Rethinking Reception Areas — in Real Life and Online

Rethinking Reception Areas—in Real Life & Online

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We all know the cliché: First impressions matter. Some social scientists have suggested that we size up new people, places, and things within thirty seconds of first encountering them, making decisions about them then and there. Of course, first impressions often are proven wrong — but sometimes, depending on the content of a given impression or the person forming it, there’s no chance to prove it wrong. Fact is, clichés are clichés for a reason: They tend to touch on some kind of truth. In the fitness and sports facility industries in particular, first impressions really do matter. Potential members might decide in a split second whether to sign up with your facility or not.

What gives someone a first impression of your organization? Your reception area, of course. Or, I should say, your reception areas, because in this day and age you likely have two: a virtual one and a bricks-and-mortar one. If you want to sell memberships effectively, you have to consider both carefully.

Let’s think first about the old-fashioned one, the bricks-and-mortar reception area. Remember, this space represents a transition from the outside world — that is, the world that contains a potential member’s stressors, responsibilities, and aggravations — to your facility. How do you want people who walk through your doors to experience that transition? Chances are, you want them intuitively and immediately to grasp that they’re entering a sanctuary, a safe harbor that will hold the stressors, responsibilities, and aggravations at bay. The more they feel that, the more likely they are to keep coming back. In other words, you want your reception area, that first-impression space, to do the work of fulfilling what are likely two of your facility’s main goals: signing up new members and retaining existing ones.

How do you accomplish this? First, ask yourself how warm, welcoming, and calming your reception area is. Is it a carefully designed space, with colors, lighting, fixtures, and signage that let people know you want them there, you’re friendly, and they can relax? Maybe you have a fountain, plants, yellow lighting angled just so. At the same time, is the space energizing enough to help people get into a workout mindset — a splash of bright color on one wall, say, an image that suggests intensity and power? Does it look generic, as if a person standing there could be anywhere, or does it look like it could be only one place in the world: your facility, reflecting your identity? Do your front desk employees smile? Do they know members by name? (Of course, needless to say, the space should be uncluttered and impeccably clean.)

If you answered no to any of these questions, it’s probably time for an overhaul. An architect or interior designer can help you get started. One step you can take right away is researching current design trends for fitness and sports facility reception areas — and then being sure to avoid them. Part of the first impression you want to aim to create is the sense that your place is different, in a category all its own.

Now, what about your virtual reception area, a.k.a. your website homepage? In the old days, of course, this wasn’t something a gym owner or manager had to worry about. But the fact is that nowadays, people form an impression of your facility before ever stepping foot into it, and they do that by looking you up online. Take a good, hard look at your homepage ask yourself some questions. Some of the questions are similar to the ones you want to ask about your physical space: Is it warm? Is it welcoming? Does it set you apart from other facilities? But you also want to consider the following: Does the page load quickly? Does it avoid being overly busy? Does it reflect and reinforce your facility’s brand identity? Does it efficiently answer questions people are likely to ask, or provide obvious links to answers?

A final key point to keep in mind: Online impressions are formed not only through your facility’s webpage, but also via reviews on Google, Yelp, personal blogs, and other such pages. If you’re concerned about potentially negative impressions these kinds of sites might leave, or if you just have no idea how to begin approaching the issue, consider hiring an online reputation expert, someone who combs through existing pages about your business and strategizes ways to emphasize the good stuff.

