[6 min read]
The general perception is that opening a gym is easy. Build it - get the equipment, provide the necessary facilities, open the door - and they will come - give you their money, and start sweating. In actual fact, this is not the case, and therefore this perception can be very frustrating to those with experience opening and managing gyms.
The industry is growing rapidly and ever-changing, so in order to give yourself the greatest chance of building a successful and sustainable business, you need to do your homework. This will ensure that your vision, and how you plan to execute it is relevant to the people you are trying to serve and differentiates you from the competition in their eyes.
To help you achieve this, here are 4 key tasks to complete before setting off on your journey to open a gym.
1. Define your vision
The fitness industry has evolved from your general one-size-fits-all type gym to a gym that will cater to your target member’s wants and needs - from big box to boutique-style gyms.
With this shift, customers now expect a more tailored and premium experience, and to be able to deliver this you need to clearly define your vision for the type of gym you want to create and what differentiates your offering so you can define the sweet-spot customer that you want to attract when you launch.
"... customers now expect a more tailored and premium experience, and to be able to deliver this you need to clearly define your vision... "
This will determine whether or not your gym is going to be accepted by your target customer segment and in the area you are planning to open, which leads me to my next point...
2. Know your local demographics
You may think you have found the perfect site for your gym... but if the demographics of the local population don’t fit with the vision you’re trying to deliver, then it's not going to work. To save yourself a lot of heartache, go online and search the demographics of your area - typically within a 6 to 10 km radius of your proposed site.
"... if the demographics of the local population don’t fit with the vision you’re trying to deliver, then it's not going to work."
You may have even grown up in the area and feel you know it, but stats don’t lie so it's confirming your assumptions is a worthwhile exercise. With the availability and accessibility of information, it's easy to see if the area is a good fit for your concept by conducting a Google search on the area or postcode.
When you’re searching think about:
- Male to Female Ratio
- Age breakdown
- Marital status - Married/ Single / Divorced
- Disposable income levels
- Unemployment rates
All of these factors will determine whether or not your vision will be a hit with the surrounding population and will help you answer some key questions in relation to your concept and offering. For example:
- Should you focus more on free weights and less on cardio equipment or vice versa?
- What types of classes you should offer?
- Should you offer personal training?
- Should you have a large or small group fitness area or even 2 group areas?
- Should you provide a creche/childminding facility in your gym?
A local demographic report will help you see the bigger picture.
3. Check out the competition
It's extremely valuable to know what your direct competitors in the area are doing and how successful they have been in doing so.
This is where you can get crafty - take a free trial in all the gyms in the area to evaluate their service and facilities. Take note of the:
- Follow-up after your trial / How long did it take? Was it by phone, email or text?
- Special offers for new members / Are they offering discounts to acquire new members?
- Their use of technology / What technology are they using? For what purpose? Are their customers engaging with it?
- Customers they serve / Are they the same as your sweet-spot customers?
- Sign-up process / Was it manual (filling out a form on paper) or using technology?
- Cleanliness of the facilities / Reception, changing rooms, gym floor, and equipment.
- Staff / What are they like? Is there a good atmosphere in the gym?
Understanding the competition will help you identify what you can do better in order to differentiate yourself. Which leads me to my final point...
4. Know the tools and resources you’ll need to run your gym
There are so many tools and resources available to make your life easier as a gym owner - some free, some paid.
- Marketing tools / to send an automated e-mail to someone who has just completed a trial asking if they enjoyed it and includes the offer of the month to entice them to join.
- Sales tools / to allow them to sign-up to a membership online and set-up a direct debit.
- Experience tools / to allow them to track their workouts, buy digital workout programs, and book a personal training session.
When choosing software for your new venture you need to do so in the context of your vision and your sweet-spot customers. Make sure you do your due diligence here because the software you choose to run your business is just as important as any piece of equipment you have on the floor.
"... the software you choose to run your business is just as important as any piece of equipment you have on the floor."
It is a reflection of our business. It looks after your marketing and lead generation, day-to-day operations, and your member experience. If done right, it can be a powerful way to acquire new members, retain existing members, and boost revenue. However, if it's not the right fit, it may not be adopted by your members and staff.
So don’t just go with what's popular. Give it some real thought and consider whether or not it's a fit with your vision and sweet-spot customers.
Opening a gym is not an easy task, the marketplace is highly competitive and constantly evolving. However, there are certain things that you can do before you start the journey which can increase your chances of success.
If you have a clear vision of what you’re trying to create and define your sweet-spot customer, you can then choose the location where those people are, evaluate the competition in that area, and define the systems you need to put in place to serve them and run a successful business.
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