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Membership Communications During Gym Closures

Posted By Laura Allured, Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Closure Messaging

As climbing gyms across the country and the world shut their doors to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, questions have emerged about how to communicate with members and customers. Here are a few tips and considerations…

 

Be Transparent

Develop a plan for your closure and clearly communicate it to your members. Things are changing rapidly, but you can avoid confusion by letting them know why you’re closing, how you made the decision, and how you’ll continue to evaluate the situation. Your plans will likely have to change as this situation unfolds, but people like to know that you have their best interests at heart.

 

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Everyone’s financial situation is different, but many of your members will be happy to have an opportunity to support you. They want you to continue to exist after this crisis is over and many of them will be willing to put their money where their mouth is.

 

Opt-In vs. Opt-Out

The opt-in vs. out-out debate is tricky. Do you put your revenue on the line by asking members to opt-in if they’d like to continue their membership during the closure, or do you put your gym first and opt members into paying by default?

 

“One thing I considered in making our decision is our membership demographic as a whole and how our decision plays into a broader picture of income inequality. For example, by utilizing opt-out are we shifting the burden to those who most need the money? Those who may be more stressed during this time and aren't paying attention to Facebook or the hundreds of emails we're all getting everyday about the virus,” explains Dana Caracciolo, General Manager of Doylestown Rock Gym & Adventure Center.

 

Though income inequality is an important consideration, a downside to the opt-in approach is that you're relying on your member's bandwidth to respond to your request. This will inevitably have a negative impact on the proportion of members who keep their membership in place.

 

One way to address these competing priorities is to use your staff’s time - those that you’re able to keep on payroll - to call every member and ask for their support directly. You’ll get the opportunity to connect with your membership in a new way, as well as the peace of mind knowing that the members who are still contributing are in a financial position to do so.

 

Stay Positive

This may be a tall order in such an uncertain time, but try to keep a positive tone in all of your communications right now. Use an active voice instead of a passive voice, avoid overly negative phraseology, and don’t dwell on the circumstances for your closure.

 

“Nobody needs to hear the world is falling right now,” says Kristin Horowitz of Ascent Ventures/The Pad Climbing. “Give them a reason to believe and they’ll keep supporting you because you’re giving them that.”

 

Be Authentic

“Communications need to match/mirror the relationship the owner actually has with their members, and the owner themselves,” advises Wes Shih of Sender One. Authenticity is key with all communications, so keep that in mind to avoid a scenario where your messaging comes across as disingenuous and backfires.

 

Communication Examples

Here are just a few examples of membership communications put out by climbing gyms from across the country:

5.Life Closure Messaging Example
Doylestown Rock Gym Closure Messaging Example
Sender One Closure Messaging Example
The Pad Closure Messaging Example

 

Laura Allured Head ShotAbout the Author

Laura Allured is the Marketing & Communications Manager at the Climbing Wall Association. Laura is the editor of the CWA's blog, Thrive, and also manages the CWA’s Industry Research Program, including the annual indoor climbing industry study. Originally from the Chicagoland area, she got her start climbing in 2012 at Vertical Endeavors and has been hooked ever since.

 

Tags:  branding  coronavirus  COVID-19  customer service  marketing  member communications  member retention 

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6 Tips for Collecting Member Feedback

Posted By Emma Walker, Monday, March 9, 2020
Member Feedback

Your members represent so much more than just your facility’s earnings. They’re the lifeblood of your gym’s community. Still, many facilities don’t yet have a robust strategy for capturing feedback from customers and members. There’s a lot you can learn from your members to improve your facility—the opportunity is much larger than just fielding comments about routesetting.

 

5.Life collects all kinds of information from its members, says Program Manager Eli Collinson: members’ impressions of their routesetting curve, if the number or topics of classes offered should change, and suggestions for areas of improvement. Building a member feedback loop that creates buy-in from members also means making your facility more member-friendly. Here’s what you need to know.

 

1. Be Proactive

Sender One facilities collect feedback from its members “at least once a month,” says Marketing Manager Crystal Tan, adding that they also have suggestion cards members can fill out anytime.

 

“We try to consolidate our surveys into one big survey for bigger-picture things, and then do spot checks with groups about their experiences throughout the year,” Collinson says. “In 2020, we plan to use Net Promoter Score surveys to follow up with new customers and class participants after their visit or class.”

 

2. Keep It Simple for Members—and for You

Collinson has had success collecting data with online tools (they use Microsoft forms). “Collecting the data digitally makes it easier to aggregate the feedback and see what percentage of respondents have similar feedback for us,” he explains.

 

Online tools are great, but don’t expect people to download anything or take a bunch of steps to answer your questions. “We have had trouble getting customer to use apps or similar systems for that feedback,” Collinson says. “We want to avoid long surveys and too many surveys,” adds Tan.

 

3. Allow for Anonymity

It can be tough to provide constructive feedback when your name is attached—especially in the early stages of building a member feedback loop, when members haven’t yet learned they can trust that their feedback will be taken seriously. Make it as easy as possible for members to provide you with feedback.

 

“We have boxes at the front desk where people can leave anonymous notes,” says Monica Aranda, Director of Member Services at Touchstone Climbing & Fitness. “We also have anonymous text service at some gyms, and they can email us anytime through the website.”

 

4. Acknowledge Feedback

Even when you receive feedback anonymously, it’s possible to let your membership know you’re addressing it. “We respond to members directly on the [suggestion] cards and publish them on our community board,” Tan says. “Depending on the suggestion, we note if we're working on a solution, if the solution is happening, or if we cannot achieve what they want––and why.” This technique has the added benefit of answering a question other members probably have.

 

When members submit feedback to Touchstone, “we contact them directly with a personal email or phone call,” Aranda says.

 

5. Take Action—and Tell Members About It

5.Life fielded numerous comments about the difficulty of finding partners, so they implemented two new partner-finding systems. Tan can also recall tons of instances where Sender One acted on feedback—and members were thrilled. “At one of our facilities, we have time-restricted street parking, so someone suggested that we make a courtesy announcement to let people know when to move their cars,” she explains. “Our main parking lot clears out around that time, so now we give customers a heads up through our PA system so they can quickly resume their climbing!”

