Scott Gardner Shares Importance of Community Relations and Member Engagement
You went to school in Delaware for fitness management and exercise science. What is it about fitness that drew you in to pursue it long-term?
I always considered myself a healthy kid but in college, my health took a turn. I was playing Division I football and found out I had a digestive disease and had to stop playing. I saw how quickly a healthy person’s life could change after surgery or an unexpected diagnosis. My stomach surgery had me in the hospital for a month. It took a long time to come back from that downtime. I know how much the gym can have an impact on your life and getting someone back to feeling like themselves after a major life event.
At Retro Fitness, hearing the countless testimonials and stories from the people you help in the gym is what keeps me going. I genuinely like seeing people prioritize the gym, especially those in training because I know the difference it will have on their life.
What attracted you to work at Retro Fitness?
Finishing my degree, I needed a 300-hour internship as my final semester project. My sister was a member at the Delaware Retro Fitness and got me the application. I was doing everything from working the front desk, making smoothies, conducting gym tours, to handling customer service and sales. From there, I worked within a variety of Retro Fitness locations the franchisee owned until I worked my way up to manager. Then, I relocated here to Pennsylvania and helped open two more Retro Fitness locations in this area. I am currently the General Manager and Managing Partner for the Retro Fitness in Kenhorst, PA..
What kept my interest was the brand’s evolution and ability to keep up with consumer demands. The gym I started at in 2009 was one of the legacy gyms. When I first started, it was all about personal training and the $19 membership. Retro Fitness today is more advanced and has multiple workout experiences to cater to every fitness need at every price point. We have something for everyone, from our weight lifters to our 90-year-old women in our Silver Sneaker Senior class that meet three days a week, and everyone else in between.
The gym has a comfortable, friendly environment with a wide range of members from ages 10 to 90 and a healthy mix of both male and female. There is no need to harp on being ‘judgement free,’ as some other companies do; employees just treat people right and our members know and learn it for themselves.
How was it introducing one of the first OST (One, Strong, Team) locations in Pennsylvania?
The Retro Fitness in Kenhorst is the only Retro location within an hour’s drive. While the gym was one of the first to introduce the OST look and offerings, there was a bit of an adjustment needed as brand awareness was less dominate here than the other Retro Fitness locations I was used to. However, we opened in August 2016 and embrace the fact we were the only Retro Fitness in the county. We had to market well, and corporate helped tremendously with billboards and making sure people knew who we were and what we were about. It got easier after we built up our membership base. We have a great reputation as the community-focused gym.
I am at events every single weekend, including 5Ks, homecomings, tailgates and more. Our reputation is growing and people are talking about us. We make up for our lack of brand presence by being active in the community.
What tools does Retro Fitness have to keep members engaged?
Our MYZONE heart rate monitoring technology, which displays real time heart rates, calories and effort data is a great motivator for our members. This technology gamifies the workout experience, encouraging members to perform to the best of their abilities and push themselves to new limits. It also creates a social platform through the app. People are eager to share their results and it is free advertisement for the gym every time they do. It is also a retention tool because other workout facilities don’t offer the heart rate monitors.
We also use the InBody composition-scanning machine to track more long-term progress, especially for training. When members are investing in small-group training, they want to know what they are getting out of it—their ROI. With monthly follow-ups, we can show our members how far they have come and remind them they are reaching their goals. Whether it is gaining muscle or losing body weight, whatever their goal is, our technology allows us to monitor results and leverage the impact our training programs have on the body. At Retro Fitness, we have confidence our trainers will deliver results that have people staying with us longer and telling their friends and family about it.
Members are competitive, and I am proud to say I have a wall full of testimonials and everyone wants their story and progress mounted on that wall. We also have our Retro Fitness app where members are able to redeem their check-in points for free smoothies, personal training, a free month at the gym and can reserve spots in group classes. Members can even set goals or join challenges within the app. When I sign members up, I immediately highlight the app and its benefits.
Why is community outreach important to your club?
It is important because it is working. I know other gyms do not do it because the likeliness of getting someone to sign up on-site at a sponsored event are slim. The logistics behind getting people signed up immediately are difficult, but the exposure in the community speaks volumes. In turn, I see it have a huge impact over the next 3-4 weeks after an event. People gradually come in to check out the gym with the free passes I gave out. I do a fishbowl where I get their information by giving away one gift card for a free year membership. Then, I have my member-experience associate reach out to them and set them up with a free trial. Every time we put ourselves out there, I have seen multiple people come in and eventually join the gym. It also gives me more facetime with existing members when I see them out and hand them free smoothie coupons.
We have done everything from wellness fairs, to making our own float in the Halloween parade, a member BBQ tailgate cookout and even set-up a 5K sponsorship water station at the finish line with every water including a Retro Fitness pass. We have also attended homecomings and set up fitness activities. Anyone who participated in the challenge got a free month at the gym. If you want to be known as the gym that cares about the community it serves, you better be out there walking the walk.