The Experience Episode 4: Interview with Geoff Dyer

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August 31, 2022

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PUblished

August 31, 2022

Welcome to The Experience Series! We are here to give the health and wellness industry a platform to learn and share strategies for member experience. In this fourth episode, we’ll be discussing how:  

  • Geoff and Daron grew their businesses together as partners  
  • Success starts at the check-in station
  • The member experience should be cohesive and digital
  • Digital registration protects you from risk
  • Strong supporters help you succeed  
  • The fitness industry changes lives

Join industry experts Nick Thornton and Daron Allen, and special guest Geoff Dyer, as they share industry voices, trends, and how to implement the best member experience.

Episode Transcription

Daron Allen: Well, welcome everybody to The Experience podcast where we discuss fitness industry trends and host industry experts with invaluable insights all around the topic of the member experience. My name’s Daron Allen and I’m here with my co-host Nick Thornton. Today we are hosting industry icon Geoff Dyer.

If you don’t know Geoff, you should. Geoff is the founder and president of three amazing brands: Lifestyle Family Fitness, AussieFit, and then now he’s one of the largest franchisees in the Crunch Fitness business with over 40 locations and growing. Along the way, he was also President Chairman and Chairman of the board for IHRSA.

And he’s just one of the nicest, most giving people in the history of the fitness industry. I just am so thankful to have you here with us [today, Geoff]. I’m just really thankful to have you on the podcast with us today.

Geoff Dyer: Thank you, Daron. And congratulations to you for all that you’ve done for the industry and your recent recognition for being the leading CRM platform at IHRSA. That was a great award for you. And thank you for everything you’ve done to make life better for us as well.

Daron Allen: Well, thank you.

Nick Thornton: That’s fantastic, both of you. It’s fun to in a way get to ride on the coattails of this conversation, Geoff, with Daron. It was interesting, Daron and I were chatting the other day and he said, “Oh, we’ve got to talk to Geoff Dyer.”

He was like, “Nick, you’ve got to meet this guy.” And so when he and I were sitting down yesterday, [we asked] how do we really introduce Geoff to this? I said, you know, what’s really important is how did you and Daron really get to know one another? And what was that thing that caused you all to begin to work together back in the day?  

Geoff and Daron Grew Their Businesses Together as Partners

Geoff Dyer: Yeah, well I think we met in the late 90s, Daron. I don’t know if you remember the year exactly, but I know that I had Lifestyle Family Fitness back then, and we had about seven or eight clubs back in the 1996/98 era. We converted to month-to-month memberships. Kevin Laferriere joined the team back around that time.

Pete Cosentino joined shortly thereafter, and I ran into your platform at an IHRSA trade show. You had the VFP platform where you had the avatar and all the little buttons that you could press. [It was] based on [if you had] this body type at this particular stage of your life and you worked out two times a week or three times a week and changed your dietary habits, et cetera, you could look like this young lady at the end.

We used that platform to drive personal training sales. We were record-setting back then, and you were a big part of the success that we had at Lifestyle with personal training. And of course, we had the videos that were attached to that [which] you and I have talked about before.  

We had tremendous testimonials that we were able to deliver to prospects. It was a game changer for us. I think you used that as a catalyst to drive your company’s growth early on, is that correct?

Daron Allen: Absolutely. Then Geoff, I don’t know if you remember (I’m sure you do), but we were at the very first Sibec event in New Orleans as well. I remember going and there was a big boxing match that one night. We went out to that.

We had the big event with Sibec. It was just a lot of fun, but yeah, we leveraged that opportunity that you gave us – Lifestyle Family Fitness and many different, new brands – since then. So, it was a catalyst for us for sure.

Geoff Dyer: I was going to say we’ve both been very active in the industry because that’s how Daron is able to establish relationships: by being active in the fitness industry. As have I, and I think we’ve enjoyed that growth that we’ve both had separately.  

Daron’s been able to transform VFP to its current platform: a digital CRM program. And I was fortunate enough to get involved with Crunch Fitness about five years ago. There’s Daron front and center with his platform, introducing it to Craig Pepin-Donat, and we were one of the first adopters of VFPnext.

It’s been a game changer for us. It’s absolutely the backbone of our platform. We wouldn’t be the number one performing franchisee for Crunch if we didn’t embrace all the bells and whistles that VFPnext offers.

Nick Thornton: Yeah, it’s interesting that you bring that up because I was asking Daron, how did you come around and say, Hey, we’re [using] all the body scans and doing these things with members. And Daron walks in and he says, I have this new idea. It’s called a digital guest register.

When you first heard him say [that], how did those two things connect? Did your mind kind of get a little twisted on that a little bit?

Success Starts at the Check-In Station

Geoff Dyer: Well, you know, if anyone is [going to be] successful in the fitness business everything starts at that member. [It starts at] that guest check-in station at the desk.  

