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Creating an OrangeTheory Fitness Culture at Associations

Ashley Wucher
May 3, 2024

I was at a conference recently, and during a session about membership, someone brought up OrangeTheory Fitness and the company’s explosive membership success (more than 1 million members in 11 years). As an OTF member myself, I immediately jumped in on the conversation.

It also got me thinking. Who was this person I had become that got excited to talk to others about my gym? I don’t know exactly when that happened, but it felt good to realize that I had a community! And, what is the OTF secret sauce, anyway? Can associations really replicate that success with our own membership? I’ve given it a lot of thought and wanted to share my OTF member experience and three things OTF has done well to engage me since I became a member.

I’ve been a proud member of the “OTF nation” for almost four years now. Before that, I cycled through multiple gyms, usually following the same cycle: sign up for a membership, attend one class, and then cancel three months later.

The first thing I noticed immediately after my first OTF class was that they do an exceptional job tailoring the member experience. In fact, it’s the foundation on which the company is built. It’s a Heart-rate based interval training program where, during the workout, participants wear heart rate monitors so that their heart rates and “zone” can be displayed on a screen, comparing the progress of each member in real time.

The idea is that the coach can offer tailored assistance based on that individual’s heart rate. Sound familiar? I’d say it’s pretty similar to tailored workflows in PropFuel, where you lead your member down a different path based on what the member tells you they need.

And the experience doesn’t end once you leave the studio. Every member receives an email immediately after class displaying their personal class performance.

OTF also empowers its members to share their stories of success, and it’s a big part of the culture. Whether it’s an all-member email showing recent studio “brag board photos” (you can see mine above) or a video of a member talking about beating their personal record, OTF knows that authentic member-generated photos and videos equal engagement.  

Associations can do that too, with tools like Gather Voices, a video relationship management software that lets you collect & share video from your community. I know it works, because I’ve seen it done in PropFuel. For example, how cool would it be to send a brand new member a PropFuel check-in with your video asking them to record a short video sharing why they joined? What about an existing member campaign that asks members to share a recent success they had thanks to your advocacy efforts? You can do both of those!

My favorite OTF practice is their use of persistent, human communication to members who need it. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always the most consistent when it comes to showing up for class. And rest assured, every time I miss a class I get a personalized text message from my coach with an encouraging word and a question: “can I schedule you for tomorrow’s class?” It works every time, because it tells me that my OTF family views me as a real life person. It’s a perfect illustration of the type of member communication ASAE talks about in its recent Associations Now post, “Member Pro Tip: Talk to Members Like Humans, Not Widgets.”

I truly believe associations can create the same OTF-type culture by thinking about membership communications differently. To sum it up, here are three things you can do today to create the same authentic, human culture in your association:

  1. Tailor the member experience. No two members are the same; they all have different needs and interests, so your communication with each member should be different, too.
  2. Invite your members to co-create content with you. Your members want to share their stories, so give them the tools to do it. It goes a long way to letting your members know you care about what they’re up to.  
  3. Treat Your Members Like Humans (because they are). Create a way for your members to interact with you so that you can capture what they tell you and then act.  
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