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The new Competitive Advantage……Education

Every club manager is always looking for a new competitive advantage over other clubs. Many of the organizations such as IHRSA, ACE and the ACSM are highlighting qualified, highly educated and knowledgeable trainers as a key trend within our industry for 2012-2013.

So why are ‘educated trainers’ receiving attention as being a key area? Well, in my mind, it boils down to two key areas – results and community; both for attracting clients and (more importantly) retention. Rather than selling membership based on price, many clubs are focusing on selling the results that the client is seeking (and then having the educated staff to deliver these results). These clubs believe that if a member is achieving and keeping their desired results, why would they leave to go to another club? One of the other key aspects for retention by these clubs is having members feel like they belong (the same reason why social media is so popular). Staff that knows your name, your goals, and other members that interact with you means your facility becomes more than just a place to exercise, it becomes a social community. Pulling you away from a community, in which you are an integral part, will be much more difficult than a gym where no-one cares if you come or not. So retention again will be improved greatly by having educated and motivated fitness staff that are focused on a service that includes unparalleled customer interaction.

To give an example - I had a customer ask me the other day “after I have installed our new functional area from Jordan’s, what is stopping a competitor copying everything I’ve done - equipment, flooring, colours, wallpaper designs – and then undercutting me.” Well put simply, nothing – nothing would stop a competitor copying everything you do. So, how do you differentiate the service or product you provide to your customers? The simple answer is your staff, in particular the staff that delivers your fitness service. Having highly motivated, well qualified, hugely knowledgeable (yes, it is different from being qualified…) is something that no competitor can replicate. It also is the key factor for member/client retention since it is these people that will ensure that your members are achieving their goals, as well making them feel part of your ‘community’.

Traditionally, the focus on having top class fitness staff has not been a key priority for certain clubs (I know many, for example, that pay the unqualified receptionists more that the highly qualified fitness trainers), but it seems that hopefully the tide is turning in this area.

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