Recently in this space, I talked about rewards programs—how much I love them, how popular they’re with consumers in general, and how well they can work for the sports and fitness industries. Now I want to take on something related and equally powerful: partnership programs. Do you partner up with local businesses? If not, it’s time to consider how doing so might benefit you, your clientele, and your whole community.
As with rewards programs, cultivating partnerships with local businesses is a great way to boost member loyalty by increasing the value of what you have to offer. It works like this: Your gym, sports venue, training center, fitness facility, or health club. Partners up with local businesses that agree to offer discounts when your members present their membership cards. In return, you offer those businesses something: maybe the chance to advertise to your clientele, maybe free memberships for their employees, maybe discounts at your facility for their customers.
Club Business International offers a couple of examples to show how such a program benefits all parties involved. Gainesville Health and Fitness Centers (GHFC), with three clubs in Gainesville, Florida, has been operating its Members Savings Program for about forty years. All 27,000 GHFC members have the option of presenting their membership cards to more than 100 local firms that provide discounts to the members. Debra Lee, the company’s director of marketing, explains that when Joe Cirulli,owner and president, was brainstorming ways to help customers cut the cost of their gym memberships back in the 1970s, he landed on creating business partnerships. “His idea,” Lee told Club Business International, “was to identify local businesses that [club members] used on a regular basis, and to offer discounts that would help offset the cost of membership.” In return, GHFC subtly advertises partner businesses to club members.
Miramont Lifestyle Fitness, in Fort Collins, Colorado, is another club with a list of partner vendors. Partners provide discounts to Miramont’s members, along with special discounts that occur quarterly, to coincide with the club’s member appreciation days. In return, Miramont provides club passes for partners’ employees and advertises their businesses via newsletters, TV , andQR codes.
When do you let members know about the partnership opportunities? The answer, when they’re trying to decide whether or not to sign up. That’s when the added value that these programs bring to your facility will kick in—prospective members will realize they’re getting so much more than just a gym membership. As for existing members, they’ll never want to leave.
Create such a program by first seeking out local businesses likely to serve a clientele similar to yours: health food shops, hair salons, spas, sporting goods stores. Make sure your top sales person is the one approaching potential partners. You want someone who conveys a real sense of being invested in the program and in your facility, someone who can really make the value of the program clear. Finally, hammer out the details. This includes, what exactly will the partnership consist of, how will you benefit each other, give the program a name and start advertising it widely on social media, via email blasts, and in-house. Just make sure you’re ready to launch it right away, because your members will jump at the chance to sign up.