What Gyms and Personal Trainers Can Learn From Fast Food

An Open Letter To The Fitness Industry
from Joe Stankowski

There’s no doubt that our industry is growing, but from my perspective, it’s steadily growing apart.

Case in point: I’ve long been amused by the way “chain” health clubs resist independent personal trainers, but a recent event has really opened my eyes to the way in which the “don’t even look at our members” mindset is sabotaging our entire industry.

The details of my own ‘event’ aren’t what’s important here, but what we NEED to do – if we’re to succeed as an industry – is change the current way of thinking. All of us need to realize that we can be more effective (and profitable) if we understand how we work together as an industry.

The fast food industry already figured this out. Perhaps an ironic ‘role model’ for us to consider, but hear me today and believe me next week…

When it comes to fast food, obviously there’s always going to be competition between brands (and I’d expect nothing less), BUT a customer who uses one drive-up window is more likely to use ’em all.  Now I don’t have “scientific research” to back this one, but find a client who regularly eats fast food and then take a look at all the different bags, wrappers and empty fry boxes on the floor of their car and under their seats and you’ll quickly understand the idea that “a buyer is a buyer.”

There’s actually a synergy among this type of… for lack of better word… restaurant.

Think about it: if any one of the fast food joints can ‘convert’ a non-customer into a ‘fan’, the customer will likely put on a few pounds, begin to enjoy the ‘convenience’ aspect of the ‘service’ provided and/or get hooked on the fatty/salty/chemical flavors and preservatives. It won’t be long before they’ll find themselves trying the offerings of the drive-up window next door.

The cycle continues and now their entire industry benefits from a fast food addict. The customer will likely have his/her favorite(s), but whatever sack of calorie-loaded poison they buy today, they’ll inevitably pull out their wallet for their “competition” tomorrow.

What if WE could work together to get people ‘addicted’ to moving, lifting, running, climbing, rowing, pedaling and playing, while still retaining our own “brand” identities?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m every bit a capitalist as the next guy (perhaps even more so), but doing things as we are now, who really wins?

The marketplace continue to grow fatter, sicker and weaker while their expectations from our industry are dropping, yet for some reason, they continue to pay for gym memberships and ineffective “solutions” – for now. Here in Michigan, we have 65% of our population overweight and rank as the 11th fattest state in the USA.

If we can’t remove our collective heads from the space between our glutes, I predict the entire fitness industry will soon experience a shift very few of us are ready (or willing) to handle.

[There are always going to be those who succeed in spite of the odds being against them. I wrote in detail about the failure of gyms to produce “success stories” in proportion to their growing membership base in “The Power of Champions”]

Unless – and until – the big box gyms figure out how to provide more than “membership” for the masses, I’m hoping, for the consumer’s sake, they’ll consider ways in which they can work alongside ‘outside’ trainers to deliver the best possible experience for their members.


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