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What does Farmville, and The Sims have to do with your gym?

January 31, 2013

I like my personal trainers like I like my next door neighbor’s dog or the guy who cuts my hair – quiet. I don’t want him to know anything about me. I want him to push me to be in better shape. That’s it. And guess what? I’m in the super minority. In fact, when you are looking to hire trainers, it would be smart to put part time trainer, full time BFF and psychologist in the job description. So why is this?

What does Farmville, and The Sims have to do with your gym?

First, let me acknowledge again that I am in the minority here. Most people like to chew the fat (see what I did there) with their trainer. And because they do, fat is exactly the right word. I mean would you pay your lawyer by the hour, and spend 20 minutes talking about the weather? Absolutely not.

But what got me thinking about this anyway? I mean I never drink before 10AM so clearly it’s not that. What got me thinking about this is a surprising fact I recently learned. That members who buy personal training have only a marginally higher likelihood of maintaining their membership. Holy face plant Batman! That just blew me away. Sure you will make more money off of them but the correlation between personal training and retention aren’t nearly as high as I thought it was.

And I recently learned why…the most important factor for a member to remain active is results. And the problem is that ROI on going to the gym for a member is actually pretty low. I mean to begin to see any obvious results will likely take months (long-term).

And here comes the bad news. Our brains aren’t wired for the long-term rewards (explains why people will continue to buy magic weight loss pills.) We want to be rewarded quickly and often. And if you spend 1/5 of your personal training time talking about last night’s “Breaking Bad” episode, you are quickly going to quit too.

Which gets me to my point. What can you do to solve the Retention Riddle? You need to figure out how to give rewards, give something before they see real results. And that’s where gamification, and social accountability come into play.

Gamification is just the cool kids way of saying make it a game. Like monopoly. Unless you are The Donald, you likely will never own real hotels on Boardwalk. But you can be a tycoon, if just for an hour, among your friends when you play Monopoly. Because our brains ARE wired to win games.

And Social Accountability is just the cool kids way of saying Keeping up with the Jones’. If the people in your immediate circle are doing something, then you are likely going to do it as well. If your neighbor has a nice lawn, the likelihood of you caring about a nice lawn increases exponentially. Not because you care about the difference between crab grass and king crabs, but because you don’t want your house to look like Oscar Madison lives there.

And here is the great part. There are tons of things you can do today in your gym to create fun games between your members and create badges (Who would have thought we actually do need badges). And here is the even greater part. If you do it, you will keep your members around longer.

And if that wasn’t good enough, if you want to learn directly from an expert about the tools you have available, join us next Wednesday for the tricks of the trade…and its free.

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