Fun at the Gym

Alternatives to the January Fitness Scam

Bullfit InfographicThis is the prime season for the fitness industry. January is the biggest month of the year for new memberships. But 80 percent of those new members will quit within five months. And the steady members don’t like it. Things get crowded, people get cranky. Nonetheless, January fitness money talks. What’s can a fitness business do about this problem?

Here are three approaches we see at work.

1. Embrace the Newbies

This is clearly the strategy that Planet Fitness is taking. They rolled out an ad mocking the Peloton-style bike till it hurts approach. They called it Don’t Ride the Bike of Shame. Clearly, these guys want to lower the barriers to entry for new gym members.

With a snazzy infographic, Planet Fitness calls out the barriers to taking up the fitness cause. Time commitment, competition, cheesy inspiration clichés – all these things keep people out of the gym. So Planet Fitness keeps it quick, cheap, and cheerful to join. Their message is simple. C’mon! Sign up! It’s easy!

Of course that fits with a business model where you have far more members than you can ever serve with a real fitness experience. But they can join and feel good about it. Best of all, Planet Fitness takes their money. Stacey Vanek Smith lays out the nuts and bolts of this business strategy in an entertaining podcast from Planet Money.

2. Spread the Joy Through the Year

Another strategy is to simply opt out of the January madness. Megan McArdle tells us in the Washington Post to forget New Year’s resolutions. She says they’re miserable:

You wake up before dawn, still a bit weary from your New Year’s exertions, and, feeling virtuous, pull out the new workout clothes you ordered online. Whereupon you discover that Chinese textile manufacturers have some very odd, indeed cruel, ideas about what constitutes a size “large.”

The alternative, she says, is easy. Instead of making your resolutions for self-improvement on New Year’s Day, do it on your birthday. Make it all about you.

Her logic has a definite appeal. It works for our inner narcissist. Plus, It could become the ultimate nosy marketing technique. Google and Facebook could bury us in highly targeted ads. They know when our birthdays are. And they know our psychological vulnerabilities. Best of all, it solves the January capacity management problem.

3. Build Community

But perhaps the best way forward is to build a supportive community. The CBC calls this a “retain and refer” business model. According to their report, more and more fitness businesses are evolving toward this model. Trainers develop relationships and build loyalty to the business. Body positivity can play a role, too. Loyal clients bring their friends. Everyone’s happy.

And who doesn’t like a happy ending? Especially if it keeps us strong and active.

Fun at the Gym, photograph © theglobalpanorama / flickr

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January 15, 2020