputation for delivering results, giving value for money and providing great service. fpb For more information, contact

FitproBusiness | 27

executive summary

Daring to be different Following Tom Asacker’s Executive Summary, centre manager Chris Davidson reviews One Leisure, WHICH IS DARING TO BE DIFFERENT.


welve months ago, the five leisure centres run by Huntingdon District Council were disjointed, reactive and had five different ways of doing things. There was no clear central decision-making. So, we stopped, changed our identity and re-branded as One Leisure, as part of a process to improve internal and external understanding of who and what we were. This involved a change in our mindset and core values, and we now have clear aims and objectives as well as service standards at all levels, which allows us to be more customer-focused. A clear programme that included our customer relations management, our staff, our customers and our aims and objectives was therefore developed.

Delivering excellence

Re-branding gave our staff a strong sense of what is expected of them. However,

Executive Summary:

Stop and then go! By Tom Asacker We are all so busy, aren't we? To-do lists to compose and complete. Meetings to prepare for and attend. It's a bit like living on an exercise bike. We're exhausted, but the view never changes. It's becoming tedious, a grind. So hop off. Erich Fromm wrote, “You have to stop in order to change direction.” Stop doing the same things. Try something new and bold. Go for the extremes! Follow the advice of the

28 | FitproBusiness

to enable them to deliver excellence they needed the right tools, and we needed to be different and change the habit patterns that make up the culture of One Leisure. These tools were and continue to be learned and acquired through the peer training programme, BEE – a bottom-up delivery programme delivered to over 450 One Leisure staff, by One Leisure staff.

BEE training

BEE training is a six-module customer service and personal development programme designed to improve skills, knowledge and attitude. It has helped all One Leisure staff to deliver exceptional customer service. The modules were delivered in chunks and the 12 staff identified as those already achieving high levels of customer service were nominated as our BEE coaches or peer trainers. They have regular support days, are highly motivated and enthusiastic, great English portrait and fashion photographer Cecil Beaton: “Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” You have the talent, the ability and the contacts. But do you have the vision and courage? Vision and courage are what leadership is all about: making sure that everyone viscerally understands your purpose (and it should NOT be to produce and sell things – it should be to add value to people’s lives), and then to orchestrate, empower and inspire people to bring that purpose to life with daring and imaginative vision.

empathise with their colleagues and have respect from both management and colleagues. All One Leisure staff, including management, receive training through our BEE programme. This has already improved skills such as communication and motivation, and our staff feel empowered to deliver the service. Not only have we seen a change in One Leisure staff, but our customer satisfaction is also now improving. So, through changing both our identity and our mindset, we were able to set ourselves apart, and dare to be different. fpb

For more information on BEE training, visit or contact If you would like to receive the Executive Summary from Fitpro Business by email (free of charge) contact

Stop and ask yourself, and your people: Are we asserting integrity of purpose in everything that we do? Does our desire to improve our customers’ lives shine through in each and every action we take? If it doesn’t, stop! Change direction! Now is not the time to “go along to get along.” Rather, it’s time to make waves. It’s time to think very practically about how to uniquely add value to people’s lives, and then to pursue it with daring! Be an enemy of the ordinary, and be secure in the knowledge that the creatures of the commonplace will continue to sit passively and wait for things to change. Don’t wait. Be bold. Boldness is scarce, and scarcity is what drives marketplace value.

040 FitproBusiness


The power of



remember the advert with Michael Jordan flying through the air in slow motion from the foul line, his right arm high above him holding the ball like the Statue of Liberty holding her torch. Then, as he hovered over the rim, Jordan slammed the ball through the net for the most amazing dunk I have ever seen. I would watch that over and over again, saying to myself, “How in the hell does he do that?” The subtle answer from his sponsor was simple: wear our shoes and you too can fly like Michael Jordan. Even though I’m a marketing guy, I bought into their message. I figured that, if one of the greatest basketball players of all time wears Nike, then a weekend warrior like me should do the same. Cha-ching – another sale. There’s a reason why big brands pay celebrities huge amounts of money to use their stuff – it helps them sell more products.


When I was the head of marketing for Gold’s Gym, I didn’t have as big a budget as my competitors, which meant I had to out-think them. So I used my celebrity contacts as a means of helping to build that brand. Living in Los Angeles, we have our share of celebrities. Many would come into the famous Gold’s Gym in Venice, “The Mecca of Bodybuilding” as it was called. I took advantage of that celebrity pool as well as my own celebrity friends from my 30 | FitproBusiness

Derek Barton explains how he HELPED turn the then unknown Gold’s Gym chain into one of the world’s best known brands, and how you can learn to do the same – no matter how small your budget. showbiz background (I was an actor and Hollywood stuntman before getting into the gym business). I knew the power of PR and I also knew the power of product endorsement, so I gave them all free memberships. One year at a time – no lifetime memberships. I gave their significant others free memberships too. What I quickly learned is that, if you take care of celebrities, they will take care of you. So I gladly gave our VIP members free memberships and Gold’s Gym sportswear. Yes, they could afford everything I gave them but they’re just like us – they appreciate a freebie. For all those radio DJs, television sportscasters, sports athletes, and movie stars to whom I gave free memberships to – guess what? – their appreciation would hit the public airways in ways I could never afford to pay for. These people became brand Ambassadors with a capital A – and all for the price of a free membership and a few gifts.


