How to Lobby for Products, Programs

by Shannon Fable on Dec 16, 2009

You’d like to purchase a new product or start a new class or group exercise program. You’ve explored the position of group exercise within the facility’s bigger picture; strategies for researching and developing your case; budgeting basics to get facts and figures straight; and formulas and suggestions for tracking stats to prove your point. Now it’s time to set a meeting with upper management to present your findings and ask for the product or program.

Set the Meeting

Just like you, the general manager (GM) is an extremely busy professional. Respect his unique scheduling challenges and request as little time as possible, at least 2 weeks in advance, to get the ball rolling. Make your request in writing, summarize the reason for the meeting in one paragraph, and provide a brief overview of your main objective. Outline your talking points, thank your GM for her time in advance and express gratitude to her for entertaining this conversation.

Prepare for the Meeting

Whittle down the information you’ve been preparing to no more than 20 minutes’ worth. Make your message compelling, and plan to leave behind complete written support materials that will serve as a hard copy of your verbal presentation. Make sure your speaking points are prepared in advance (use notes, just as you would when speaking in public), and include highlights of what you’ve learned from your research.

Start by mentioning—specifically—how the proposed product or program will enhance the overall facility experience. Avoid speaking in generalities: “It will be great to have new core equipment for members” is too general. A better opening line might be “BOSU® Ballast® Balls will save us money and space and will provide a better way for a wider variety of members to enjoy core classes.”

Explain the unique selling proposition of the product or program. Detail how it can replace what you already have and add a new twist to current products or programming. Talk about why it is better than the competition and how the investment will positively impact the bottom line (decrease expenses, increase revenue, etc.). Take about 2 minutes to articulate your thoughts, and stick to the highlights!

Have “hard” numbers from your current budget, and explain how this purchase (and all costs involved) will fit into your given parameters. The easiest way to explain this message concisely is to provide a return on investment (ROI) overview. To determine ROI, subtract the cost of an investment from the gain, and divide this number by the original investment. Unlike a P&L (profit & loss) statement, the ROI allows you to include nonmonetary gains that are hard to quantify (e.g., staff morale, member retention, increased visibility) to offset the hard costs.

To support your position, provide an overview of your program’s stats and how this investment will enhance current numbers. Will it increase average class size (by how much)? Decrease the cost per head? Increase penetration by adding a new type of participant?

Present Your Request

Arrive for the meeting a few minutes early, and have your speaking points well outlined. Double-check that you also have written materials and any brochures, marketing materials or additional collateral that will help your case. Dress professionally and wear a watch to stay on schedule.

The hardest aspect of your meeting will be staying on task and not adding superfluous information. Be professional, prepared, well researched and well rehearsed. Allow time for your GM to ask questions, and avoid pressing for an answer. Suggest a time to reconvene to discuss any further questions or to provide additional support material. The outcome is unpredictable, but if you’ve done your homework and are prepared, it’s guaranteed you will be much closer to your desired outcome.

For more tips, please see the full article, “Plugging the Product or Program,” in the online IDEA Library or in the October 2009 online issue of IDEA Fitness Manager.



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About the Author

Shannon Fable

Shannon Fable IDEA Author/Presenter

Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is the founder of SFR, a consulting firm for aspiring fitness educators, manufacturers and managers, as well as the owner of Balletone® ...