Group Fitness Management. Promote, or get left behind

Some strategically timed special events, challenges and launches can make group fitness the best asset your club has in terms of community and member retention, says GFM Kirsty Nield.

KEY POINTS 
  • To maintain members’ interest and catch the attention of prospective participants you need to implement a program of promotions and special events for your group fitness offerings 
  • Promotions should let members know what is on offer, introduce new classes and new instructors, revitalise existing classes, build participant numbers and provide additional value for members that currently only inhabit the weights or cardio floors 
  • Promotions may include launches for new classes or Les Mills releases, member challenges, special occasion classes, promotion of new instructors and events to celebrate group fitness, such as ‘Class of the Month’ 
  • For promotions to be a success, it is vital that they are marketed extensively using social media, emails to members and prospects, blogs, in-club multiscreens and posters. 


So, the gym has a fantastic group fitness timetable, fabulous instructors and full classes, great – you can sit back, relax and enjoy the success! Can’t you? Sadly, this is not a great plan. The fitness industry is a hugely competitive and transient industry, so complacency will result in your being left behind.

Staying up to date with the latest research, running regular promotions and keeping members challenged with the way they can work out is vital. Following on from the previous feature in this series which looked at how to create a dynamic group fitness team, this article will look at the assorted ways group fitness can be promoted, and provide some ideas for special events, launches and promotions to keep classes full and vibrant.


Not just a class – an experience

Due to the competitive nature of the fitness industry, members are no longer content with ‘run-of-the-mill’ classes, they expect an ‘experience’. If they don’t get what they want, there is a good chance they will look to the club down the road to see what they have to offer. This means we must engage with each member to create a memorable and positive experience every time they join us. This can be done by considering the following areas:
  • Entertainment. Creating classes that provide a unique experience and stimulate the participants’ senses. 
  • Education. It’s not just the instructors who should be educated; education of members is equally important. They need to know why they are doing a particular workout, how often they should do it, and what the benefits are. This can be done through general discussion in class or more formal information sessions. 
  • Escapism. Members should be able to escape their everyday life. This can be done by providing an experience in class or special events where they can forget the daily grind, just for that one hour. 
  • Aesthetics. Make your studios an appealing place to be by using music, lighting and decorations to create a mood. 

The purpose of promotion 

The most important purpose of promotion is to set the gym and group fitness timetable apart from its competitors. Promotions should be designed to let members know what is on offer, introduce new classes and new instructors, revitalise existing classes, build participant numbers and provide additional value for members that currently only inhabit the weights or cardio floors.From a club perspective there are very real business benefits to running successful promotions. These include larger numbers in classes, converting gym floor junkies into group fitness fans, and creating a community atmosphere – all of which contribute to member adherence to their club. 

Promotions may include: 
  • Launches for new classes or Les Mills releases 
  • Member challenges 
  • Special occasion classes 
  • Promotion of new instructors 
  • Other exciting events to celebrate group fitness. 
Promotions can be held at any time, whether for a specific reason or event, or to simply boost the atmosphere and enthusiasm for a class. However, they should be relevant or have a theme so they are appropriate and appealing to members.

Launches 

Most gyms have Les Mills launches every quarter to celebrate the newest program releases. If a gym doesn’t have Les Mills classes, the same launch format can be used to introduce a new freestyle class to the timetable. Launches break up the monotony of the normal class, week in week out. Making a big deal of launching a new release every 12 weeks gives the instructors and participants a spike in motivation and shakes up the standard class timetable. 

In order to make launches stand out, it is important to come up with something new, exciting and different to what other gyms are doing. 

Fundraisers 
Launches can be used to raise money for a good cause. This gives some direction and a theme for the launch and shows members that the gym is socially conscious. Funds can be raised by asking participants to donate a gold coin, selling merchandise or asking local businesses to donate goods or services and selling raffle tickets. Use the charity to help promote the launch and encourage members to dress up in line with the charity’s colours or themes, e.g. pink for Breast Cancer Research, blue for Beyond Blue, or a hat/hair theme for the Leukaemia Foundation. 

Dress ups 

Dress up launches are always great fun and prompt interaction between the members and instructors. Make sure all the instructors are on board and encourage members to dress up too. Try to make the theme of the dress up relevant to what is being launched; if launching Body Attack 90, for example, have a 90s dress up theme. 

Glow in the dark 

Run the launch in the evening and create a nightclub atmosphere. UV lights can be hired, glow sticks handed out, and members and instructors encouraged to wear fluoro clothes. These launches are generally very successful and have members talking about the event for weeks afterwards. 

Super Launch 

Combine a number of different programs and run a ‘Super Launch’. These launches can include 30-minute samplers of different programs, and serve to encourage members to experience classes they might not otherwise consider. You can invite members to come and go as they please, or challenge them to stay for the whole super session.


Member challenges 

Running challenges for members is a great way of getting more people into classes and of getting existing participants to try something new. Challenging members can make them accountable for how often they exercise and what sort of classes they attend. It can set up a bit of friendly competition and give members incentives to try a bit harder at the gym. 

