this time it’s personal…

In a globalised and technologically savvy world the need for the personal touch has never been greater.

'The customer is always right’ was the mantra in business for years. Now the truth is that ‘The customer wants true personalisation, not lip service.’

From a business perspective, personalisation starts with fragmenting your market from one size fits all to one size fits many and, ultimately, one size adapts to fit the complexities of each individual prospect or member.

Brand strategist Morgan Holt put it like this: ‘True personalisation is when consumers elect a preference and build products and services around their needs.’

The level of personalisation that is possible in today’s world is vast. Large international companies and brands are adapting, innovating and re-shaping to deliver more individual experiences with their products. Small businesses, such as many in the fitness industry, are therefore being faced with the challenge of keeping up, just to meet the expectations of consumers.

From websites remembering our purchasing history, to advertising banners that reflect our online browsing behaviours, we experience continual personalisation in the online world – whether we ask for it or not.

Examples of personalisation offered by the ‘big players’ include:

  • M&M’s that can be branded with your name, image and choice of colour
  • Nike’s online trainer customisation service NikeiD, which has seen the company cited as a trailblazer in fashion personalisation
  • Coca-Cola’s name-personalised bottles of Coke
  • Interflora’s online service which allows customers to design their own bouquet by ‘dragging and dropping’ images from over 70 flower and foliage options
  • Whisky Blender, a Glasgow-based company, allows customers to create their own blend from up to seven varieties of the spirit, and to then design their unique label for the bottle – all online.
The 30-second article
  • Fitness businesses now need to offer genuinely personalised experiences
  • Market segmentation allows you to more effectively target and service a niche group
  • Re-package your generic memberships into personalised programs addressing customers’ ‘wants’
  • Communicate with members on their terms, use their names and express thanks
  • Make members feel special!

Thanks to offerings like these – often enabled by combinations of big budgets and technological advances – the consumer now walks around in his or her own ‘Youniverse’ and has a growing expectation that all their interactions should be tailored to their specifications. And if you can’t tailor to them, they are asking ‘do I want to do business with you?’

So how does this affect smaller businesses, such as standalone gyms and personal trainers, that don’t have the capital or resources to personalise to the same extent as big companies? We may not be able to do what the multinationals do, but we can recognise this consumer expectation and we can create more personal experiences.

In the fitness industry, we need to ask two questions before we embark on a personalisation journey in our business. Firstly, how easy is it for a degree of personalisation to be achieved in your business? And, secondly, does personalisation actually offer any benefit?

The answers are ‘Easy enough’ and ‘Yes’. In fact, it is something we need to do if we are to get more people exercising. Here are some simple ways to make your business all about your customer.


1.Target the people you want to serve

Market segmentation is something the fitness industry does poorly. We tend to market to everybody. The problem is, if you don’t aim, how will you hit the target?

Today’s consumers are savvy. They are not interested in the message you’re broadcasting like a town crier on the street corner – they want a civilised and mature conversation with you. If you’re not talking specifically to them, they will quickly realise – and tune out.

If you want to attract a particular niche, understand that niche and then directly address its needs by getting specific and personal! Devote 70 per cent of your energy to providing proof of how you will help these individuals achieve their goals. Tap into what Robert Cialdini, in his book The Psychology of Persuasion, calls ‘The Law of Social Reinforcement’, by using testimonials from similar people, so that prospects can view a video, picture or written words and think ‘OMG! She’s just like me!’

2. Sell prospects what they want

As a customer I want you to sell me what I want or need, not what you want me to buy! If I come in to lose weight, sell me a weight loss program. If I have a back problem, sell me a back care program. If I want to run a marathon, sell me a run a marathon program.

The key to your future success is re-packaging your vanilla memberships into personalised programs that give customers what they want. This is actually very exciting, as it means your business will have a program for every single person that walks through the door. No one will ever be able to say that you don’t have what they need. Additionally, this will revitalise your team, give you a reason to approach ex-members and old leads, and even reposition yourself in a crowded marketplace where everyone else is selling generic memberships.

3. Give thanks!

Two of the most underused words in business are ‘Thank you.’ Add the name of the person you are thanking and you have a powerful statement that will create engagement and loyalty – but only if it’s authentic!

One of the most effective ways of breaking through the wall of communications that we all receive thesedays is with something your mum used to make you write to your aunty after your birthday: a simple ‘Thank you’ card. In addition to the ‘thank you’ message, the card should get personal by alluding to the member’s specific goals/needs/wants, and also mention when you will follow up and next have a chat with them.

