Improve Your Community, Gain New Members

Improve Your Community, Gain New Members

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Earlier this month, the American College of Sports Medicine released its annual American Fitness Index, ranking the fittest cities in America (congrats to the top three: Washington, D.C.; Minneapolis, MN; and Portland, OR). Boston, a city that prides itself on spiritedness and strength, celebrated to find itself in the top ten. Pulling in at number nine, Boston got points for its high number of farmers’ markets per capita, its high percentage of people using public transportation, biking or walking to work, and its high number of playgrounds per capita. Yet one of the areas in which the city ranked lowest was in access to exercise.
That’s about to change. In May, the Executive Director of Boston’s Public Health Commission, Barbara Ferrer, announced the Boston Parks Summer Fitness Series, a three-month program offering free exercise classes in 18 parks throughout the city. Classes will include, among others, salsa dancing, yoga, tai chi, Zumba, and Zumba Gold.
When a community becomes more aware of healthy living and the role of exercise in improving health and making a brighter future, everyone benefits—including gyms, health clubs, fitness centers, and the like. It’s almost like free advertising for the services you sell. After three months of regularly using a similar service, some people are bound to come seeking your services when the program ends. I guarantee that some facilities in and around Boston will be signing up new members come the end of August.
Chances are, your city is offering something similar. Free, municipally-run, summer exercise programs have become something of a trend in the past five years or so. That trend will only continue to grow. But why wait for your city to do the work? Why compete with your city? Why not become an entity helping your community to get fitter—while introducing the community to the benefits and wonders of your particular facility? You don’t want the summer to end and new exercise enthusiasts going to the gym down the road. You want them coming to yours. Offering a free summer program yourself is a good way to get them to do so.
Of course, as with anything, you have to weigh the benefits with the costs. Still, even a limited program—say, one free yoga class or one free Zumba class per week throughout the summer—will bring new potential members into your club. Once they’re in there, they’ll see what else you have to offer. You’ll be helping the community get fitter, and they’ll be walking out the door with memberships. It’s a win-win opportunity. And who knows, maybe next year, your own city will end up in the American Fitness Index top ten.

Workout Statistics

Get Fit with Exercise Snacking

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Have you heard the latest? Snacking is good for you. Not food snacking—exercise snacking. Researchers in New Zealand recently conducted a study that showed that multiple, brief portions of exercise in a single day—“exercise snacks,” the researchers dubbed them—may control blood sugar better than a single, continuous workout. The study was conducted on men and women with insulin resistance, a common precursor of Type 2 diabetes. Though, the news is relevant to anyone who wants to stay healthy by keeping blood sugar under control. In the study, participants who exercised for 12 minutes before breakfast, 12 before lunch, and 12 before dinner had far lower blood-sugar levels after dinner than those who exercised only once in a day, for 30 minutes before dinner. They also kept their blood-sugar levels lower for longer—over 24 hours as opposed to less than a day.

What does this mean for health clubs, gyms, fitness centers, and exercise boutiques? Well, you need to be prepared to serve members and clients who are looking to get to your facility three times a day. Also, if you want to help your members and clients reach their health-related goals (and you do, because their success is your success), you should probably think about how to encourage those who aren’t necessarily looking to get there three times a day to do so — and, let’s face it, many of them most likely struggle to get there once a day. Scientists have long argued that shorter, more frequent bursts of exercise are more beneficial than long, continuous spells. As the body of research supporting this hypothesis grows, more and more people will be demanding — and needing — to fit this new way of working out into their daily routines. This is especially true because, as researchers of the New Zealand study discovered, the blood-sugar benefits (and it remains to be seen which other benefits) are strongest when the exercise snacks consist of high intensity interval training. For most people, such training is much easier to do at a facility, with trainers and functional fitness equipment, than at home.

Here are a few ideas to consider:

1) Create a new three-times-a-day program. First, be sure to spread the word about the findings of the New Zealand study (and other studies that show the benefits of exercise snacking). Then, establish a structured program to help people get started. Designate a core group of trainers to work with the three-times-a-day-ers: They’ll have to work hard to motivate their clients to come before breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At the same time, they’ll need to plan out careful twelve-minute exercise sessions, preferably high-intensity interval routines.

2) Everything’s easier with incentives. What discounts, rewards, or deals can you offer your members for trying out a new three-times-a-day program? Can you provide a day pass that will allow them fast-track entry each time, or a free smoothie from the juice bar after they complete their third workout? Can you give a free month to members who manage to make it to your facility three times a day, three days a week, for one month? Or maybe you can offer a month at half price for anyone who comes in three times a day with a friend at least twice in one month. The possible variations are limited only by your imagination.

3) If your facility has the capacity to serve food, consider providing three-times-a-day-ers with vouchers for at least one meal on their exercise days. This might make it easier for them to contemplate the logistics of coming to and leaving your facility three times in one day. They might, for example, come before breakfast, head to work, come before lunch and then stay and have lunch, and come again before dinner.