 

6. Reward Member Engagement

For a while, Collinson noticed a trend of members complaining about dirty holds. “We suspect it’s because brushing is not common practice in our community, so we’re examining including a brush with a new membership signup to try and increase the number of people brushing holds on their chosen routes.”

 

This can also mean rewarding existing members. “We usually raffle a month of free membership for those that participate in the survey,” Collinson says, pointing out that it’s a relatively small cost for the facility, but is a strong motivator for members to participate.

 

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  customer experience  customer satisfaction  customer service  marketing  member retention  operations 

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Member Spotlight: DynoClimb

Posted By Alexandra Wojcicki, Tuesday, February 4, 2020
DynoClimb

Outdoor climbing opportunities in Florida are few and far between, but new climbing gyms in the region are finding strong markets to serve. Centralized between Daytona Beach and Orlando, DynoClimb, a gym in DeLand, opened its doors in the fall of 2019 and is already making waves.

 

This 10,000 sq. ft. facility offers primarily bouldering but also includes top rope and auto belay. The gym boasts a variety of yoga classes, featuring everything from hot yoga to yin yoga, and even stretching basics for climbing injury prevention. An abundance of group fitness classes serves a wide audience, offering guidance on functional fitness that translates beyond the wall to all aspects of life.

 

I reached out to Britt Frankel to get his insights on opening and running a new climbing gym in Florida.

 

Britt Frankel DynoClimb OwnerAlexandra Wojcicki: Is there anything that you’d like to share about the history of DynoClimb? For example, were there any obstacles that were unique to opening a gym in this area?

Britt Frankel: There weren’t many options when it came to taller buildings, so trying to find something that was suited to our needs was a process.

 

Originally, we were looking at providing more rope sections, and even lead climbing right off the bat. We planned to do a ground up build, but found an amazing existing location centralized in an up-and-coming area, a college town. The building was right off the main artery of the town, and the space offered opportunities for us to consider future expansions to gain those facets we wanted – more ropes and things like that.

 

We had to switch towards a bouldering focused mindset when it came down to it. That was the biggest obstacle, just making sure that we were being organic in our approach and doing our due diligence with ensuring that we were finding the right location.

 

AW: Are there plans in the works to open up more locations, and if so what have you learned from opening your first?

BF: Yes, we do have goals for opening future locations and expansions for our current location. We focused everything around building a strong brand.

 

Everyone can relate to what a “dino” is in terms of a dinosaur, and of course if you’re a more experienced climber you’re familiar with the term “dyno”. We felt that everyone would be able to relate to it, be it a strong climber, or someone new who has never climbed a day in their life.

 

Being able to brand and market that kind of relatability is so important. I feel that we have developed a strong brand that will allow us to open more locations in new areas.

 

What we’ve learned – well, opening a gym is hard for sure. From idea to fruition, it took us about 5 years. There were lots of trials and tribulations in finding a location and detecting that sweet spot in terms of demographics, especially as a first gym. There were roadblocks when it came to build outs – should we choose a ground up build or retrofit? There were a lot of lessons with what to look for in our future potential location.

 

DynoClimb Bouldering and Training Area

 

AW: Once a location was cemented, which wall builder did you choose?

BF: We decided to go with Eldorado Climbing Walls – we met them at the CWA Summit and built a great relationship with them. I really appreciated their mindset that everyone can climb. I appreciated their history as a company, and what they could do when it came to building walls.

 

The experience has been phenomenal with them. They did some amazing things with designing our brand integration while crafting cool features that our setters could work with in creating functional and unique climbs.

 

AW: What would you say sets your gym apart from other Florida climbing institutions?

BF: We have a very strong focus on community. Our motto is climb hard, stay humble, and have fun. We want people to feel that inclusivity when it comes down to their first day out.

 

As a beginner – you have that excitement, but also, you’re nervous. You’re seeing people crush V8s, yet you might barely be able to make it up a V0. However, when the people who are crushing V8s are cheering you on and giving you tips, it makes the whole transition into the sport so much more accessible and uplifting. We make sure that we have a very strong community and give back to that community as much as we can.

 

For us, what sets us apart from other gyms is that the community developed so quickly and became so strong. We’ve only been open for 6 months, but it feels like we’ve been open for a year and a half or two years. We hear it from our members all the time – we have such a strong community that from day one, it pulls you in and makes you want to be a part of it.

 

DynoClimb Auto Belays and Facility

 

AW: What project would you say you’re most excited about for the future?

BF: I would say we’re most excited about incorporating lead climbs and higher top rope structures. Our building allows for expansion, which is a cool factor that we planned on from the beginning.

 

Bouldering makes getting into climbing more accessible to people, but there are so many different specializations when it comes to climbing that we want to introduce our members to as many of those as we can.

 

We’re super excited to plan opportunities for expansion in terms of our building, like adding in a higher tower, where we can get climbs up to 50 – 60 feet high. There isn’t much in the realm of higher rope climbing currently in our area.

 

As primarily a bouldering gym, we look at opportunities for expansion as a way to give back to our community by developing locally available higher rope and lead climbs.

 

AW: What does it mean to DynoClimb to be a CWA member?

BF: It means everything. It honestly means we have a way to build relationships, to grow upon those relationships, to be part of an organization that wants to facilitate our growth and help the industry with the industry’s growth. It’s very supportive.

 

It’s amazing to be able to leverage the resources that we have through the CWA – it’s just a great way for us all to connect and stay interconnected. There are hundreds of gyms out there and for us to be able to connect and network and build those relationships, it’s quintessential.

 

It’s such an amazing part of the process that helps exponentially from the start, up through everyday activities.

 

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:  marketing  member spotlight  real estate  startups 

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5 Marketing Techniques Every Gym Can Do

Posted By Emma Walker, Tuesday, February 4, 2020
Marketing Techniques

What are the most successful gyms in the country doing? Sure, they’re using top-notch routesetters and keeping their programming fresh. But they’re also marketing their facilities in a way that makes them stand out from the crowd—something that becomes increasingly important as indoor climbing gains popularity.

