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Adjusting to the New Reality: How to Communicate with Your Customers

Posted By Emma Walker, Friday, May 22, 2020
Communicating the New Reality

This post is Part I in a series on communicating with customers about the new realities of running a gym in the age of coronavirus.

 

As the coronavirus outbreak took hold over the last few months, gym owners everywhere have been bombarded with big questions—from navigating payroll assistance and small business loans to keeping customers safe, it’s been a big challenge for our community. Now, as restrictions in North America start to loosen, gym owners are faced with another question: How do we communicate with our members about reopening?

 

It’s an important question. Crisis communication expert Adele Cehrs points out that we’re in the midst of a textbook business crisis: “A crisis is any moment where your business needs to clarify a misperception,” she explains. In this case, that could be “I’m worried the gym won’t be clean enough to keep me safe,” or it could be “I’m a member, so I can do whatever I want.” In crisis communication, Cehrs explains, you walk back on those misperceptions. Here’s how to get started.

 

Communicate Early and Often

According to Cehrs, the amount of communication you’ll need in order to reassure members that it’s safe to return is directly related to how frequently and effectively you’ve communicated over the last few months—if you’ve been posting regularly to your channels and reaching out to members, you’re in good shape. Keep your audience in the loop with an email blast or social post as you move towards reopening, whether you’re doing it in phases or are holding off altogether for a few weeks. Reaching out to members proactively has the added benefit of reminding your customers that they’re part of your community and are among the first to know about important decisions.

 

Set Clear Expectations

As with managing employees and interpersonal relationships, setting clear boundaries and expectations is one of the surest ways to avoid conflict. According to Ted Waldron, an associate professor of management at Texas Tech University’s Rawls College of Business, “keeping patrons well informed of occupancy restrictions, advance registration requirements, facility use agreements, [and] protective measures/behavioral guidelines,” along with remedial actions (for example, one opportunity to comply with facility rules before being asked to leave), “would go a long way in stopping any conflicts before they start.”

 

Reassure Members—and Communicate Your Value

Getting members back to your gym requires trust, says Cehrs. “I have to trust that you can clean this gym better than you ever have before,” she says. “It’s a level of respect that needs to be elevated and communicated.” Her colleague, former FBI special agent and hostage negotiator Chip Massey, agrees. “Gyms will have to reacquire their customers,” he explains, pointing out that folks have been making do with their at-home setups for the last few months. In order to get them back in the door, you’ll need to communicate your gym’s value better than ever, whether that’s your cutting-edge routesetting, access to top-notch training classes, or warm community. This is a great time to step up your efforts to learn individual members' names and preferences, Massey adds.

 

Be as Transparent as Possible

Right now, it’s ok to tell your customers you don’t know the answer. Still, Cehrs strongly recommends having a “holding statement” about your reopening status. This can simply be a range of dates between which you anticipate opening. “That statement has to be genuine, authentic, and feel transparent,” Cehrs says, adding that it’s crucial that gym owners don’t make promises they can’t keep. It’s tempting to be vague or avoid communicating, she says, but that’s a mistake—it provides your members with no reassurance at all. Instead, keep it simple and direct: “We anticipate being able to open between X and Y. Lots of factors might affect the exact date we can open, but we’ll keep you updated as we know more!”

 

Show Customers Where You’re Coming From

This is closely related to transparency. Humanizing your business—an important step in the HEART framework, which Waldron and his co-author Jim Wetherbe outline in the Harvard Business Review—reminds your members that you, like they, are doing the best you can under difficult, unprecedented circumstances. “If people feel like they’re being bullied,” explains Wetherbe, the Richard Schulze Distinguished Professor at Texas Tech’s Rawls College of Business, it’s harder to get buy-in. Instead, he suggests rephrasing statements as questions: “If you’re not wearing a mask, how is that fair to our other members?” Waldron adds it’s important to consider your body language here—more on that in Part II.

 

Anticipate Questions—and Come Prepared With Answers

Your members will likely have questions about everything from physical distancing to whether masks are really “required” to how long until you plan to be back to business as usual. It might help to come up with good answers to some of these common questions and share them among your staff. One question you’re almost guaranteed to get is about cleanliness, so a rundown of everything you’re doing to keep the facility clean, from the parking lot to the bathrooms to the equipment and flooring, is key. “You’ll have to hit on that hard, and do it right away,” says Cehrs, “[Members] are really trusting you, so they need you to reassure them that this is a place they can feel safe.”

 

Even if you’re doing everything right, it’s possible that conflicts with customers will still arise. We’ll cover that in Part II next week.

 

Emma Walker Head ShotAbout Emma Walker

Emma Walker is a freelance writer, editor, and an account manager with Golden, Colorado-based Bonfire Collective. Emma earned her M.S. in Outdoor and Environmental Education from Alaska Pacific University and has worked as an educator and guide at gyms, crags, and peaks around the American West.

 

Tags:  community development  coronavirus  COVID-19  customer experience  customer service  leadership  marketing  member communications  staff training 

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Building Power in the Darkest Hour – Advocacy Behind the Scenes of COVID-19

Posted By Alexandra Wojcicki, Thursday, May 14, 2020
Advocacy Update

Although our industry faces unique and unforeseen obstacles, we hope to offer some comfort in the knowledge that no one faces them alone. Your team at the CWA has been working diligently in the background to help leverage our power and amplify our voices around the issues that matter most in this moment. Since the initial outbreak began gaining national attention in March, we have been running two advocacy campaigns spanning the United States and Canada, focusing on providing guidance and relief for the industry in a post-COVID-19 world.

