Case Study

Anytime Fitness is probably one of the biggest success stories of the last decade in the health & fitness industry. They have started only 12 years ago; yet today they serve in about 2500 locations in 20 countries. The company is still private but it's rumoured to see $500MM in annual revenues. They are the number 1 in Entrepreneur's Franchise 500 list with a franchisee startup cost as little as $80K.

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When asked about the secret sauce of their success, Chuck Runyon, the charismatic CEO and co-founder  of the company responds with two of their principles:

  1. Convenience
  2. Atmosphere

and goes on to explain: "Customers love our culture. It's convenient and non-intimidating. Our biggest competitor is actually not other gyms. It's the intimidation people feel at other workout facilities."

Mr. Runyon gets it. By reducing the intimidation factor and elevating the social experience at their clubs, Anytime Fitness has been able to increase their member retention rates at unprecedented rates, hence improved their number of members, revenues and profits  continuously.

 

The Key To Success: Anytime Health

I do think the virtual component is becoming more important. Look how Blockbuster was obliterated by Redbox and Netflix. Will people need a health club in 10 years? Or will they be looking online for a coach?
— Chuck Runyon, CEO of Anytime Fitness

The key to this success is the virtual components of Anytime Fitness; Anytime Health is a member portal and private social network dedicated to AF club members. The site offers standard GymGroups features;

  • Social interactions between members and trainers.
  • Online & mobile personal training
  • Educational content, 
  • Member dashboard and gamification with meal planning, goal tracking.
  • Member forums, calendars, groups.

These features elevate the sense of community, tribe and camaraderie within the club. Members can see the value of the club even at times when they can't participate classes due to injury or busy schedule, yet decide to remain a member, because Anytime Fitness is not only a bunch of machines, it's a community, it's an exclusive club that they're a part of. This online component is what makes them not mind paying 20 bucks a month even if they can't attend the gym. And this small change of behavior is what makes Anytime Fitness wildly popular and successful with unprecedented member retention rates in the health & fitness industry.

BONUS MATERIAL: HOW NOT TO DO SOCIAL

While public social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube are good vehicles to reach new customers, you should never consider these vehicles as the social home of your members. After all, anybody can join these channels, so none of your conversations can be private and genuine. What you need is a private social network exclusive to your members and loved ones where they can interact with each other, communicate with their trainers, consume content and your calendars. 

In this age of mobile componentization where even Facebook itself creates a mobile app for each of their functions or products (Messenger, Newsfeed, Groups, Pages) it is impossible for you to grab the attention of your members in their busy newsfeed as one of the hundreds of newsfeed items they see on a daily basis. And frankly, who would prefer clicking your spammy marketing material rather than checking out the photos of their best friend's baby, or last night's house party.

Don't forget, according to Kissmetrics, an average Facebook member is connected to more than 80 groups, pages, events ibesides hundreds of friends that they already have. And this numbers keeps growing everyday (the Kissmetrics research was made in 2012!). This means your messages will barely reach your members' newsfeeds; Facebook's EdgeRank is selective in what messages are shown on an individual's newsfeed.

Nevertheless, even in the hypothetical scenario where you could bring all your members together on a Facebook Page, would that really be what you want, or would that really be a smart investment of your time and resources? After all, all Facebook Pages are easily targetable by advertising. Therefore, creating a Facebook Page with the list of your members is no different than putting your database of members public on Google and let others steal them with discounts and promotions.

 

With all due respect, this is not how you socialize your members. This is how your market your gym to new members. But its effectiveness on your members is a big question mark.

With all due respect, this is not how you socialize your members. This is how your market your gym to new members. But its effectiveness on your members is a big question mark.