 

Some facilities, like Akron, Ohio-based Rock Mill Climbing, aren’t in a market with a lot of geographic overlap, allowing them to leverage the sport of climbing itself and the unique sense of community it offers (as opposed to other fitness and social clubs) as advertising. “We work hard to serve and foster that community in the gym,” says Nick Muffet, Rock Mill’s Marketing & Community Director. “As long as we do that, it really speaks for itself.”

 

If you’re in a more saturated market, there’s an additional challenge, says Hannah Clack, Marketing & Events Coordinator at Ascent Studio in Fort Collins, Colorado. “We decided to take a highly active approach by providing as many community-oriented events, meetups, and clinics as we can fit on our monthly calendars.”

 

Here’s how you can ensure your gym is maximizing its marketing potential.

 

1. Build and Maintain a Consistent Voice

Part of making your facility stand out from the crowd is creating—and maintaining—a consistent brand and voice. That’s how your guests know what to expect when they walk in the door. This can be challenging, Clack says: “We aim to keep a certain style and cohesiveness across our promotions, but when you offer multiple events a week or month, promotions can start to blend together and disappear from your audience’s attention.”

 

“You've got to keep it fresh!” she adds.

 

2. Encourage Word-of-Mouth Marketing

As you build loyal members, encouraging them to bring others into the fold is crucial. “Word of mouth is by far the most powerful marketing channel,” says Muffet. “We like to make it easy for our members to bring in friends on guest passes and get store credit for referring new members.”

 

This goes beyond traditional marketing channels, too—the interactions and experiences guests have at your facility are what they’ll tell their friends about. One way to encourage members to talk about your facility is to employ a consistent hashtag in your social posts, and then feature members’ posts when they use it.

 

3. Optimize Your Social Channels

“Quality over quantity,” says Clack. “Genuine photos or videos are always better than graphics. If I need to post a graphic, I prefer to do it on an Instagram story [rather than a post]. It still gets seen and doesn't clog up your feed.”

 

“Content that actually provides value to the viewer always performs better,” Muffet adds. “We try to offer a lot of climbing tips for new climbers and post beta videos for boulder routes just before they come down.”

 

4. Automate Marketing to Free Up Time

Work smarter, not harder, Muffet recommends. “Anything that allows scheduling and automation frees up time and focus to work on higher level projects.”

 

This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. “We use Mailchimp,” Clack says. “It has plenty of pros, but I wish it was more customizable with its layouts. Either way, it gets the job done.”

 

5. Keep Your Existing Membership Engaged

“We're working to extend member retention by providing more resources and classes for our climbers to meet their goals at the gym—and to be celebrated when they do,” Muffet says. Ascent also does a monthly Member Appreciation Night with local vendors, local beer, and member challenges, along with several leagues and comps (small and large) and a Fitness Challenge each year.

 

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  customer experience  marketing  member acquisition  member retention 

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Reel Plastic: A Film Fest by and for the People

Posted By Laura Allured, Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Fitness Investment

The Reel Rock film festival has become a staple of the climbing community – an annual opportunity to see fresh films featuring some of the most accomplished climbers on the planet. As Reel Rock has grown in popularity, so too have showings at climbing gyms. All around the world, you’ll find people lounging on pads, watching the year’s films projected onto climbing walls.

 

This year, Crux Climbing Center in Austin, Texas took a unique approach to their Reel Rock showing, creating their own local film fest, Reel Plastic. Their innovative take on the Reel Rock format provided a unique way for their community to come together and celebrate their own stories.

 

I caught up with Lydia Huelskamp, Crux’s Marketing & Events Coordinator, to learn more about Reel Plastic.

 

LA: What is Reel Plastic?

LH: Reel Plastic is a local climbing film festival. It's a place for our community to come showcase films they've made, which can be anything from goofy films to more serious films where someone's working on a project.

 

LA: What inspired the idea for Reel Plastic?

LH:Obviously, some of it was Reel Rock. We all love Reel Rock and seeing those films. But I also think it's really fun to see what happens when local people and groups of friends make films. It's the idea that we have this great community here, and we have a lot of people who like to make films. We wanted to highlight local people climbing.

 

LA: How did your community respond to the event?

LH: They responded well! We had eight films to watch, which was really cool. We set up our yoga room, and it was packed. We ran out of chairs, people were sitting on the ground, so the response was great. Most people who came really enjoyed it. It will be cool to see how this develops if we do it every year – how we will get more and more films and people will get more excited.

 

LA: Did you have people create films especially for Reel Plastic?

LH: I think we had a good mix, about half and half. We had people who had already created films, and this was a cool way to show them to our community. And then we definitely had people who saw Reel Plastic and decided to make a film for the event.

 

LA: Do you have any insight into the approach and equipment people used to create their films?

LH: Not too much, but I can tell you that several of the films were made on iPhones. For example, in one film, some people had taken videos while they were on a trip and when they got back one of their sons was like, oh let me use your video footage! And he made a film from it, which turned out great. Some people used iPhones, while other films had a little more experience behind them with better cameras.

 

LA: The ones that were more 'amateur' were still hits at the event?

LH: Oh yes, very much so!

 

LA: So, you don't have to be an experienced filmmaker in order to participate in this kind of thing?

LH: Not at all! We were trying to show that this is for everyone and stress that you don't have to be the next big director to be able to make these films. Everyone for the most part can get out their phones, film something, and create a story. I think that message will spread to more people now and hopefully that will inspire more people to go and make films on their own.


 

Watch the film What Happens in Red Rock

 


LA: What were the films about?

LH: We had a few films that were funny. We had a few about strong climbers, and you got to watch them crush these local climbs. We also premiered a film from Mellow Climbing, so people got psyched on that.

 

We had one that featured these two moms who went to climb at Red Rocks for their first time, doing multi-pitch for the first time. It was really well-done. Their journey was entertaining, and then at the end they had this great talk about fear and climbing.

 

We had a good, broad spectrum of stories, from amateur to pro.

 

LA: Where can we find the Reel Plastic Films?

LH: Some are on YouTube and some are on Vimeo. We have a listing of most of them on the Crux Climbing Center website.

 

LA: Besides the films themselves, were there any other elements to the night?

