Do you know which classes to keep?

As the owner or manager of a fitness business, one of the most important jobs you have is to understand how your classes are performing. Many owners and managers also find this one of their more challenging jobs to do. We’ve found the most successful owners and managers take a unique approach to the problem. They think of each class as a separate “product” with its own revenue stream and expenses.

As with all profit centers in your gym, if any individual product fails to net at least 20% each month in its first three months, then you should revisit the product to see if changes can be made that will improve its return or if it is better to scratch it altogether.

Before you can determine if one of your products is performing as expected, is in need of adjustments, or should be scrapped, you’ll need the right data and the right tools for understanding the data. In the case of a class product, you need to have certain data readily available for each class session. For starters, it’s essential that you know the date and time of each session and the number of members who attended or reserved a spot but didn’t show up. With those pieces of information you can determine if the class session is a winner, loser or candidate for changes. If you decide it could be performing better you’ll want to get your hands on more pieces of information, such as who taught the class, in order to measure its performance in more detail.

If you’re already scanning members’ cards or otherwise checking people into classes, then you should have all the basic information you need. You just need to get the data in a format that you can load into Excel. The good news is any reasonable fitness scheduling and management solution should allow you to export your class history for free.

Once you have the data for the class you want to measure, it’s best to start by checking how the class performs weekly and over the long haul. Looking at long-term trends will show you any trends of general increase or decrease in popularity as well as possible seasonal trends. While the long-term trends will help you see the high level performance of the class, looking at the weekly performance will help you understand which dates and times perform best.

Now that we’ve covered the general idea, it’s time to dive into your data. In the rest of this tutorial, we’ll walk you through how to analyze data from a sample gym. Alternatively, for a more professional ready-made spreadsheet that you can adapt for your own needs, download ours to get a head start.

Let’s start with the basics. Now that you have your class history data you can copy it into an Excel spreadsheet and adjust the data so it looks something like the example below.

This provides all the information you need to look at your data from different angles. For our first big-picture look at the performance of each class, we’ll create a pivot table so we can explore the long-term performance of our example gym’s classes. When done, it should look like so:

Of course, all these numbers are great but they make it a little hard to picture the long-term trends. The great news is we can use our pivot table to create a visual “dashboard” of our most popular classes. When we do, the dashboard will look something like the charts below that show the long-term trends for our sample gym.

These graphs reveal several interesting things. The Workout of the Day (WOD) is by far the most popular class. In this example, WOD was the only class the gym offered initially and it is still the staple in the crossfit community. However, as new classes are being added, they appear to be negatively affecting the attendee numbers for WOD. This data alone isn’t enough to say whether this trend is good or bad as it could be members are transitioning to more advanced classes where the gym’s margins are better.

Depending on how the data is interpreted, the owner or manager may want to try a few options to see if they change the numbers for the better. One option is to offer the WOD back-to-back with a complementary, possibly lower-intensity, class to keep people engaged for longer each day.

The Endurance class has seen nice adoption by members throughout the year. As a potential “winner,” it’s likely time to increase promotion of this class both internally and externally to drive even more members.

The Open Gym class, however, has not fared as well. When you add in results from the first half of 2016 as well, it becomes clear that the Open Gym offering is a dud, at least for non-summer months. Unless there are really no expenses or opportunity costs to offering Open Gym (which is doubtful, since good member service dictates staff be present to help and supervise), the managers should consider only offering it seasonally or dropping it altogether. ›

Now that we have a handle on the long-term trends of our gym’s classes it’s time to dive down a level and look at how the classes perform based on day and time. To do this we’ll look at our classes’ schedules day by day. For example, we can look at the days and times that Workout of the Day sessions are scheduled.

Let’s start broadly by day of week. Here we see the average members per session, the total attendees per session, and the total number of sessions. Just glancing at the total attendee numbers, we can see that the classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday account for 75% of the members who attend the WOD class. Diving deeper, we can normalize the numbers to see the relationship between total attendees and class sessions offered each day. This shows us that there are fewer sessions on Tuesday and Thursday and that those running this gym have managed to schedule the WOD classes to have a consistent number of members throughout the week.

While understanding the performance of a class based on the day of the week is useful, it would be great to see if certain times of day perform better than others. Fortunately, we have time of day data for our sample gym and since this class is offered several times each day, we can go deeper to see how time of day influences member attendance at individual session times.

The above graph shows the average members attending each scheduled WOD session. When looking at this line chart, there are many conclusions we can draw. For instance, after observing that the 7:00am session on Monday averages 0 people, we can look at the raw data to understand why.When we do, we can see this class was only offered 4 times and only 1 person attended. The performance of these 4 sessions explains why it was removed from the schedule. As we can see, the 7:00am sessions on Wednesday and Thursday don’t fare much better.

While our sample data represents a boutique crossfit studio, our approach is one that any gym can use to determine the sessions that may not be worth keeping. In the case of our sample crossfit gym its managers might cancel any session that was offered four or more times but had attendance below the gym’s average. Doing so would call into question the 5:30pm session on Friday and the 8:30am session on Tuesday. Both of those sessions were offered more than 40 times but averaged less than 4 people per session. At the same time, this data makes the case for reinstating the 7:30am session on Thursdays as it averaged 8 people per session during the 12 times it was offered.

As you may imagine, the above examples show just a few ways those managing a fitness business can use data about their classes to inform their decisions of what classes to offer, what days and times to offer them, and even what times of year to offer certain classes. Of course, it’s important to note that such analysis is only one piece of the puzzle for understanding what classes are right for your members and your business.

Having dashboards, like those shown, is critical to the health of any fitness business that wants to measure its performance and use data to optimize its profits over both the short- and long-term. Many of the more experienced gym owners we’ve interviewed use similar information in a forward-looking capacity, conducting split tests which pit different class types and times against each other to determine what to offer their members. If you found these examples useful and want to study your gym’s performance, you can download the sample spreadsheet to get a head start or get in touch (LINK) to learn more about other tips from experienced fitness business owners and managers.

If you like what you’ve learned here, our team would love to speak with you.

~ Cody and Patrick

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