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Time to Revamp Your Club’s Schedule of Programs?

by Laurie Cingle, MEd on Jul 23, 2009

All clubs have cardio and strength training equipment; it’s the programs you offer that differentiate you from the competition. Programs are often the deciding factor as potential members choose which club to join.

Offering programs that your members want to participate in keeps them using your club, which in turn boosts retention. On the other hand, opening your programs to nonmembers increases your chances of signing up these participants as members, because of the great experience you provide during the program.

No Room for Complacency
Interest in programs that worked well 3 years ago may be waning among members and staff today. It is normal for the popularity of a program to rise and fall depending on various factors, such as who championed the program, the time of year, current trends and the economic climate. Your programming should be dynamic.

The time is always right to launch a new program if you and your team get a great idea; feel strongly that members will value the program highly; and are super passionate about delivering it. Passion and timing are what make all programs succeed. Without both, they typically attract mediocre interest or fail outright.

Getting Staff on Board
The key to increasing staff excitement in a new program is simply to involve them in the process from the get-go.

  • Conduct a brainstorming session to get their input on program details.
  • Create an implementation committee. Subcommittees can be responsible for in-house marketing, outside marketing, creation of program materials, information meeting planning, prizes, etc.
  • During the program, assign important program-specific tasks to staff members to complete rather than doing them yourself.
  • Conduct preprogram staff education to create excitement and ensure that all staff in all departments are aware of the program and know how to direct questions.
  • Require that all staff participate in the program.

Hot Program Ideas
Hot topics that I’ve found members will pay extra for include weight management; maintenance of function and good health; anti-aging; sport-specific training; and personal training. Motivational programs that allow members to work in teams are popular as well.

I have always had great success with programs that combine weight management with small-group training. My most successful program ever has been my 12-Week Ultimate Fitness and Nutrition Program. It has 5 parts: a structured eating plan, 24 small-group training sessions (2 times a week for 12 weeks), cardio exercise, weekly education sessions and assessments. Participants lose 10–30 pounds, and the net profit is over 50%.

Another program that always works is my annual Pet Walk. Members bring their dogs to the club for a 1-, 2- or 3-mile outdoor walk. There are many other fun events as well. This program is my absolute favorite. It’s fun, it’s different, and it provides an opportunity for members and staff to show off their dogs. That includes me--I love bringing my two Australian Shepherds and my Corgi to the club.

Taking the Plunge
The only way to know if members are receptive to a new program is to kick it off and see what their response is. In my experience, polling members to determine their interest prior to launching a program does not provide a clear picture. They may say they would participate in a specific new program, but numerous factors play into their commitment to participate and ultimately their success in achieving results.

Of course, simply kicking off a program to see how well it goes is unrealistic if the program requires a large investment in either equipment or manpower. In these cases, more up-front analysis is needed along with buy-in from upper management for approval of capital expenses or additional salary. But if the program does not call for expensive equipment, long-term licensing fees or additional instructors or trainers, I always encourage my staff to go for it.

For much more on this subject, including details on eight other successful programs, check out Laurie Cingle’s session, “10 Great Programs That Increase Profit and Retention,” at the IDEA World Fitness Convention™, August 12–16, in Anaheim, California.

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About the Author

Laurie Cingle, MEd

Laurie Cingle, MEd IDEA Author/Presenter

Laurie Cingle, MEd, is a fitness business success coach and club consultant. She specializes in creating successful club program champions, developing non-dues revenue profit centers (especially personal training and weight management), establishing club market differentiation and designing programs that result in profit and retention. Laurie is the recipient of the IHRSA Fitness Director of the Year award and has led highly successful clubs to break industry records and set them on a path for long-term success in programming. Certifications: ACSM and NASM