LH: We have a member appreciation night every month, so Reel Plastic was a part of that. We had beer, cider, and some tables featuring local businesses like an ice cream shop and a cryotherapy studio.

 

LA: How did you approach getting the word out to your community?

LH: We did what we do for a lot of our events - we posted on Instagram, created a Facebook event, put posters all over our gym, and reached out to local event calendars. I also posted on a local climbing Facebook group so that community would see it. That was how we were able to get the word out to a lot of people. We had around 70 to 80 people come out for it.


 

Watch the film Please, Don't Be "That Climber"

 


LA: How did this event compare to your usual monthly member appreciation events?

LH: We often have vendors come, and we always have beer and cider. This was different because we had this extra film festival element added to it.

 

We’ve done films before where we shut down the gym and put it up on the climbing walls, but we wanted people to still be able to come and climb. We had it in our yoga room so that people could climb if they wanted to, come up and watch the films if they wanted to, and then go back to climbing.

 

LA: Did you show Reel Rock the same night as Reel Plastic, or were they two separate events?

LH: They were two separate events that took place the same week. We were trying to harness the Reel Rock excitement. We had Reel Rock on Monday and Tuesday of that week, and then Reel Plastic was that Thursday.

 

LA: How do you think the two film fests complimented each other?

LH: Reel Rock is awesome - we all love it - but we've got a lot of local climbers, and it's fun to see their stories. It’s exciting to see people climbing a climb that you know or talking about something that you've faced in your own climbing. I think that's a really cool thing about doing something like Reel Plastic. Plus, it brings the community together.

 

LA: What are your plans for the future of the Reel Plastic project?

LH: I would love to continue doing this every year and inspire people to make fun films and tell stories with their friends. It’s another way to bring this community together. That sounds cheesy, but anything with the climbing community is always really great. Climbing's not just about the crushers, it should be for everyone. It's cool to see more diverse stories reflected, so I hope this event inspires more people to get out there and tell their stories.

 

Laura Allured Head ShotAbout the Author

Laura Allured is the Marketing & Communications Manager at the Climbing Wall Association. Laura is the editor of the CWA's blog, Thrive, and also manages the CWA’s Industry Research Program, including the annual indoor climbing industry study. Originally from the Chicagoland area, she got her start climbing in 2012 at Vertical Endeavors and has been hooked ever since.

 

Tags:  climbing culture  community development  marketing  member retention  programming 

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Building Brand Awareness for Your Climbing Gym

Posted By Megan Walsh, Sunday, December 15, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, December 10, 2019
Brand Awareness for Your Climbing Gym

Where websites were once the mainstay for prospective clients looking to learn more about a business, social media has now taken over–becoming the first-and-last stop for many folks interested in who you are as a business and what you do.

 

This has created an opportunity to develop your brand identity and captivate your audience, both present and future, with a story: who you are, what’s important to you, and how they can be part of it.

 

What Is Brand Awareness and How to Build It

Simply put, the goal of brand awareness is to increase the number of folks who know about your business. From hanging posters around town, to creating a unique hashtag, to giving out stickers, to newspaper advertisements, there’s a brand awareness strategy for any budget.

 

You want your brand awareness strategies to create broad-reaching engagement in your community and identify your gym as a dedicated member of the community. Some examples include:

  • Sponsoring climbing festivals, film premieres, or conferences
  • Volunteering at events or creating an opportunity for members to volunteer
  • Boothing at your community’s local events

Each of these opportunities, while important and worthwhile, requires a high level of engagement, planning, and resources. To reach some of the low-hanging fruit to build brand-awareness, look no further than your online content streams.

 

Building Brand Awareness Through Social Media

Social media usage increased by 9% in the past year, bringing the global total to 3.48 billion users across various platforms. Despite pesky algorithms, social media offers brands an opportunity to truly connect with their audience. It’s a space to promote special offers, encourage climbing stoke, and host conversations about the state of climbing–whether that’s climbing access issues, the latest comp results, or if a 9.8 or 9.5 is an optimal rope diameter.

 

As a gym owner, you have the unique opportunity to curate the highlights of your gym through social media. Identify the most important aspects of your business model. Maybe it’s your unique connection to community non-profits or the local crag clean-ups you host. Maybe you have a five-star personal training program or a raucous bouldering league. What makes your gym unique and what about your gym would draw in a new user?

 

Brand awareness is about personality and showcasing your business, and most importantly, it’s about quality over quantity.

 

Try to refrain from posting low-quality content on social media. Users, unfortunately, will scroll by that content quickly, which is a loss for the user and the employee who took the time to create the content.

 

With each curated piece ask, “What does this say about my business?” And if it’s not working to provide a deeper understanding, showcase the unique qualities of your gym, or the like, then it won’t benefit your overall branding.

 

Brand Awareness to Brand Recognition

From brand awareness comes brand recognition. When someone describes your gym what would you hope they say? The answer to that question helps identify an overall strategy for brand awareness. Are you a community space? An educational space? A place for all-out stoke at 6 am and 11 pm?

 

An example of strong brand recognition is Starbucks. You likely not only recognize their logo from a highway billboard, but you probably also know that they make premium coffee beverages, champion the no-straw movement, and have a dedicated loyalty program.

 

What do you hope members and non-members would know about your gym just by seeing your logo or by the mention of your name?

 

Continually curate pieces of content that reflect these core tenants so when a member’s friend asks why they should choose your gym over another option in town, the answer is something like, “They have an incredible bouldering league, a tight-knit community that feels like a second home, and they consistently give back to the community,” rather than, “It’s closer to my house.”

 

Conclusion

Brand awareness offers gym owners a way to connect with their community and share their vision for climbing. From a level of brand awareness comes a level of brand recognition, which will have positive impacts on membership sales and retention. With the current climbing gym boom, it’s important to stand out and that members recognize your business is uniquely aligned with their needs.

 

Megan Walsh Head ShotAbout the Author

Megan Walsh is a freelance writer and social media consultant based out of Salt Lake City, UT. Her work has appeared in a variety of outdoor publications like Climbing Magazine, Utah Adventure Journal, The Dyrt, and Misadventures Magazine. When she's not writing or climbing, you'll likely find her curled up with a book near a campfire, backcountry skiing in the Wasatch, or watching re-runs of The Office.