A handwritten card is a rarity in 2014, so the care you have taken will be immediately apparent.

4. Speak the same language

Communicate with clients in the way they want to be communicated with! Firstly, ask them if they want to hear from your business at all. If they do, flag whether they prefer you to contact them via telephone, email or text message.

5. Remember my name!

Using members’ names in face-to-face conversations, when you write to them (via print or email), and in social media lets them know that you regard them as more than just a number. Seeing themselves tagged in photos on your business’ facebook Page or website will make them feel special and part of a community.

6. Use the data you already have

You have data on your members, so start using it to personalise their journeys. Challenge your software provider to step up to the personalisation mark by harnessing the data you have to create experiences appropriate to each individual.

In the UK, Nationwide Building Society software recognises the transaction that each individual undertakes most often. So, for example, if a customer’s most frequent transaction is a £30 withdrawal with no receipt, once they have entered their PIN, the ATM asks whether that’s what they want. This is true personalisation.

7. Offer ‘Members Only’ exclusives

Your members and subsets of your members want to feel special. You can personalise their experience with you by giving them opportunities that the general public cannot experience. It’s the feeling of exclusivity and discount that makes the real difference. Allowing your members to feel that they are winning is the key. In the UK, a survey by YouGov found that 35 per cent of consumers feel special when they receive an exclusive deal or discount.

It’s a smart move to meet prospects and members in their Youniverse. Today’s consumers are known for their fickle tastes and aversion to being lumped in with the masses. They want points of affinity in the products they choose. They want engagement. They want the possibility to customise and make the brand their own. Your role now is to explore how to weave personalisation into the very DNA of your business.

FitnessBiz Brunch will be discussing personalisation across Australia and New Zealand in June, July and September. You can join your local networking and education event by booking at

Club tech that’s getting personal

By befriending technology you’ll also get closer to your members and clients.

Preva from Precor

Precor’s Preva networked fitness connects people and technology to deliver highly personalised fitness experiences that enable exercisers to reach and then set higher goals. Using an RFID tag, exercisers can log on with a simple swipe, and for workouts outside the gym Preva travels with them via a mobile application, available for both Android and iPhone.


MYZONE provides real-time motivational feedback on screens around the gym during members’ workouts. User-specific feedback includes personalised, colour-coded guidance on effort (%Max HR), heart rate, calories burnt and points, and factors in personal information in the user’s cloud-based account. Workout data is automatically streamed to the user’s account where they can review, compare and share it.

Mywellness Cloud from Technogym

The mywellness cloud cloud-based computing technology provides a complete set of web and mobile applications that can be accessed from Technogym equipment and personal devices. Operators can connect anytime and anywhere with their customers while providing an integrated, personalised training experience.

GymBrand Apps from PulseTec

With members needing access to timetables, directions, special offers and ways to share their gym experiences with friends and family, they are increasingly turning to their mobile devices over conventional web sites. PulseTec Solution’s GymBrand club apps for members enables these functions, generating loyalty and additional points of difference between clubs.

Team Solution from Polar

The Polar Team app is designed to get the best out of your members by displaying the accurate, real-time heart rates of up to 40 group fitness participants on screen. Each exerciser wears a Polar H7 heart rate sensor which is linked to the free app downloaded to the club’s iPad.

iconnect360 from Ezypay

iconnect360’s Customer Relationship Management software enables you to get on first-name terms with your members, to know exactly what club activities they prefer, and to impress them by greeting them on their birthdays and celebrating with unique promotions. The system also highlights particularly active and inactive members, so you can either reward or encourage them accordingly.


Ezidebit makes it easy for members to stay on top of their membership and personal training payments. Transactions happen automatically through Ezidebit’s safe and secure direct debit system, allowing members to improve their budgeting and cut out late payment fees. They can choose when they pay, and from the account of their choice.


MINDBODY business management software personalises the client experience by allowing members to store their personal information, credit card number, class history and future class schedule on one page. The software also enables over 40 automated communications to be texted or emailed to members, from class and session reminders, to personalised thank you, birthday and cancellation messages.


Justin Tamsett, BEd is an internationally recognised thought leader who challenges the status quo of the fitness industry. His company, Active Management, has hundreds of clubs as members, all of which receive monthly education to improve their businesses.