 

In the USA, we have released the CWA’s open letter to Congress, circulated a financial relief petition, released a survey to gauge economic impacts of COVID-19 on our members and the industry, and launched a letter writing and calling campaign. We’ve also mobilized a network of volunteers who are graciously leveraging their connections and initiating conversations with decision makers and decision influencers at the state level to push forward the industry’s advocacy agenda.

 

In Canada, we’ve aligned with the Save Small Business grassroots lobbying movement and the CEC Task Force, which is currently in the process of formulating an advocacy campaign plan. The likely first steps will include an open letter to Parliament with a template that gym owners can lean on to make personalized asks of elected officials. We currently have volunteers from each province researching decision making or decision influencing health authorities and their contact information, as the industry will need to have a voice in the conversation surrounding reopening mandates.

 

The CWA has also been getting ahead of damaging press (ex: references to climbing gyms as “petri dishes”, etc.) through a two-pronged strategy – proactively communicating with major industry publications on how to avoid accidental phrasing that has potential to promote long-term stigma, and drafting articles that highlight the industry’s inherent risk management proficiency, overall resiliency, and commitment to public health.

 

Upcoming advocacy priorities for the CWA will, for the time being, focus on publishing reopening resources which will be paired with a communication toolkit that helps gym owners navigate sharing new guidelines and regulations with their communities; releasing a guide on how to educate and communicate with your local health authorities, so that we can empower our members to advocate for themselves in localities where it is needed; and organizing strategies and tactics to create momentum behind a commercial rent abatement movement.

 

Regardless of what the next wave of COVID-19 developments may bring, the CWA will still be here for you, advocating on your behalf and creating resources to support your business. Brighter days are certain to come, and as an industry leader we will help pave that path. Thank you for standing with us as we could not do the work without you – together we’re stronger, now and always.

 

If you’d like even more insight into the CWA’s advocacy efforts to date, here is the recording of a recent Community Call in which we give an update on CWA's advocacy campaign and information on what's coming up. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to advocacy@climbingwallindustry.org – we’re always here for you, and happy to help!

 

Alexandra Wojcicki Head ShotAbout the Author

Alexandra Wojcicki is the Membership Manager at the Climbing Wall Association. She has a decade of experience working with nonprofit organizations on building member programs, managing partnerships, fundraising, and marketing. A Northern Virginia native, she is now based in Boulder, Colorado, as an enthusiastic climber, backpacker, camper, and traveler.

 

Tags:  advocacy  coronavirus  COVID-19  regulations 

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Member Engagement Series: Inspirational Content

Posted By Emma Walker, Thursday, May 14, 2020
Inspirational Content

When a member walks into your gym, you have no trouble engaging them—whether it’s chatting about the great weather you’ve been having, asking what they think of the new routes, or, for members you know well, checking in about how that project at the local crag is coming along.

 

At its core, engaging your audience online and on your social channels is the same. It’s easy to overthink it: Am I using the right hashtags? How many likes should my posts be getting? But when you boil it down, the things you’re posting on your gym’s social channels are just a way to break the ice and get your members talking. View your content as a conversation starter, and you’re well on your way to building solid content.

 

Ask Your Audience

The folks who know best what your audience wants are right in front of you. In fact, they might already be telling you what they want—take a look at your most recent survey results. Do your members give your gym’s yoga classes a five-star rating? Content written by or spotlighting a favorite yoga teacher, whether it’s an Instagram takeover or a blog post, will likely be a hit. Are you getting tons of feedback on the new brand of energy bars you’re stocking? Maybe a series of posts on nutrition for climbers will draw engagement. Don’t be afraid to ask your members directly: “What topics would you like to see our staff write about for future posts?”

 

Draw Inspiration From Others

There’s a reason big-name brands have huge social followings. Your gym may not have the resources to do tons of market research on what your audience wants to see—and that’s ok, because climbing brands (gear manufacturers and sponsored athletes, for example) likely have much of the same audience your gym does. Does a particular climber get tons of likes and comments when they ask their followers a question? Do brands get a huge response when they do a giveaway? Those trends might help you identify what your audience is looking for.

 

Turn the Spotlight to Your Members

It’s always fun to see your own name on the marquis, so to speak. One way to deepen member engagement is to invite members into your feed. This can be as easy as creating a simple hashtag (#climbat[your gym’s name]) that members can tag their photos with, then going through those posts and choosing some to repost on your own channel. It could also mean running a contest: Ask your audience to caption a funny photo; the winner gets to do a week-long takeover of your Instagram account. The more members see themselves and their friends in your feed, the more excited they’ll be to engage.

 

Repurpose Content You Love

Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense to reinvent the wheel. Is there a recent article that’s super relevant to your audience, like a piece in a climbing magazine about your local crag or about climbing gaining popularity? Keep an eye out for news that might interest your audience, whether it’s about the local bouldering scene, a climbing-related podcast with a story that made you laugh or cry, or a review of this year’s hottest climbing shoes. Whenever you repost content, check the creator’s policies—you may need to ask them for permission, and you’ll definitely need to give them credit.