 

Tags:  branding  community development  marketing  member acquisition 

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Marketing Tips to Capture and Keep New Year’s Resolution-ers

Posted By Amanda Ashley, Friday, November 15, 2019
New Years Resolution-ers

It’s almost that time of year again! The holidays are coming up, and as soon as January hits, there will be a renewed market of New Year’s Resolution-ers who are looking for ways to reach their fitness goals. Make sure your gym is well-positioned to seize this opportunity.

 

The potential for new members around New Year’s is huge. People who have made fitness their resolution will be looking for new, fun, and effective ways to reach their goals, and we all know climbing checks those boxes.

 

But you need a solid plan in place to reach that audience and eventually convert them into climbing-obsessed members. Read on for four tips that will help you create a New Year’s marketing plan that actually works.

 

Tip #1: Create A User-Friendly Landing Page

When marketing to the New Year’s audience, it’s important to create messaging that speaks directly to their needs, questions, and potential objections. Rather than sending them to your general website, create a landing page with content that’s tailored and focused.

 

If you don’t already have one, there are many tools for building landing pages out there. Do some research to find one that works with the other technology you’re already using and fits into your budget.

 

The beauty of the landing page is that you can target your content to a specific audience and focus that audience on the action you want them to take. Keep the copy as brief as possible but give your visitors all the information they need up front. Make the CTA (call to action) super clear so there’s no confusion about what next step you want them to take.

 

The idea is to keep your landing page simple but creating it can take some time. For more in-depth help, check out this blog post, How to Create a Landing Page From Scratch.

 

Tip #2: Send Traffic to Your Landing Page

Now that you’ve made your landing page, it’s time to get eyeballs on it! Two great ways to do that are search and social.

 

1. Improve Your Local SEO

The first place most New Year’s Resolution-ers will turn for fitness options in their area is Google, so you need to think about your paid and organic search strategies, especially Local SEO.

 

Local SEO markets your climbing gym and services to local prospects when they search. Local prospects searching for fitness options are likely to search for ‘gyms in [Your City]’ – does your gym show-up?

 

Learning about local SEO is important as Google reports that 46% of searches have a local intent. If terms like ‘3-pack,’ ‘Google My Business,’ ‘citations,’ and ‘rank’ are foreign to you, it’s time to learn about local SEO.

 

2. Ramp-Up Social Media

Social media can be a powerful digital marketing platform to connect you to prospective gym members in your area. Use climbing and fitness related hashtags to capture the attention of everyone looking for fitness options; #Newyearsresolution, #newyear, #goals, #YourCityfitness.

 

Use ads targeted to your local community to generate traffic for your landing page. To increase your odds of conversion, make sure the content in your ads is consistent with the content and messaging on your landing page.

 

Tip #3: Make Sure Your Reviews Are On Point

If a lead gets to your landing page but isn’t quite ready to convert, their most likely next step will be to check out your reviews.

 

Positive online reviews are just as powerful as personal recommendations from friends or acquaintances, and 97% of consumers read online reviews. Reviews help increase trust in your business and provide social proof that your business is a good choice.

 

Are your listings on Google, Facebook, Yelp and other platforms ready to be seen by these prospects? It’s a good idea to have an ongoing customer review strategy so that your reviews are always current, but it’s especially important when you’re expecting to get a bump in online traffic.

 

If you need to freshen up your reviews, run a special promotion asking current members to review your gym, and be specific about where you’d like the review: Google, Facebook, Yelp, or on your web page.

 

Tip #4: Create Programming to Set Resolution-ers Up for Success

More important than slashing prices or waiving sign-up fees is creating programming for new members who haven’t climbed before. Gyms are notoriously intimidating, with 1 in 2 Americans reporting experiencing ‘gymtimidation.’ This can be even more true for climbing gyms.

 

Offer programming that’s specifically built to set New Year’s Resolution-ers up for success. Set up a series that’s designed to introduce beginners to the sport – teach technical skills, general fitness techniques, and climbing movement in a fun and supportive environment.

 

These tactics will reduce intimidation, create a sense of community, and generally help with retention.

 

Bonus Tip: Target Families with Special Programming

Offering New Year’s combos that allow kids to climb and parents to take a yoga class or use the fitness deck is a creative way to boost memberships that get the whole family exercising together.

 

Amanda Ashley Head ShotAbout Amanda Ashley

Amanda Ashley is a writer, climber, and a climbing mom. From her early days spent training on the musty community woody in The School at the New River Gorge to training in modern mega climbing gyms all over the West, she's seen the rise of climbing gyms and the evolution of routesetting up close and personal for the past 20 years. Amanda writes about climbers, routesetting, changes in climbing movement and performance, and the climbing industry. Amanda's work has appeared in Climbing Magazine, Climbing Business Journal, and the Utah Adventure Journal.

 

Tags:  marketing  member retention  programming 

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Climbing Gym Programming 101

Posted By Nicole Brandt, Monday, October 7, 2019
Climbing Gym Programming

Are you a gym with programs that haven’t changed in a while, OR a gym that has programs and is always creating the next best thing, OR are you looking to start a gym and are trying to decide what programming to include? Whatever the answer, this article will help you think through your programming to ensure it’s aligned with your goals.

 

As an industry, we have a tendency to lump all programming together or we only differentiate between youth and adult. Our youth categories tend to be a little more fleshed out with distinctions of entry, advanced, and competitive levels. It would be more powerful to have categories for all programming and a strategic approach to what you provide in your facility.

 

As you look at the following categories, consider what your gym currently has, what you might want to develop, and what you absolutely do not want to have. One of the best ways to conclude if you will have a program in a category is to know your why.

 

Patagonia’s why, captured in their mission statement, provides a standout example: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

 

Knowing “WHY” will help you understand if a program is a good fit for your target customer, your facility, and your identity as a gym. Simon Sinek defines in the golden circle of Why, How and What, that every organization knows what they do, some know how they do it, and he challenges you to go further and know WHY you do something.

 

The why is the purpose and belief behind inspired organizations. Regardless if you have one location or many, a clear why always creates more success.