4) If it’s feasible, consider offering three-times-a-day classes in a couple of satellite locations in addition to your facility (maybe there’s an empty warehouse somewhere on the other side of town?). That way, members who live or work further away from your facility have a choice in where to go, and choices make for convenience.

As the trend increases and the demand for facilities to accommodate for more frequent, briefer sessions grows, health clubs and other fitness venues will learn what works and what doesn’t. Now is the time to get started — put yourself at the forefront of the exercise snack trend, and you’ll find yourself the leader of a pack before long.

Free Classes

Free Classes

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If you’re a sports facility with tennis courts, you’ll want to pay attention to this. And if you’re any other kind of sports facility, you’ll also want to pay attention. Actually, everyone listen up — this is an idea that health clubs and fitness centers can capitalize on too.
In May, as part of a promotional effort started jointly by the Tennis Industry Association, the Professional Tennis Registry, and the United States Professional Tennis Association’s Tennis Across America program, sports facilities and certified teaching pros around the country will take part in Try Tennis — a program to offer free tennis lessons. Any facility with tennis courts can sign up here to participate; tennis-playing aspirants can find participating facilities on the same website. The possible result for you? Free advertising and perhaps new long-term members.
The sponsoring associations based their decision to launch Try Tennis on industry research showing that 65 percent of players who begin tennis in an introductory program continue with the sport. Offering free classes or lessons is a way of getting potential players hooked.
You can see why I wanted you all to listen up — this is a widely adaptable idea. If you’re a facility with a focus on baseball, basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, hockey — any sport — you can work on getting a Try [Your Sport] promotion going industry wide. If you’re a gym, you can think about a Try a Trainer month, or a Try Zumba (or other workout class) month. Pushing a promotion on a huge scale, like the tennis initiative, might feel beyond your scope; if that’s the case, try it with a few other facilities in your network or your region, or just launch a similar program in your facility alone. However you’re able to manage it, a full month of free lessons is likely to draw potential new members, a good number of whom will stay on after the promotion ends.
The idea can be applied in all types of facilities and can be carried out in a number of ways. You could do as the tennis folks are doing and make it a month-long promotion. If you’re a facility with fewer resources, make it a week’s event, or even just a single day’s. Of course, however you end up designing it, you’ll want to spread the word widely. If you’re doing it in conjunction with other facilities, consider setting up a website like the Try Tennis one. If you’re going solo, give it a big headline on your own website’s landing page, and shout about it on your social media channels. Ask your current members to let others know; ask them to bring their friends.
Equally important: Keep track of the numbers. Make sure you count the people who take part (and get their names and contact info for follow-up). Then count the number of people who sign up for long-term instruction or general membership. You’ll want to know whether the effort pays off for you. In your niche, is it also the case that 65 percent who begin playing continue on? Maybe not, but either way, you want to have the data available. Then, if it works, do it every year!

Take Advantage of Special Events

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Wandering around among witches, dragons, princesses, and Harry Potters this Halloween, I watched my own little ninja’s jack-o-lantern fill up with various forms of sugar, and I despaired — not at the thought of all the junk food he’d be consuming, because I knew that after a few days the novelty would wear off and he’d forget about it, but at the thought of all the tempting treats that would be sitting in my cabinet over the next couple months. While I’m pretty good at defeating sugar cravings day to day, Halloween candy undoes me. There’s so much of it, it’s all so accessible (when my son’s not looking), and it ignites so many nostalgic childhood pleasures.

That’s why I was grateful for the fitness center employee dressed in a Superman costume (replete with giant, fake muscles — not that he needed them), who was standing on the street corner handing trick-or-treating chaperones coupons for a free cycling class. His mere presence reminded me, first of all, that I needed to keep my eyes on the prize, no matter how many tiny Butterfinger bars my son was collecting; more than that, he lifted from my shoulders the burden of excuses I’d been carrying around. I had wanted to try a cycling class for a long time, but I kept coming up with reasons not to. Now, at a key moment, I was being offered one for free.

What a great idea, I realized. Halloween is a terrific opportunity for a business to rustle up new clients — especially if that business is in the fitness industry. People are out in the streets, there’s a festive atmosphere, and there are a lot of guilt-inducing treats for folks to indulge in. What better time is there to remind people of the benefits of working out, and to give them an opportunity to try your offerings at no charge? Better yet, if you send an employee already scheduled to work for the day out to handle distribution, the cost to you is nothing more than what it takes to print the flyers.

This goes not just for Halloween, but really for any kind of special day: the upcoming cookie-, pie-, and sweets-filled holidays, for sure; a community fair or carnival; even Veteran’s Day. Whenever people are out and about, take advantage of special events and spread the word about what your business offers. And, with fitness, the work you do is always relevant.

That Superman must have pulled in at least a dozen new clients on Halloween — I saw parents and babysitters eagerly reaching out for his handouts. And when I took the free class, I was pretty sure the woman next to me had the same help-I-just-ate-another-mini-Kit-Kat look on her face that I did. I think she and I will both be going back for another class.

