12 Tips for a Thriving Gym and Sport Franchise in a Virtual World

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Wondering how to make the best use of available technologies in your fitness business? Here’s our guide for gym and sport franchises on surviving and thriving in a virtual world.

 At a time when many fitness facilities have been forced to close their doors, the uptake of technologies allowing for at-home workouts and consultations has accelerated rapidly. But how can you set up your business for success when the seemingly vital element of face-to-face interaction is gone? 

We’ve already released a guide on how to run a fitness franchise from home; here, we’re focussing on ways you can provide a meaningful service while using virtual tools.

12 tips for your ‘virtual’ gym and sport franchise

Look after your staff 

Your first thought might be your customers and how you’ll keep in touch, but before you delve into the planning process, take some time to consider your staff. Some might have just returned from furlough leave, and many are likely to be uncertain about what the future holds for them. It’s important to communicate regularly and work with them as you roll out your virtual services. You could even reconnect through a remote team-building session. 

Focus your communications 

Marketing content can become confusing and overwhelming if you try to cover a host of different topics through multiple mediums. Rather than firing off daily email, text and social media updates, be mindful and prioritise one message and one system. Why not create a weekly email newsletter to tell customers about any recent company changes and how they can use your services? Think about what they value in your fitness franchise and put that centre stage, whether it’s your friendly staff, intensive classes or inclusive culture. 

Explain your system 

Every gym and sport franchise will have a different way of working virtually. Be clear with your customers and let them know how they can access your services. Tell them what you’ll do to support them, and what they can do in return, such as signing up for twice-weekly sessions and logging their fitness results. If people don’t understand your system, they’re unlikely to stick around for long. 

Tailor your support 

Every customer is different and you can provide a more meaningful experience by making sure staff recognise the needs of each person. For this reason, it’s a great idea to organise initial one-to-one meetings to get to know new members. Then, personal trainers and other employees are prepared to offer a tailored service. 

Some of my clients are needier, so it’s an intricate balance between giving them enough touch points, where they feel cared for, but not too many that you’re over saturating them.OPEX CCP Coach Sam Smith

Consider customer concerns 

This year has been tough for most people, so crashing into your customers’ lives with a loud, flashy marketing campaign shows a lack of awareness. Of course, you’ll want to demonstrate you can offer solutions to their problems, but displaying empathy and a little concern for the current situation will help build trust. 


After months of home workouts, many people feel unmotivated and bored of their routine. You can encourage your members to feel better about themselves by sharing new and exciting exercise ideas. Why not post tutorials on unusual fitness trends or create themed classes? You’re only limited by your imagination. 

Create fitness challenges 

There’s nothing like a competition to get people up and moving. Engage your customers with fun challenges to encourage them to reach new personal bests and give them the chance to interact with each other from home. If you organise initiatives like this on a regular basis, you’ll also add structure to participants’ workout schedules, which should help them keep on track. 

Make goals attainable 

Endlessly pursuing a target that seems impossible to reach is a sure-fire way to kill motivation. So add smaller milestones along the way to help people see how they’re making progress. This tip is beneficial for staff as well as customers, as they’ll gain satisfaction from helping others achieve their goals. 

Stay positive 

Customers need support now more than ever. Your employees should strive to maintain a positive, enthusiastic attitude at all times. Being proactive and prompting customers to think about their next targets should also help keep momentum going among your business’s community. 

Celebrate achievements 

Whether a customer has just smashed a fitness goal or an employee has successfully navigated their first month at their branch, take the time to recognise accomplishments. A little treat can go a long way and help motivate people to tackle their next challenge. You could offer a gift like a free fitness session or just celebrate their win with a congratulatory social media post. 

Put existing customers first 

You may be keen to expand your franchise by acquiring new customers, but it pays to prioritise your loyal clients as you start offering virtual services. Fail to satisfy existing customers during this crucial time, and you could lose them and end up back at square one. 

Regularly review your tech 

Moving your operations online and completing the transition from face-to-face to digital communications is a time-consuming process, so you can give yourself a pat on the back once it’s done. But technology is always evolving, so it’s worth taking an in-depth look at your practices on a regular basis. You may find there are new tools you can use to make sure you’re always providing a valuable service to your customers.

Thrive in a virtual world

Running a virtual fitness franchise can have its complications, but with a bit of careful planning, you should be able to effectively support both your customers and employees. Rather than just replacing your old services, you may actually be able to improve upon your model and add real value when operating virtually.   

For more information, take a look at our informative guides to help you thrive in the franchise industry, whether you own a single business unit or an entire brand network. See our articles for franchisors or our resources for franchisees to find tailored advice. 

>> Read more articles on the Fitness sector

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