 

Give a Peek Behind the Scenes

Nothing makes an audience feel like part of the in-crowd more than learning what’s going on behind the curtain. Think beyond explaining the reasoning behind a new policy: What inspires you? Maybe it’s a post on the history of your gym, a few tips from a rock-star routesetter, or a Q&A with a coach about how they come up with ideas for classes and training sessions. This category often makes for great evergreen content, meaning it’s relevant just about any time you decide to post it.

 

Ready to Level Up?

If you’re doing the first five items on this list, you’re well on your way to creating a vibrant online community. Keep up the good work!

 

When you’re ready to take your content to the next level, consider the following steps:

  • Find creative ways to engage with your audience. Social media algorithms take engagement—likes, follows, comments, and shares—into account, so actually conversing with your audience makes a difference. (Learn more here.)
  • Develop an email marketing strategy. Showing up in your audience’s inboxes means they don’t have to seek you out to engage. Chances are you collect email addresses from your members anyway, so building a strategy to send marketing emails to your audience is a logical next step.
  • Take a look at your analytics. Your website or blog platform likely has analytics built in, and if you’ve got a business page on Facebook or a business account on Instagram, you can do the same thing for your social channels. Use these tools to understand the best timing and topics for your posts and change up your strategy accordingly.
  • Learn more about search engine optimization (SEO). This is how you’ll ensure that your gym’s posts pop up first when folks search for relevant keywords. These tips will help you get started.

Not sure where to begin with content? Check out our previous post on how to start a blog for your gym.

 

Emma Walker Head ShotAbout Emma Walker

Emma Walker is a freelance writer, editor, and an account manager with Golden, Colorado-based Bonfire Collective. Emma earned her M.S. in Outdoor and Environmental Education from Alaska Pacific University and has worked as an educator and guide at gyms, crags, and peaks around the American West.

 

Tags:  community development  coronavirus  COVID-19  marketing  member communications 

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Better Together: Fundraising for Climbing Gym Staff

Posted By Better Together, Monday, April 27, 2020
Better Together Campaign

The Better Together Climbing campaign is a FREE fundraising opportunity intent on helping leaders in the climbing industry provide financial assistance to their staff members.

 

Simply stated, the campaign started by complete accident. I work at Movement Climbing + Fitness and I had recently finished my first ever attempt at fundraising. It was a GoFundMe page dedicated to assisting a dear friend and colleague of mine. I remember running around like a mad man trying to get as many people as possible to share the campaign link. I did not ask them to directly contribute - just sharing the idea to a broader community was all I could ask for.

 

It was then and still is a value I hold deeply – that many people, rather than a few, who come together to support one another in times of need as well as times of prosperity will always cultivate a stronger community. The goal of that campaign was to raise $4000.00 for my friend, who is also a great friend to many in our climbing community, at Movement. We managed exceed our goal in 3 days.

 

Following that conclusion of that campaign, almost immediately, I began to try and come up with ideas for a new campaign. My partner had recently bought me the Organic shirt where a slice of pie is punching a piece of cake. I love that shirt. But I wanted a shirt with characters getting past their differences and realizing that each one of them is unique, important, and that they were better together than fighting alone. So, I made a call to a friend who had stopped working at Movement to pursue their dream as an illustrator.

 

As our design began to really take shape, it came to me. This fundraiser may be able to help staff members of climbing gyms and other outdoor associations affiliated with climbing. Across social media I began to see so much confusion, frustration, sadness, and anger. But I also saw wonderful acts of grace, kindness, compassion, support, and community action. I truly wanted to help support that narrative. A narrative of empathy, understanding, support, and ultimately a message that binds our community together in a stronger and better way than it was before this challenging economic and health crisis began.

 

In many ways the “Better Together” message that TJ and I believe in was a part of the message all along. Way back to the battered and bruised pastries.

 

Which is why we hope that by offering this fundraising opportunity at no cost to climbing gyms and outdoor associations affiliated with climbing we can help each participating entity generate as much funding as possible for direct financial assistance to their staff while minimizing the financial risk to each and every business involved during these challenging times. We hope that the more you market this campaign/movement, the more money you can generate to assist your teams. You can sign up here to get a free digital marketing kit and to get your gym listed on the storefront. Whenever someone purchases a shirt and selects your gym during checkout you will get $10 for you to provide to your staff.

 

And most importantly we hope you believe in our message too. That we are a stronger community, a more inclusive community, a more resilient community – ultimately a community that is and will always be a community that is Better Together.

 

Sincerely,
TJ Norris & Shane Way

 

ADD YOUR GYM

 

Tags:  climbing culture  community development  coronavirus  COVID-19  employee engagement  employee turnover  human resources  leadership  marketing  staff retention 

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Follow up on remaining Hygiene Brainstorm questions

Posted By Garnet Moore, Monday, April 27, 2020
Lonely Climbing Wall

On April 21, the CWA held a Hygiene Brainstorm community call for members to share their questions, ideas, and concerns about all things hygiene related. This is one of the largest areas of concerns for gyms at the moment, and the CWA is working to provide solid guidance as we begin to look towards reopening.

 

As we conduct research and work with our partners, calls like this are a great way to hear your individual concerns and give you updates on what we know at this moment. If you are not already participating in our calls please register now to join us.

