The language in the title leaves little to guess. We are collectively subjected to the greatest challenge ever! Despite all the media attention, lobbies, protest actions or visits by governments to sports venues, it has been no use at all... The government is pulling its own weight.
Our industry is on the brink and awaiting good news. Nothing helps to speed up the process on the way to full opening. I notice that in my emotions I have gone through different phases during this process. From optimistic to angry, from semi-active to resigned, everything has passed. In order to find out what the sentiment in our industry is like, ClubJoy recently conducted a survey into, among other things, the level of confidence in the future of our industry. It turned out that in a survey of mainly stand-alone fitness entrepreneurs, despite all the misery, the vast majority remained positive!
I studied at the CIOS in Arnhem. During the course of training, led by Hennie Bottenberg, who is known to the insiders, important items were framed twice in the theory book. This definition of mental stamina was one of them. The ability to resist the stimulus that forces you to stop your activity for as long as possible. In other words: when two athletes with exactly the same basis (weight, height, gender, training level, fat percentage, VO2-max, muscle mass, etc.) start exactly the same physical challenge, in which they are both equally well trained, it can still be the case that one of them clearly performs better. Mental stamina will be the decisive factor here. Where one gives up because fatigue strikes and the mind takes over from the body, the other can ignore these feelings for a while, persevere a little longer and hit the mark. Let this also apply to the present time.
I suggest that during the corona pandemic, we got into a game of mind games and see the effects this has on our industry. Although it is not a physical war of attrition, mentally it is. As an entrepreneur, you are challenged and tested to the bone. The question is: How do you deal with this setback?
Positivity still prevails
Within ClubJoy, the idea arose to investigate how the average fitness entrepreneur views the future of our industry. Is there still confidence, or has the mental battle been fought and is the towel already in the ring? We received 78 responses to a survey we conducted among clubs that use ClubJoy group exercise classes. This gives a reasonable picture of how the stand-alone entrepreneur views the current situation.
The survey shows that 70% of those surveyed remain positive, despite all the setbacks. It is something we also notice in our contacts with clients. Overall, the mindset of the average fitness entrepreneur is simply positive. We are all often in the "glass is half full" mode. We not only notice this in the intensive contact with our supporters, it is also evident in the investments made by entrepreneurs. Think, for example, of investments in virtual fitness rooms to extend training times and thereby increase the range, without direct consequences for personnel costs. A rather bold step, with all the uncertainty of today. But it is a choice that bears witness to courage and, above all, a positive world view!
Average 28% member loss
Among the respondents, the average percentage of lost members to date is 28%. This number has stabilised in recent months. In the last two months, the number of new cancellations has even been zero. The question we have not asked is how this percentage was arrived at. Are they actual cancellations (meaning members have left completely), or do they also include temporary stoppers?
The contacts I have personally give a totally different picture from club to club. I speak to entrepreneurs who have only 15% actual cancellations, but a much higher percentage of temporary stoppers, and I speak to entrepreneurs who have up to 40% actual cancellations.
In particular, those fitness entrepreneurs who have not offered compensation or the option of temporarily stopping payments will face the greatest challenge when everything is open again. Winning back 40% members from a disadvantaged position in a short period of time will be a hell of a job.
Will we be back on track in two years?
Another question we asked in our research is: how long do you expect to need to return to the old membership level? What do you think in relation to your club situation?
Over 40% of the respondents answered that they will need one to two years. A smaller group of 22% expect recovery to take longer, but think they will be running better than ever before, while 17% of respondents expect recovery to take less than a year. Figures like these just go to show the positive mindset among fitness entrepreneurs.
Only one answer was possible for this question. Respondents therefore had to give preference to one item. This shows that entrepreneurs mainly need three main items:
- Marketing actions to maximise recruitment of new members after the opening (31%).
- Concepts that contribute to fast cash flow (27%).
- Understanding how other clubs deal with the situation (27%).
The highest score is no surprise to me. In order to get back to the old level quickly or to surpass that level, well-functioning marketing is KEY. With short-term campaigns (summer slim in 6 weeks, top fit on the beach, fit after corona, etc.) you can get potential new members and existing members to invest in themselves. If these actions have a short duration, people are willing to make an effort and pay well for results. If you can reach a large group of people with these actions, it contributes to a fast and good cash flow. And that is what counts in the short term.
In particular, the need to understand how others do things is, in my opinion, characteristic of our times. The power of the collective and the need for cooperation are becoming stronger in times of crisis. Evidence of this is provided, for example, by the VES (Exclusive Sports Centres Association), whose collective approach has had an impact in addition to that of NL Actief. The VES campaigns have received a great deal of support. The crisis has increased the sense of association.
Finally, a small piece of PR for ourselves. At the time of the prevailing coronapandemic, we have been (hyper)active for our supporters. With the free use of FitSnacks.TV (24/7 online and on demand training) to free online events, from training budgets to royalty free music for online classes and also a 50% compensation on the license fees, we thought we were doing a good job. But above all, we wanted to know how our supporters view this. We received many nice and valuable reactions by phone, email and post. We are pleased that there is much appreciation among our supporters. After all, we are not doing it for ourselves! On average we received an 8 for our efforts, a score of which we are proud. I wish everyone a speedy recovery once we can go full steam ahead again. We are fully committed to developing partnerships with our supporters. Even if you don't have a business relationship with us, you are more than welcome to knock on our door to spar about the situation.We, too, are mostly positive. I expect that it is precisely because of this crisis that health awareness has increased and the government will increasingly stimulate exercise. Our sector will also benefit from this. Keep up the good work, stay positive and keep going full of energy. The mind fuck is almost over. Better times are ahead, that's for sure! #wedoenhetsamen
Author: Marc Neijland
MARC NEIJLAND is director and co-owner of ClubJoy, Virtual Training Concepts, Start2Move and FitSnacks.TV. These companies serve over 1500 fitness clubs in the Benelux, Germany and Switzerland. Do you have any questions or comments about this article? Please send an e-mail to ClubJoy.