Challenges could include: 
  • Group fitness card. When new members join up, they receive a card with all the classes on offer listed. They get a stamp when they attend each class and then receive a reward once they have filled the card. 
  • Bring a friend for free. If an existing member brings a friend to a class and they join the gym, they receive a reward such as 1 month membership extension, or a PT session. 
  • 31 classes in 31 days. Members pay a registration fee to join the challenge. They submit a before photo, their weight and height and a short paragraph about their fitness goal. The contestants attend 31 classes in the month, one a day. The challenge can include weekly emails with recipes and information about how to reach their goals. Double points could be awarded to particular classes and at the end of the month prizes awarded to the person who attended the most classes; who had the most significant body change; or who made the biggest change to their lifestyle. 

Special occasion classes 

Spice up the group fitness timetable with themed classes that recognise member or instructor achievements, celebrate seasonal occasions or just create a fun and vibrant atmosphere. Events could include: 
  • Milestone birthdays. Help a member or instructor celebrate their special day with a playlist of songs from the decade they were born, or their favourite genre. 
  • Baby shower class. Celebrate the impending arrival of an instructor or member’s baby. The class could include games, balloons and gifts for the new mum. 
  • Christmas break-up. Run a special themed class just before Christmas, ask members to dress up and even have a special appearance from Santa! (Tip: if the real Santa is too busy, dress up as him yourself!) 
  • Holiday celebration. Have a send-off for an instructor or member who’s about to go on an overseas holiday, with members and instructors all wearing Hawaiian shirts and sunglasses. 

Promotion of instructors 

Instructors are one of the most important and valuable assets at the gym. It is important that members know who they are, what they do and what qualifications they have. There are many ways in which this information can be shared with members. These include: 
  • Instructor of the month. Nominate one instructor each month and run a feature about them on Facebook, write a blog or use multiscreens to show pictures of that instructor and advertise their class. This is a great way of bringing attention to an instructor and building their class numbers. It can also introduce a new instructor to the club. 
  • Instructor profiles. Designate a wall at the gym for photos of the group fitness instructors. Include a short summary of what they teach and the qualifications they have. These could also be featured on the club’s website and attached to the timetable so members know who to expect to see teaching their class. 
  • Videos of instructors. Short, snappy films of instructors chatting are great for introducing instructors to members. Including a few facts about the person and what they enjoy when they are not at the gym makes them more relatable and interesting. These can be used on Facebook, Instagram or on the club’s website.

Other exciting events to celebrate group fitness 

There are limitless ways to promote group fitness. Be brave and experiment with any ideas you have to highlight the benefits to your members of getting involved, from health outcomes to enjoyment of the social aspect. Here are a few more ideas: 
  • Group fitness month. Dedicate a month to group fitness. This is a great way of bringing the focus of all the members of your gym onto your timetable and all the amazing classes on offer. The month could include challenges, prizes, rewards or special promotions such as bringing a friend for free. 
  • Technique month. Dedicate a month to promoting great technique in all classes. This may include running special classes which focus entirely on good technique or having an extra instructor in selected classes who check and correct technique. Short YouTube clips demonstrating good technique are a great way of letting members know what to aspire to. 
  • Class of the month. Feature one style of class each month and invite members to bring a friend for free to that class. Selecting a class which might not be lagging numbers-wise is a great way of increasing attendance and awareness of the class. 

Marketing for promotions 

For any of these promotions to be a success, it is vital that they are shouted from the rooftops! Some gyms have a marketing team to work on promotions, while many others do not – in which case it will most likely fall to you, the GFM, or the instructors. 
Aim to market the promotions using the following mediums – the more, the merrier: 
  • Social media. Group fitness posts should be featured weekly on Facebook and Instagram, as well as on Twitter and YouTube if your club actively uses them. They should be used to advertise promotions as well as to inform members about timetable changes, class cancellations and new instructors. 
  • Multiscreens. Some gyms have media screens to display photos, videos and advertisements. 
  • Email. Some gyms send out weekly emails promoting the latest membership deals. Make sure group fitness has a presence in these each week. 
  • Blogs. Some gyms feature blogs on their website. Make sure group fitness news is the focus of at least one blog each month. 
  • Posters. Old-school, but effective, these can be put up in the group fitness studios, on toilet doors and in communal gathering areas. 
Social media, especially blogs and online videos, allow events, successes and services to be shared with not only your immediate customers, but the wider world. This sort of storytelling and sharing of success is essentially free and should be a big part of your day-to-day business.

Promoting group fitness requires some thought and creativity. However, if done well, strategically timed special events, challenges and launches can lift the gym and its group fitness program to new heights, making it a force to be reckoned with and a serious competitor to nearby clubs. Start today, set up a yearly planner and map out the year ahead with exciting new ways of making group fitness the club’s best asset.

DO YOU NEED TO MAKE GROUP FITNESS THRIVE IN YOUR CLUB?
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Kirsty Nield is a Group Fitness Manager, instructor and presenter with over two decades industry experience. Passionate about making people fitter, healthier and happier, she has a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and is trained to deliver five Les Mills programs, Pilates, Gymstick, aqua and ChiBall.