Even when I talk at IHRSA conferences, now I ask how many people in the room are using a paper guest register. It still amazes me that a lot of operators still track [information on a paper guest register]. Your number one asset is the prospect’s name, cell phone number, and email address. When you don’t capture that digitally, you’re prone to a lot of errors, transcription problems, and permission problems.  

So, yeah, when the opportunity to have the digital guest register came about, we embraced it right from the very beginning. As soon as we started using it, we noticed that we were getting a lot more guests registered than were being recorded manually. [That happened] because people that are working in the gyms didn’t want to be criticized for not closing all their prospects. But when you capture everything digitally – and it’s mandatory in our company that everyone has to register through the VFP digital guest register – we were able to capture more accurate emails and have permission to text the members.  

It’s been a game changer for us.  

Nick Thornton: That’s amazing. I heard two things there. It’s being more thorough and having the right data, accurate data. Then also it’s accountability. I know those things are often hard things to pull together for clubs.  

I was in a club, I think it was two weeks ago. They were taking their registrations through paper, and it was interesting. To your point, you’ve really got to move past that if you’re really going to see the velocity that you need on your growth.

Really interesting. Daron, I guess from your perspective, you transitioned from that digital thinking of “how do we make people more healthy through exercise routines” to being on that front end. In your thoughts, you know, in working with Geoff, how did you leverage yourself into Crunch and really [make] this a win for both teams? [For] both companies, really?

Daron Allen: Well, that’s a great question. And Geoff, you mentioned Craig Pepin-Donat I’ve got to give a huge amount of credit to Craig because he had this idea that he wanted the guest experience to be a lot more like an Apple Store experience, if you will. [He wanted to] get away from paper, get away from losing little pieces of paper and post-it notes, that sort of stuff. [He wanted to have] it on an iPad.

You know, I had known Craig for a long time. When he came to me and said, Hey Daron, can you do this? You know, I said absolutely. He said, Well, are you sure, Daron? I trust you, but I need to know that you can execute on this. And so, we did.

Then obviously a big part of it, too, was getting input and feedback from amazing operators like Geoff and his group. [We worked] with his team there, his partner Vince Julian, all those guys. Then there are some other Crunch franchisees that helped push us forward.  

Having that support and that original vision was important. Then [we had] the team just really grind through every possible experience that a guest is going to have and make it really frictionless. That was really our goal. How can we make this experience for a lead coming in as a prospect into the club [as frictionless as possible]?

The Member Experience Should Be Cohesive and Digital

Nick Thornton: Yeah. So, as we jump in, Geoff, this is something that we ask all of our guests on our podcast series. When we say the words “the member experience”, what does that really in essence mean to you?  

When you think about working with clubs and your groups, what does that mean to you in your own words?  

Geoff Dyer: Well, let’s take a club that we haven’t built yet. So, for us there’s not a lot of selling involved in the business. It’s more about lead generation. That is the basis of what we do. We try to create prospects that we can constantly market to until they convert and become a member.  

Once they become a member, then you want them to buy personal training and get engaged in all the different activities the club has to offer. But when we’re building a club, the first objective for us is to get out there in the community with community outreach. [We want to] capture prospective names [of] people that are interested in possibly the gym that’s coming soon.  

So, whether we’re using an iPhone with VFPnext as the app or whether we’re using an iPad, obviously we don’t have a physical plant yet. We’re in a new city. We haven’t built the club. So, we’re out there capturing leads and we do that for a solid couple of months.  

Then, about 45 days before the club’s open we invite people to join. We know exactly what percentage of those prospects will convert to a sale. We have an objective by the time the club opens. We have a minimum threshold of number of members that we want to enroll. I won’t share those numbers with you, but the VFPnext platform is the basis of everything we do.  

Once the club is open, we’ve started to convert those prospects through email blasts, text blasts, and regular messaging. Once they become a member, we have a whole series of drip campaigns that invite members to refer a friend, invite members to join our corporate program, invite members to do group fitness or hit zone training, or participate in hot yoga. All the different components of what we have is on autopilot through VFPnext, both on an email campaign and also on a text campaign.  

All those things work. Then, we set up a monthly marketing planner, and we have about four or five flash sales a month. We use VFPnext as a delivery mechanism for that.  

Digital Registration Protects You from Risk

Geoff Dyer: Now bear in mind, we couldn’t do any of this messaging if we didn’t have the permission of the prospect.  

We’ve [had] a handful of lawsuits that we’ve had over the five years that we’ve used VFPnext. People say that we texted them without authorization, and sure enough Daron’s team will pull up the verification that they gave permission for that text. We’re able to defeat any kind of action that’s ever made.  