 

Programming Categories for Adults

  • Climbing instruction
    • Gym basics and belaying
    • Milestones classes
    • Technique classes
    • Intermediate and advanced programming
  • Training for climbing
  • Fitness (general and climbing fitness)
  • Yoga/ Pilates
  • Events
  • Competitions
  • Series

Programming Categories for Youth

  • Recreational programs entry and advanced - non competing teams
  • Competition programs - sanctioned competition teams
  • Camps for recreational and training purpose
  • Competitions (Recreational, sanctioned, leagues, category in citizen comp)
  • Youth events (Lock ins, youth bouldering league, clinics, school events)
  • Family events (Birthday parties, carnivals, family instruction, etc.)

 

As you evaluate which categories of programs are right for your facility, make sure you consider your target customer, physical space, program planning, product launch, and evaluation.

 

Target Customer

Once you know your why, you can consider which programs are right for your facility(s). The first step is to understand your target customer. Answer the following questions to learn more about your target customer.

  • Are you trying to attract a gym full of millennials, families, youth, young professionals, or a pie chart of all of the above?
  • What is the vibe in your gym and who does it most resonate with? What music are you playing? What is your décor?
  • What does your facility offer that other facilities in the area do not?
  • How does your facility design align with who you hope to attract? For example, are your walls too high for beginners? Does your setting match the needs of experienced climbers?
  • Do your goals reflect the style of outdoor climbing popular in your region, as well as the progression of the sport?
  • Does the facility encourage performance or socialization? Does it allow for programming to happen without distraction?
  • What are the biggest challenges your target customer group faces? What are their greatest needs? What problems can you help them solve with your programming?

To take your understanding of your customers to the next level, consider building out personas. This process will give you better insight into the needs of your customers, which is incredibly helpful as you make business decisions. There are many how-to guides out there, so do your research. How to Create Customer Personas That Breathe Life Into Your Marketing from Inc. is a good place to start.

 

Ideally, your programming is helping to attract more of the customer that you want in your facility and not causing friction with the customer you attract the most of. If programming and operations are competing for different customers, it’s bound to impact both users.

 

For example, consider what threshold of impact from youth programming your facility can sustain, and if you pass that threshold, determine what steps you can take, such as capping enrollment or even adding a youth-specific facility.

 

Physical Space

Know how much physical space is available outside of general membership use. Most climbing gyms are built with an emphasis on member use. If you did not design physical programming space for youth or adults – such as additional education bays or areas, space that can be closed off and create an “out of sight, out of mind” experience, quieter spaces for maximization of learning – you will be impacting your general member’s experience by providing programming.

 

One way to combat any animosity towards a space that is “taken away” for programming is to shift your staff and users to think about programming as a way to spread stoke, curiosity, and knowledge.

 

However, it’s still critical to understand how much of the member space can be utilized at any given time without creating a negative impact. Consider this carefully when determining what programs are a good fit for your facility.

 

Program Planning

Once you understand the “why” behind your programs, as well as what specific programs to do, you must look at “how”.

 

Do your homework

  • What comparable products are available from other sports or other climbing gyms?
  • Look into the competition to help you understand what you do and don’t like about a product or offering you haven’t yet executed yourself.
  • Starting from absolute scratch is hard and other models provide more info to use for a strong start.

Develop the idea, flesh it out, and write it down

  • Determine if the product being created is offered as part of your core products (always offered or offered at all locations), is a one-off event, or is a test product.
  • Get the concept down. What is the feeling, effect, and strategy of having the program?
  • Set an ambitious goal defining success. This can be number of participants, number of spectators, new participant registrations, registrations from a marketing campaign, or any other trackable number.

Run the numbers, get data, and make sure it’s financially viable

  • Income vs. expenses
  • Payroll and rates associated with instructor(s)
  • Additional expenses
  • Standard facility costs/overhead
  • Positive impacts from event, ex: increased education about sanctioned climbing and upcoming Olympics
  • Negative impacts from event, ex: sections of facility closed and impact to customer routines

Registration

  • Determine the internal staff and external participant process for registration.
  • Consider using a software or calendar that allows registration such as Rock Gym Pro, Mind Body, or Bookeo. Understand what accounting tracking and taxability applies (some instruction is tax free in certain states).

Start the creative asset process

  • Build your messaging, your brand positioning statements. Write, edit, and revise the information that will be customer-facing.
  • Your narrative needs to be simple, unique, persuasive, and descriptive of what the product does and its value. And be as concise as possible.
  • Tagline, problem it solves, list of core features, value included, 10-word positioning statement. To further dig into the Patagonia example, they know their why and their homepage highlights several campaigns they are currently running.
Patagonia Campaign

EX: This has a tag line, the problem it solves is captured in a short positioning statement, and the call to action is clear for the customer.

  • Decide how much info goes where. The poster might only have the event name and tagline, while the registration page provides a lot more info.

Marketing

  • Seed the social space with “leaks” and coming soon blasts to create anticipation and awareness.
  • Your staff are on the front lines with your customers. No matter how good your marketing campaign is, it does not replace a human talking to potential participants about an event or product. Train your staff. Keep in mind, it takes 3-7 touches with materials to really learn a new thing - written, verbal, group staff meetings, individual follow-up, hard copy at desk, marketing materials. Don’t expect your staff to be proficient with just an email.
  • Put your staff through the program or give them a hands-on experience with the material for them to be able to speak to the experience with potential participants.
  • Keep the release rolling with fresh announcements, media, posters, flyers, etc.
  • Gather feedback from your target customers and change the messaging as needed to create the best “hook” for the customer.
  • Make it easy for people to learn more about your product (website, print media, staff conversation). Knowledge is power.

 

Launch Your Product

There are many great ideas. Yet sometimes the execution falls flat or successes are missed due to poor planning. Make your launch of a new product an event. After your launch, talk to influencers that might have good feedback. And listen to what they say. Feedback is not always easy, so keep an open mind because it usually helps us grow.

 

Don’t Lose Your Momentum

Be willing to revisit and evaluate your program periodically. Make sure that it’s still fresh, fits your customers’ needs, and is accomplishing your “why” the best it possibly can. The ability to shift your focus to create more customer satisfaction and ultimately more customer retention will help create the most success possible from your programming.

