Keeping your members motivated is a key challenge you should be tackling in your gym. Why?
Let me first ask you this:
What is it you’re trying to achieve? You’re running a business in the health industry, and with that comes the responsibility of helping people live healthier lives. We all want people to exercise more, to get the most out of each day, to reach their potential. But you’re also running a business. You can’t live on motivation and passion alone.
But here’s the thing.
A motivated member is a loyal member. This is why micro studios are evolving into lifestyle brands. It’s what Crossfit gets it’s cult-like following from. Motivation works.
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Why is Member Motivation a Challenge?
Most gyms don’t have the luxury of a highly-trained arsenal of hyped-up, gorgeous-looking personal trainers that understand the fine tricks of branding. They might not have sufficient access to the target audiences that instantaneously flocks to sleek concept boutiques, or venture-backed marketing budgets to blow the competition out of the water.
In other words:
Most gyms are what they’ve always been. Brick-and-mortar service providers that offer a diverse set of classes, equipment, and additional amenities to attract and help the largest amount of people.
Motivating your members can be achieved in countless ways. It can be time-intensive. It can be costly.
Or you can be smart and do it efficiently.
The Science Behind Motivating Your Members
Let’s talk about dopamine.
Dopamine is a chemical that controls the brain’s pleasure and reward centers. It has a pretty large set of responsibilities, depending on which road it travels in the body. If it happens to function in the so-called mesolymbic pathway, one of the stops is the nucleus accumbens, which uses dopamine to predict rewards.
You know when you see a big bucket of ice cream, and you get excited ’cause you just know it’s gonna taste great? That’s dopamine.
You see, it’s not only the ice cream’s taste that triggers a dopamine release. It can start with the sight, or the smell, or even the thought of it. You expect the reward, so you put in the work – granted, the work consists of walking to the fridge, but every step counts.
There’s one small problem.
Most people aren’t intrinsically rewarded through exercise. They don’t enjoy running on treadmills or sweating their butts off.
So an external stimulus is needed. And because not everyone can afford a personal trainer or drill instructor to pull them off the couch, this is where technology comes in: by applying gamification.
What is Gamification?
Gamification is the application of game mechanics and game design techniques in non-game contexts. In fitness, it helps to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals. With the help of technology, you can gamify pretty much every boring aspect of your life for which you could use a motivation boost.
There’s plenty of examples of gamification in the consumer sphere already. The game Zombies, Run! gets people running by simulating a zombie apocalypse through audio cues, while Fitocracy uses “quests” to motivate their users.
How Does Gamification Increase Member Motivation?
Games play on people’s desires for social interaction, competition, achievement, status, and so on. By taking that into the sphere of fitness, you can support member motivation through games’ impact on dopamine level increases. And boy, do games increase dopamine.
So it’s actually quite simple:
By triggering the reward system (mesolimbic pathway), gamification stimulates continued action. It does this via three key elements.
- It gives people autonomy. You don’t tell your gym members what to do, but stimulate them to do it themselves.
- It adds value by supplementing the key goal (e.g. health, shape, weight loss) with rewards such as points, increased status, achievements, etc.
- It stimulates competence, in that game elements tend to reward members more as they devote more time to the activities. The resulting mastery over these activities further internalizes the motivation to continue.
How To Use Technology and Gamification in Your Gym
- Mobile app
A mobile app for your gym is the core of your tech stack. This adds ease of use and enables 24/7 engagement with your services. Without it, you’ll be hard pressed to implement gamification in an effective way.
Reward exercising! Create virtual challenges and offer rewards in the form of medals, badges, or even physical rewards, to increase engagement and member motivation.
- A Competitive Touch
Award points for every healthy action your members log in their mobile app, and share the results on leaderboards to stimulate friendly competition.
These are a quick and easy for members to track their activity. Wearables will make it easier for you to implement the challenges and competitions mentioned above.
Take it a step further and implement actual games into your club. With modern technology like motion-capture technology or interactive circuits, you can easily implement this in your club – via in-gym kiosks, for example.
A Final Word About Gamification and Member Motivation
Yes, external rewards are a good way to engage with your clients and to help them build up their internal motivation. The principle driver for your members is that they can see themselves progress by visualizing progression using external rewards.
But the long-term goal is to internalize that motivation. And for that, gym members will always remain dependent on expert and professional guidance.
This blog includes a contribution by Manon Taylor