A Natural Alliance – Gyms and Schools

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In New York City, it’s common for schools to raise funds by holding yearly auctions. In the months leading up to an auction, parents stump all around town, trying to win donations from local businesses so auction attendees will have a wide variety of items on which to bid. Common donations include free piano lessons, handmade jewelry, restaurant gift certificates — and month-long gym memberships.

Now you see what all that was leading to. Full disclosure: I did not belong to a gym until a couple years ago, when I bid on a month-long membership during an auction for my son’s school. For $35, I had full access to the facility: pool (including family swim times), cardio court, all classes, trainers, massages, steam room, sauna. After a month of indulging in these pleasures, I was hooked: There was no way I could any longer imagine my life without them. I bought an annual membership and I haven’t looked back since.

Schools could represent an untapped source of new business for your facility. Not all schools hold auctions, of course, but there are other ways to give to a school community and grow your business as a result. Many schools sell raffle tickets; could you donate a month’s membership as a raffle prize? As with auctions, raffles can be doubly rewarding because they spread your name not just to the adults in a given school community, but also to friends, relatives, and professional associates of those adults. Could you open your doors for special kid-oriented free activities once a month, or once a quarter, and ask the local school to hand out flyers? Could you offer a discount to all parents, faculty, and other staff members of a certain school, or sponsor the school’s field day, or donate water bottles, your logo prominently displayed, to the football team?

It’s a natural alliance – gyms and schools. Children are the original physical fitness experts, after all. Parents are always looking for ways to run them around, and maybe you have a facility that allows for that. Even if not, the parents themselves need a way to run around — they need to blow off the stress of parenthood, among other stressors, and maybe they also need to lose the ten or fifteen pounds they put on since having kids. If you start trying to reach new members through schools, you will gain a bunch, without a doubt. And if you can attract them first with a clear incentive — that $35 month-long membership I won felt like such a boon — then all the better; you’ll probably hold on to them for a good long time.

Retaining Members Effectively

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For many gyms, the end-of-summer push for new members is coming to a close; that effort won’t be ramped up again for another six months or so. So what do you concentrate on in the meantime? Retaining members, of course! As profitable as new sign-ups, or sometimes, with upselling, more profitable, retaining members is a goal all clubs have — but the goal is sometimes elusive. Here are a few refresher tips on retaining members effectively.

  1. Train Your Employees to Treat Each Member Like a V.I.P. – If you make your members feel important, no matter how big or small your facility, they’ll want to keep coming back. And the truth is, they are important — each one is someone whose loyalty is valuable to you. The trouble is that, as a manager or owner, you can’t be on the floor everyday, personally greeting members and doing whatever you can to make them happy. Showing them their importance starts with training your employees to treat them right — greet them with a smile, recognize them and address them by name (this can work wonders), and always be approachable. These are gold standards.
  2. Offer Something Special – During college application season, you sometimes hear the phrase “cookie-cutter” being tossed around. Schools are eager to make clear the fact that they are not “cookie-cutter” institutions — that is, that they’re not like all the rest. Don’t be a cookie-cutter facility. Find something that makes you stand out. Offer a service or a product that your competitors don’t; if your competitors start to offer it, move on to the next thing. Be the pioneer in discovering new offerings; your members and clients will stick around just to see what you come up with next.
  3. Cultivate Suspense – This is related to Number 2. A few months before your new offering, let your members know that something exciting will soon be revealed. Tease them a bit; mention it often in e-mails, on blogs and social media sites, and via posters and flyers in-house. Get them worked up about seeing what’s to come.
  4. Incentives – This one needs little explaining. We see it work all the time, because all successful businesses engage in it. Just as airlines, credit cards companies, banks, and other institutions keep their customers loyal by offering incentives — frequent-flyer miles, cash rewards, appliances or other products — gyms and health clubs must find incentives that keep members signing up again and again. A free month, a discounted session with a personal trainer, a discount at the facility store or juice bar — all these are viable options. If you’re not sure what kinds of incentives your members would be interested in, ask them. You can send out e-mails or, more effectively, have your front desk staff or trainers take an informal, in-person poll, and find a service (such as Perkville) to help automate the reward process.  Your members will appreciate the personal touch, and you’ll gain valuable information.

These are tried-and-true methods for keeping current members happy. If you haven’t given them a shot, begin doing so immediately — you’ll see results. And if the worst thing happens, if a member leaves, don’t give up on him or her. Pick up the phone and make it clear that you’ll do what it takes to get them to sign up again. Then offer whatever discounts you can to get them to come back, or figure out how to fix what was making them unhappy. If you can’t win them back, at least try to get them to tell you why they left — you’ll know what to fix for the next client.

What Kind of Happiness Can You Offer?

What Kind of Happiness Can You Offer?

