How to Survive and Thrive in Australia’s Fitness Industry as a Small Business
10 Savvy Tips for Studios, Gyms and Group Classes
“You must be insane to want to be in the fitness business” . That’s what business consultant and Forbes contributor Kelly Allan had to say after helping a gym improve its marketing…
And if you own a small fitness business in Australia, you may feel the same way.
First of all, the Australian economy isn’t doing too well. 2 million people, or nearly 10% of the population, are un or underemployed. Meanwhile, personal debt is 125% of our national GDP; the highest in the world. This means potential clients have less disposable income than before.
Second, the fitness industry is increasingly competitive. Australia spends $8.5 billion on fitness every year, yes… But gyms are now also competing for that money with fitness brands, on-demand workout videos and other “alternative” fitness products.
As a result, surviving and remaining competitive in 2017 and beyond requires a new way of thinking. You cannot afford to be complacent with your group class, gym or studio.
To help you do that, we decided to put together a resource taking a look at the specific, actionable tips that fitness entrepreneurs and managers can use to become more competitive. In the post below, you’ll find our 10 favorites, including one that helped Crossfit become the giant business that it is today.
Number one on our list is…
- Define and Focus Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
If you love fitness, it can be hard to forget that you’re running a business. Nevertheless, you do need to make money, and having a unique selling proposition is the cornerstone of any successful marketing strategy.
Here’s what we mean. If you try to be all things to all people, you’re likely to please nobody at all. Serious bodybuilders aren’t likely to enjoy being in the same weight-room as squat-rack curlers – and the same applies to CrossFit enthusiasts and Tai Chi practitioners sharing a studio.
That’s why you’re better off catering to a specific kind of person with a narrow, focused USP. Just ask Tracy Anderson: coach to Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and other celebs. Her product’s tagline was, “get in shape without lifting more than 3 lbs” – and while that may seem silly to you, she built a $35 million empire with that pitch.
In short, pick a strength and leverage it as hard as you can. It’s better to have a small audience of raving fans than loads of indifferent customers. And if you can’t quite figure out what your USP is, here’s a way to leverage your location to create one.
- Cater to the Local Community
Like we said earlier, you aren’t just competing against brick-and-mortar businesses. You’re also going up against gadgets, on-demand videos and online services.
This puts you at a disadvantage in many ways. As a small, local business, you can’t compete with multinational conglomerates’ ad budgets or facilities, for example. But what you can do is leverage your location and expertise to provide an excellent service that caters to the locals.
One U.S. gym owner did this by starting a gym for conservative-minded Christians in his local area. He asks members to be mindful of others and dress modestly – and as a result, he’s kept his business for 20 years and expanded despite increasing competition.
Religion and working out might seem like an odd pairing at first glance, but it’s clear that people enjoy it. Even better, thinking of the community aspect is great training for building your own fitness community – which is tip #3.
- Build a Community
Some call CrossFit a family, others – a cult. Either way, you can’t deny that the sport’s close-knit community is a major part of its rise as a $4-billion brand. The same can be said for Yoga, Pilates and other group classes. People enjoy training together – and if there’s an idea to unite them, the effect is only stronger.
That’s why tip #3 is to incorporate a sense of community into your business. This can be as easy as maintaining a Facebook or WhatsApp group, organizing informal meetings and offering classes geared towards teamwork (e.g. Crossfit or dancing). This will help your customers bond, and encourage them to come to you more often.
Just remember: whether you build a community or not, always…
Everyone likes knowing they’re getting a great deal. Over delivering is a great way to give people that feeling and show them you appreciate their business.
The other reason to overdeliver is that by going beyond the call of duty it puts your competitors at a disadvantage. After all, why would people come to someone else when you give them more for the same amount of money?
Exactly: no reason.
One particularly crafty way to overdeliver is to…
- Offer Perks
If you own a fitness business, you might expect other people to love sports the same way you do. However, this doesn’t tend to be the case – and many gyms and studios compete by providing perks to people who aren’t naturally motivated to exercise.
Just take Planet Fitness: a chain with over 1200 locations in North America. They give customers free tootsie rolls and free pizza, which you might scoff at…
But they’ve grown 35% in just the last year. Clearly, what they’re doing works.
So while you might want to keep your perks more fitness-friendly, little things – like a prowler for powerlifters or free after-yoga vegan snacks – will help attract and retain customers.
Alternatively, you can reward and motivate people with…
Contests combine the benefits of building a community (point 3) and the advantages offering perks (point 5). A particularly useful kind of contest comes from Dana Auriemma, Fortune-500 marketer turned Pilates studio owner. She calls it the Passport Attendance Challenge – and here’s how it works.
Give students a “passport” with spaces for stamps or stickers. Every time they show up to your gym, studio or group class, fill in one of the spaces. Once the passport’s done, reward the trainee with a bonus of your choice!
Alternatively, you can follow the tip before to have other businesses give contestants their prizes.
- Work Together With Other Businesses
If you’re small, it can be hard to go against large chain gyms that have machines, free weights, a variety of classes and free perks. Truth be told, there’s not much you can do to compete with that as a single business.
But what you can do is team up with other local businesses. Whether it’s to pool your assets together, exchange leads or split marketing costs, such partnerships can help you get a massive advantage over fitness corporations.
One way to connect with fellow business owners and managers is through our service: MokFit: an easy way for businesses to connect with each other and find new customers. With 3,000+ registered businesses already using it, there’s plenty of opportunities for collaboration there.
We’ll tell you more about MokFit in a minute – but for now, let’s move onto important tip #8…
- Identify and Reward Loyal Fans
You’d be surprised at the kind of person that can get your business new customers. Mike Ives, owner of Crossfit 782 and founder of MemberTracker, describes how one 40-something lady referred 10 new members and $1,000 in monthly revenue to his business. That might seem surprising, given that Crossfit has a reputation for being macho…
But it just goes to show you how the person you least expect can become a loyal fan and a brand ambassador. Keep an open mind and make sure to reward loyal fans who keep attendance rates high and bring their friends in. Your business will thank you for it.
- Make Things Simple
Tony Horton is the founder of BeachBody: the billion-dollar company behind P90X. He’s also the man who said, “a lot of people treat this stuff like it’s rocket science. That’s not my thing.”
It’s this kind of simple delivery that endears people to BeachBody’s products. You might know a lot as a fitness expert – but many of your potential clients neither want nor care to complicate their gym, studio or group experience.
So focus on doing what Tony did and make what you do simple and available to everyone. This way, nobody will be left out and your product will be enjoyable to as many people as possible.
Finally, the last (and perhaps most powerful) tip to get new customers without investing in exorbitant ad campaigns is to…
- Use Platforms to Find Customers
There are multiple services that help you drum up clients. One is GroupOn, where you can sell reduced-price coupons in hopes of attracting new gym, studio or class members.
Another is our app: MokFit. It’s a little different from GroupOn, because you don’t have to discount your fees. It’s more like the eBay of Australian Fitness businesses in that it connects over 3,000 local entrepreneurs and managers with clients who want their services.
Registering with MokFit is free – so if you want to see why so many businesses are choosing to join our ecosystem, you can do so anytime.
Ultimately, though, there are multiple smart ways to give your fitness business an edge and compete with gym chains and corporations. Our best advice is for you to experiment with different methods and see what works for you.
And if you want an instant surge of customers, why not check out 7 Creative Ways to Get Fitness Clients? It’ll give you specific ways to get more people through the door as early as tomorrow!
Did you enjoy the article? Do you have more tips on competing as a small fitness business? Let us know in the comments; we’d love to hear what you thought!