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Six Weeks Into New Year: Gym Resolutions Real, But Short Lived

by Michael Fast | February 15, 2017

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a curious phenomenon that occurs at the start of every year. I call it “The Influx of New Year’s Newbies at the Gym.”

You can spot the telltale signs of these newbies everywhere in January. There they are, moving mechanically on the elliptical machines, with that noncommittal, thousand-yard stare. Now look! You blinked, it’s February, and they’ve disappeared without a trace. (Personally, I’ve forsaken any vow to get fit in the new year because I don’t want to be seen as THAT guy.)

What a difference a month makes

Gold’s Gym, one of the country’s largest fitness center chains, annually declares a date in February as “National Fitness Cliff Day.” February is the month when fitness enthusiasm drastically dwindles, according to Gold’s annual check-in data. This mad rush to gyms – and the equally mad dash away from them weeks later – is so predictable that it got me thinking: there must be a way for the Marchex Institute to measure this.

One of the main ways consumers get prices and details about memberships is by calling different gyms.

As an analyst, I’m driven to answer life’s questions in quantifiable terms, so I started scrubbing our vast database of consumer to business phone calls.

I wanted to understand when calls to gyms and fitness centers spiked and dipped, which could ultimately quantify the spikes and dips in gym interest we see this time of year. It also got me thinking about actions that owners of these businesses could take to fully capitalize on people’s peak interest in getting healthy and fit.

After examining anonymous data from more than 800,000 phone calls placed to 500 U.S. gym and fitness centers between January 2016 to January 2017, the Marchex Institute found:

  • In 2017, call volume to gyms the week of the new year was 78% higher than the weekly average prior to New Year’s Day.
  • The interest in getting fit is short-lived.  In January 2017, call volume dropped off by nearly one third the day after New Year’s Day and then nearly a third again on Jan. 3rd.
  • February is when calls to gyms nosedive; in 2016, fitness centers saw a 28% drop between January and February, the most dramatic month-to-month difference.
  • October is when calls hit rock bottom, as the year’s biggest food-themed holidays loom.

Our advice to gyms: because there is so much call volume around the new year, take full advantage of this peak in interest by increasing click-to-call advertising efforts. Gyms should also add more muscle (pun intended) to their staff to handle the unusually high call volume during this time.  With each call comes the opportunity to gain a new member; nothing turns off a potential customer more than landing into voicemail.

Also, it’s no secret that scores of gyms rely on a percentage of members to fail at their goals. After all, what’s not to like about paying customers who don’t so much as leave a drop of sweat on expensive equipment? This lack of motivation helps fund the wear and tear those other gym rats inflict upon thousands of dollars’ worth of Stairmasters.

Gym dogs just use stairs

Yet here’s where gyms are losing out. These businesses could actually profit long-term by intensifying marketing efforts in February, at the same time collective motivation starts to die.

In fact, boosting advertising and marketing efforts throughout January and into February could help combat the fall in overall interest and help retain new members for the long haul. Getting people to keep exercising could grow customer loyalty in measurable ways.

If businesses can help customers stay fit and make a profit, that’s a win for everyone.


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