 

This was one of our most active calls and there were a number of questions that we didn’t get to cover live. Read on for answers to those questions and some great insights from some of the participants on this call.

 

1. Someone mentioned not filling water bottles at our facility. Why?

 

As with any high-traffic area like door knobs, computer keyboards, etc., drinking fountain actuators should be cleaned regularly. However, you should not be concerned about providing water in general. SARS-COV-2 has not been detected in drinking water at this time.

 

2. Wouldn't low route density force more hands/feet on the same holds? There's almost a case to be made for more routes to spread out contact...

 

Climber’s personal hygiene will be as important to your reopening strategy as your cleaning procedures. While there is no practical guaranteed way to sanitize holds in-between climbs or even overnight, the gathering of climbers in common spaces is something that can be limited. Reducing route density or access could help limit people’s natural inclinations to congregate in confined areas.

 

3. Are all gyms eliminating shared lead ropes? Seems like it will be impossible to keep them clean and members will have to bring their own rope.

 

As we all know there are a lot of risks in climbing, and in operating a climbing gym. Balancing which risk is greater than another is something that we constantly do. If you have chosen to provide lead ropes rather than let customers bring their own, make sure that any changes to this policy consider all areas of risk. You may even need to change your waiver, gym rules, or any published information to cover any potential liability.

 

It is not impossible to safely provide lead ropes to your customers, but it may not be something you wish to do. You can clean ropes with warm water and soap and then let them air dry – this is sufficient to sanitize them as long as your soaking or cleaning time follows the directions of your chosen cleaning product. You can add a policy requesting that climbers do not bite the rope to get more slack - in most gym settings, bolts are close enough that careful routesetting could eliminate the need for more than an arm length of slack. And, you can quarantine your ropes for a period of time prior to redistributing them to your customers. Seven to ten days should be sufficient, but the science is still in development for determining how long SARS-COV-2 can stay active on these types of materials.

 

4. For gyms with fixed GriGris on ropes as a high contact usage, what cleaners and protocols would work without compromising the rope integrity?

 

Check with the manufacturers of your ropes on chemical compatibility, but in general the safest cleaning method will be soap and warm water. In general bleach should not be used on nylon products and there is some evidence that alcohol will not significantly weaken some common rope materials. However, the frequency of cleaning has not been thoroughly tested and the safest cleaning method would be soap followed by rinsing with clean water.

 

5. Is there any kit to test if surfaces have COVID-19 presence (active/inactive) on them? If yes, we could run test on hold (starting holds) and see if the gym has been contaminated.

 

Currently there are no publicly available tests like this, and it is unlikely that there will be. The only method of testing for an active virus is to attempt to grow the virus in a cell-culture. This is a great time to highlight a comment made on the call that some studies and public news reports discuss the presence of viral RNA, which is not necessarily the same as an active virus. When digesting information about COVID-19 make sure that you understand the information being presented in full before making any policy or decisions.

 

6. Is anyone considering requiring temperature to be taken prior to entering the facility?

 

This is an interesting question that may be guided by local regulations more than individual gym choice. While some gyms may have to, or choose to, do this it is unknown at this time whether the possible asymptomatic spread could be stopped with this measure. Encouraging your customers to be courteous to others and stay home if they are sick may be an effective way to place this responsibility on them rather than your staff.

 

If you do need to take temperatures prior to entry make sure that you do so in a respectful and private manner and follow other basic health screening guidelines as well to protect your staff and your customers.

 

7. We are planning on spraying down our bouldering gym between sessions with a disinfectant. What are your thoughts on that?

 

Make sure that any chemicals used in a gym, especially in such a broad application, are compatible with all materials present. Find out what the active ingredients of your disinfectant are and analyze what sorts of safety equipment, paints, flooring, and other materials are present in your facility. Keep in mind that repeated exposure can have different effects than spot testing might reveal.

 

8. What about high pressure steam cleaning? does it disinfect? can we use it on ropes and harnesses?

 

There is not definitive evidence on SARS-COV-2 stability yet, but there is some evidence that higher temperatures will affect viability. However, steam cleaning is not a quick or inexpensive process and soap and warm water may be equally effective, faster, and cheaper. When it comes to ropes and harnesses there are temperature guidelines that you need to pay attention to, in general only warm water should be used on these materials – check with your gear manufacturer for specific temperature guidelines. Even common flooring materials can suffer from overly frequent steam cleaning.

 

9. Are gyms going to continue top rope testing / lead testing - what kind of staff to member contact will be stopped? Even some members still need to be tested.

 

Part of your facility’s hygiene will be the ways in which you protect your staff. You may decide to, or be required to, put up acrylic shields at your front desk, provide PPE to your staff, and to evaluate your staff's duties and create additional protocols based on their exact tasks. When it comes to the proximity required during belay tests you could require additional levels of PPE for your staff and customers. You could also create designated areas with preset testing rigs that allow for additional distance between employees and staff.

 

10. Is the CWA going to make cool posters for any of these topics?

 

Yes! We will be rolling out posters aimed at your customers and your staff. We want to help you communicate the extra measures you are taking to keep your facility as low risk as possible and we want to remind everyone in your gym about their personal responsibility in keeping themselves and others from getting sick.