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yellow flag with black happy face on it

In this industry, there’s a lot of talk about happiness – as well there should be. In recent years, studies have suggested that the presence or absence of happiness affects us at a cellular level: When we’re happy, our tissues suffer less damage, our bodies have less inflammation, and our immune systems are stronger. Because we know that regular exercise contributes to greater happiness, we remind our clients that coming to the gym is good for them, that it’ll make them happier. But, in the light of a recent study, maybe we should wonder whether we’re giving happiness enough thought.

The study, led by Barbara Fredrickson, professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, suggests that different kinds of happiness can have vastly different effects on physical well-being. It divides happiness into two types: hedonic and eudaimonic. Hedonic happiness comes from instant gratification, such as eating a piece of chocolate cake or buying a new pair of boots. Eudaimonic comes from working toward a goal that results in a sense of meaning or a contribution to a cause.

The gist of the study is this: For participants, hedonic happiness resulted in physical effects that look much like the effects of misery and stress. That is, it increased the expression of genes involved in inflammation and decreased antiviral responses. Eudaimonic happiness resulted in lower levels of inflammatory gene expression and strong antiviral and antibody gene expression. Or, to put it another way, happiness that came from working for some kind of greater good — some positive effect outside of and bigger than the self — led to a much more positive genetic impact, and therefore better health.

So, back to the gym: When encouraging clients to achieve happiness, which kind of happiness are you pushing them toward? Is it the instant gratification that comes with a single tough workout? Or is it the more powerful — and healthier — sort of happiness that comes from sustained effort toward the accomplishment of a larger goal? And is there a way to increase opportunities for that other, better happiness for your clients? Can you establish a program in which if a certain number of exercisers achieves a certain goal — losing ten pounds, say — by a certain time, then you’ll donate to a good cause? Or if a member comes to the gym twenty-five times in one month, you’ll give one month’s free membership to an economically disadvantaged person in the community?

Creating possibilities for your clients to help others or to achieve some kind of greater good through their workouts could boost the positive effects of exercising even more — and that, in turn, could keep your clients coming back. Which makes everyone happy. What kind of happiness can you offer?

Reality Television and You

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We live in interesting times. The convergence of reality television with the national obesity crisis and a new level of health obsession has created opportunities for the fitness industry that never existed before. Last month, CBS’s Undercover Boss featured the CEO and founder of New-Jersey based Retro Fitness; last year, the CEO of Modell’s sporting goods shop appeared on the show. Now, a new season of Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition is starting up on ABC, and exercise technology company NuStep has a product in the limelight.

Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition documents the year-long efforts of eight men and women who are at least 200 pounds overweight to lose half of their body weight while continuing to live at home. Each participant’s home is modified to include a dedicated exercise area, and each area includes a NuStep T5xR Recumbent Cross Trainer.

With potentially hundreds of thousands of viewers, that’s a lot of exposure for NuStep’s product, just as the Undercover Boss episodes offered exposure for Retro Fitness and Modell’s, and just as other reality television programs — including NBC’s The Biggest Loser, A&E’s Heavy, and MTV’s I Used To Be Fat — have offered exposure to other clubs, to trainers, to a range of players in the fitness industry.

What does this mean for you? Of course, you can’t just up and appear on a reality television show any time you please. But you can, perhaps, capitalize on the stir of interest in and excitement about these programs. Here are a few ideas:

  1. You might consider running a mini-version of one in your own facility: ask overweight members or regular clients to consider signing up for a year-long program dedicated to helping them lose a certain number of pounds, or a certain percentage of their body weight. Choose a handful to participate in the program, and then give them their fifteen minutes of fame in your club. You can hang up their pictures, along with brief profiles and their stated weight-loss goals, and you can post their progress each month. You can feature them in newsletters and website spots, and you can host a ceremony honoring their efforts at the end of the year. Not everyone will want to be in the spotlight in this kind of way, but some people might find it incredibly motivating — and the program could pay off for you by garnering local attention, new referrals, and new members who want to participate in such a program themselves.
  2. If you have the staff know-how, you could consider actually making a reality tv show of your own, or some version of one, and posting it on your website. It needn’t be national-network quality, and these days a decent smartphone and a video-editing software program can produce a pretty impressive, very watchable video. You would probably want to do it on a smaller scale, featuring, perhaps, ten-minute segments. And you wouldn’t have to limit the theme of the show to weight-loss; any theme that makes sense for your facility could work, or even a weekly “show” that just highlights a different part of the facility each time, or a different staff member. You’re limited only by your imagination here.
  3. It might, in fact, be possible for your facility, or for one of your trainers or members, to land a spot on a reality tv show! Many of the shows that are out there (and, again, not just the ones having to do with weight-loss) have simple, web-based procedures for applying to appear on the show. In an article about Mitchell Modell, the CEO who appeared on Undercover Boss, Modell was quoted as saying, “I tell everybody: If you’re fortunate enough to be on Undercover Boss, do it in a heartbeat.” He describes the experience as having been not only good for business, but also life-changing. Why not look into it?