One day I would hear a popular DJ on the air saying he trains at Gold’s, the next day I would see Carl Weathers (who played Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies)

Alesha Dixon


wearing a Gold’s Gym t-shirt on a promo for Saturday Night Live. Then, in the movie White Men Can’t Jump, there’s Wesley Snipes wearing a Gold’s Gym tank top. In Men in Black, Will Smith shows his Gold’s Gym VIP membership card. Bingo! What a concept: be nice to someone and they will be nice back. I know what you’re thinking – I don’t live in LA and I have no celebrities around me. Au contraire – yes, big UK brands like LA Fitness can afford to work with the likes of famous personalities such as Alesha Dixon, but most clubs and centres have local celebrities all around them. Join your Chamber of Commerce and offer your facilities as a place for their monthly luncheons. Donate your old equipment to your local fire brigades and police forces. Pretty soon, you’ll see a story on your local news showing a police captain explaining how his team is in better shape thanks to generous community leaders like yourself.

Celebrities in the making

Radio and television need content 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. So I gave it to them. There were many celebrities in our gym who weren’t really celebrities by the standard definition of the word, but they sure were celebrities in the making. There was a man in a wheelchair who was determined to walk. Great news

her a celebrity and those news stories continued to make us one too.

Product placement

When starting out at Gold’s, I sent out flyers to all the casting agencies in Los Angeles, offering our gym as a film location for TV shows, movies, and adverts. I told the casting agencies that if they needed the next Arnold or Stallone, we had them here. When they would cast people out of our gym for movies, TV shows, and adverts, they asked me what our fee was. I simply said, “It’s a free service, but if you could put a Gold’s Gym shirt on them, I would appreciate it.” They gladly did, thereby entering us into the world of product placement.

Brands like LA Fitness can afford to work with the likes of Alesha Dixon, but most clubs have local celebrities all around them story, especially when he stood up and walked out of his chair forever. We even used him in one of our print ads. Then there was an 84-year-old woman who had never lifted weights before and came in to train at one of our gyms. The doctors told her it was a waste of time but she trained anyway. She later won the world record in the bench press at the Senior Olympics and has won over 50 gold medals so far. We made

We also contacted all the fitness magazines and local newspapers to let them know that they could film at Gold’s Gym as well, so we became their resource for health and fitness. Camera crews and still photographers became a mainstay at Gold’s and we became the most photographed gym in the world. The brand really started to grow from its exposure throughout all media because we provided a service to them.


Genuine celebrities are used to bringing credibility and coolness to a brand. If you sell sugar-water and name it Coke, you have to be a genius to make us buy it. We all know it’s not the greatest thing for us, but when you put a celebrity superstar like American football legend Mean Joe Greene behind it, you have one very cool endorsement. That ad has been played in the US as the all-time favourite at every Super Bowl since 1979. That’s the power of celebrity endorsement. Trying to add some “cool” to their brand, McDonald’s used the celebrities Michael Jordan and Larry Bird back in 1993 in their “Nothing but Net” advert. Seventeen years later, McDonald’s recreated that spot using basketball greats Dwight Howard and Lebron James. We love those adverts and therefore, by default, we love McDonald’s. Can you achieve success without using celebrities? Yes of course you can. Apple doesn’t use celebrities but, then again, Apple’s celebrities are their innovative products and services. And don’t forget that a big part of Apple’s success is that those products pop up in movies and TV shows and we point to them and say, “Hey, that guy has an iPhone. Cool!” Bottom line: celebrity comes in many guises, and when it is used skillfully, it can be a powerful sales and marketing tool. fpb

Derek Barton, the senior vice president of marketing for Gold’s Gym from 1985–2005, is a much sought-after speaker and author. He now consults to some of the world’s leading fitness operators. You can contact him on

FitproBusiness | 31


Loyalty lessons from

Lady Gaga Talking of the power of celebrity, here are five lessons in building brand loyalty, Lady Gaga-style.


here’s a lot that marketers can learn from singer Lady Gaga. At 24, Lady Gaga rocketed to global fame in less than two years. Playing piano at four, and

New York nightclubs at 14, she recently broke Billboard’s record as the first artist to have her first five singles reach No. 1. She’s won two Grammys, and has sold eight million albums and 15 million singles digitally worldwide. While her art-style performance stage shows and bizarre outfits have garnered much buzz, it’s her loyalty marketing that may sustain her for years. Gaga is dedicated to her fans and clearly knows the elements of cultivating a community of evangelistic fans.

