If you run a studio or gym, you’re likely aware of the dozens of fitness blogs and online publications keeping track of industry trends. The problem is that every business has a unique clientele and brand. Getting out into the community to see what your competitors are doing, build partnerships, and brainstorm with colleagues is invaluable to growing your business. Here, we share some of our tips for staying on top of trends in the fitness industry.
MAXIMIZE THE VALUE OF CONFERENCES
There are so many fitness industry events each year, it can be hard to choose which is most beneficial for you. A couple of the biggest conferences are the IDEA World Fitness Convention and the IHRSA International Convention and Trade Show (note: you must sign up for an IHRSA membership).
While these are great events, if it’s not in your budget or schedule, you don’t need to fly around the country to stay current. Learn more about local conferences by making a list of all the convention centers within driving distance of your studio and visiting their online calendar. Look out for conferences that are focused specifically on the types of classes you provide, such as Interbike, to help connect you with other industry professionals in your particular field. If possible, we recommend getting involved at conferences and trade shows so that opportunities come to you, not the other way around. Contact event coordinators to inquire about setting up a booth, being a sponsor, or even speaking opportunities.
Even if you can’t swing a visit to international events (such as The Bali Spirit Festival), these conferences often post videos with their top speakers afterward. At bare minimum, you can get a sense of what’s trending just by researching the sessions and panels offered and seeing what piques your interest.
LEARN FROM YOUR TEAM
The more people you have working on your behalf to keep up on what’s trending, the better. Most major cities have fitness Meetup groups where you can casually get together with fellow professionals to exchange ideas. In order to encourage your instructors to do this, you can RSVP to one of the events and simply announce that you’ll be going if anyone would like to join. If it’s fun, hopefully they’ll opt to return on their own.
Continuing education workshops can be extremely helpful too. You can offer to pay for your employees to attend these classes through an organization such as the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Another idea is to turn an ACE webinar into a social event for your employees which includes free dinner, and possibly even drinks, as you watch the speakers and complete exercises together.
CHECK OUT YOUR MARKET
It’s important to explore classes at other studios in your area — not as a means of “spying” on your competition, but rather learning more about what’s going on in the industry and what’s being offered. Encourage your employees to go to a class that’s related, but different from what your studio offers. For example, if you do Zumba and other cardio-related dance classes, it might be beneficial for one of your teachers to have an intro to ballet class to get them thinking outside of the box.
Schedule in some time with staff for reflection on these experiences and brainstorming what could be an interesting avenue for your business. Make it fun and social, but keep questions in mind as you all discuss what you think is (and is not) trending.
BE SMART ABOUT EQUIPMENT SPLURGES
Much of the draw for clients seeking out boutique fitness is the use of new, state-of-the-art equipment. Therefore, it’s important for you to stay ahead of the curve and make sure your facility is delivering on high-quality form and function. A good place to start for updates on the latest workout machines is the newsletters from your equipment distributor. But if you really want to be in the know, you can arrange a tour with equipment manufacturing plants to see machines before they make it to marketplace. This gives you face-to-face time with someone at the company to get all your questions answered. It’s also always worthwhile to visit the most high-end gyms in your area to see what they’re using.
Keep in mind that, while you can get state-of-the-art cardio equipment with all the bells and whistles, they may not be necessary in your studio. It all depends on the workout. If you’re offering a class dedicated solely to treadmill running, for example, you will want a solid, high-performing machine, but if your clients are rotating between treadmills and other items of equipment, consider saving your budget and investing in a less expensive machine. You can always upgrade down the road.
CUT YOUR LOSSES EARLY
Surprisingly, a primary way studios and gyms stay behind the times is by not letting go of ineffective ideas. You’re going to know pretty quickly whether a new class, teacher, or machine is working for your clients by the participation levels. Another way to gauge interest is through providing a free class or discount in exchange for a membership survey. It comes back to that cost-benefit analysis. There’s no need to keep a bunch of products or services around that aren’t resonating with your clients. They’ll prevent you from putting your focus elsewhere.