 

Nicole Brandt Head ShotAbout the Author

Nicole Brandt runs Cypress Roots Consulting, a consulting company for climbing gyms helping them deep-dive into their company organization, programming, and culture. Nicole earned her degree in Outdoor Recreation with an emphasis in Tourism and has worked as the Program Director of Momentum and as a facilitator and guide across the Southeast and West. Currently based out of Salt Lake City, she spends her free time learning about yoga and herbalism.

 

Tags:  business development  community development  customer experience  customer satisfaction  customer service  employee engagement  human resources  leadership  marketing  member acquisition  member retention  operations  programming  staff training  youth team  youth training 

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Indoor Climbing Programs for Boomers, Part II - Tips for Boomer Instruction

Posted By Tom Weaver, Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Get Started with Boomer Programming

Part I of this series explained the business case for adding programming for Boomers to your climbing gym, and once you’ve decided to take that step, how to market and message that program. Now, it’s time to think through the considerations unique to working with this age group.

 

Boomer Instruction Overview

I start each class in Climb Iowa’s auto-belay and traverse wall area with a warm-up consisting of stretching and traversing. Stretching is very important, as well as some easy shoulder, forearm, and leg warm-ups. During this time, I talk about hold orientation and some basic climbing techniques.

 

Then I move on to a climbing-specific warm-up of traversing. I start by emphasizing center-of-gravity awareness, the importance of footwork (moving their base), and the fact that climbing isn’t about doing pull-ups. I spot Boomers with care, especially during their first class. Sometimes I’ll place one or both hands lightly on their backs as they traverse after first asking their permission. We discuss (and I demonstrate) how to fall if they come off the traverse wall or stumble on a padded floor mat.

 

Questions are encouraged at all times. After warming up and traversing, we then move to Climb Iowa’s easiest 5.5 top-rope climb on a slab. I explain why I’m wearing belay gloves, what belaying entails, and why I always use an assisted-braking belay device. I explain why the retrace figure-8 knot is used. We look up at the route’s anchor to ensure we’re tying into the correct rope for the route we’re planning to climb, and what could happen if we didn’t do that (a big swing).

 

I explain that we’re going to practice coming down from just a few feet up before they climb farther up the route. We introduce climber/belayer communications and risk management partner checks. This is all pretty standard stuff in your facility, I’m sure.

 

I pay close attention to energy levels in the Boomer class to ensure everyone has fun while learning, and that soreness following the first day’s class is minimized. If this means that a student climbs only one 5.5 slab route during the first two-hour class, that’s fine. Having fun and learning climbing movements and techniques while not pushing anyone too fast or too far past their comfort level is important with this age group.

 

A Summary of What Boomers are Taught: (Risk management best practices are emphasized at nearly every step)

  1. We recommend top-rope climbing only for Boomers, although some graduate to boulder & lead
  2. Having fun during each class, and to climb with fellow students between each week’s class
  3. Climb Iowa’s Belay Certification class is included at no additional cost
  4. Importance of Climber/Belayer communications (On Belay?/Belay On, Climbing/Climb On)
  5. Risk Management partner checks – every time on every climb (Explain what could go wrong)
  6. We practice traversing at the beginning of each class as a warm-up and to gain movement skills
  7. Footwork is emphasized (quiet feet, precise placement; a glue-feet climbing game)
  8. Straight Arm climbing (a Franken-Arm climbing game)
  9. Reminders to remember to breathe!
  10. Climb relaxed, conserve power with grace; use momentum to your advantage - make it look easy
  11. Opportunistic resting, watch feet onto footholds before looking away
  12. Hold types and directionality, Matching, Flagging, Weight-shifting, Balance and Foot-switching
  13. Mantling and Stemming Day is a big hit and proves that climbing isn’t all about pull-ups!
  14. The puzzle-solving, cognitive part of climbing: Route Reading, Rainbow Routes and Projecting

An interesting statistic: Women in the Boomer Climbers Movement Class have outnumbered men nearly two-to-one since the beginning of Climb Iowa’s Boomer initiative. At the time of this writing, one week before the first Friday in April, the sign-up sheet is showing that it will be another all-female Boomer class.

 

Teaching the Importance of Risk Management Partner Checks

At the beginning of the third week’s class I surreptitiously undo one of my double-backed harness buckles and leave it routed through the buckle but not double-backed. I then keep refusing to belay the first climber until one of the students’ notices what’s wrong, or until they give up. I usually get to claim a successful ‘Aha – gotcha!’ and proceed to show them the problem. Only three or four students in nearly four years have discovered the problem, and at least one of those was warned by a former student.

 

This tactic has proven to be memorable to our students and emphasizes that you don’t just casually glance at a climber’s or belayer’s harness as you conduct those critical risk management partner checks (every time on every climb). We must look directly at harness buckles to know for sure they are double-backed and secure. Based on feedback, students have enjoyed and appreciated this lesson in particular.

 

Understanding and anticipating what can go wrong and conducting thorough and specific risk management partner checks every time on every climb is mandatory in the Boomer Climbers Movement Class and throughout Climb Iowa.

 

Auto-Belays vs. Boomers

Kids love auto-belays, but most Boomers new to climbing are just the opposite. Older Boomers are especially leery of auto-belays and find them very scary. Making Boomers go up an auto-belay route and let go as their very first rock climbing experience is a tough introduction. My experience has taught me the older the Boomer, the scarier auto-belays are.

 

Boomers do better when introduced to auto-belays toward the end of the first day’s class. They have made their first climbs and descents on top-rope routes with a gentle belay. This gives them a better feel for standing away from the wall and coming down with their feet wide apart during descents. They get a feel for what it’s like to be suspended from a rope by their harness. We then explain auto-belay descents are the same but a bit faster coming down, and that it’s not necessary to ‘stick’ the landing on their feet. We also caution them about getting a foot hung up on a hold as the auto-belay is lowering them.

