The Aggregation of Marginal Gains – How learnings from the British Cycling team can generate more revenue for your Health Club.

Before 2003, Great British cycling had been miserable, stale and downright disappointing. In the last 100 years prior to that point, British cyclists had just one gold medal to their name and no GB rider had ever achieved a victory in the Tour De France. 

That year, 2003, the Great British cycling team decided to appoint Dave Brailsford as their new performance director. 

What made Brailsford unique was his relentless dedication to a concept he coined ‘the aggregation of marginal gains’. Brailsford’s approach was stemmed from the notion that if you dissected every little area and aspect that goes into riding a bike, and then sought to improve it by just 1 per cent, the effect would be significant when you added all the 1%’s together. 

What followed was quite remarkable. Under Brailsford’s leadership and strategy, the GB cycling team won eight gold medals in the Beijing Olympics and another eight in London. They achieved further dominance in the velodrome at Rio. If you then also take into account Sir Bradley Wiggins’ and Chris Froome’s Tour de France victories, the impact of ‘marginal gains’ for Team GB can be considered colossal.

Last week I pointed out some of what I believe are the largest errors made within the industry. Today, I want to draw your attention to areas within your Health Clubs you might be able to improve by just 1%. If you do as Team GB Cycling did and aggregate all these gains together, you should expect to see a marked improvement overall. 

  1. Include HIIT on your class timetable

When it comes to adopting the ‘marginal gains’ strategy, first of all, you must assess why your members have chosen to exercise within your Health Club facility.

The unanimous reason why anyone chooses to join a gym or a fitness studio is to achieve results. While many of your members may have different goals, and some are more committed to achieving them than others, you can safely say that the common denominator is ‘everyone is looking to achieve some form of a result’.  

So if you can improve each members’ chance of getting results they want by 1%, you can expect to see a mirroring effect on your retention, so this is how to acquire the first marginal gain for your Health Club. 

One way you can help your members to achieve results is by having HIIT on your class timetable.  

High-Intensity Interval Training or HIIT involves short, intense, unsustainable bursts of physical activity, followed by small intervals of quick rests. This approach to training increases the bodies metabolism, reduces insulin resistance, improves cardiac function and produces faster gains in endurance levels. Unlike steady-state cardio training, HIIT also facilitates the growth of Fast Twitch (Type II) Muscle Fibres. 

Knowing how great HIIT is for achieving results, it should be at the forefront of your Group Exercise timetable.

Oh, and guess who else loves this type of training? Millennials – the largest generation of today, alongside Gen Z – the youngest generation! If you want to appeal to these cohorts more by 1% then include more HIIT.

If you want to know more about the benefits of HIIT I’ve written a whole article dedicated to WHY HIIT should be on your timetable, take a look here

  1. Maximise your additional revenue streams 

When you’re an ambitious Health Club Owner, it’s not unusual for one thing to continually pop up in your mind — making money. After all, you’re responsible for bringing in the revenue that pays your overheads on equipment, the leases on your property, and the wages of your staff. To be successful you need to profitable, so it’s no surprise that you may want to ease the financial pain by generating more money. 

A way to make more money is by creating multiple revenue streams for your Health Club. 

The types of additional revenue streams you can create are:

Personal Training Packages – If you have Personal Trainers, create packages rather than 1-2-1 sessions that will have a higher retail value. 

Nutrition Consultations – Consider hiring Personal Trainers who have qualifications in nutrition, so they can offer consultations to your members about their eating habits.

EBooks – Leverage your brands health knowledge by documenting it in a book format and allowing members to buy it as a digital book.

Small-Group Training – Transformation Courses – Take the 1-2-1 Personal Training Package to the group. Allow your members to attend a ‘camp’ together, taking on training sessions, nutrition workshops and bodyweight tracking seminars over a block of 12 weeks.

Body Metrics Tracking –  Work with a solution in your facility that allows members to track extra body statistics like Body Fat % for a small fee.

Refreshment Vendors – Many vending machines will pay you (the Operator) to gain access to their premises and give you back a cut of your profit. This is passive income for you and it will also benefit your members. It’s perhaps more cost-effective than you trying to set up your own juice bar, too.

Rental – See all that extra space in your health club or the facilities like Boxing Rings, MMA Cages and Studios not being used at certain times in the week? Rent them out to other providers and tell your members how they can get involved with the external partners.

Affiliate partnerships – If you find that a lot of members want a product or a service you don’t offer, like supplements, food delivery or wearable technology, make additional money by partnering up with a company that you can refer the prospects too. You get a kickback every time a sale is made through your web link.

App premiums – You may have a basic app, but what about a premium version which allows members to unlock more exclusive features like a library of home workouts or even a gym buddy app for members?

Sell more products – If you feel confident that you can stock more products and sell more products while keeping the profit margins high, then do it. Whether that’s merchandise, smoothies, protein or essential gadgets like padlocks, don’t hold back. Just be mindful that when it isn’t shifting, it’s having the opposite effect.

By adopting multiple revenue streams it will ensure any shortfalls in membership revenue during the slow periods of the year isn’t as detrimental. As well as soothing the pain over March, April when the sales start to dry up, having an array of products will also give you more authority as a ‘health industry expert’ over your competitors and it will also allow you to test other markets.

All these revenue streams could lead to marginal gains for your Health Club. You just need to make sure that anything you do offer represents genuine value and is not just a hashed together version of something you already have.  

