Setting Up Forums For Local Businesses

(Eddie Hahlbeck) #1

Hey everyone, just so happened to stumble upon this website today. Love it when you find hidden gems on the web!

Anyways, I love using online forums/discussion boards and use a few different sites to engage people on various topics. A quality forum can be incredibly helpful and educational. Much more thoughtful and insightful responses than trying to communicate with people on social media.

My question is, do you believe that community forums can benefit local businesses to engage with customers? My main focus right now is gyms/health clubs. I find it surprising that many local gyms fail to properly engage with their members outside the gym.

Most gyms have several hundred to thousands of members which gives them instant leverage to create an online community around their member base. They also have a staff of trainers to help people inside the gym, promote classes, and upsell personal training. An online forum would allow trainers to better engage members/prospects outside the gym in a forum monitored/controlled by the gym.

I’m looking into the idea of offering a service to create online forums for gyms to better engage with their members/prospects online. This way people can communicate with other members and trainers on various health and fitness subjects (what to eat, how to stay motivated, member success, classes, equipment questions, etc…)

This would help tremendously with creating a better sense of community, increase retention rates, on-board new members, re-activate lost members, upsell classes/training, communicate with prospects, and provide an outlet for members to communicate outside the gym.

Was wondering if anyone has done something like this before and if they encountered any challenges or objections from the gym owner? Do you think gyms/health clubs would value an online community forum and pay to have it created and maintained?

This is an idea I’ve had for a while but would like to further test out it’s market potential. Would appreciate any input or ideas.


(Sarah Hawk) #2

Hey @Eddieh – glad you found us. :slight_smile:

This is very topical for me. I was listening to a huge debate on my local radio station about something very similar this morning, although they were posing it as ‘Tinder for workout buddies’. The idea is that lots of people want to exercise but the gym can be a bit daunting. I’ve been going to the same gym 6 days a week for 20 years and still only know a handful of people. I’d love the opportunity to have more of a connection with them, but the environment isn’t really conducive to it.

I think it probably depends somewhat on the gym (and the audience), but I can see merit in the idea – especially given the inherent gamification that goes hand in hand with working out.

Before jumping in, I’d research the potential audience and see if they’d be keen in the idea. That would give you a potential pool of founding members to prototype with as well.[quote=“Eddieh, post:1, topic:2308”]
just so happened to stumble upon this website today.

Out of interest, what were you looking for when you found us?

(Eddie Hahlbeck) #3

Great, thanks for the feedback!

What do you think would be the best way to research the potential audience?

I was thinking about doing a few small touches with each gym (email, direct mail brochure, or something similar). Then meet in person after a few touches (for local gyms) and ask for a meeting/presentation. During the meeting I would offer to conduct a survey to see if their members would see the value in a forum and if it would benefit the gym. If the survey comes back favorable I can use that data to close the deal with the owner. So I would survey each gym to see if they would be a good candidate for an online forum.

Also, you mention that it would depend on the gym and audience. What gym’s and audiences do you see using/benefiting from this the most?

As for how I found the site. I was on Reddit ( where I found a topic about forums/communities that linked back here. Found this forum from another forum haha :smiley:

(Sarah Hawk) #4

Literally talk to them. Ideally canvas people for phone numbers, and if that’s not possible, email addresses. Put together 5 or 6 questions (don’t keep them on a call for more than 20 mins) that establish what challenge it is that a community will help them to solve. Researching a potential audience is key in the success of any community. If there isn’t a need to fill, you’re wasting your time.

I think that you need this proof of concept before you even approach the gyms.

Women’s gyms spring to mind. Busy people juggling work and family often need an extra motivating factor to actually fit exercise into their day – committing to meet someone for a workout means that you have to do it.

(Eddie Hahlbeck) #5

Thanks, yea I’ll need to work on figuring out which key questions to ask and how to compile that into a report that I can show the gym.

I’m also unsure how this would work with franchise gyms. There are some single location gyms but there are also franchise/affiliate gyms. Not real familiar with franchises and I’m not sure how much freedom/autonomy these gyms would have in their marketing to have their own forum or if I would need to target their HQ.

(Sarah Hawk) #6

I’d try to establish

  1. What the biggest challenge or problem that they currently face around their membership is.

  2. How could that be made easier for them.

  3. Whether there is anything gym related that they’d like to be better at.

  4. If they need help or support where do they currently go to get it.

  5. Do they see potential for a community around the gym.

So that’s the thing. I’m not sure this is a ‘one size fits all’ kinda thing. Communities that thrive are those that are either lucky, or a carefully tailored to fill a need.

(Nick Emmett) #7

Hi @Eddieh, welcome and great that you “stumbled upon” us here! I hope to see more of your thoughts and questions in the future.

I agree with @HAWK in that you need to get your proof of concept nailed before taking it to the gyms. My experience of gyms (speaking who used to be a regular but switched to training solely outdoors) is that a lot of people in individual gyms often came to train alone, or with a buddy, and not particularly looking for social interaction - some, not everyone. Unlike say a CrossFit box, where there’s a high social element. Perhaps another way to look at this was rather than communities based around specific gyms, local based communtiies for fitness people, then you could pool members from across all the gyms in the area. The instructors from the gyms would no doubt make good contributors. But still - work would be needed to make sure there’s a need before you spend too much time for little or no return. What exists currently for fitness enthusiasts? I know there’s communities at places such as FitBit (Global), @Nike+ (Global), @Strava and RunningBug (Also Global) etc, not so much on a local level probably.

Just a few thoughts.
Keep us informed on your thoughts and any more questions you have, or if you have something to throw out here and sound us out.