Reality Television and You: the results could be unimaginably rewarding.

An Innovative Idea — and the Benefits of Sharing It

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Recently, Colleen Kennedy, the director of membership at The Houstonian Club, wrote a blog about an innovative sales program at her Houston-based fitness facility. They call it The Houstonian Lotto, and Kennedy says that it has been instrumental in increasing both sales and referrals. She also says that it’s a program any club can duplicate — and that it costs little.

It works like an actual lotto. For a specific period of time — one month, say — members receive a sealed envelope when they provide a referral, and new members receive the same when they sign up. The envelope contains a certificate for a prize. One lucky member will receive the top prize, and the rest second and third prizes. The prizes offered will depend on the club’s business model and member demographics, Kennedy says. As she puts it, “For clubs with moderate initiation fees and dues…, the top prize could be one year’s free dues, with second and third prizes of, respectively, a free fitness evaluation or a smoothie at the health bar. For clubs with higher initiation fees and dues, the top prize could be 30 percent off the initiation fee, with second and third prizes, respectively, of two months’ free dues or a free personal training session.”

For the program to work, Kennedy says, the enrollment period to participate must be short; the number of envelopes available must be limited (for example, she says, 25 if your marketing plan stipulates acquiring 30 new members that month); and the program must be marketed to your membership, prospects, the community, and your sales force with great enthusiasm.

Great idea, right? But what I like most about Kennedy’s blog post is the fact that she wrote it. All fitness facilities and health clubs can benefit from fresh ideas for inventive, inexpensive programs that boost sales and referrals (not to mention retention). The best way to gain new ideas is to talk openly with others who are in the same boat.

Kennedy’s post is detailed and generous, and it even includes her email address for anyone who has questions. When this kind of sharing happens in the industry, everyone wins (or, to continue with the nautical metaphor, a rising tide lifts all boats). Feel free to share your own ideas — whether about programs that have proven successful or about ones you have yet to test — in the comments section here. We all want to know about them.

Don’t Let the Lovely Weather Get You Down

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After a debilitating hurricane in the fall and a seemingly endless winter, spring finally has arrived in New York City. The trees poking up from the sidewalk have fully let their green hair down; Central Park is overflowing with tulips, bluebells, pansies, and forsythia; and exercisers are out in droves. Yes, all those people who spent the long, inhospitable months of fall and winter in the gym are now donning their jogging shoes and mounting their bicycles. They want to feel the warmth of the sun as they work out. They want fresh air.

All well and good, but what does this mean for you and your business? Maybe you survive on year-long membership fees, and you don’t get so worried when people don’t show up to work out—they’ve already paid their dues, after all. But what if your mainstay is monthly fees or per-session fees? Even if your facility does have the security of long-term membership payments, what if, when it comes time to renew, all those enthusiastic lovers of the great outdoors remember how they didn’t really ever go to the gym from mid-April through mid-October? What if they don’t want to “waste” that money again?

It boils down, really, to one question: How do you keep people coming to your facility when glorious weather comes and the great outdoors beckons?

The answer is pretty simple: Give them what they can’t get out there. And what is it that they can’t get? In your facility, they can probably jog on a treadmill, ride a bike, use the Stairmaster. But they can jog, bike, and climb stairs outside. They can take free weights outside. These days, it’s even pretty easy to find any number of classes you can take outside. But there are two things they can’t get outside: machines and that one instructor or trainer you have who is a powerhouse of magnetism and charm, who gets everyone moving faster and forgetting their self-consciousness, who pays attention to each person in the room with a smile and a charisma that rival that warm sun in the sky.

Machines are easy: Offer people incentives to come and use them. Most people don’t have them at home—at least, not ones like the ones you have in your facility—and, if they did, they certainly couldn’t lug them outside. So give them extra reasons to use yours (a free session with a trainer? points toward an extra month of membership? a week’s worth of beverages from the juice bar?).

As for that one instructor or trainer who is a powerhouse etc., employ that person as much as possible. Don’t just put him or her in front of a Zumba class — station him or her in the cardio center. Have him shout out encouragement to everyone on the ellipticals and stationary bicycles. Tell her to turn her smile on to everyone who walks into the room. Have him or her learn members’ names — in short, let that person do his or her thing to the utmost of his or her ability. With any business, it’s the people who count, who instill loyalty, who make customers want to come back. If you don’t have an instructor or trainer who matches this description, find one, pronto. And then laugh when it’s a gorgeous, sunny, seventy-degree day, because your facility is going to be packed, regardless.

Helping Others Heal

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For years now, studies have reported that exercise eases the effects of trauma. Though it’s not always easy to predict how trauma will affect an individual, it’s a nearly universal law that regular exercise will help individuals manage their reactions to trauma. Doctors recommend workout routines for veterans returning from war and others who might suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and coaches know that the best morale-booster for athletes who have recovered from an injury is to get back into the game.