 

Garnet Moore Head ShotAbout the Author

Garnet Moore is the Director of Operations at the Climbing Wall Association. Garnet brings more than a decade of experience in the climbing industry, including his time as the COO at Brewer's Ledge.

 

Tags:  coronavirus  COVID-19  human resources  hygiene  operations  risk management  sanitization  staff training 

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When Can Rock Gyms Reopen?

Posted By Garnet Moore, Friday, April 24, 2020
Gym Reopening

In the US, the administration announced a plan for “Opening Up America” on April 16th. There is some confusion about this plan since no timeline was provided and it leaves a lot of the specifics up to individual businesses and local authorities. It is also important to note that states that do allow for reopening are doing so only when meeting what has been termed “gating criteria”.

 

In order for a state to reopen, they must have realized a downward trend of both flu like and coronavirus like symptoms within a 14 day period, seen a downward trend in documented COVID-19 cases, maintained or increased current testing volume, had a downward trend of positive test results in a 14 day period, and had hospitals transition to treating all patients without crisis care.

 

Gyms are broadly included in Phase 1 of this program, but there is not clear guidance on what you should be thinking about when making the choice to reopen. The official plan only states that “gyms can open if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols.”

 

Unfortunately, there is not great clarity on what exactly is meant by sanitation protocols or physical distancing. Currently the US advises individuals to avoid socializing in groups greater than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing. Sanitation protocols are also not defined in an appropriately detailed manner. However, you can turn to your local health department for the most relevant guidance for your business. When it comes to following regulations these organizations and your city government will be the most direct authority in the US.

 

Similarly, in many of the countries that have more advanced pandemic timelines than the US, some gyms may be able to make the choice to reopen beginning in early May. Many of these countries may receive stronger guidance from their local authorities, but some decisions will still be up to individual owners. It is important to be aware of what laws you need to follow locally. Any policies that you create should be, at the very least, in alignment with WHO recommendations.

 

The WHO has developed some risk assessment tools for mass gatherings, and these may be one of the most authoritative ways to evaluate what level of risk is present in your gym. The WHO has even updated these guidelines with information specific to sporting events. These guidelines may be more directly applicable to the public areas of climbing gyms than the general workplace guidance, which is more suitable to office environments.

 

At the CWA, we are working to accelerate the publishing of our guidance for you in these areas. We have started two committees to help advise on the resources we’ve been gathering and developing. One committee is focused on the hygiene and cleanliness guidelines which are most applicable and appropriate for an indoor climbing gym. The other committee is focused on reopening policies and procedures. As quickly as possible, the CWA will publish a digital white paper similar to our Coronavirus Resource Hub which will be updated real-time as new science emerges over the coming months.

 

It is important to remember that all of this does not mean that you must reopen. When making that decision keep in mind your brand, your customer’s attitudes, and your needs as a business. A hasty decision now could have unintended consequences for your business for years. Whether that is the way that your community perceives your attitude or the way that your policies may lead to new expectations from your members. But, no matter what you decide, make sure that you communicate openly and often with your members to make sure that they know what you are planning and why.

 

Your customers cannot wait to get back to the gym, and when you feel it is the right time to reopen your core customers will be there for you. Even though we are all faced with a mountain of uncertainty at the moment, the future still looks bright for climbing.

 

Garnet Moore Head ShotAbout the Author

Garnet Moore is the Director of Operations at the Climbing Wall Association. Garnet brings more than a decade of experience in the climbing industry, including his time as the COO at Brewer's Ledge.

 

Tags:  coronavirus  COVID-19  management  member communications  operations  risk management 

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Member Engagement Series: How to Start a Blog for Your Climbing Gym

Posted By Emma Walker, Thursday, April 23, 2020
How to Start a Blog

Gyms across the country are missing their members, and the folks who usually climb at your facility are missing you, too. One way to keep your membership engaged in the virtual realm is a blog your audience can access through your gym’s website.

 

If you’re producing engaging, high-quality content—and, when you’re ready for some varsity-level blogging, using SEO (more on that later)—you’ll not only keep your own members coming back, but also draw in other readers searching for relevant content. Here’s how to get started.

 

Build a Strategy

What’s the purpose of your blog? (It’s ok if the initial answer is “Find a way to keep my members’ attention during the coronavirus outbreak.”)

 

In order to publish content that will keep your members coming back for more, you’ll need to identify just what it is your blog does. One way to do this is to do a brief analysis of your closest competitors or take a peek at the results of any recent member surveys. You’re looking for what sets your facility apart—why do members choose to climb there?

 

Your content strategy is an answer to that question. If members say they love the fitness equipment and classes, maybe at-home workouts and nutrition for climbers are frequent topics. Are your members in love with the routesetting at your gym? Perhaps a Q&A with your star setter to learn what inspires them.

 

The content strategy also addresses logistical details. When and how often do you post? Is your gym’s tone warm and casual or authoritative? Don’t worry if you don’t know the answers to these questions right away—take a guess, and then refine your content strategy as you learn more after publishing a few posts.

 

Stock Up on Content

Consistency is key—the best way to keep your audience engaged is to post content frequently, and on a regular schedule. To that end, you’ll want to build up a bank of content before you launch your blog. That way, you won’t end up with an unexpected gap in coverage if you have a busy week (or worse, launch a blog, post once, and lose your audience’s interest by neglecting to post again).

