Keeping Your Gym’s Services Valuable During the COVID-19 Closure

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Keeping a climbing gym valuable during the COVID-19 closures is possible.

By Manny Escalante

We are all in uncharted territory due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. During this time of gym closures, though, it’s important to stay proactive in serving your clients.

People came to your climbing gym to get fit, decrease stress, be distracted, have fun and more. Your climbers will still look to do all these things during this period. Smart gyms won’t just sit back waiting for the days to pass until they can re-open.

Stay on their radar. Use social media, your website and your email list to continue to provide them these outlets, albeit in different formats. Below are some tips to help you remain a valuable resource for your community throughout the journey.

For additional ways to engage your community during COVID-19, be sure to follow the Climbing Wall Association blog here.

 

Be a Fitness Resource

Climbers are like most athletes in that they can fall into the “trap” of just climbing, while sometimes ignoring other important parts of their fitness routine. The same is true for runners, cyclists, yogis, and bodybuilders. Now is a chance to switch up the regime. Help your members improve their fitness levels so they come back stronger climbers―and keep their memberships.

If you are still able to keep your staff engaged during this period, consider offering virtual exercise classes for members like the ones below. If not, consider teaming up with brand or gym partners offering the service and share the costs. Now is not the time to reinvent the wheel, and we are stronger when we stay together.

Classes to Deliver

  • Mobility and flexibility class
  • Lower body strengthening
  • Grip strengthening
  • Cardio circuit
  • Full body strength

Delivery Schedule

Depending on the number of trainers available, you can hold 1 class per day for 5 days per week (ie. Mobility Monday, Tough Grip Tuesday, etc.). If that amount is too much, consider releasing 2-3 classes per week. Keep your schedule consistent if you can, so clients can count on you and know when to look for classes. For example, you may release a new exercise video every Monday and Thursday at 10am.

Delivery Format

  1. Record a video of the class (at home or at the gym, if it’s safe to be there)
    • Upload it to YouTube, send clients the link
    • Upload it to your website, direct clients there
    • Upload it to Google Drive, send clients the link
  2. Use Zoom or Facebook Live to run the class in front of a live audience
    • Zoom will require clients to have access to your Zoom link. The free Zoom account limits calls to 40 minutes for groups of two or more.

Be a Climbing Resource

Not every climber will have workout equipment at home. Offer to loan out equipment to clients if it’s safe to do so for them to use at home (free or with a small fee/deposit). This can include weights, yoga mats, yoga blocks and similar fitness items. It may also include climbing hangboards, shoes for home gyms, etc. But first, determine if you’ll be able to ship the items, and please be responsible. Adhere to local “shelter in place” orders and other regulations that may affect your ability to share equipment.

You can also provide your members with virtual climbing resources. Send out videos, pictures and written stories to keep them informed and psyched about climbing during your gym’s closure:

  • What’s behind the walls, literally, at the gym (if you can go there)
  • What it takes to create and set a new route in the gym
  • Virtual photo album of the history of your gym
  • Knots every climber should master
  • Practicing anchor systems at home (in non-load-bearing situations)
  • What the difference is between all that climbing gear (“get to know your gear”)
  • Best way to pack your climbing bag or gear
  • What to take when you’re at the crags all day

Be a Human-Interest Resource

People like to learn about other people, especially during this period of social distancing. We also like to feel special and we appreciate exclusive access to information. Now is a time to scratch both these itches. Interviews are one way to engage your audience remotely and keep them connected to your gym community.

Best practice is to keep interviews to no more than 5 minutes. Ideally, you also break them up into chunks of short 30-60 second videos. Interviews greater than 5 minutes can be put on your website. You can then drive website traffic, which you’ll be able to re-target with ads down the road.

  • Members: why they love climbing and how they are getting through the closure
  • Owners/Managers: why they love what they do and how they are fighting for your gym
  • Routesetters: keeping the creative juices flowing when not behind the wrench
  • Local Athletes: staying motivated for postponed competitions
  • Partners: similar interviews with the staff and climbers of neighboring gyms or sponsors
  • Chiropractor/Physical Therapists: injury prevention when switching to home workouts
  • Nutritionists: best foods for performance when the shelves are running thin

You can also ask your community to send something to you. Ask them to send you pics or tag you in pics of their new activities, their kids or pets―anything keeping them sane and having fun during this period. Knowing you’re not alone makes everyone feel more connected, even if only virtually.

Be a Revenue Source

While your gym is closed, there are still ways to earn revenue, both for your gym and local community. Get creative to keep a few extra dollars coming in from the climbers who can afford to contribute.

  1. Offer incentives to pre-purchase memberships “today” or “this week”:
    • Run a 24-48 hour “flash sale” with aggressive discounts and limited supply. These flash sales are a great way to generate a lot of revenue in a short amount of time.
      • Pay 12 months in full, get 6 months free (limit to 5 people)
      • Pay 6 months in full, get 3 months free (limit to 8 people)
    • “Normal” membership sold at a slightly lower price
    • 1-4 free weeks added to “normal” membership
    • Free t-shirt
    • Free rentals
    • 50% off gear purchases
  2. Offer incentives to pre-purchase trials (drop-ins, punch cards) “today” or “this week”:
    • 2-for-1 passes
    • 12 visits for the price of 10
    • Free t-shirt
    • Free rentals
    • Discount off retail items
  3. Run a virtual 50/50 drawing where people are encouraged (but not required) to buy entries. Either you or the winner gets half, and you donate the remaining half to a local charity on the front lines of the pandemic (just be sure to check the legality of running a drawing in your area first).
  4. Sell retail items if you have some handy, and either ship them (if you can) or allow for pick-up once you open. Consider highlighting items for sale in your newsletters and social media posts. You can also package retail items with gift cards, or offer gift cards on their own.

Right now, you can choose to sit at home and wait for this to pass, or you can be bold, be brave, be creative and have fun. You need your climbing community, but right now they need you more than ever.