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Can you remember a time before technology dictated every moment of your life? How you actually relied on face-to-face, or at least voice-to-voice interaction to make personal connections and build a relationship? You know, the good old days…Technological advances have definitely allowed us a society to build global networks and increased the productivity of most employees, but at what cost?

While these advances have made it easier than ever to stay in touch, this virtual world we live in can also be cold and impersonal, making it easy to forget that there are actual, live people on the other end of our communications. For many people, their “online persona” would behave very differently than their “real life persona” in any given situation. So how can a company build authentic relationships with clients and potential clients when the majority of their communication, at least initially, is via virtual means?

As marketing for gyms owners and fitness professionals, we are an industry that depends entirely on building and maintaining strong customer relationships to drive sales, sustainability and growth. Think about the leaders, the gyms that consistently have a deep membership roster, get the best reviews on Yelp, are recommended to others – these are the companies that put the customer first and those who don’t can not maintain a foothold in this economy – the competition is too great.

Your customers are your greatest asset and in reality, there is far less out-of-pocket expense to keep a current customer than acquire a new one. In fact, most businesses can expect to pay between 4 and 10 times more to gain a new client. But, it requires a conscious effort on your part to build and maintain it. [1]

Here are some tips to create and cultivate your customer relationships in this digital world:
  • Use social media to build authenticity with an honest personality – remember you are reaching out to and interacting with real, live people.
  • Respond to email inquiries within 24-48 hours.
  • Monitor your Facebook Feed and respond to comments with positivity.
  • If your business has been reviewed on Yelp, respond as quickly as possible to any bad reviews and offer ways you would like to fix bad experiences. Do not fight back – positive interactions are best. Respond quickly with a thank you to all positive reviews. Remember that for some strange reason, people trust strangers’ reviews on social media. Don’t discount their sway.
  • Ask for online customer testimonials – they help build trust in your gym while encouraging others to join.
  • Start weekly retention email campaigns to current clients offering encouragement, healthy recipes, announcements of new programs and any relevant “gym news”.
  • Reach out to potential clients through targeted email campaigns and/or optin text messaging offering special programs to get them through the door.
Non-digital means of customer retention:
  • Make an effort to learn every client’s name and at least one personal thing about them.
  • Greet every client, by name if possible, that comes through your doors and congratulate them for completing their workout when they are finished.
  • Create customer appreciation days – they’re keeping your gym up and running, you need to show them you appreciate their business.
  • Ask them what you can do to improve their experience. Make them feel like you care.

Food for thought: contrary to popular lore, the customer may not always be right, but YOU can always do right by your customer. Make an effort, build the bond – both in person and online – and enjoy more customer conversion and loyalty than your competitors.

[1] Hughes, Brian. “Is Trust Dead? Here’s How to Build Authentic Customer Trust in a Digital World.” Web. allBusiness.