FIVE lessons 1. Give fans a name Gaga doesn’t like the word “fan” so she calls them her “Little Monsters,” named after her album The Fame Monster. She even tattooed “Little Monsters” on her arm and tweeted the picture to fans, professing love for them. Now fans are getting their own Little Monster tattoos. By giving the group a formal name, it gives fans a way to refer to each other. Fans feel like they are joining a special club.

2. Make it bigger than you During her concert tour, Gaga recites a “Manifesto of Little Monsters”. Although a bit cryptic, most Little Monsters see it as a dedication to 32 | FitproBusiness

them, and that her fans have the power to make or break her.

3. Develop shared symbols The official Little Monster greeting is the outstretched “monster claw” hand. As all Little Monsters know, the clawed hand is part of the choreography in the video of her song Bad Romance. Gaga tells the story of watching a fan in Boston greet another fan with the claw hand and that’s when she knew this was the Little Monster symbol. Even Oprah knows the Little Monster greeting. Shared symbols allow fans to identify each other and connect.

4. Make customers feel like rock stars One staple of Gaga’s “Monster Ball” tour is to phone a fan in the audience during the show. She dials the number on stage, the fan screams out, is located, and is then put up on a big screen. While the rest of the audience goes bananas, she invites the fan to have a drink with her after the show.

5. Leverage social media Gaga has the requisite Facebook fan page (over five million fans) and Twitter ID (almost three million followers) but it’s how she uses them that drives loyalty. On Twitter, she tells fans what she is doing, such as tweeting them before she opened the Grammy Awards. She also tweeted to fans that she was buying them pizza for waiting overnight at an album signing. Some artists are very protective of their image and prohibit recording devices during performances. Gaga doesn’t allow professional photographers into her concerts but is ok with fans recording and putting videos on YouTube. Whether Lady Gaga will have staying power remains to be seen. But she is making waves in the music business and teaching plenty of people the power of fandom. Wouldn’t you like to have fans like these? fpb © Jackie Huba 2010. All rights reserved. Visit for more information.


| 33


The art of effortless

management why taking a “non-doing” approach to leadership may be more effective than the traditionally dominant roles of management.


anaging people without doing anything is a strange concept for most managers in the western world. Here, our tradition is one of managing by harnessing, directing, controlling, dominating, exploiting, and using. Managing people by doing nothing (or appearing to) is a concept from the east. It has its best expression in philosophies such as Taoism – the tradition of letting things happen without forcing them. It is based on the belief that people are naturally creative, spontaneous, and aware, and that we manage best when we encourage, guide, and channel this energy rather than force it. It is exquisitely expressed in the Taoist principle of wu wei which means “effortless effort” or “effortless management”. Here are seven ways that you can practise effortless management:

1. Attentiveness

When you practise non-doing in any leadership role, it doesn’t mean that you are doing nothing. It means you are still, quiet, and attentive to what is going on. In the attentive state, you are aware of 34 | FitproBusiness

what is happening in the team without needing to judge it or put a name to it. You can observe the team’s progress, its energy, and interactions. You can see whether the energy is slow and dull, or quick and high-spirited. As an observer, you can decide whether a struggling group needs you to intervene or whether, with a little help, they can make it on their own.

2. Empowerment

Traditionalists find it strange that leaders should do nothing when leading their teams. After all, what is a leader for if not to direct, decide, discipline, and delegate. The problem is, when a leader makes all these interventions they not only take away the power of the team, but they also make the team dependent on them. By simply stepping back, the modern leader signals that these traditional roles are for the team to perform. In that way, teams gain power, skill, and effectiveness.

3. Subtle support

Subtle support is one of those skills that modern leaders need to learn. Subtle support allows you to give support to people in your team without making

them dependent on you. Here are two simple ways to give subtle support: Being present. Simply being present is often enough to let people know you’re backing them. Unlike the leaders of old who were more often absent, your supportive, non-directional presence is one of the most empowering things you can do for a team. Non-verbal cues. You can give your team support through a whole host of underplayed body language signals. A smile, a querying look of the eyes, a gentle nod – all these will convey more to the team than anything you might say.

4. Gentleness

Gentleness may sound soft, but it is one of the most powerful ways you can act. If, for example, the team has a problem and its members are spoiling for a fight, possibly even with you, gentleness takes the sting out of the argument and overcomes any resistance. You stand a much better chance of persuading your team with gentleness than you do with force. Here are four highly effective gentle persuasion techniques: • Suggesting options for the group to consider • Posing questions to make the group think • Pointing out the consequences of unwise decisions • Making your point indirectly through stories and anecdotes

5. Absence

In traditional forms of forceful leadership, the absence of the leader meant that the team could relax; the pressure was off, even if just for a short while. This, however, often resulted in a drop in performance. In modern forms of non-


doing leadership, the absence of the leader allows the group to grow. Just like being present at certain times, being absent at the right moments is also powerful in that it lets your group know that you trust them, and this often results in a big increase in performance.