 

Start by mapping out the next few months’ worth of posts on the calendar. Add timely posts when they make sense for your specific community—a couple of weeks before your annual bouldering comp, a post by your trainer on getting comp-ready, or when the weather gets warmer, a post on cross-training for climbing.

 

In general, you’ll want a fair amount of “evergreen” content—posts that make sense no matter when you publish them, like a history of your gym or spotlights on staff and members. You can use this to fill in the gaps between your timely content pieces. Watch for a future post on ways to create the content your audience wants to see.

 

Pick Your Platforms

It’s possible that your website is already integrated with a blogging platform, in which case that’s probably the easiest way to start your blog. Regardless of whether you’re using that or a popular free platform like WordPress, take some time to familiarize yourself with the analytic tools your platform offers. This is how you’ll learn which days of the week and times of day to post, and how you’ll find out which topics and types of posts are the most popular.

 

Remember that hitting “Publish” isn’t the last step in the process—once those posts are up, you can use your other marketing channels to bring members to your blog. Posting an eye-catching photo related to your new post on Instagram or Facebook, along with a link to your blog and any relevant hashtags, will help draw traffic to your blog, as well.

 

Engage Your Readers

If possible, enable the commenting capability on your blogging platform so readers can ask questions, make suggestions, and swap relevant stories on your posts. (You can even end posts with an invitation to do so: “Do you have other questions you’d like our nutrition expert to answer? Drop them in the comments!”)

 

Whether you have comments enabled on your blog or just on your social channels, checking on those comments regularly (and responding to them) will help you stay engaged with your audience in a positive, collaborative way. It’s also another tool to find out what people like reading—and what they want to see more of.

 

Keep the Cycle Going

Remember: You’re not going to permanently mess up your analytics by posting on a Tuesday instead of a Wednesday. If something’s a flop—whether you get fewer views or the comments section isn’t what you expect—make a note of it and keep trying.

 

There are lots of how-to, step-by-step guides out there on starting a blog and developing a content strategy, so additional support is only a Google search away. One place to start is the free guide from HubSpot.

 

As you go through the process of developing your strategy and starting your blog, be aware that some amount of trial-and-error is normal. Your content strategy is a living document, so don’t be afraid to update it as you gather more information about what your audience wants.

 

Stay tuned for a future post in the Member Engagement Series on how to curate content your audience will love!

 

Emma Walker Head ShotAbout Emma Walker

Emma Walker is a freelance writer, editor, and an account manager with Golden, Colorado-based Bonfire Collective. Emma earned her M.S. in Outdoor and Environmental Education from Alaska Pacific University and has worked as an educator and guide at gyms, crags, and peaks around the American West.

 

Tags:  community development  marketing  member communications  tech strategy 

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Uniting to Face the Challenges Ahead

Posted By Laura Allured, Friday, April 17, 2020
Membership Assistance Program

We recognize that every indoor climbing business will encounter financial hardship over the coming year, so we are excited to announce the launch of our Membership Assistance Program: one free year of CWA membership for every climbing business in the world.

 

To help ease your financial burden, we’re giving you one less expense to worry about by providing uninterrupted access to our membership resources. The CWA is doing everything we can to support the industry during the current closures and to prepare for the reopening and rebuilding process.

 

What is the CWA’s Coronavirus Action Plan?

  • Coronavirus Resource Hub: We’ve created a centralized hub to address issues and challenges specific to the indoor climbing industry.
  • CWA Community Calls: Ask questions, share ideas, and get actionable advice from experts on our twice-weekly calls. Sign up now if you have not already!
  • Timely Articles: We're regularly publishing articles with guidance, best practices, and information on the most time-sensitive issues facing the industry.
  • Advocacy: We're building a coalition of small business associations and member organizations to advocate for our industry's inclusion in economic relief legislation.
  • Public Policy: We're coordinating industry volunteers with high-level experience to research, communicate, and shape public policy.
  • Lobbying: We're actively lobbying and making connections with state and national legislators.
  • Research: We’re convening industry experts and researchers to guide the creation of post-coronavirus operational and hygiene procedures.
  • Guidance: We’re developing guidance and best practices around reopening and rebuilding your business.

Just like you, our team is focused on finding creative and effective ways to get through this situation. We’re collaborating with industry professionals, thought leaders, and organizations from around the world to form a united front as we recover.

 

Through the Membership Assistance Program, we’re removing all barriers to membership in order to preserve the strongest possible community of indoor climbing businesses. Join us on the journey back to thriving operations!

 

When you’re ready to join, follow these simple steps:

  1. Pick your username.
  2. Enter your contact and member information.
  3. On the Membership Dues screen, enter the number of additional locations you have.
  4. Enter the promo code MembershipAssist if you’d like to take advantage of a free membership.
  5. Verify your billing details and click “Submit”.
  6. Make any partial payments or contributions you wish to our COVID-19 fund.

 

JOIN THE CWA

 

We look forward to welcoming you to our community, because together we’re stronger. If you need assistance accessing your free membership or if you have any questions, please email us at membershipassistance@climbingwallindustry.org.

 

The Membership Assistance Program could not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors. These companies have chosen to support the indoor climbing industry despite the challenges that we all face. Check them out and show them some love!

