In the past two years, I have been contacted by two dozen companies, from start-ups to established manufacturers, who have technology products that promise to help club members with programming, motivation and tracking. These range from products that will automate, prescribe and record workouts to those that will provide an entertainment system and even allow users to customize their workouts. As the cost of technology declines, technology players are getting better at understanding you and your members.
The concern about technology has been how fitness professionals will view these products. In many cases, technology manufacturers have misjudged or assumed what personal trainers, dieticians and group exercise instructors want. In other cases, fitness professionals have strongly resisted embracing technology. Often, they don't understand the value proposition to them or their clients. Sometimes, the product or service does not fit into an already established programming model that they use. Many of the technology and software solutions are not easy to use or customizable for the trainer. In addition, fitness professionals are not comfortable recommending or selling service outside the scope of their practice. And at other times, the exercise protocols and philosophies are contrary to those of the fitness professional, who sees technology and software products competing for his/her services.
This last point comes up most often and shouldn't come as a surprise. Many of the early software and technology models sold to health clubs touted themselves as replacing or being a different, less costly service than using the services of a personal trainer. This first wave of products — and the way they were introduced — left a bad taste in the mouths of many fitness professionals. Quite simply, technology providers didn't take the time to understand the world and needs of the fitness professional in the club.
This was a fatal flaw. Fitness professionals have deep and trusted relationships with their members and clients. They are viewed as credible and are considered the gatekeepers of information for members.
Over the years, trainers, in particular, have been approached by hundreds of vendors to sell everything from nutritional supplements to skin care products. The rationale of these vendors has always been faulty. “This is a way to add commissions and revenue to you as a trainer,” they'd say. Translation: work less, make more money. However, a true fitness professional is committed to their profession and the well-being of their clients. For better or worse, they see the relationship ultimately being between themselves and the client. And for the record, so does the client.
Therefore, anyone selling technology products into a club must do several things to penetrate the club market. First, they must get input on the product and customer interface from trainers working in the field. They also must ensure the product is customizable by the fitness professional and client. They must train trainers on how to use the product, how to introduce it to their clients and how the product can be valuable to clients. Trainers must be able to reach a live person in the product's customer service department to help solve issues. Any software or technology product should be packaged as a total solution — not an “add on” sale. Every club employee should understand the value to the member.
Club members are embracing technology in every part of their lives. With the right product and support from your staff, they will do the same on the club floor, too.
Gregory Florez is CEO of FitAdvisor Health Coaching Services and First Fitness Inc., which was rated as the No. 1 health coaching online training service by The Wall Street Journal. Florez can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.