gym owner

First Impressions About Gym Members Aren’t Always Accurate

Sometimes it's fun to look back on our first impressions of gym members. Some were entirely accurate. And we definitely missed the mark on others...

Monica Hilton
March 6, 2023
First Impressions About Gym Members Aren’t Always Accurate
Sometimes it's fun to look back on our first impressions of gym members. Some were entirely accurate. And we definitely missed the mark on others...

It’s March Madness at PushPress! We’ve asked our community of fitness business owners to share their craziest stories. With every story comes a lesson that the gym owner learned the hard way so that you don’t have to. Sit back, relax and enjoy the shenanigans with us!

As gym owners, we get to meet a lot of people. They come from different backgrounds, they’ve tried a variety of workouts and let’s just say their personalities shine in various ways. From the moment they contact us to the time they become gym members, we get to figure out how - or if - they fit into our gym families.

Seasoned gym owners will tell you there are patterns. For instance, those who book appointments and don’t show up generally won’t last. Or, those who focus on price probably don’t know what other questions to ask.

But all of our leads have one thing in common: Each one makes a first impression. For some, that impression is accurate and remains the same over time. For others, we find out that our initial impression couldn’t have missed the mark more.

Gym members each have a story to tell

Monica Hilton, owner of Together We Rise CrossFit in Indianapolis, IN has learned that lesson quite a few times over the years.

Here’s what she had to share...

The Stories:

I Hate This Music.

Early in my gym ownership days, I gave a tour that still sticks in my mind. The first thing this woman asked about was the music we played. She said she wasn’t a fan of the current hits on the radio.

“Too much sex and language,” she commented with an eye roll.

As we walked through the lobby, she asked me how often we wipe down the nozzle of the water machine. I thought she was messing with me. As it turns out, she was not.

When we talked about classes, she said she knew she needed to start working out but was pretty sure she wouldn’t enjoy the workouts. I kept thinking there was no way our member experience could possibly meet her expectations.

So I bluntly asked her, “Why did you choose to check out this particular gym?” She said, “I live right around the corner.”

When she left that day, I was certain she’d never return. But to my surprise, not only did she sign up the next day, she ended up being one of my gym members for YEARS. She fell in love with the workouts. She invited friends and raved about us on social media. Her daughter joined and they did classes together. She was always eager to give testimonials in our social media posts.

Unfortunately, she moved away a couple years ago but when I look back at the members that I wish I could clone over the years, she was one of them.

The Groupon Lady.

And then there was Julie. Julie came in with a Groupon. She was overweight and, on the surface, she seemed to hate everyone and every single thing we did. During her two-week discount period, she asked about gym membership pricing and how to get a better deal. Once again, I was convinced that her Groupon would end and we’d never see her again.

Almost four years later, Julie is one of the most dedicated gym members I’ve ever had. She consistently shows up five days per week, and does accessory programming and personal coaching. She constantly wants to learn how to get better and she signs up for local competitions to challenge herself. Her before-and-after pictures are incredible and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

Monica Hilton coaching CrossFit onboarding

A Few Bad Apples.

On the other hand, I’ve had several gym members whom I initially really liked. They were fun to have in class and I assumed they were good human beings. Then it came time to cancel, for one reason or another, and it was like they were completely different people.

I use membership agreements to clearly outline everything members can expect. So it always baffles me on those rare occasions where someone isn’t aware of the agreement that their signature is on. My favorite was the guy who told me, “All you gym owners are the same. Always nickel-and-diming us. That’s how you get rich.”

To which, I smile and think to myself, ‘I have news for you…’

The Lessons Learned:

At the gym, just like in life, you can’t judge a book by its cover. If you’re lucky enough to have gym members for years, sometimes they change. Whether by circumstance or choice, actions speak louder than words.

That’s a lot of cliches to basically say: Expect the unexpected. Ope, there’s another one. For the most part, people are inherently kind and sometimes they don’t know that they’re breaking a gym rule.

The woman who drops the empty barbell? She probably didn’t know. The guy who cleans up his equipment and leaves before everyone finishes the workout? He might have to pick up kids from daycare. You don’t know his story so be kind.

The guy who says you’re nickel-and-diming him to get rich? Okay, he’s a jerk.

Three Tips To Turn First Impressions Into Long-Term Gym Members:

1. Give Them The Benefit Of The Doubt.

Remember, first impressions aren’t always right. One thing to keep in mind is that when people first come to a gym, they’re often nervous. Sometimes they ask strange questions because they don’t actually know what else to ask.

CrossFit community is the key

2. You’re Making A First Impression Too.

Aim to make their first experience at your gym as comfortable and fun as possible. Even if they don’t end up being a good fit for your gym, make a good impression on them. Maybe they’ll come back some day. Or maybe they’ll tell their friends about your business. Also keep in mind: Everyone is fighting their own battles. Be kind.

Pro Tip: Connect with your clients on every step of their fitness journey. Book a demo today to find out how PushPress Grow helps you with everything from nurturing leads to celebrating milestones with long-term gym members!

3. Turn Strangers To Gym Fam.

Every time someone reaches out to inquire about your gym, picture that person being a long-term member. Visualize them showing up consistently and encouraging others in class. See them reppin’ your gym gear and referring friends. This will help you to see everyone - even the “interesting” ones - in a new way. Remember, they came to your gym because they need help. For some, it’s fitness guidance. For most, it’s accountability and connection, and this is your chance to be that for them.

Monica Hilton

Monica is our Content Manager extraordinaire for PushPress. She also owns her gym in Indianapolis, Together We Rise CrossFit, which she opened in 2014 and previously worked in IndyCar racing.

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