Keeping your members happy isn’t just about member retention; it’s also about recruitment. When it comes to spreading the word about your fitness business, your members may be one of your greatest — and most underutilized — tools. Here’s a closer look at why your members are a key marketing resource, along with tips for maximizing their potential. 

The Online Marketing Imperative

Word of mouth has always been a powerful marketing strategy. However, in today’s digital world, it’s more important than ever before. Not only do people have more access to information than ever before, but they also have more options when it comes to the businesses they support. The conclusion, according to a recent HubSpot blog declaring happy customers to be the biggest marketing opportunity of 2019? “These changes have translated to a sharp shift in power from business to customer and resulted in dramatically higher customer expectations. Your customers are less trusting and less patient than they’ve ever been.”

A good website conveys valuable information to members and potential members. But at the end of the day, it only shows potential members what you have to say about your business. A growing body of evidence tells us that they’re far more interested in knowing what your current members have to say about you.

 In fact, according to HubSpot, just three percent of people consider marketers to be trustworthy. This begs the question, who do they trust? The answer is simple: each other. In fact, word of mouth friend and social media referrals claimed the top spot on a roundup of sources people use when making purchase buying decisions, followed by customer references. 

At the bottom of the list, meanwhile, are salespeople. This doesn’t mean that salespeople don’t matter. It does mean that you’re missing out on a major opportunity if you’re not using the people best positioned to speak from personal experience about your products and services.

Proceed With Caution

This doesn’t mean that putting your members to work as marketers for your fitness business is a slam dunk. Why not? It’s because you actually have to deliver the top-notch experiences they’re looking for in order to earn their online praise. Delivering on what you promise, therefore, is priority number one. When you achieve this, you not only gain happy members, but also eager ambassadors. 

Fitness business marketing manager Adam Olson told Club Industry, “These are people who are advocates for your brand, and it’s real. They’re happy to be at your club, and they’re letting other people know that. It’s authentic, and that’s really valuable to us.” 

Adds MemberTalk chairman Darin Alpert, “Having members speak for you provides validation and cuts through the noise of generic marketing messages.” 

However, encouraging members to post about their experiences online is also tricky territory. The operating word? ‘Encouraging.” Inviting members to share their reviews both via email, in person, and in-club signage is effective; however, offering review incentives is not only ill-advised but can do more harm than good when it comes to your reputation. 

Two women at a gym looking at a tablet together.

Suggests Radial Group president Leslie Nolen, “If you’re not getting plenty of good reviews, the problem is your club experience — not a lack of incentives. Plus, incentives usually backfire. People who want the incentive scribble something superficial that’s obviously not authentic. Prospective members aren’t idiots — they can tell who really loves you versus who was going through the motions.” 

On a related note, avoid trying to script or influence comments as these, too, can come off as inauthentic. 

Other best practices when it comes to using your members as marketers? Be sure to promptly respond to comments, positive and negative alike. You can also pull top comments from social media and post them on your website, with proper attrition and consent, of course.

One last thing to keep in mind? Not all posts will be positive. While this can be discouraging, it can also be beneficial as it gives fitness businesses a chance to improve. Concludes Alpert, “The benefit of getting them to write a review is having the opportunity to respond and fix whatever issue they might be having. If enough reviews tell you that you need to clean the locker rooms more, then that is an opportunity to improve.” 

Speaking of opportunities to improve, fitness monitoring technology has moved from the territory of “want” to “need” when it comes to gym member expectations. To learn more about how the AccuroFit System can help,  download the catalog today.