6. Charisma

One of the most powerful qualities of non-doing leadership is charisma – a word that is hard to define. According to Greek mythology, the word charisma refers to the gifts of humour, graciousness, and good manners. All great leaders have the gift of charisma. One of the most charismatic leaders to have lived was President John Kennedy. It was said that, when you spoke to Kennedy, you were made to feel that nothing else mattered to him at that moment but your thoughts, your ideas, and your feelings. Such is the power of charisma.

7. Class

There is a paradox about the leaders of old who relied on their traditional power to get things done. The paradox is that the more they relied on their power, the more they appeared weak without it. Modern leaders, by contrast, don’t need to display their power. Their strength doesn’t come from status, connections, or their ability to reward or punish, it comes from within. By being gentle and confident, and by showing a bit of class, you display all the power you need and you gain the respect of others.

Today’s leader

In today’s business world, there is little call for the leader who charges out in front as if they were on a white hot steed. Instead, today’s leader is a non-doing catalyst. For in gentleness and non-doing, they can be infinitely more effective than their counterparts of the past. fpb

There is little call for the leader who charges out in front as if they were on a white hot steed

© Eric Garner 2009. All rights reserved. Visit for more information.

FitproBusiness | 35


The fame game characterises the feckless youth of today who want it all and want it now. But it would seem that I, too, have bought into that celebrity culture

36 | FitproBusiness

When will I,

will I be famous? Tim Webster comments on how the fitness industry can learn valuable lessons on service from celebrity culture.


hen children are asked what they want to be when they grow up, a common theme is that they want to be like, famous, innit. That’s fine. But when they are asked what they want to be famous for, they have no idea. Fame, it would seem, is now a career path in its own right. As a grumpy old man, my first reaction to the fame game is that it simply characterises the feckless youth of today who want it all and want it now. But on further investigation it would seem that I, too, have bought into that celebrity culture. Let me give you an example. When I’m at home in New Zealand there’s a little coffee shop I go to pretty much every day. Kiwi coffee is world class but the place I go to doesn’t actually serve the best coffee (the one over the road does), nor does it have the best ambience (the one over the road does), nor does it have the best food (the one over the road does). So why do I go there? Simple: for half an hour every day they make me feel famous. They know my name (and I know theirs), they know what I drink, they know which newspaper I read (and if, God forbid, someone else is reading it, they’ll nip out and buy another one), and every now and

again they give me a free coffee just for the heck of it. Need I go on? The only day I don’t go to this café is Mondays. They’re closed on Mondays, so I go to the one over the road. When I come back to the UK my expectations in the coffee department are pretty low so I tend to seek out the Starbucks and Costas on the basis that at least I know what I’m going to get. So, while my wife and I are in Ambleside Costa in the Lake District, I discover that they do a Flat White. I order the Australasian coffee staple, more out of curiosity than anything else, and, to my untold delight, out comes a half-decent FW – it’s an emotional moment. Anyway, I feel the need to embrace the young girl who made said brew, so I nip up to the counter and tell her that her coffee has just made my day. She beams, I beam – we’ve bonded. My wife and I went into that Costa every day for the next couple of weeks. Want to know why? Decent coffee, yes, but within the space of a day this young lady had quickly memorised who I was and what coffee I liked, so all I had to do was say “the usual please” and we were good to go. And, in that glorious moment, I again felt famous. Compare that with the awfulness of an award-winning health club in the area, which we visited every day because they were pretty much the only game in town, whose reception staff made an art form of making my wife (who also knows a thing or two about health clubs) and me feel insignificant. It’s pretty simple really: in a culture where celebrity is currency, make me feel famous for five minutes and I’ll love you for a lifetime. fpb

FitproBusiness | 37


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Discover what your gym team can achieve in 10 minutes Effective communication Better results Satisfied clients Increased retention Call Business Development on +44 (0)20 8586 8636 or visit

Maximise your marketing and pitch your products directly to Fitpro Business readers: · Key decision-makers · Club managers · Fitness professionals To place your advert, email or phone +44 (0)20 8586 8649 38 | FitproBusiness

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Fitpro Business Jan 2011  

Essential reading for anyone in the Fitness Industry, Fitpro Business magazine covers the topics at the heart of solving the obesity crisis....

Fitpro Business Jan 2011  

Essential reading for anyone in the Fitness Industry, Fitpro Business magazine covers the topics at the heart of solving the obesity crisis....