Today’s fitness market has evolved from humble beginnings until a multi-billion-dollar industry. As competition continues to increase and more options become available to consumers, only the fitness clubs that provide exceptional services and experiences are able to rise above the noise. In our Fitness Club Spotlight series, we are going to take a look at gyms and wellness centers around the country that are doing this well. Today’s subject: Throwback Fitness.

Founded in 2014, Throwback Fitness has won multiple awards and top-gym lists due to the simple fact that founders Ryan Wilke and Brian Gallagher have discovered a way to make working out fun. While other gyms focus on the results you can achieve at their locations, Throwback is dedicated to the customer experience. Let’s take a look at how this focus on the customer has helped them create one of the most unique exercise experiences in the country.

throwback fitness

The story of Throwback Fitness

Throwback Fitness began with a simple idea: to recreate the feeling of group gym classes and recess from the days before kids even knew the word exercise. Most adults today see working out as just another thing on their list to be crossed off, but founders Ryan and Brian wanted to create something their members would look forward to.

By infusing their classes with teamwork, competition, accountability, and nostalgia, Throwback Fitness has been able to find the perfect balance of fun while providing a killer workout in the process. On top of that, Throwback Fitness plays music from the 80s and 90s in their gyms to enhance the experience and maintain a lighthearted environment. It’s clear just from their website that this is not your average fitness club.

Creating an exceptional customer experience

This is the reason why Throwback Fitness has received write-ups in Refinery29 and other sites: the exceptional customer experience. Customers are no longer interested in products and services as they are in a wonderful customer experience. In fact, one of the best customer retention strategies fitness clubs can employ is a focus on customer experience.

Through creating an experience that leaves members both satisfied and wanting to come back for more, Throwback Fitness is able to keep their existing members while growing their base. Instead of having to worry about members dreading the gym, Throwback Fitness members look forward to their classes the same way they would recess growing up. As it turns out, nostalgia is a powerful customer retention tool.

Harnessing the power of nostalgia

In reality, Throwback Fitness is only evidence of something many of us have already understood: nostalgia sells. There are countless examples of big brands harnessing the power of nostalgia to bring customers back again and again. Now, while this isn’t something everyone can do to the extent of Throwback Fitness, it is worth taking note that finding a specific niche that members connect with is an important part creating an exceptional customer experience.

For example, CrossFit has grown into a fitness powerhouse by focusing on a single issue that their customers connected with. While CrossFit made their focus fitness, other companies can do the same by lasering in on one area and doing that better than anyone.

What we can learn

Now, obviously Throwback Fitness is doing something right when it comes to customer engagement, as they are able to consistently fill their classrooms. In order to learn from their success, we need to take a closer look at their strategy and what makes it work. Next, we will look at three different areas that all fitness clubs and gyms can improve in order to maximize customer retention.

Finding your niche

As we mentioned earlier, one of the ways in which Throwback Fitness sets itself apart is by finding a niche and sticking with it. For them, the nostalgia of the 80s and 90s as well as of simpler days in school has been enough to keep them going, but what this mean for other fitness studios?

It all comes down to finding what sets you apart from other gyms and making sure your members know what that is. From your SMS marketing to your customer loyalty program to the signage at your gym, customers need to be reminded what made them choose you over the other fitness clubs in their area. As long as you can keep that competitive edge, members won’t have a reason to look elsewhere for their fitness needs.

Focusing on what works

The next thing we can learn from Throwback Fitness is to find what works and run with it. When Ryan and Brian first started creating an environment similar to their school’s recess, they likely didn’t know what they had. It wasn’t until others began to catch on that they say the true potential of their business.

When you are first starting out, you may attempt many different strategies to increase gym memberships. Some will work, and others will fail. Take these struggles for what they are and once you find something that clicks with your audience, focus on that. It may not be what you originally thought would work for you, but as long as it does, you should be trying to improve that area as much as possible.  

Keeping customers engaged

The final piece of the puzzle for Throwback Fitness involves their strategy for retaining customers which is simple: keep members engaged. Although they offer specific classes on their course schedule, dedicated members of Throwback Fitness can pay a flat fee to enjoy any of the classes available. The simple fact that they can offer this shows that they understand how to keep their members engaged, no matter what the class or workout involved actually is.

This should be a lesson to other fitness clubs: the specifics of your strategy are not as important as creating an exceptional customer experience. Your members will respond to the feeling they get when they enter your gym more than how much membership costs or what machines you have available. Focus on that feeling and you will have customers for life.