Fitness professionals are some of the most passionate people out there. Many club owners, gym managers, personal trainers, and even front desk and floor staff are driven by the desire to help others become their strongest, most confident selves.
But that doesn’t mean the money doesn’t matter.
If you want to run a successful and sustainable fitness business so you can keep living your career dreams, you need to make it a profitable one. That’s why we asked some of the most experienced experts in the fitness industry about the not-so-secret strategies they’ve found to be the most successful in making their businesses profitable.
We’ve gathered exclusive insights and advice from Nick Hahn, our VP of Product, Chris Stevenson of The Empower Group, Greta Wagner, Executive Director at Chelsea Piers, and Jarrod Saracco, former COO of World Gym and fitness business consultant.
Here are their essential takeaways for how to make your fitness club more profitable.
1. Increase Membership Dues
Many gym owners are resistant to the idea of raising membership prices. But, Greta asserts, you don’t have to be afraid!
Membership dues are the biggest revenue stream for most fitness clubs. Raising your prices is one of the easiest and fastest ways to boost your profits significantly.
And you don’t have to worry about losing too many members over a price increase. In fact, according to a survey by StyleSeat, 66% of people don’t plan to cut their fitness spending even despite current inflation levels.
Greta is a firm believer that gyms should raise their prices annually and across the board. That means raising them for new and current members alike. She’s seen plenty of success with this at Chelsea Piers.
They’ve increased their prices by about 6-10% each year and have only lost 1.7% of their members per year, on average. Their average profit increase? Almost $20,000.
So, have confidence in what you offer! Members who value your service won’t be scared away. And you’ll end up with more qualified, price-resistant members who are willing to spend more money at your club.
However, you do need to be strategic about increasing gym membership prices. Be sure to research the pricing in your market, evaluate competitor pricing, and identify the price threshold for your demographic (i.e., how much you can increase before your target market stops being willing to pay).
2. Don’t Waive Enrollment Fees Blindly
One common strategy clubs try to entice new members to sign up is waiving membership enrollment fees. Jarrod argues that if your gym is running this promotion constantly, then there’s no longer any value or incentive to it.
You’re better off focusing on creating value for new members, he says, and differentiating yourself from the competition. Zero enrollment fees can help you do that, but only when used effectively.
For example, you can use an offer of waived enrollment fees as a bargaining chip to get new members engaged with your club right away. You might offer to waive the fees if they sign up for personal training with their membership too. Or agree to credit the fee back to their account if they check into the club at least 10 times within their first month.
Ultimately, Jarrod found that when his fitness clubs waived the enrollment fee, the average churn rate was the same as when they enforced the fee. So, why not collect on that money or use it to drive more spending or engagement?
3. Turn Personal Training into a Profit Center
Chris has worked with many gyms to help them build a robust personal training program throughout his career. That’s how he knows that it has the potential to be your second biggest revenue stream after membership dues.
According to Chris, you need two things to run an effective personal training program at your club—a great personal training experience and a great PT sales process.
Although many trainers have the great PT experience nailed down, they’re not as strong when it comes to selling that experience. So, your job is to train them.
Start showing your trainers how and when to engage a prospect, follow up with them, and close the sale. Train them in this right from onboarding, so they can feel confident and start making your program profitable right away.
And make sure you know your personal training penetration rate, or what percentage of your members are buying PT. That’s how you can keep a pulse on how effective your sales training is and whether your employees are providing the PT experience your members want.
Following up with clients and interested members is especially important for your penetration rate. According to internal data from clubs using ASF and/or Club OS, gyms who follow up with brand new members have a 20% PT penetration rate, on average.
You can also support the PT sales process by putting systems in place to help your staff with engagement and follow-up. This could mean automating personalized emails to go out at certain times in the member journey or categorizing members by engagement level, so trainers know who to talk to.
4. Know When (& When Not) to Add a New Service
It can be tempting to try to cash in on every new fitness fad that comes around. But those fads often die out as quickly as they rise. And even if they stick around, it doesn’t mean they’re right for your members.
When it comes to adding new services at your fitness club, Greta says you shouldn’t shy away from exploring, but cautions you to be careful and strategic. These are the questions she recommends answering before you make a serious investment in a new service offering:
- Does your demographic want it?
- Does your demographic need it?
- What’s the true revenue potential/what can you realistically charge?
- What would be the true cost of adding the service? (Don’t forget about hidden costs like floor space, staff training, and marketing.)
- Can you start small and test interest in the new service before you dive in completely?
As with any big business move, do your research first and be realistic. Just because you can offer more doesn’t mean you should.
5. Deliver a Great Online Member Experience
Everybody knows that to make your gym profitable you need to have a great member experience. But not everybody realizes that your member experience doesn’t start when someone walks in the door—it starts even sooner.
Jarrod likes to think of the member journey in different “experience zones.” The first experience zone? The internet.
More and more people are checking out gyms and signing up online these days before they even step foot inside. Data from our clubs show that in January of 2023, there had been a 24% increase in online joins since the previous year.
That means that your members’ experience begins with your online presence. So, make sure you have a strong one that’s consistent with your brand.
6. Keep Employees Engaged & Informed
We hear and read a lot about member engagement in the fitness business industry. But what about employee engagement?
Most gym owners recognize that it’s important to retain a satisfied staff. Not everyone realizes, though, how important engaging your employees and keeping them informed really is for your profitability.
Your team needs to know what’s going on at your fitness club if they’re truly going to serve your members. Knowing about current programs, specials, and other member highlights allows them to personalize their communication with as many members as possible. Giving employees access to club data can help with this too.
When it comes to employee engagement, Chris puts it simply—when your employees are engaged, they’re more productive. When they’re more productive, they provide a better member experience. And the better your member experience, the more profitable your club is.
And the data agrees with him. According to employee engagement research, companies with highly engaged staff have 21% higher profitability than companies with a disengaged workforce. Increased engagement also leads to higher earnings per share.
So, measuring gym staff loyalty and investing in ways to engage them will pay off in dividends.
ASF & Club OS: Your Partners in Profitability
Once you know how to make your fitness business profitable, all you need are the tools to execute. Together, ASF and Club OS can help you do that in less time and more effectively, making the road to profitability as smooth as possible.
Are you ready to take the first step toward maximizing your gym’s profitability? Schedule a demo to see how Club OS and ASF will help you get there faster.