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Who Is Your Competition At the Y? Part One

Posted by Jeff Davis on Tue, Feb 23, 2016 @ 10:30 AM

"The giant sucking sound you hear is competitors siphoning off your YMCA members."

As we continue to explore ways to improve your sales at the Y, I thought we would take a look at the competitors for the local Y.

So I jumped into the car and rove around in your market. And I must say I was shocked to see that a new competitor opened up down the road from your Y. They call themselves the X. 


Same hours, same services, same employees, same programs, same camps, same youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. 

Horse plop. One of the endearing qualities of operating a YMCA is that there is no exact competition, which is a blessing and a curse. It is blessing because the YMCA has a legacy reputation for quality programs for the entire family. It is a curse because it is a big target.

The target isn't the total Y. The target is the services that the Y offers. 

While no one is trying to take on the Y, many businesses have appeared in the last five years that are nibbling around the edges of the Y and the services they offer. 

The Y is the local gym. So is LA Fitness, Planet Fitness, Super Fitness. Yelp offers "the 10 Best Gyms in Sylvania" a city of 18,935 people. Not direct competitors to the unique experience of the Y, but enough of a competitor to siphon off a couple dozen members per year. And we haven't even listed the 24 hour Fitness 4 All, Anytime Fitness and VIP Fitness work out centers.

The Y offers personal trainers. I Googled "Personal Trainers Toledo Ohio" and Google returned 419,000 web pages of competitors. Our local Y was not found on the first five pages so I gave up looking. Keep in mind that 95% of Google searches never go past Page 1.

How about "swimming lessons"? Toledo YMCA and JCC. Number One! Position Congratulations! Why? Because they have a SEO tuned page devoted to Swim Lessons. But Google still returned 59,000 web pages of competitors. The Josh Project, Catholic Club, The University of Toledo, The ABC Aquatic Center, The Saint James Club and half a dozen more competitors 

Here is the marketplace that we operate in today. New businesses are opening not to compete with the Y, but positioned to siphon off the individuals and families who have been traditional members of their local YMCA.

Our research shows exactly how big this problem is...

After surveying a number of YMCAs, we have determined that the average monthly cost of joining a Y is currently $53.

Which represents $636 in annual revenue.

The average YMCA member stays for 7.5 years.

So each member is worth $4,700.  Is this worth fighting for?

So what do you do? "The very best marketing comes from observing consumer behavior and inserting your message into their behavior."

Remember the Yellow Pages? A relic of the past. Nobody uses them anymore. So where is the consumer behavior we need to follow today? Google. Google is the 800 pound gorilla of the search market. According to comScore, Google controls 63.9% of all searches. Want to protect your relationship with core users of the YMCA? Learn how to use Google. The first thing to understand is how SEO works. 

SEO - Search Engine Optimization is the way Google answers questions by consumers by ranking the answers for the user. It is up to the user to select the answer that resonates with them. Rather than reviewing how this process works, lets look at the results. (If you want to talk about how the SEO process works, call me at 419-776-7000 ext 214.)

Go to Google and search for the most important programs offered by your Y using the following format.

"Program + Your Market" Example: "Gyms Toledo Ohio" "Zumba Toledo Ohio" "Swimming Lessons Toledo Ohio" "Child Care Toledo Ohio" "Basketball Leagues Toledo Ohio" "Diet and Nutrition Toledo Ohio" "Diabetes Programs Toledo Ohio"

Then see where your YMCA ranks in the search results. 

Then write down who ranks ahead of you. I promise you that these competitors know that each searcher is a potential $4,700 sales taken directly out of your pocket.

Now you have identified your challenge. (Great news, Thrive loves a challenge and are experts in solving this problem.) 

And you have two options for combating this "giant sucking sound". Improve your SEO results and invest in Search Engine Marketing. I'll talk more about these options in the next posting.

Can't wait until the next article? Want to know more about how to build SEO friendly web pages to protect the services that have made the Y great? Looking for help competing with these businesses that are siphoning off your members? Click on the button below and an send us a message. We can help.

Contact Thrive 





Topics: YMCA, digital marketing, Competition


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