Chances are, therefore, that if you own or manage a fitness center, at least some of your clients are there because they’re struggling to overcome some experience of trauma, whether physical or emotional, small-scale or large-scale.

You’ve probably guessed by now what I’m working up to here. A few days ago, in Boston, thousands of people experienced a large-scale trauma. Thousands of others around the country, and around the world, watched with horror and anxiety as events unfolded.

In this instance, many of the people involved already know the benefits of exercise. They were, of course, runners. They were personal trainers. They were tennis pros and fitness directors and health club maintenance workers. They were also just people who appreciate the discipline, hard work, and determination that go into marathon running, the beautiful, triumphant spectacle of the whole thing.

How are all of these people going to heal? Exercise helps, we know — but what if exercise is the thing associated with the trauma? Will runners want to continue running? Will people training for future marathons be too scared to continue? Can exercise still heal when it was exercise that gave a platform to the trauma in the first place?
Given the results of most studies on exercise and trauma, the answer is probably yes. But what can you do to help?

The bombings at the Boston Marathon directly affect the fitness industry; it only makes sense that the fitness industry should respond. Were any of your members running in the marathon? If so, give them a hero’s welcome home, or maybe just have your membership services staff reach out to them personally. Whether you had clients involved or not, can you offer a discount for the month in honor of the people who were killed or injured? Do you have the resources to bring in a social worker or trauma expert to give a talk to the community about the bombings?

Whatever you do, your efforts will be felt by your community — merely seeing your facility respond in some way can help initiate healing for those who need it. And you might find some of them realizing that exercise could help further their healing, and signing up for a class or two — or a run around the track.

fitness incentives

Home Sweet Gym

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I have a confession to make. Sometimes, when I’m too lazy to head to the gym but I know I need to exercise, I pull out my mat, look online for a good workout podcast or video, and start trying to get my heart rate up in my living room. I know that, without proper equipment (all right, without any equipment), without an instructor or personal trainer, and without fellow sweaty bodies, I’m not getting quite the level of exercise I need. But often convenience trumps quality.I’m not alone in this. A friend of mine keeps a stationary bike in her office; another one has an entire weight room in his basement. The fact is that sometimes fitness centers are competing for customers not only with other fitness centers, but also with those customers’ personal spaces. What can be done to pull people — yes, people like me — away from the yoga blocks in their closet or the medicine balls in their bedroom and into the gym

Of course, a health club will never be able to offer the convenience of a living room. But the benefits any exercise facility can offer far outweigh what can be found in the average living room. The key, then, is to focus on those benefits — in business-speak, the core competencies. What can a gym do better than a lone exerciser in her office?

Whatever it is, focus on doing it absolutely as best as you can. Trust that just being better at those things will draw at least some people who might otherwise never get out the door.That said, maybe there is a way for a gym to compete with the convenience of home: offer discounts to people who live locally — within a few blocks or a mile or two of the facility, say. Whatever your location, you’re convenient for at least some people. Make it your business to make sure those people know it.In addition, as with most things, incentives help. My gym offers a good one: Work out 180 days between one birthday and the next, and you get a month’s free membership. The thought of that sometimes entices me from my living room. There are hundreds of possible variations on this: come in a certain number of times and we’ll send ten dollars to your favorite charity, give you a free drink from the cafe, invite you to bring a friend for a free workout, put your name up on a poster announcing the current month’s most dedicated gym-goers, etc.

It’s hard to get us homebodies out of our personal spaces, it’s true, but it’s not impossible. Make it worth our while.

Reward Your Clients to Reward Yourself

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A recent Mayo Clinic study found that, probably unsurprisingly, giving people financial incentives to work out helps them lose more weight. Researchers paid some study participants $20 every time they hit a monthly weight-loss goal and charged them the same amount if they failed to hit the goal. The result? Participants receiving the financial incentive — or trying to avoid having to pay — lost 6.74 more pounds than participants receiving no financial incentive.

For gyms, sports clubs, fitness centers, and the like, this is good news. Now, obviously, you can’t stand at the door handing out money to each member who meets his or her weight-loss goals each month, but maybe you can consider using other kinds of incentives. No doubt you already have some in place — have a friend sign up for a class and receive a free class yourself, or work out a certain number of times over the course of six months and receive one month’s membership free. Whatever you might be offering, great. In addition to that, can you offer something in exchange for members meeting stated weight-loss goals? A free class, a gift certificate for a health drink in the cafe, a free or reduced-cost session with a personal trainer?

Granted, the Mayo Clinic study looked only at cash incentives, so it’s not clear whether other types of incentives would have the same effect. But it’s worth a shot. If members meet their weight-loss goals because you helped them get there by providing small rewards, they’re probably more likely to stay members. They’re probably also more likely to get their friends and families to become members as well, or to sign up for classes, or whatever makes the most sense at your facility.

