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How To Distinguish Your Health Club and Retain Members

Feb 10, 2008
The world is a much different place than it was fifty, even twenty-five years ago. One of the most noticeable differences is the area of physical fitness. Emerging technology has created so many conveniences that where a person once had to walk into the bank or pharmacy, cook dinner every night and get up off the couch to change the television channel, one can now "drive thru" just about any where, grab carry out food from the convenience of a car while universal and programmable remote controls take care of everything from the television to our lighting and appliances.

While in many ways these technological advances mean we are moving forward, in some ways we are going backwards as well. The majority of jobs fifty or a hundred years ago required physical labor for 10-14 hours a day. No wonder many of us recall our grandparents being able to eat large quantities of food while not gaining weight or suffering from heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. Food was prepared fresh, usually from a garden and their own meat sources, without the use of boxes, cans and preservatives. After consuming such a meal, they would go out and work...hard...all day. They didn't need a health club, treadmill or a Bowflex machine to make sure they were getting the American Heart Association's recommended 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity activity each day.

THE ROLE OF HEALTH CLUBS IN THE TWENTY FIRST CENTURY

Given the fact that drive thru conveniences and remote controls do exist and most Americans spend their day behind a desk, the role of health clubs has grown to an all new level. People need to search for ways to be active now that the majority of daily life is sedentary. Yet, many people are more aware of their role in preventing certain diseases and illnesses, as well as the responsibility of maintaining their health in order to live a longer, higher quality life.

Since the role of health clubs has become so vital, it seems in some larger cities there is some type of health club, personal training facility or studio on every corner. As a health club owner or manager, how do you take advantage of the current trend of growth? How do you set yourself apart from other clubs to obtain members? And once you have the members, how do you retain them?

In order to stay in business and be profitable you have to work smart. You must do market research, stay on top of the trends and perhaps most importantly, know your competitors and what they are doing.

SETTING YOUR HEALTH CLUB APART FROM THE PACK

Here are some steps you can take to set yourself apart from the masses of health clubs out there.

1. Determine who your target membership audience is going to be. Market and cater to the needs of that specific group and forget about the rest.

2. Do not try to be all things to all people. Determine what type of club you are running and stick with that. If you are a yoga studio, don't try to toss in a few low end weight machines hoping to gain a different crowd, it won't work.

3. Keep your facility clean! News stories pop up constantly about the worst places to contract a cold or other virus and unfortunately for customers and health club managers alike, the gym is usually at the top of the list. With the large number of people passing through each day, it is of utmost importance to keep your equipment, classrooms and locker rooms clean. This is at the top of the list for many people looking to join a health club.

4. Provide enough space for the equipment/classes you offer. Don't try to pack so much equipment into your space just to say you offer it, that your members are practically on top of one another trying to work out. Don't overbook your classes either. Overcrowding of equipment or members is a sure fire way to keep someone from considering your club.

5. Don't offer "free" services or gifts that really provide no value to your customers. How many times have you purchased something that you wanted and received a "free gift" that you had no use for at all? Don't offer your customers a towel or water bottle with your logo. Chances are, they have a closet full of them at home and it isn't going to entice them to choose your club. Keep this in mind with "free" health assessments too. Don't fool your clients into thinking this will replace a physical with their doctor or use it as a way to up sell them into personal training.

RETAINING MEMBERSHIP

Once you have found your target audience and you have obtained a substantial membership, here are some tips to help you keep those members.

1. Offer fair, reasonable and competitive prices for the services you offer. With the market fully saturated, price becomes a place that customers compare. They may not necessarily be looking for the lowest price, but the best value for what you offer. Know what services your competitors are offering and what they are charging. Make sure your prices are in line and even offer discounts to folks renewing their membership.

2. Get to know your members. People love it when the staff knows them by name and they don't just feel like a number (meaning dollars!) to you. Depending on the size of your club and your staff, try to take some time to get to know your members on a more personal level. If they feel comfortable in the environment they will be more likely to use the facility and remain loyal at renewal time.

3. Keep your equipment and classes up to date. This isn't to say you need to rush out and buy the latest and greatest piece of equipment every time the current fitness magazines shows a new gadget. This just means keep the equipment you have in good shape and when a newer, truly better, technology is on the market, consider investing in it. And if Latin Dance classes are the rage, make sure you offer your customers what they are reading about or hearing their friends (who belong to other clubs) talk about over lunch.

4. Don't charge extra for things that should be included. If you truly invest enough in equipment such as spinning bikes that you need to charge your customers extra for the class in order to be profitable, do it. But if you are offering standard classes that don't cost you extra, don't charge your customers for the class either.

5. Offer incentives. Discounts upon renewal, special prices on classes or features that cost extra, or a free hour or two of your spa services are just a few incentive ideas to offer members to entice them to stay with your club. Offer cash or gift cards for referrals. Most people will be happy to refer friends and family if they are getting a little something out of it as well.

Remember to know your competitors as well as your target market when planning ways to increase and retain membership. People like to feel valued and like you really WANT them to work out in your facility. If you and your staff offer encouragement and really care about the member's success and indicate that you miss them when they skip a workout or two, it will make a difference!
About the Author
Michael Greeves, CEO and founder of Hyperstrike, wanted to develop an affordable fitness program for individuals and athletes that could be customized to their personal abilities and goals, and be delivered to any one, any where, any time. Learn more at HyperStrike.com
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