 

Membership Assistance Program Sponsors

Summit Level Sponsors



Lead Sponsors



Top Rope Sponsors



Anchor Sponsors



Sender Sponsors



Basecamp Sponsors


Tags:  coronavirus  COVID-19  member spotlight  public policy 

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Tech Tools to Run Your Climbing Gym Virtually During and After COVID-19

Posted By Caleb Fitzgerald, Friday, April 17, 2020
Climbing Tech Strategy

As COVID-19 has shuttered climbing gyms across the globe, gym owners and managers are stuck determining how to run their business virtually. Climbing gyms by nature are an in-person service. Identifying ways to continue engaging your community is crucial to weathering a long-term closure.

 

After identifying strategies and ideas on how to engage your community, you’ll likely need to find software to assist in collecting information remotely, creating content, and organizing information. I’ve compiled a list of recommended software and broken out the benefits of each as it relates to climbing gym operations. When installed correctly, each of these recommendations will continue to be helpful after reopening. I have included a few specific examples where a recommendation might fit into climbing gym operations.

 

Regardless of which tools are used, all technology should complete two goals for your company. First, the customer needs to find the new process easier. Second, the new technology must beat having a human do the task or process.

 

All these software products are recommendations of my own based on how either I have used or seen them used in climbing gym operations. I encourage you to read through each company feature list and determine what will work best for your specific needs. Lastly, I am not affiliated with any of the companies who offer these software products.

 

Collect Information

Climbing gyms, and frankly all businesses, need to collect information almost every time there is an interaction with a customer. Climbing gyms often collect information to schedule a class, edit a membership, survey customers, or sell products.

 

When looking into software to collect information, it is important to use software that integrates well into your existing workflows. For example, when a customer enters their email it is automatically put into your email marketing software.

 

Typeform Google Forms Formstack Comparison

 

Recommendation – Typeform

 

I personally use and highly recommend the software Typeform. It is well-designed and acts more as a conversation than a typical form. I find its simplicity both helpful for customers and for speed in getting a form up and running. Typeform has 100+ integrations to other applications, a crucial feature to trigger downstream operations.

 

Example use case: Use Typeform to register a participant in a climbing competition. Then, based on the participants responses on competition category, Typeform tags them for an automated email campaign. Emails then go out with segmented content. Those in harder divisions receive content about workout classes and retail purchases while those in easier divisions receive content about introduction to movement classes and community groups. These tags can also be used in the future for updates about the climbing competition in case there is a need to contact one division but not the others.

 

Create Content

Transitioning to a virtual business means focusing many more resources on media for social posts and emails. As this is the main interaction your gym will have with your customers during closure, focus on well-designed content. Luckily, drag and drop design software has made this very easy for those of us who are design-challenged.

 

Canva Spark Snappa Comparison

 

Recommendation – Canva

 

Canva encompasses all the best features of a drag and drop design software. Starting out, the tutorial helps show the workflow that you will want to follow. Templates are titled with terms that make sense to search. In fact, the comparison graphics in this article are made using Canva and took less than an hour to make. At $12.95 a month, it is a great investment to improve your brand’s design.

 

Example use case: Build a cross-channel promotion that has unified design elements. Using a Facebook and Instagram post/story template, create your sale content for social media. Then, take those same design elements and use a banner template for your email campaign. Finally, use a postcard or poster size template with the same style and colors and print a handful for your front desk.

 

Stream Content Publicly

Many gyms are offering online, live-streamed fitness classes and yoga. Most gyms have elected to make these free for anyone to participate in. These classes are often streamed using Facebook Live, Instagram Live, or YouTube Live. All these options are free and easy to use. One is not necessarily better than the other.

 

When determining how to livestream, consider the channels that you typically reach your customer base through first. For instance, if you tend to interact with your customers via Facebook – use Facebook Live.

 

There is one exception to following your customers. If you are intending to co-stream with another person, Instagram Live will likely be your only simple option. Co-streams are great for interviews, Q&As with two people, or highlighting an athlete or business. There is an added bonus that in a co-stream, notifications go out to both users’ followers, effectively amplifying the reach of both accounts. There are ways to co-stream on other channels, but they often require more advanced software and occasionally hardware that is out of the scope of this article.

 

Stream Content Privately or Behind a Paywall

If you are interested in offering classes or other live-stream offerings as a paid service, Zoom and Crowdcast will likely be your best options.

 

Zoom starts at $14.99/mo. I use Zoom and find it very helpful for business-related events. It was really designed for business meetings and sales calls. Only now, mostly by necessity, are they beginning to adapt to other groups. Zoom is the best option currently for any livestream where you want your participants to talk with each other. If you are hosting a webinar and have the budget, I find Crowdcast far more user-friendly and chock-full of features that help promote livestreams.

 

Crowdcast starts at $29/mo. Designed as a platform for creatives to livestream music, art, and other related content, Crowdcast has tons of features to run paid livestreams. Users do not have to download any software and can login via any browser, Android, or iOS-based system. Payments can be charged at fixed prices, sliding scales, or via a pay-what-you-can system. If you decide to use Crowdcast for free events it also allows for multi-streaming. This is where you run your livestream through Crowdcast and the software streams it directly to your other channels simultaneously.

 

Regarding youth programming, both software options can lock the event via password.

 

Run Social Media Efficiently

Social media is an integral part of most climbing gyms. Running multiple accounts across platforms can become tedious and difficult. By using a social media scheduling software, you can log into one account, one dashboard, and cross-post easily.

