There is no more powerful marketing that exists than word of mouth. Even with all the digital ad spend and the way that we see thousands of advertisements in a single day, nothing beats word of mouth. So what happens when that word-of-mouth review ends up being bad? What do you think it does?
You’re right: it turns someone who doesn’t know your brand into an avid avoider of your business. All it takes is one bad review to spread to dozens of people in your target market.
It’s impossible to be perfect, but we want to strive for perfection even though we can’t get it. Let’s find out how to make an unforgettable first impression and overall member experience for your new clients so they’ll sing your praises. Before long, you could be swimming in more memberships than you know what to do with.
Start With the Best First Impression Imaginable
There’s a science to making the perfect first impression. Well, perfect is relative because everyone is different, but as human beings, we’re not wired in an all-too-complex way. You can discern how someone will behave and act based on a few things, so let’s take a look at a step-by-step method to make a great first impression. This works for you, your desk staff, trainers, and even maintenance and more.
Whether you buy into body language or not doesn’t matter, because people do. Body language is effective, partially because we’ve been told it is. Look up any video or news feature about body language, and you’ll quickly find hundreds of millions of cumulative views. People eat this up.
That means you have to incorporate it into how you handle your first impressions. Here’s what to do.
It’s All About Appearance
Let’s face a psychological truth together: the way someone looks/their appearance greatly dictates how they will be perceived by others. It’s futile to think differently.
There’s a reason that we have certain uniforms and dress codes that we subconsciously follow to be viewed in a certain way. As a gym owner, you’re not going to dress like you run the T-shirt booth at a punk rock concert. You’re going to dress respectably and make it known that you’re the person in charge.
You want to be distinguishably different so that clients can see where you are in the gym hierarchy. Dress for success, and make sure you have the confidence to fill the uniform.
Mind Your Hands at All Times
Don’t cross your arms. Don’t put your hands in your pockets. Be aware of where your hands are at all times during conversations. Body language is important, and hand gestures can convey a different meaning than what you’re saying.
It’s okay to have your hands by your side. This can make you feel awkward as if your hands should be doing something, but this is just a random fear that pops into our heads during conversation. You can also have them crossed in front of you if you’d like, but never behind you. Make sure they’re visible.
Posture Sells Confidence, Confidence is Key
You’re the captain of a ship. Any time there’s rough seas ahead, the crew looks to you, and if you’re confident it puts them at ease. The captain controls everything.
The same goes for your clients, too—if they can see there’s someone confident in control, they’ll feel much better about approaching you and your staff with questions and concerns. That’s imperative to a good customer service experience.
Lead with confidence, be confident in what you say, and make sure you teach your staff to exude the same level of confidence. When they know there’s a kind and compassionate leader who will help them and answer their questions, they’ll be confident even during stressful times. Confidence is the stem that success grows from.
Make Eye Contact
Eye contact shows that you’re listening. It improves your ability to persuade, to understand people, and to improve the tone of a conversation. If a disgruntled customer approaches you and seeks a solution to a problem, making eye contact with them during the entire conversation is an excellent way to calm things down. Having solid eye contact in any conversation is important.
Let Them Lead
People like to talk about themselves, and that’s okay. Indulge it. Let them lead a conversation and practice reactive conversationalism: respond to and react to what they say. If the conversation is steered in a direction that they want, they’ll stay engaged and think of you as a good listener. You’ll have an opening in the conversation to relate what you want to talk about to what they’re saying, so if your goal of a conversation is to upsell, you can do it more effectively by letting them lead.
Host a Safe and Secure Environment for All Walks of Life
Part of CrossFit is being inclusive to all. This sounds simple, but the difficult part is letting people know you’re inclusive without being on-the-nose about it or sound like you’re pandering. Nobody wants to be pandered to. So how do you make your gym inclusive without shouting it from the rooftops and seem like you’re trying too hard? Here are some ideas.
- Market it: In your marketing, show people from all walks of life enjoying your gym. It gives the visual signal that your gym is a safe space for all. A smiling group of diversified individuals is a good thing for your gym.
- Make Women Feel Safe: Women do not go to the gym to pick up men. The men in your gym should understand that they have to be kind and courteous to others and not harass them. Make a zero tolerance policy and put it out for everyone to see. It will deter the wrong kind of people, and attract the right kind of people.
- Use the Word Safe: If you want to promote a safe space, casually use the word safe to describe your gym. The term “safe space” is widely used, so when you use the word safe in your casual conversation or in descriptive terms for your gym, it’s a subtle way to incorporate your positive gym culture without hard-selling it.
