Club Insider

How to Sell More Memberships, Even When You're Surrounded by Competition

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Casey ConradCasey Conrad

Is the competition beating up on you and your salespeople? By far, the number one call I currently receive as a consultant is, "Can you come and train my sales staff how to effectively sell against competitor objections." Let's face it, the competitive landscape in the fitness industry is at an all-time high. Regardless of the market size, there is competition. In larger markets, there will be several of the big box national brands, one or two of the smaller franchise concepts, a YMCA, one or two independent clubs, personal training facilities, yoga studios, CrossFit, Orangetheory and any number of other boutique concepts. Some are franchises, and many are owner-operated. In smaller markets, there may be fewer players, but the landscape is the same; a lot of competition and choices for the consumer.

Of course, the price spectrum is extreme. On one end, you have the lowest cost competitor at $10 per month. On the other end, you have group fitness studios averaging $150 per month. In urban areas, you have concepts like Soul Cycle that charge upwards of $35 per class. For many operators, it's a day-to-day struggle to attract new prospects because although competition has grown, the size of the market buying memberships has not kept pace. This means that there is essentially the same size pie, but a lot more mouths taking out a slice. The weaker operators will naturally go hungry.

The question that I ask every club operator who calls for help is, "What is it that makes your facility and services so unique that the prospects in your market are compelled to join your place?" All too often, I get uninspiring answers such as, "Well, we have better service," or "Our club is so much nicer than the others in our town." My reply, "So what?" "Better service" or a "Nicer club" is a pathetic answer. More importantly, it has absolutely no meaning to the average prospect.

Think about it. CrossFit locations are in industrial parks, quite often are dingy and drafty, have no locker rooms and no amenities, but they are attracting 200+ people from that town to give them $150 a month. Moreover, there are a set number of classes each week and no traditional equipment. Clearly, the "facilities and service" aren't deterring these people from buying. And, although the CrossFit brand may attract a more serious, fitness enthusiast, there are many other knock-off models that appeal to an older crowd.

What CrossFit and all the other boutique models do really well is create a new market category. They appeal to a particular group of people and end up creating a tribe of followers. This approach allows them to break out of the mainstream of an industry and appeal to a niche that is willing to spend more money, even if it means there is less "stuff" in terms of the facility. Today, we call this creating a Blue Ocean, coined after the book with the same name.

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