The other part of it is the hidden gem that everyone’s signing a liability waiver. So, [we’re prepared] if we have a slip and fall. Back in the day, we had a paper guest register. You had to go through all these files to try to find a waiver because a prospect [gets injured]. [You may] lose their signature. With the digital guest register, they’ve waived their right to a class action suit, or different things of that nature.

So, big fan of VFPnext and the digital guest register. The other part of it with respect to lead generation [is that] we rely on a lot of referrals, just like the industry has for as long as I’ve been in the business. We still ask for the names of friends that are interested in joining.  

We use Promotion Vault. We push those leads onto a landing page. They give us permission to email them and text them. Now, they’re back into VFPnext. So, all of our lead gen goes through VFPnext and they get on the drip campaigns, the marketing campaigns. That’s what works for us. It’s a game changer.

Nick Thornton: Yeah, it's interesting, too. It's like each member or prospect is in a different point of that journey.

It’s one thing that we were really impressed with when I started working with Daron. [They were] really thinking through each of those stages. They’re not one and done. Well, we got them in the door. They’re good. It then continues on that journey to figure out where they are, even to the exit. And then how you put them back to the beginning and bring them back through to rejoin.  

Just hearing some of the statistics around how well Crunch overall has done through the pandemic is very impressive. I wonder how much of that is just having the right tooling and mechanisms to be able to achieve that. It’s fun to be able to say we partner with you, Geoff, and do all these things.

Stronger Supporters Help You Succeed

Daron, I know for you this has also been a journey for VFP. You’ve invested in Crunch for a couple of years to get this right. Maybe you can just share briefly on that.

Daron Allen: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I just mentioned earlier that Craig Pepin-Donat had the vision. I think it’s also the support that we’ve had from so many of the different franchisees. I know Assaf Gal was also a big supporter, just like Geoff and his team.  

I do believe that the real key here for us was that we viewed Crunch as a true partner. So, every single day we have the mentality that we’re going to roll up our sleeves. We’re going to get to work and we’re going to partner with them no matter what comes.  

Obviously, there are challenges that come up, and that’s one of the reasons why I just really appreciate Geoff so much. When a challenge comes up, he [asks], “Hey Daron, how can we solve this together?” In that true partnership, we work it out and figure out a solution. It makes everything better. Then we pass that on to the rest of the industry.

The Fitness Industry Changes Lives

Daron Allen: So Geoff, [we’re starting to] wrap up here today. I know one of the reasons that you’ve been in the business for so long is you want to help change people’s lives.  

I don’t know, I may be putting you on the spot here just a little bit. Can you recall any stories or any time when you made a big difference in somebody’s life through all the hundreds of thousands of members that have joined your clubs over time?  

Geoff Dyer: Yeah, well before I got involved with Lifestyle, I saw about 10,000 members. There are definitely a lot of stories about the person that was hesitant to make a decision to join. Then you convince them that they should, and they come back to tell you that you change [their] life.

There are a lot of those stories, but I think the best story is my own. I used to be an obese teenager at the age of 18. I weighed about 260 pounds at the time. I ended up joining a gym in Australia at the age of 18 with a buddy, and we shredded that weight off in 90s days. It changed my life.

I was a shy guy and it basically changed my life. [It] changed my personality and made me realize how much better life is when you lead a healthy lifestyle. So, that’s probably my best change story, but there are many. Obviously, when you’re dealing with people every day, there are a lot of people who walk up to you and say, “This is a game changer.”

It’s a great business to be in. I like that statistic from LA Fitness where they recognize that every member can have three memberships in their lifetime. So, when you look at a member it’s not the two years they’re joining for.  

Our average life of a member is about 26 months. But if they join three times, a member is really a member for about six or seven years. That’s a lot of time out of someone’s life that we’re engaged with them as a member in our club.

Daron Allen: Geoff, I just love that story. I hope that so many people can listen to this and just realize, right? You had that personal moment [and] you changed your life forever.  

Geoff Dyer: Yeah.  

Daron Allen: And then [you have] that inspiration. You now opened so many clubs and changed so many other lives. It just shows you that if you have the right perspective in life – [if] you have focus and a goal – you can make such a huge difference and impact so many lives.  

Man, what an awesome story. I appreciate you sharing that.

Geoff Dyer: Thanks, Daron. Well, thank you, Nick. I appreciate you putting this together.  

Nick Thornton: Thank you for joining us. Check back next time for another episode on how to take your club to the next level for more content. To stay up to date with The Experience, follow Club Automation, VFPnext, and Motionsoft on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. We’ll see you next time.  

The Experience Series is produced by Kevin Mulligan, Nick Thornton, and Daron Allen. Sound production and story editing by Kevin Mulligan. Creative and graphic design by Jenny Miller. Special thanks to Kayla Canon and Marissa Meyers for logistical coordination.

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A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

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A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

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A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

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