This new series will present a systematic approach for successfully launching or revamping your facility's personal fitness program.
Here’s something to keep in mind next time you are trying to sell a club membership to someone: At no time will this prospective member be more enthusiastic about exercise than the day you close that sale. Yet, more often than not, the minute a membership is sold, many club representatives simply let new members walk out the door armed only with a bulging packet of information or— worse yet—with nothing at all. Is it any wonder that some new members never set foot in your club again after they sign on the dotted line?
Industry experts theorize that if a new member isn’t somehow involved in a club activitiy within the first 2–4 weeks after joining, the club’s ability to retain that person is greatly diminished. That’s a compelling argument for making member retention your focus from day one of the new membership.
How do you accomplish this task? First and foremost, you need to capitalize on the member’s initial enthusiasm by quickly acquainting him or her with your club’s offerings and culture by using a standardized Membership Integration System. This system should be put into effect the very day you make the sale, at which time the member should be
1. offered a personal fitness training package, in addition to the new membership;
2. registered in a New-Member Orientation session;
3. signed up for other appropriate club seminars and/or workshops;
4. registered for a fitness evaluation and introductory personal training sessions.
If your sales staff consistently adheres to this 4-step Membership Integration System when signing up all new members, then your club will have a large pool of prospects and numerous opportunities to increase your personal training revenues. Here’s a look at what each step of the Membership Integration System involves at the point of sale.
There are two reasons why I recommend that your sales team encourage each new member to commit to a personal fitness training program at the point of sale. First, your personal training options should be presented and recommended when the member’s motivation is at its highest. Second, this opportunity allows your club’s sales staff (especially those who get a commission for selling personal training packages) to get creative at the point of sale. For example, sales representatives may find that they can sweeten the deal if they “bundle” personal training sessions as part of the new member’s electronic funds transfer payment plan. Or they may allow a new member to credit a portion of his or her enrollment fee toward personal training, provided that the member makes a commitment on the spot. Many new members might prefer to wait until they meet with a trainer to make such a commitment; however, any training sessions sold at the point of sale will only add to your club’s bottom line.
Let’s face it, new members are often overwhelmed with all the information they receive on the first day, and although you and I know the difference between Spinning® and Pilates, many new members have never worked out in a fitness facility in their lives! That’s why I believe New-Member Orientation sessions are vital for integrating new members into a facility’s history, culture and programming.
Our practice at the Westerville Athletic Club (WAC) in Columbus, Ohio, is to offer bimonthly New-Member Orientations. At the point of sale, all new members are registered for an orientation session by the WAC sales representative who closed the deal. Each session is catered by our in-house café (a great way to promote one of our profit centers) and features a brief history of the club and descriptions of all of our programming. In addition, these sessions give new members the opportunity to register for some level of personal training, especially those members who were reluctant to sign up at the point of sale.
At the WAC’s New-Member Orientation sessions that I facilitate, I promote the personal training program like this:
“At the Westerville Athletic Club, we are fortunate to have one of the finest personal fitness training programs in the Midwest. As a member of the club, you have the opportunity to meet two times with a trainer through our innovative and complimentary NewFit Program. During your first NewFit session, your trainer will take you though our Health First Body/Age Profile. [I then describe the parameters of the test, including measuring body composition and blood pressure.] After the test, you and your trainer will review your results. Your trainer will ask what you want to accomplish and then discuss with you what it will take to meet your goals. Afterward, you will schedule your second NewFit session, which is an actual training session. Has anyone taken advantage of our NewFit program yet?”
My experience is that there are always a few members who have taken the program, and they usually rave about the experience and the trainer, too. Is there a better way than personal testimonials to sell any service?
I also use the orientation session as an opportunity to explain to all new members that we offer a variety of educational opportunities through our Seminar Series. Seminars, such as “LIFT” (Ladies in Free Weight Training), “Beyond the Crunch” and “Hips, Buns and Thighs,” are always well attended and are yet another method to drive the personal training program. After the orientation, I give the new members a tour of the club and then register them for their NewFit Program and any seminars or workshops of interest. We also discuss each of our club’s profit centers (e.g., massage, aquatics, racquetball and group fitness) during the orientation.
As I mentioned earlier, “NewFit” is what the WAC uses to brand our club’s fitness evaluation and introductory personal training sessions. Trainers love NewFit because it provides a continual pool of prospective clients.
Although the fitness evaluation provides the trainer and the client with some useful information, I believe the number-one benefit you will reap is building rapport with all new members. Wouldn’t it be great if every new member met and spoke with a personal trainer within the first few days of exercising at your facility? Better yet, would the new member not appreciate the chance to “test drive” your personal training package before signing up?
Although there is a cost associated with the evaluation and personal training session (we pay our trainers $24.50 to conduct both), it is minimal when you consider the increase in revenue your club will realize by retaining members and increasing your personal training profits. Even if some new members ultimately choose not to continue with training sessions, chances are their experience with the process will generate positive word of mouth and will increase membership retention.
Of course, in order for any Membership Integration System to work, it must be ingrained in the culture of your club. In short, you will need to educate your members and staff so that they buy into the program. The next installment of this series will explore how to accomplish that.