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The Value of Group Fitness

Data, Dollars and the Doorman Fallacy

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Jeffrey PinkertonJeffrey Pinkerton

Group fitness is not often seen as a profit center, but it is a huge differentiator for your facility. And, when you invest in it, it can pay huge dividends for community, for connection and for the member experience. But, since it's not a simple line item on your profit and loss statement, there is a good chance that group fitness is viewed as an amenity more than an asset. If you view it as an amenity only, you're probably looking for ways to cut costs (and ultimately, cut corners). If you view it as an asset - with the potential of growing into a million-dollar department - you should ask yourself this question: how can I build on what we have, invest more and maximize the return?

Two Types of Members (The Data)

To calculate a dollar value for your group fitness department, you must assume that there are essentially two types of members in your facility – machine members and group fitness members.

Machine members spend most of their time working out by themselves. For them, working out is a disciplined habit at best and a dreaded chore at worst. They start a watch. They close a ring. They check a box. No social connection and no staff interaction. They've probably chosen your facility because it's convenient, or because it's clean, or because it's the right place and the right price. They ask themselves this question: Is this really the right place at the right price? If Yes, stay. If No, go search for a better place or a lower price.

Group fitness members spend most of their time in group fitness. Working out for them is often less about the expense and more about the experience. They show up early. They stay around after to socialize. They hang out with fitness friends outside of your facility. It's a high level of social connection, and by design, direct staff interaction. They've chosen your facility (or once they find group fitness, they've chosen to stay at your facility) because of the motivation, the accountability, the friendships and the community. They ask themselves this question: Is this experience worth my time and energy and expense? If Yes, stay. If No, go search for a better experience.

Sample Member Math (The Dollars)

You have 10,000 members.

Each member pays the national average: $50/month.

20% of your members are group fitness members.

That's about $100,000 in monthly membership value.

That's a $1.2 million annual group fitness department.

Misguided Math Moves (The Doorman Fallacy)

There are certain things about the group fitness experience that are impossible to measure with only data and dollars. I recently stumbled onto a podcast interview with Rory Sutherland. He is a marketing and advertising pro and author, and in his interview, he introduces the concept of "the doorman fallacy." It addresses the idea that one person has one role in an organization. For example, the doorman's job is to open and close the door, and that's basically all they do. But, we know that's not true. We know that a doorman of a nice hotel actually elevates the experience for guests. A doorman allows the hotel to charge a premium because it's a sign that the hotel is worth the rate they charge. The doorman is also the face that greets customers. They make conversation and greet people by name. And, even though it may not be in their job description, they often tidy up the entrance to the hotel, pick up the trash and ward off non-guests. All of those things are part of the value that the doorman brings to the organization.

Then, the hotel hires a consulting firm, and the consultants propose a plan: you can save a ton of money by getting rid of the doorman and replacing the job with some cool technology and some infrared scanners that will just automatically open the door. But, the fallacy, the mistake and misconception is that the person's role and the value that they bring to an organization is just one thing. That automatic door can't freshen up the lobby, greet guests or justify the premium charge, and it certainly won't invite them back.

Who's the doorman at your facility? It's your group fitness team. And, Sutherland's cautionary tale perfectly fits the role of the group fitness instructor. Yes, their role is to teach a group fitness class. Yes, it could be replaced with some technology that provides a similar function – it plays music and leads members through a group fitness workout. But, a great instructor does more than just teach a workout. They elevate the experience for members. They allow a great, social facility to charge more than the machine-only club down the street. They are the face that greets members by name. And, even though it may not be in their job description, they tidy up the group fitness room, are the influencers promoting your facility on social media, are the hosts for launch parties, the new-member onboarders for first time guests, the scouts for new instructor talent, and they are the personal connection that motivates and connects and invites members back. The value they bring is more than just teaching a workout.

And, if this doesn't sound like the instructors on your team... maybe you don't need new technology and a new automatic door; maybe you need a new doorman?

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Group fitness instructors are a key component to delivering an amazing member experience and should be an important part of your member onboarding and social media strategies. To learn more about a few of the topics in this article (MOSSA Metrics, Instructors as Influencers and Member Onboarding Strategies), visit our website and white paper library at

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