Change is happening and the box chains are off to Jurassic Park
My theme this year for my keynote at the Perform Better Summit was that we all have to evolve or we will figuratively die in this business. Part of my presentation on this subject stressed that the chains are not changing and will continue to suffer dismal numbers because the product they offer is one that fewer people want each year. The chains simply refuse to move away from the membership model as their sole product.
One of the attendees at the event, which this year went over 700 in Chicago, told me that my premise was essentially wrong and that nothing was changing in the industry and nothing would change in the near future. The chains have dominated, at least in his head, for the last decade or more and that they would continue to dominate in the future.
I quickly grabbed his shoulder and spun him around to look at all the bodies still in the room, "Look, there are over 700 here this year, up by at least 150 over last year. Change is happening and it is happening from the bottom up and these people are the ones that will bring down the chain guys unless they grasp the future.Ē
Innovation and change seldom if ever come from the top down. There is always too much, "we have always done it this wayĒ mentality at that level and if the organization is over a few units most are frozen in trying to recreate the past instead of looking toward the future.
In fact, I wrote on Facebook that most chains spend all their time trying to make failing, 30-year-old technology and ideas still work while trainer/operators spend all their time trying to figure out what is next. One group lives in the past, the other canít wait for the future.
I believe that change is happening faster than most people realize, which is why I predict doom and gloom for the next generation low-priced guys trying to get into the game way too late. The consumer is progressing faster than the club chain operators are changing their concepts and while the new low priced guys are just getting started the consumer has moved on and is ready for the age of results, not more of the age of just price.
The evidence is all around us. Look at the popularity of the new fitness books, such as: Born to Run,The Impact Body Plan, The New Rules of Lifting series and Female Body Breakthrough. All of these are changing mindset and all are selling serious numbers with the consumers.
The sad thing is that if a motivated consumer camps out on the Cross Fit site, reads a few of these books, hits all the blog sites of the gurus, such as Mike Boyle or Todd Durkin, this same consumer often walks into a gym better educated than the trainer he meets. Even Mrs. Johnson, the fictional consumer I use so often, will watch Biggest Loser, read Womenís Health and walk into the club asking for services and equipment that they donít even offer. Even this woman knows that a club with one TRX locked up in the training room is stupid and bad business.
Further evidence can be found in the spread of Boot Camps and the other specialty offerings that challenge and excite the consumer way beyond normal club offerings. The consumer is changing; the chains are not. The consumer wants results, and many, but never all of course, are more concerned about offerings instead of price as long as the price stays reasonable.
My theme for the year is that any club, no matter how big, can become a training facility. The only thing that truly has to change is the mindset of the owner and the culture of the club itself. Yes, you can offer a $19 price and be successful, but you also need to offer layered pricing on top of that low number so more people can get help at a price that meets their needs, age, training style and budget.
In the typical box club, training still only represents about 5% of the membership. No matter how you state this number, we have failed. We can sell memberships but the harsh reality is that we have created a system so elite that 55% of the membership or more canít afford help, which is bad business and also asinine as well since allegedly we are in the fitness business not just the selling of memberships business.
The last bastion of stupidity of course is the standard training options that most clubs still cling to so stubbornly. One session is $75, 5 is $250 and 10 is $400. We have used this discount system in the past to show a lower rate in order to attract more clients. This is also why we have gone to 30 minute sessions as well, a horrible concept meant to show a low price and give little service.
The training mindset represented in so many training clubs, and now in many mainstream clubs that have gone through our workshops, has already beaten this system and that is what we have been teaching. It is not the price that needs to change; it is the number of people who share the cost of the trainer/coach that is the answer.
If you want energy and action, take group personal training/boot camp and pay a lower fee because you are sharing the cost of one trainer with 15 other people. If you want more help, but still like group dynamics, then take small group and limit the number sharing the trainer to 4 people. If you still want one-on-one, the take it but you will pay full price and not a discounted priced that ruins the integrity of the trainer and the club as well.
Change is not only happening, it is happening at a blistering rate. We are truly living and working in the age of the enlightened consumer who wants help and who is willing to pay for a program that fits his budget and likes, but doesnít want to be forced into a one-on-one situation that represents technology that is over 60 years old. How many 30-year-old people do you see in a typical box working with a trainer? It isnít the money the prevents them, it is the boring factor and boring your clients may be the biggest sin of small business.
This change is grassroots. It is in the small training club near you, it is at the park at the boot camp and it is the next generation club that is smart enough to figure this out now, not later. Jurassic Park was created for a reason: it is where all the chains that refuses to change go to die. It is worth saying one more time; you donít want to be the last club in the world still trying to sell nothing but memberships to survive.