First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page when I say best practices =>

When it comes to gym equipment, what’s the one thing every gym has in common?

<dramatic pause>

Every gym buys their equipment from multiple manufacturers. Matrix, Star Trac, Woodway treadmills, Iron Grip dumbbells, Keiser indoor studio bikes, CYBEX ellipticals, and hundreds of other providers. Have I mentioned I’m a big fan of RealRyder?

Now, when it comes to club fitness software, what’s the one thing every gym has in common?

<dramatic pause>

The answer is clubs only deal with one software vendor. Clubs mainly rely on a single vendor that provides fitness management software, member billing, collections, online tools, email, and even APIs (if they have one).

While I tell my kids that I am the best at everything, the truth is, no one person or company is.

Motionsoft can’t be everything to everybody. No vendor can. But why do we see this prevalent business pattern across the fitness industry?

I think there are four contributing factors:

  • Greed. This is something we are all familiar with even if you’re not in the fitness industry. Simply put, software vendors want to deliver as many services and new functionalities as possible regardless of whether they are a good fit for your business. As a sector within the industry, we all need to do a better job of taking time to conduct consultative sales approach. In addition, we need to be willing to refer customers to alternative providers that may be a better fit similar to what Motionsoft has done in the past with Mindbody. At a minimum, it’s about understanding what a club wants, what they need, and realizing that the best fit for the club may be a solution from another provider. If we’re going to help Rasmus Ingerslev transform our industry and create the best gym experience for members, we’ll need to focus on more than just revenue.
  • Education. I recently wrote about the digital IQ gap in the fitness industry. Just like the equipment club professionals spend hours testing and trying at trade shows, gym professionals need to take time to educate themselves on technology requirements, software functionality, door entry system compatibility and how these offering impact your bottom line and your members. Words like data warehouse, member retention, ROI, member lifecycle, website integration, and API are just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Price. Club owners all have one thing in common. They are all price sensitive. They all buy on price which is entirely the wrong thing to do. It’s amazing to think that the software we sell to a 50,000 sq. ft facility with 8,000 members runs the same software as a single location with 400 members! It doesn’t work!
  • The Seventies. A lot of great things came out of the Seventies, bell-bottoms, 8-track tapes, disco, and even the pet rock. Ah, but I digress. Most software companies in our industry can trace their roots to the seventies. Because it was so difficult to do recurring billing (the internet wasn’t even in a glimmer in Al Gore’s eye) most clubs would sell their lists to a single company to do the software and the billing. This left owners with only one thing to do: run the club. From these humble beginnings, the single software source was created. 30 years later it is still (unfortunately) going strong.

So what is the right way to buy fitness club software and billing solutions?

I’m glad you asked. Here is a list of questions to get you started:

  • When was your solution developed?
  • What is your pricing structure?
  • What is your fee structure for payment process?
  • Is it a requirement to process with your firm?
  • Do you have a member portal?
  • How do you access the software?
  • Can I see how many memberships were sold in a day?
  • Can you support program registration?
  • Will my existing hardware work with your solution (scanners and POS peripherals)
  • Do you support 24-hour access?
  • Tell me about accessibility? Can my staff access the software remotely?
  • Do you have an app that allows my trainers to access their schedules remotely?
  • Can I go paperless and have electronic agreements?
  • We work with Perkville. Do you have partnerships we can leverage?
  • Can I sell pro shop items?
  • Are you a full service firm? (ARM, back office, and collections)
  • Do you have a CRM solution?
  • Can I sell a guest pass online?
  • How do you handle security?

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list, its just a starting point.

My advice?

  1. Go beyond asking prospective vendors if they have a scheduling module and get into the operational aspects the solution will need to support.
  2. As you pull together your own RFP, don’t forget how this purchase decision impacts your members.
  3. When you go back to your current vendor to ask if they’ll match a competitor’s software price, ask them to walk you through their development roadmap. If the features plan is weak, its time to move on.

I’ll leave you a quote our co-founder Hossein Noshirvani often said, “The only piece of equipment in your facility that helps you get paid EVERY month is your software.”