By Merideth Harrington, Special AFS Contributor

It might seem like having a studio or gym that has great classes, an outstanding equipment package, and incredible staff is enough to retain, satisfy, and excite members. The truth? Successfully acquiring and retaining members revolves around three pillars: eating, exercise, and education.

Think of these pillars as forming a triangle. If one side is missing, the triangle collapses. Exercise is only one side of the member-retention triangle, and in this day and age, excelling at one side of the triangle is simply not enough. To maintain as many touch points as possible, you must build out the other two sides, too: nutrition and education.

Nutrition and education programming can serve as strands in the “sticky web” that keeps members anchored to your brand. You may think they can figure out how to eat, supplement, and train on their own, but the massive amounts of information (and more importantly, misinformation) online make it tough.

Members are still woefully confused and ill-informed about how to support their goals through functional food and need sources they can trust. Providing nutrition and education support to your members can help them reach their goals more quickly, and leads to higher satisfaction and more consistent studio/gym attendance.

Unfortunately, attempting to craft your own nutrition support and education programming is overwhelming, dangerous, and in many cases unrealistic. The “exercise” side of the triangle probably keeps you very busy as-is!


So, where do you start?

Leveraging strategic partnerships is a fantastic way to round out your studio/gym solution. Sifting through potential partners, however, can be overwhelming.

To help you build your business, here are five things to look for in strategic partners:

  1. A strong digital presence: For any business, having a digital presence today is practically as important as existing in the first place. Choosing a partner with a strong website, social media presence, and content strategy will bolster your studio image, too.
  2. A science-grounded approach: With massive amounts of false and conflicting information available, the best partners will offer research-based solutions. Effectively supporting your members’ goals with science-backed, unbiased, and transparent advice is a must.
  3. Credible advisors: Check out your potential partner’s board of advisors. Do they have experience in their industry, and in yours?
  4. An expansive platform: A platform that covers two sides of the triangle is generally better than a platform that only covers one. Avoid a platform that only offers education or retail-based solutions in favor of platforms that are more comprehensive. Having fewer partners means fewer connections to manage and keep track of, and allows you to get the most bang for your buck. Ideally, your partner will bring nutrition products, proprietary technology, and education pieces to the table.
  5. Unique value proposition: All gyms and studios offer exercise. Education and nutrition programming can help you stand out, and add value in areas your competitors don’t have. Look for partners that stand the highest chance of actually helping your members reach their goals and make lasting changes. To bring value to each and every member, the best partners are able to play a part in personalized solutions. No one nutrition plan and one way of sharing education works best for everyone, so look for a program that can be tailored to the unique needs of each individual.

Hopefully, this post has given you strands to add to your “sticky web”, and ideas about what to look for in potential partners. Wishing you the best of luck in this challenging (and rewarding) process!


Merideth Harrington currently serves as a marketing consultant for Fitness Formulary and is also the Senior Vice President of Marketing & Product Management for GlobalFit. Merideth is a fitness industry veteran, specializing in growing revenue for start-up and early-stage health, fitness, and wellness companies. Her expertise is in sales and marketing platform development including digital marketing, customer acquisition, and lead generation, as well as identifying new opportunities for creating revenue streams for commercial health clubs and medical fitness and weight loss centers.

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