See my article here on how to add value to Small Group Training, I believe this can be your biggest additional revenue stream, and improving this by 1% will be a big win for your Health Club. 

  1. Acknowledge your members on your social media

Let’s make one thing absolutely clear: your fitness facility needs a social media presence.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a national gym chain or a boutique specialist provider which is only dominant in one particular region, social media should be an essential piece of your marketing and member communications strategy.

The issue is there are too many Health Clubs forgetting why their members use social media. 

Your members are using Facebook to see what their friends are up to, not to be sold to. In the same way, they are keen to know what your Health Club is doing, not what you’re selling. With this in mind, the best way to share your updates is through other members stories, or as it is otherwise known – User Generated Content (UGC).

User-Generated Content builds trust. Think about it, customers have nothing really to gain from posting about your gym, it’s clear they genuinely enjoy their experience and want to share their love for your Health Club with the world. When potential prospects see this type of content they trust it more than a post coming directly from the brand itself. 

Another great advantage of using User Generated Content it is extremely cost-effective, you don’t need a big marketing budget, you don’t need to employ a big videography team, you just need permission from the member whose posts you use and a phone. Ultimately, User Generated Content encourages your members to do the marketing work for you, over time and at very little cost, you’ll have a content library full of members which is just what you need. 

If you do want to post your own content, aim to replicate what a human does, not what other brands who are struggling out there do. 

Read my previous post here on why human behaviour should shape your social media strategy. 

  1. Get Personal Trainers to buy-in on the launch of new products

I’ve already offered my advice on creating multiple revenue streams within this post. If you do decide to launch a new Transformation Camp, or a Personal Training Package, or an E-Book, it can either be the beginning of a special relationship with your members or a total shambles.

Launching a product is a vital moment for your Health Club that requires all the care and attention it can get.

If you look at just about anything you can launch as a Health Club, because it has to be aligned with your brand and it’s objectives, the chances are it will be a product or service related to improving a members ‘HEALTH’. With that in mind, the stakeholders (whether they are employed or self-employed) who should be most involved in the launch are your Fitness Instructors and Personal Trainers as they are your businesses leading ambassadors of HEALTH. 

In order to get your Personal Trainers bought into product launches, you need to make your company vision crystal clear. Show your PT’s where you are today and where you want to be in the future. Stress the impact the product will have and how it will benefit your Personal Trainer’s careers. 

Be clear what the role of PT’s is within the launch and show how you will be measuring their efforts. Here, you want to breakdown the steps to show how easy it is for PT’s to work with the product, and focus on how measuring the success is done to reward the PT’s, not to punish them. 

Nip resistance in the bud early, but if all else fails and your Personal Trainers are just not happy with what you’ve launched, don’t be afraid to change the change. This is not a failure on your part, but it’s a way of showing that you value what your Personal Trainers say. 

As Health Clubs launch products, they should have both members and Personal Trainers in mind, only if the two work together harmoniously will your launch be successful. 

Who would have thought it? By simply involving the people who will be delivering your new services the most in the launch phase you can earn a vital 1% gain for your Health Club. 

On that note, if you’re thinking of launching wearable technology into your gym? Read my post here on how to do it properly, here.

  1. Pay attention to your gym floor

My final marginal gain surrounds being attentive to the usage patterns and the general atmosphere of your gym floor. 

Studies have shown that there is an association between ‘equipment availability’ and customer satisfaction levels. When you think about why your members join your gym, this finding should not really come as too much of a shock. 

As we uncovered in point 1, attaining results is the main reason why your members use your gym. On a day to day basis, this can not be achieved if they don’t have access to your equipment, therefore the actual availability of the equipment directly affects the value they receive from the gym and ultimately their satisfaction levels. 

If you can see that even at peak times, that your 30 cross trainers are not all being used, consider replacing some and making better use of your gym floor. 

Of course, there are numerous ways to measure usage. You can employ a third party to do it or you can attempt to track it yourself through placing Beacons on equipment around your gym. Both involve an intensive amount of IT infrastructure, so I would personally recommend using a third party who have a wealth of experience in the field of ‘gym floor usage optimisation’. 

Like all things, prevention is cheaper than the cure. If you can maintain a happy gym floor atmosphere whereby your Personal Trainers strive to help members with their workouts, particularly in offering alternative ways of training when equipment is scarce you will likely improve your members’ satisfaction levels by 1%. 

My final words on Marginal Gains

So there we are, you probably won’t find yourself supporting a Yellow Jersey on the Tour De France podium any time soon, but the concept of aggregating marginal gains may be a practical, convenient and a fruitful method to employ all the same.

You might have heard about a Health Club who has been ranked as Europe’s fasting growing gym chain, you may have heard about a member within it who lost 70+lbs in a year. The truth is these amazing achievements are not stand-alone events, they are the sum of all the moments pieced together where either the person or the business chose to do something 1 per cent better or 1 per cent worse. Aggregating the marginal gains is what makes the real difference.

What are the 1 per cent improvements your Health Club needs to make?

Written by
Joe Hall
Joe is a content creator for eFitness Club Management Software. He holds a degree in Physical Education and Sport and Exercise Psychology, alongside an MA in Sport Business. He is a qualified Level 2 Fitness Instructor and Level 3 Personal Trainer and was the previously Head of Customer Engagement for a leading UK gym brand for 6 years. Nominated as an IHRSA rising star in 2018, Joe has got a lot to say on all things FITNESS!