Do Everything You Can to Make the Gym Fun
Exercise can already feel like a chore for some people. The last thing you want your gym patrons to feel is an obligation. They should be excited to come to your gym for the experience beyond just getting fit and crushing their own goals. Here are some things that you can do to make your gym more fun for your clients.
- Weekly Games: CrossFit is fun, but you know what else is fun? Rock climbing, tug o’ war, and other fitness-centric activities. Maybe they’re not part of your everyday offer, but what about Saturdays? You could have a separate section of the gym that’s open on Saturdays, monitored with trainers, and of course insured, so that you can make it more fun for people to show up on their off days.
- Make Entertainment Available: Whether it’s tablet stands and charging docks in the treadmill space or a TV near the weight racks, do what you can to give people a little distraction from their hard work. For some, they’re only going to the gym because they’re compelled by results and not the process. Make that process a little easier on them.
- Only Hire Fun Trainers: Make sure that the class element of your CrossFit gym is taken care of by hiring fun, energetic class trainers. Otherwise, you’ll end up with stagnant class sign-ups and less satisfaction from your class members.
Build Professional Relationships With Staff and Clients
Building professional relationships means more than initiating a conversation with monetary value attached to it. In fact, the best professional relationships should exist in a separate capacity to money. Yes, your client knows they pay a membership to your gym each month, but they shouldn’t feel like the only reason you’re talking to them is about money.
When you express genuine interest in their goals, listen to their stories, and give them your attention, that’s an entirely different kind of currency. The same goes for your staff. Here’s what you can do to cultivate professional relationships.
- Speak Positively: Whether it’s to a staff member, trainer, or client, you must speak positively. You may already think that you speak positively, but it comes down to vocabulary just as much as your tone does. Keep violent-sounding descriptive terms out of your vernacular. Instead of saying “You killed that workout,” say something to the effect of, “You rocked that workout.” It’s a small change, but it helps you keep positive words in your conversations that match your positive tone.
- Show Appreciation: Be appreciative when you talk. If someone says something kind about your facility, make it a point to respond to it even if they jump onto another point of the conversation. Say “Just to pedal back for a second, thank you for your kind words,” and then move on to the next part of the conversation. People enjoy being appreciated even when they’re the ones doing something nice.
- Listen: To be professional, you need to listen to others. A professional relationship is a two-way street, so make sure you’re doing your part to listen to what they want to talk about, and respond reactively and accordingly.
Align Your First Impressions With Your Vision Statement
The first impression that someone gets from your gym should be positive, of course, but it’s not enough to just make it positive. It has to send a message to the person that this is how you handle your gym culture. It’s like storytelling—you’re giving a promise to your gym member from the minute they discover you, and you have to fulfill that promise.
Basically, if your gym culture and first impressions are great, they have to also stick true to the vision statement. Nothing is worse than thinking you have the right first impression only to find out much later that you were wrong and made a bad judgment call. Let’s talk about how to align your vision statement with your first impressions and a few practical examples.
- Transparency: Part of a member’s experience is signing up with a gym that they believe to be transparent. Your vision statement has growth in it, which may result in price increases in the future. Nobody wants to sign up with something they believe to be “shady” in the slightest. That means you have to be transparent about where your company is headed right from the start, whether it has to do with price increases, or how you’ll transform over the years. People love to be in-the-know; be open and honest and people will respect it, even if you don’t think they’re paying attention.
- Talk About Goals: Mention the goals you want for the individual user when you put out marketing material or talk to them during a facility tour. You want your prospective clients to know that you have their best interest at heart. No client is going to care (much) about the goals of the overall business. After all, they’re only there to focus on their fitness goals; that’s the entire reason they came into your facility in the first place. Make sure they know that their goals are your goals.
- Create and Nurture an Atmosphere: The atmosphere of your gym should not only be inviting, but it should be inclusive to everyone. You can tell a lot about a business by the way the staff makes you feel (which adds to the atmosphere), how people act while they’re in the gym, and just by being in the building. You know that feeling you get when you’re just among good and safe company? Strive for that to be the feeling your clients feel in your gym.
Members Aren’t Above Quitting After One Bad Experience - Do What You Can to Make Sure That Never Happens
It really does just take one negative review to turn someone into a lover of your brand and product into a vehement hater. Someone who will go out of their way to mention their experience with your gym.
Craft the best possible member experience you can and make sure you staff your gym with people who can help carry it out, and you’ll be on the right path for success.