 

A Fun Graduation Ceremony

At the end of the final Boomer Climbers Movement Class, I hand out a graduation certificate we’ve created and laminated. This single-page certificate is two-sided and covers the climbing skills learned during the class and the reasons why indoor climbing is a great path to lifetime fitness and health.

 

I point out their remarkable progress since their first climb and congratulate each student on the courage they’ve shown and on the climbing skills they’ve acquired during their month-long indoor climbing adventure. All agree that they have come a long way, and most are delighted with their achievements.

 

Most Boomer students go on to purchase annual memberships and continue to climb with a new circle of interesting friends. All seem to enjoy the under-appreciated inter-generational aspects of indoor climbing.

 

The Best Health and Wellness Activity for Retirement Years

At first glance, climbing appears to be a highly unlikely activity for Boomers. The fear of falling and injury is common, however once the remarkable benefits of indoor climbing are explained, a significant number of Boomers begin to realize that indoor climbing’s fall prevention system, emphasis on center-of-gravity awareness, strength and agility improvements, intense balancing practice, and attention to precise movement and footwork actually make it an ideal fitness activity for many Boomers.

 

In addition to the programs being run through indoor climbing facilities, we are now seeing small businesses being created to engage with this audience, like Stay.stoked Adventures. This business will be the first (that I know of) to offer Introduction to Rock Climbing schools for the 50+ demographic, located in Squamish, British Columbia. There is so much potential for the future of rock climbing that involves the Baby Boomer generation.

 

I use my experience as further proof that indoor climbing can be a great path to lifetime fitness and health for Boomers. Simply put, I’m a greatly improved new version of myself since discovering indoor climbing. I have fun, I meet new friends, it keeps me fit, and it’s the greatest reason to keep my weight under control I’ve ever found. Climbing is fun and, even better, is a perfect way to focus on health and wellness! I can’t imagine an exercise activity better suited for retirement years than indoor rock climbing.

 

Tom Weaver Head ShotAbout the Author

Tom (age 72) started climbing ten years ago following a dare to his granddaughters as they walked into an REI store. Fifty-five pounds lighter now, indoor top-rope rock climbing transformed his life. Tom is the instructor for the Boomer Climbers Movement Class at Climb Iowa and loves helping students from 50 to 75 years old improve their balance, flexibility, strength, and agility while learning to climb with skill and grace. “Aging successfully is a major priority for us. What other activity is exhilarating, never gets old, is social, inter-generational, low impact, cognitive, as well as physical, and features a world-class fall prevention system?”

 

Tags:  community development  marketing  member acquisition  programming  risk management 

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6 Ways to Retain Your Members

Posted By Emma Walker, Monday, May 6, 2019
Climbing Gym Member Retention

You’ve gotten new members in the door, and now there’s a new challenge: keeping them engaged so they become loyal, long-term members. Conventional fitness clubs track their membership trends closely – it’s well-established that membership spikes significantly right after the holidays, then drops off a few months into the new year. With a niche climbing audience, though, retention is more nuanced.

 

We chatted with a few managers at gyms who are successfully retaining members, even when the slower months hit. Here are their secrets.

 

1. Build a community

There isn’t just one magic incentive or trick you can use to retain membership. “It has be a core value that is applied across all aspects of the gym’s facilities, operations, services, etc.” says Rich Breuner, Director of Operations at Bend Rock Gym. The gym’s #1 goal, he says, is to support and facilitate an amazing community experience. “That translates to people wanting to become and stay members,” he explains. It’s working. BRG has seen member attrition rates drop significantly since 2016, when they began examining programs gym-wide and implementing adjustments with member retention in mind.

 

2. Quality walls, quality routes

Members want to climb at gyms with excellent routes. Bend Rock Gym’s commitment to quality begins with the most basic element: its walls. “They’re built well, they’re maintained well, the routes and volumes are always changing,” says Breuner, who compares setters to the cooks in a kitchen. The ingredients, or holds, might be similar to what you’d find anywhere, but a chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant can really make you want to come back. Their routesetting, he says, is a key differentiator and major factor in keeping members coming back for more.

 

3. Education isn’t just for kids

Anchorage’s Alaska Rock Gym offers adult programming free with monthly membership, says Operations Manager Eric Wickenheiser. At some point, Wickenheiser says, “new climbers hit a plateau. After a few months, people think, ‘Hey, how can I climb 5.12?’” ARG’s Climbing 101, 201, and 301 classes, plus lead clinics and women’s-specific programming, keeps members engaged when they might otherwise burn out and let their memberships lapse.

 

4. Invest in customer service

This begins at the front door, but it’s key for staff to get out on the floor and get to know members, too, says Breuner. BRG expects all-star customer service from its staff. “We’re flexible and adapt our customer service experience with the needs of our membership,” he explains. “People come in and they don’t feel like they’re going to war with the staff—they see friendly faces and people who are getting to know them on a personal level.” BRG makes a concerted effort to get desk staff onto the floor to help with waivers and answer questions, which creates a fun, accessible culture for climbing.

 

5. Find the right instructors

When it comes to programming, “the instructor makes or breaks a class,” says Wickenheiser. One of ARG’s most popular yoga classes is at 4:30 p.m., when members are ostensibly at work or in traffic. “The teacher is incredible, so people come anyway. The class is always full.” Wickenhesier adds that when local celebrities (guidebook authors, pro climbers) teach a fitness class or give a talk, it tends to be full.

 

6. Keep track of the trends

“We’re a little isolated here in Alaska,” Wickenheiser laughs, “But we try to keep a finger on the pulse of the industry.” Lots of ARG’s members have climbed at big-name Seattle gyms (most flights in and out of Anchorage go through Seattle), where they see the most cutting-edge gym developments. Members want those amenities at their home gym, too. Heading to the CWA Summit each year, he says, is the best way to keep an eye on industry trends and make sure ARG is up to speed.

 

“The bottom line in member retention is not treating members like a number,” Wickenheiser says. ARG has recently moved to a brand-new facility, but it’s been open for 25 years – Wickenheiser attributes that success to little things like taking the time to remember members’ stories and treating them like the important part of the climbing community they are.

 

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:  climbing culture  community development  company culture  customer experience  customer satisfaction  customer service  leadership  management  marketing  member retention  operations  staff training 

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