As more boutique studios and high-end gyms enter the fitness scene, small community gyms such as YMCAs must work harder to compete for and retain customers. YMCAs and local fitness centers already have an economic advantage, but by adding even more value to memberships and sharpening digital strategies, it’s easier to stay ahead of the competition.

Getting Creative With Class Offerings

Specialty classes are a hot commodity in the fitness world right now. In recent years, strength-cardio combo classes such as Orange Theory and treadmill-based workouts like The Mile High Run Club have experienced explosive growth. With the right instructor, a modified version of these classes could easily be taught at a YMCA.

In addition, some gyms are partnering with boutique studios to share space. For example, in New York City, David Barton Gym partnered with a specialty cycling studio, CYC Fitness, to share space and locker rooms, and gym members were given a sizable CYC Fitness class discount. There may be situations when something similar could work for a YMCA or community gym. For example, every Friday a local boutique instructor could come in and host a free class for members.

Adding Value to Membership

If instructors are difficult to obtain locally, you might consider investing in a few Peloton bikes/treadmills or an interactive fitness mirror. These devices allow users to take classes taught by remote instructors (either live or previously recorded). These bikes, treadmills and mirrors might be too pricy for individuals to purchase on their own, so they could be a significant value add to a gym membership.

In general, adding value to a member’s experience is a great way to increase retention. Many boutique fitness studios don’t offer childcare or shower facilities, but since most YMCAs offer these amenities, the focus should be on advertising them. Make an effort to shine a light on your unique sense of community—whether it’s children’s programming, basketball leagues or holiday events. YMCAs hold a place in the community that extends beyond fitness.

Digital Marketing

When it comes to staying relevant and building a robust fitness community, digital marketing can make all the difference. Some of the most successful strategies include content marketing, targeted landing pages and paid search and social campaigns.

Content marketing serves the dual purpose of increasing brand awareness while also adding value for consumers. Content marketing can be anything from informative blog posts to podcasts to free workout plans. Basically, it’s free (!) content that can create brand trust and awareness, establish you as an expert in a subject and improve SEO ranking.

Also, take a look at your website content. Is it up-to-date? Do you have targeted landing pages for special events and programs? Most consumers research businesses online while in the decision-making process. Their first impression is often your digital footprint—make sure it’s something that will impress.

Finally, you should be running paid search and social campaigns, such as targeted ads on Facebook, to display what your Y has to offer. Facebook allows you to pick specific audiences you want to target, meaning you’re getting in front of the right people. This can be especially beneficial during the holiday season when you are trying to hook people starting their New Year’s Resolution.

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