Your management software can help you keep track of who is taking part in an incentive program you offer, how close they are to meeting their goals, what incentives you’ve offered, and which ones you’ve paid out. As an organization devoted to your clients’ health, it makes sense to do what you can to help those clients get to where they need to be — while also solidifying a loyal customer base for yourself, not to mention a reputation for being a facility that really cares about its clients’ wellbeing.


Activate Perkville on EZFacility and Gamify Exercise this Year

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For this blog post we’ve asked Sophia Wong, Marketing Manager for Perkville, to share some insights on how to best use Perkville for your business!

To survive in the competitive health and fitness industry, club operators must focus on what differentiates their club from their peers.  Did you know that an EZFacility user can customize a rewards program by activating Perkville?

Perkville provides health and fitness businesses with a competitive advantage — giving businesses a platform to drive lifestyle changes by providing gamification tools to boost retention, referrals, and social media.
Gyms and studios have the ability to log into Perkville and customize their reward program to reward class attendance, personal training sessions, and more.  The reward program can be updated at any time to accommodate new behaviors, classes or services that the staff determine they would like to incentivize.  Staff can easily modify the list of point-generating activities in just a few clicks.

Redeemable rewards are viewed as tangible tokens of achievement in the fitness game.  While nothing can substitute for a great workout, redeemable rewards are motivational factors and help retain clients.  For many clients, rewards provide a goal they can strive to achieve.   Based on our discussions with gyms using Perkville, we recommend a 40 to 1 ratio where 40 works outs or activities equate to a retail, service, or discount reward.
“Perkville has created a buzz in our gym as well as on social media and has helped us perform better in comparison to last year.  Our annual memberships grew by 6.6% this past September (2012) compared to 3.0% in September 2011.  We saw an improved trend in October as well, and November is looking good too.  I get really excited by annual membership growth,” said Anne Co-Owner of Royal Fitness Gym.

For more details here is the link to Perkville’s Gamification White Paper.

Adding Value to Your Business

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As many of our clients may have noticed recently, EZFacility has been endeavoring to add more value to the services we provide our global customer-base. On this note, we’d like to encourage our customers to continuously add value to their own business in order to keep members engaged and excited about the services you provide. Whether it’s setting up a simple rewards system (enter Perkville!) or by adding a special service to a package that you currently offer, your clients will notice and appreciate the added value.

Additionally, adding value to your business will go a long way in helping you retain members. Often, by keeping things “new” for existing customers, you’ll find that more and more members will stick with what you’re offering.

 Other great ways of adding value to your gym or sports facility includes offering a wider range or schedule of classes that members can select from, or even promoting a special two-for-one on certain group-centric services (like group fitness or batting cage rentals) to encourage people to bring friends with them to your facility. The possibilities are endless and require little effort on the business owner’s side when it comes to incorporating this type of value. However in the end, the payoff will be huge because members will always choose the best value for their money, which in-turn ensures that your business continues to grow.

Studies show Viral Referral Systems are the most effective tool for marketing

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We’d like to introduce guest blogger, Aaron Grove, from Share your fit. He reveals one of the most effective marketing tools and how you…our clients…can take advantage of it. Share your fit is a new referral system for fitness and health clubs and is an innovative way of spreading the word on your business. EZFacility has partnered with Share your fit to provide customers with another means of growing and improving their business.

By Aaron Grove
A recent poll of businesses showed that half of all health clubs count on referrals for 75% of their business. After all, referrals are the most effective and affordable way of increasing your sales and growing your bottom line. We all know referrals are integral in growing your customer base, but they take work.  Most gyms do not have a formal process or system in place for referral generation. In fact, most do not even ask for referrals or they ask incorrectly.  When you factor in your current customers and new members into a structured referral system that allows for exponential growth of memberships, it makes for an efficient, effective, and non-invasive way to generate referrals.
Did you know…

  • Referral-generated customers are the least expensive, most profitable, AND most loyal source of new business?
  • Referral-generated customers also tend to buy quicker, negotiate less, buy larger quantities, and refer more business to you?

Now, most members do not want to “sell out” friends to an invasive sales process, but are willing to send a personalized email with their name attached to a free pass.

Share your fit is a non-invasive landing page branded specifically for your club.  This page can be the homepage for your sales desks, the front desk, and even at a kiosk set up in the middle of your gym. As new and current members attend your gym, you offer a small incentive (maybe a week of free personal training) in exchange for them sharing a pass to your gym with family and friends.  Members can attach a personalized message as they share what they like about your club, when they workout, or the success they have had with their workout routine/trainer.  Everyone who views or receives a pass has the potential to multiply into additional referrals through Share your fit, even if they never make it to your club (in the fitness industry, only 30% of set sales appointments actually show up).  Share your fit decreases attrition rates, by helping build a “family atmosphere” in your gym.  Members are always more loyal and motivated when they work out among friends.

Share your fit is powered by, an online directory of fitness centers.  If a consumer receives a free pass to a gym that they have never heard of, they are able to learn about the gym by viewing video tours, testimonials, and a virtual gallery.