 

Even more, scheduling software provides crucial insights into the best times to post for maximum engagement. Most climbing gyms do not need to overhaul their entire social media plan to reach more people. Instead, they just need to post when their followers are online.

 

Later Sprout Social Buffer Comparison

 

Recommendation – Later

 

Later’s most compelling feature is the linkin.bio option that gives businesses the ability to link posts to outside websites without having to change the actual link in bio. This works by pulling all your posts from your feed then mirroring them through the linkin.bio link. From here, users can click the post they are interested in and they will be redirected to the link that you choose. Other great features include optimum scheduling times, a media library that links to Google Drive and Dropbox, and a dedicated email for staff to upload content for posting.

 

Example use case: Staff can email media directly into Later for the social media manager to post. Each week, the social media manager can spend an hour or two scheduling out the next week. Any sales or announcements can be coordinated to go out on the same day at the optimum time for followers per channel. Information about what content is performing best can guide what you spend your time and energy on creating later. For example, if posts with cool overhanging moves do better than retail store hero shots ask your staff to get more photos of overhanging moves.

 

Summary

Overall, taking the time to determine what software could make you and your staff’s lives easier will pay dividends through the COVID-19 closure and beyond. Simple changes like reducing the number of steps to register for a competition or timing your posts to go out when customers are scrolling through their social media feeds are easy to do with the right tools.

 

Particularly now when we cannot see each other in-person, it is critical to improve your tech strategy and engage customers digitally.

 

Links to all software mentioned in article: Typeform, Google Forms, Formstack, Canva, Spark, Snappa, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Zoom, Crowdcast, Later, Sprout Social, Buffer

 

For more information on how to define and execute your tech strategy, watch the recording of my Community Call! You'll learn how to identify strategies and tech tools that will put your gym in a better position to get back on your feet. (By the way, you'll need to be signed into your member account to watch. Don't have one? Sign up!)

 

WATCH WEBINAR

 

Caleb Fitzgerald Head ShotAbout the Author

Caleb Fitzgerald is the founder of Black Gallina Consulting. Trained as an engineer, he now uses those engineering concepts to help business leaders navigate complex problems. He spent five years as a climbing guide in the Midwest. Nowadays, you’ll find him on his favorite kinds of climbs in the Pacific Northwest – tall multi-pitch climbs.

 

Tags:  community development  coronavirus  COVID-19  customer experience  customer satisfaction  customer service  marketing  member communications  programming  tech strategy 

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Billing Challenges in the Fitness Industry

Posted By Garnet Moore, Thursday, April 16, 2020
Fitness Gyms Billing Challenges

As the majority of gym closures enter into their fifth week and some customers will soon be making the choice to stay committed to your gym for the second month, you should make sure that your options are in line with any local laws and with the expectations of your community. The indoor climbing industry can learn from some of the challenges faced by health clubs and work to avoid any unnecessary regulation.

 

Some states, such as Maryland, have laws enacted that limit fitness center options based on the length of closure. As always there are subtleties to these laws and often laws pertaining to health clubs do not apply to climbing gyms. However, news articles, social media, and public sentiment may affect your member’s thinking and your messaging should be clear, consistent, and constant.

 

A prominent example of the risks involved is the New York Sports Clubs. Their lack of messaging has frustrated their members to the point that a class action lawsuit has been filed against their parent company. They have received massive backlash on social media, and a petition protesting their response has over 1,500 signatures.

 

Another example, from a sibling company to the NYSC, the Boston Sports Clubs in Massachusetts has seen intervention by the state’s Attorney General after receiving hundreds of complaints.

 

By staying informed of the public sentiment and any developments in your area, you can potentially avoid any similar legal challenges.

 

The one-month timeline has surfaced in a number of health clubs as a turning point in policy and communication style. After receiving negative criticism from the public and a lawsuit in California, 24 Hour Fitness has announced that they will automatically suspend billing if they are not able to reopen one month after closing. As many climbing gyms enter the second month of closure now, is the time to keep customers informed.

 

Climbing gyms tend to have more consumer-friendly policies than the fitness industry, where in-person cancellations and notice-periods are not uncommon. But as closures wear on, you need to pay attention to the needs and moods of your customers. It has been heartening to see the number of climbers who are willing to stay committed to their gyms, and hopefully some amount of reopening is not too distant, but small missteps now could potentially harm your ability to re-engage with those customers. At the moment, there is no substitute for constant and considerate communication.

 

It is also important at times like these to be as consistent as possible as an industry, have similar policies to gyms in your state and region, and (again) follow any applicable local regulations. It is, of course, necessary to seek out any revenue you can while having to stay closed, and it is hard to consider these additional challenges. But, by being proactive and staying in touch with your members about your decisions and their options, you can stay ahead of any potential risks.

 

If you do experience any regulatory or legal challenges get in touch with the CWA to let us know what we can do to help. Our volunteers are keeping an eye on regional legal developments and we will add any new laws or potential risks to our records.

 

Garnet Moore Head ShotAbout the Author

Garnet Moore is the Director of Operations at the Climbing Wall Association. Garnet brings more than a decade of experience in the climbing industry, including his time as the COO at Brewer's Ledge.

 

Tags:  billing  coronavirus  COVID-19  member communications  regulations  risk management 

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