Expansion is a logical next step as your health club grows. However, opening a new location in a new community poses some unique challenges. Every neighborhood is different, so community engagement strategies that worked in your first location may not work in a different location.
Robust community engagement is essential for success as your health club expands. You’ll need the community’s support to build up your clientele and compete with any fitness options that are already in the neighborhood. Let’s take a closer look at why community engagement is so important for health clubs and discuss helpful engagement strategies for your next expansion.
Why is community engagement crucial for a health club’s expansion?
Potential clients are incredibly discerning when it comes to choosing a new health club. Getting out into the community and meeting people is crucial to help find new clients and new fitness talent for several reasons:
- Builds trust – Many people prefer meeting fitness instructors in person before committing since they’ll spending so much time at the gym working out.
- Increases brand awareness – not only with potential clients but also with new fitness talent. Finding top talent is one of the most important parts of attracting new customers.
- Helps tailor services – each community has unique needs so opening a dialogue with the community allows you to hear what they might be looking for and change your offerings to meet those needs.
Be sure to provide multiple communication channels for community members, including opportunities to engage both in-person and online.
What are potential challenges in engaging with the community?
When your business is a newcomer in an established community, it’s going to come with some challenges. One of the biggest challenges is building a sense of trust with your neighbors. It’s not enough just to tell them that you value their opinion — you’ll also need to show them with your actions. Building trust also requires consistent community engagement over a long period of time, so make sure your community engagement strategy is designed for the long haul.
Another major challenge is fostering consistent community involvement. Your health club’s relationships with local community members will be most beneficial for both parties if communication is ongoing.
You’ll need to figure out what channels your neighbors are already using to communicate with each other and leverage them to generate long-term engagement. Some popular methods of communication include:
- Social media: Many people turn to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to discuss local happenings. In addition to setting up a page for your club’s new location, make sure you’re interacting directly with other local accounts. In particular, neighborhood facebook groups are a great way to interact directly with potential customers.
- SMS direct messaging: Once you’ve started to build up a client base, SMS messages are a very efficient way to keep in touch with them. They’re a quick and easy alternative to phone calls.
- Email newsletters: Email newsletters are another excellent way to keep current, former, and potential clients updated on your expansion. In each newsletter, encourage readers to respond with their feedback to facilitate open dialogue.
- Local forums: Apps like NextDoor have taken off due to their hyper-local approach. Look for apps or web forums that are specific to your area where you can post about your club opening and interact with neighbors.
Finally, you’ll need to determine how you want to manage conflicting opinions from members of the community. Neighborhoods aren’t homogenous, which means that different people will have different priorities for their local health clubs. Your team will need to be thoughtful when balancing conflicting opinions and determine the path forward that’s most beneficial for everyone.
How can health clubs initiate community engagement?
Robust community engagement will help your new club draw in both loyal customers and top-notch fitness talent. When engaging with your new community, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and be creative. Here are some of the most effective ways to get involved with your new community.
Host local fitness events
One of the simplest ways to give your new community a taste of what you have to offer is to host free or low-cost fitness events in the community. Think yoga classes in your local park or a group run through the neighborhood. Group fitness activities offer huge benefits for participants — studies have shown that weight loss initiatives are more successful when done in groups, for example.
Additionally, consider hosting events targeted to demographics that are often overlooked in the fitness industry, such as older community members or families. These events give potential customers the opportunity to try a workout before signing up for a membership, and they also show them that your club truly cares about your neighbors.
Collaborate with local businesses and influencers
Another effective way to reach your local community is to partner with trusted businesses or online influencers. The biggest upside of this strategy is that you can customize your partnership to suit your brand and your community.
For example, if your new health club is located next to a popular shop or restaurant, work with them to offer joint promotions. Partnering with other fitness-focused businesses is particularly effective, so reach out to local physical therapists, health food stores, or activewear boutiques to collaborate.
Additionally, consider working with local influencers with a strong online presence. Just one Instagram photo or TikTok video featuring your new club goes a long way when building your brand reputation, particularly among younger consumers.
Get involved with existing community events
In addition to hosting your own events, be sure to get involved with events that are already popular in your local community. This is one of the fastest ways to boost your brand awareness among neighbors, and it gives a unique opportunity to engage with them face-to-face. Events to check out include:
- Local festivals, concerts, and holiday celebrations: Get in touch with your local Chamber of Commerce to ask about sponsorship opportunities for these events. This will allow you to interact with the community organically.
- 5k runs, cycling races, and other athletic events: Athletic events are a natural fit for health clubs, so put together a team for your next 5K.
- Career fairs and networking events: These are a great way to find local talent for your gym.
- Community meetings and town halls: Have a representative from your health club attend relevant community meetings. This shows that you’re committed to the neighborhood and that you’re actively looking for feedback. Ideally, you’ll want to attend these events before your club opens to start off on the right foot.
Build a digital presence
Today’s consumers tend to turn straight to the internet when they’re looking for information on new businesses. In fact, 76% of consumers look for a businesses’ online presence before visiting their physical location. Supplementing in-person community engagement with a robust digital footprint will help you reach an even wider audience.
Start with the basics — make sure your website mentions your health club’s new location and that it is optimized for local SEO keywords. You should also have social media pages specifically for your new location, as well as a Google My Business listing.
Once you have this digital framework in place, it’s time to start engaging. A great place to start is by posting in local Facebook groups, as you’ll have the opportunity to have a direct discussion with local community members. Additionally, make sure you’re using location-specific hashtags on every social media page you use.
Build a long-term relationship
Continue to solicit feedback from your community over time, even after you’ve established your presence in the neighborhood. Communities evolve and change over time, and having a consistent stream of ongoing feedback will help you maintain positive relationships in your new neighborhood.
In particular, make sure to follow up with clients who cancel their memberships. Not only will this give you plenty of helpful feedback, but in some cases, you may even be able to win the customer back.
Use Wizehire to find top fitness talent
One of the biggest challenges of opening a new health club is finding top-notch fitness instructors and administrative staff. Wizehire’s innovative recruiting platform helps fitness clubs find incredible talent and streamline the recruiting process. Schedule a demo today to learn more!