Gyms implementing the Share your fit referral system see an average increase in sales between 10% and 30%. The more it’s used, the more effective it becomes. All leads can be tracked and managed, so that no potential business slips through the cracks. Share your fit features a risk free 60 day money back guarantee. Contact us now to see how our state of the art referral system will be the most efficient and effective generator of new business your gym has ever experienced.

Making the Most of Your Second Highest Revenue Generator

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Typically, the highest revenue generator for a gym is memberships. The second highest revenue generator is personal training and it’s essential that you do everything you can to ensure that it is well taken care of. With a new year comes the opportunity to revamp your system and how you capitalize on this revenue generator.
As always, there are a few key elements that will play a role in how successful you are.


Be sure that your members are aware of what services you provide and make clear the benefits and value of each of these services. Additionally, targeting the right members will lead to better results and allow your sales person to confidently sell because they know they are dealing with someone who is the right candidate for personal training.


Once the marketing has done its job, the sales staff takes over with a script at the ready persuading members to invest in this service (personal training). Be sure to identify objections you will need to overcome as being prepared for these will ensure a smoother sales process and show potential customers that you’re prepared for anything! Lastly, be proactive when closing the sale by assuming which package they want to purchase, not if they would like to purchase one.


A vital step in the marketing and sales process is to track all consultations in order to determine how trainers performed and what sort of results they are accomplishing. Being able to identify which trainers are performing well and which ones need assistance will prove to be an important piece of information to have for making the entire process successful.

Having a plan in place to market and sell your personal training program will inevitably result in higher member retention (your highest revenue generator!) in addition to an increase in personal training revenues for your gym.

We hope these tips are helpful and stay tuned for more ideas and suggestions!

Making the Most of Referrals

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Take advantage of the good service you deliver to your customers and as a result, the referrals they can provide to you in return. If you have a solid product or service, then making the most out of it should be simple. Referrals are the most promising source for leads, especially coming from a satisfied existing member.

A few tips to making the “Buddy Referral” system work:

  • Create an enticing incentive for current members to bring friends into your facility
    • Giving a reward, such as one month free membership in return for getting a friend to sign up – is money wisely spent. This should be simple to do with your membership software, and the return on investment will be higher versus money spent somewhere else.
  • Ensure that the offer for the guest is special and worthwhile
    • Offering a complimentary week to experience your club or facility will allow guests to determine whether it’s a good fit for their lifestyle and needs. Sending emails utilizing your management software should make following-up with prospective members easy, and allow you to keep track of all guests / prospects coming through your doors.
  • Produce appropriate marketing materials to bring awareness of the promotion.
    • In addition to sending follow-up emails to prospective members, making sure that current members are aware of the offer is vital. To bring awareness, send emails to all current members (again, this should be simple to accomplish with your management software) letting them know of the offers or perks, and be sure to have plenty of signage throughout your gym with details.

Here at EZFacility we’re big fans of being efficient. One of the best ways to make the most of our efforts is to let our customers do some of the marketing for us – by referring EZFacility to other people in the industry. We know that the best way to accomplish this is to keep our level of customer satisfaction extremely high, and we encourage our customers to do the same. Don’t be afraid to let your club or facility speak for itself.

That’s all for now but check back soon for more ideas and news.

Targeted Marketing Campaigns with EZFacility

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Make the most out of our software features by going beyond the scheduling, management and billing functions. Because EZFacility software keeps track of your client demographics, clubs can easily identify their largest opportunities for customer-base growth. Our software features top commercial email marketing software that allows you to send emails that are targeted to the right group.

A few examples of how this function can be used to target the right members:

  • Membership or Package About to Expire – Remind members to renew their membership or training package before they expire. This gives them the opportunity to continue with uninterrupted gym or training time and keeps cash flowing for your facility.
  • Birthdays – A member’s birthday is coming up; email them notifying them of a free personal training session in celebration of their birthday. This is a great way to have them try out something new at your facility that could convert to additional business from an existing member.
  • Past members – Notify past members of a great sign up offer. By keeping past members posted on new offers via email, chances are if they see a great one, you’ll lure them back in.
  • New Program/Class Alerts – Send a targeted email to members that have participated in similar classes/programs in the past. They’ll appreciate a suggestion tailored to their interests and will assure members that their facility is keeping things fresh and interesting.

Use the demographic reporting in EZFacility to find out where the holes are in your demographics. This makes it simple to find out what age group or gender needs additional targeting and focus. Perhaps, your club needs more Senior- level classes or extra babysitter services during the day for those stay-at-home moms looking to stay fit. With EZFacility’s Marketing tools, these gaps can be easily found and marketing strategies and campaigns can then be implemented.

Hope this helps in generating new ideas on how EZFacility’s software can be used for marketing to all your clients utilizing unique and innovative approaches.

We will, of course, continue to keep you posted on new developments and information.