Retaining Members a Month at a Time

Retaining Members a Month at a Time

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Let’s say you’ve got a prospective member who has shown a lot of interest in your facility. You’ve given her a tour, offered her a free day pass to try the place out, and even had the highest-performing member of your sales team sit down with her for a full twenty minutes, chatting like an old friend and answering a slew of questions. Yet, when it comes time for the prospective to sign on the dotted line, she balks—she just doesn’t feel like she can commit to a year-long membership.
Does this sound like a familiar scenario? With members’ increasingly hectic work lives and a tight economy, it’s happening more and more at gyms, health clubs, and fitness centers around the country. Something else is also happening more and more to directly counteract the phenomenon: Clubs are starting to offer month-to-month membership with greater frequency than ever before.
How, you might ask, could a club stay operational with month-to-month memberships? The better question might be: How could a club stay operational without them? As Geoff Dyer, Founder of AussieFIT in Columbus, Ohio, puts it, “Some 25 percent of all members become inactive within six months of joining a club, and that figure doubles, rising to 50 percent, after one year. Unfortunately, one of the black eyes our industry has earned is its reputation for locking inactive members into long-term retail installment contracts.”
Dyer recently discussed month-to-month memberships on IHRSA’s blog. These options are better, Dyer argues, because they allow the industry to focus as much on member retention as it does on new member acquisition. “If our clients can leave at any time,” he says, “simply by providing written notice, then we’ll likely be much more attentive to their level of satisfaction with our service, programs, and facility upkeep.” That is, allowing for month-to-month memberships will force health clubs and similar facilities to improve the services they provide—the incentive for keeping members happy will increase, and therefore the efforts to do so will increase. As a result, more customers will join. In the end, Dyer says, even if members leave the facility at a faster pace, the outcome can still be a net gain.
Jarod Cogswell, Founder of Enterprise Athlete and President of Fit Academy, Inc., agrees. “The challenge for you,” he says, “is to prove your club’s value on a month-to-month basis, which promotes and produces a higher level of services. It motivates your staff to focus on service, cleanliness, and member retention because every visit counts, and there may not be a second chance.” Cogswell acknowledges, this reality places a lot of pressure on the sales process, because if clients can leave at any time there’s a greater chance you’ll lose them. “You therefore need to be selling at the same or higher rate than the rate of your membership losses,” he says.
Nevertheless, Cogswell believes the month-to-month option can reap rewards for a club. “When people understand that they can leave whenever they like,” he explains, joining your club becomes a comfortable decision—both psychologically and financially—that will tend to drive the volume you need to be profitable.”
Another critical factor to consider is what kind of fitness membership software you are currently using to track membership data. The right club management software will supply you with the ability to access robust reporting as well as the ability to set up auto-billing or auto-pay for membership payments.
So maybe it’s time to consider how you could implement month-to-month memberships at your own facility. The key to success with month-to-month is providing your members with the incentive to return, and instituting such a plan could force you to revisit some of your systems and processes. This presents short-term challenges, but the long-term benefits could greatly offset those challenges.

Working Out Around the Season of Insanity

Working Out Around the Season of Insanity

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It’s that time again, the time I like to refer to as the Season of Insanity. Every year around this time, things become outrageously chaotic. At work, everyone is scrambling to finish projects before the end of the year, which inevitably, all end up on my desk at the same time. At school, there’re a sudden slew of no-school holidays, plus professional development and parent-teacher conference days off, while the kids are all tired from a couple months of steady homework, and coming off of Halloween-candy sugar highs. Meanwhile, in the span of three weeks, I’m invited to more events than I’ve been all year. Then there’s the holiday shopping, cooking, planning, and wrapping to contemplate…
What this means for fitness centers and sports facilities is that client visits slow down. Fewer client visits equal less revenue. This can either be in the short term, where you’re missing out on class payments or members aren’t spending on personal trainer sessions, massages, and other extras; or in the long run, where a client becomes less likely to renew her membership when she goes for a month or two without making it to the gym. What can you do to help your already busy clients squeeze in visits to the gym when their schedules become even more packed?
First, remind them that the most important time to maintain gym-going habits is now, when stress increases and tempting, sugary foods are abound. When you’re in the thick of too much to do, it’s easy to forget that making time to work out actually increases productivity. Hang up posters reminding members that this is the case, and reach out via email with similar messaging. A great social media campaign would be one that features brief videos of clients who come regularly despite their hectic schedules—hearing them explain how gym-time makes work-time easier could help motivate members who feel stuck in the grind.
Consider extending your hours for the season. Then, if you’re able to do so, widely and proudly advertise your extended hours.
If possible, have your instructors or trainers develop abbreviated workouts. Give these a snappy name, something like Twenty-Minutes-In-and-Out. Again, advertise heavily: Let everyone know that you’ve got a new program created specifically to address the trouble we are all having right now, in making time to exercise. High-intensity interval training workouts are a relevant thing to plug right now: They’re still receiving attention for their dramatic results and the health benefits they produce, and they’re perfectly suited to short workouts.
Finally, craft a message specifically for members whose records indicate they haven’t made it in for a while. If you have a fitness concierge, have him or her send the message personally, with an invitation to call and discuss any scheduling difficulties clients might be facing. Offer to help devise a plan. You won’t hear from everyone, and there may well be a client or two who disappears and never renews. Chances are though, you’ll reach at least a handful who will feel grateful for you reaching out, and who will re-apply themselves with new vigor. Now get to work.

Time To Partner Up

Time To Partner Up

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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.

Supporting Your Female Clients

Supporting Your Female Clients

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You’ve probably heard the saying before: “Women hold up half the sky.” But, in fact, they may hold up most of your fitness facility. Research suggests that women drive 70 to 80 percent of consumer spending worldwide. Moreover, women, much more than men, engage in word-of-mouth publicity—they talk about their experiences with businesses, products, and service-providers, and, in their social circles. They hold a great deal of influence over the way others choose to spend money. Given that women also purchase fitness-related products and services more often than men do, what does all this mean for your health club?
It means it’s time to design ad campaigns better geared toward them. Here are a few tips for doing so.
First, put away the pink paint, lacy towels, and flower arrangements. The way to show women that other women are comfortable using your gym is not to advertise their presence through pretty embellishments but to highlight the fact of their presence. Using posters, brochures, and social media postings that show women looking serious about their workouts and happy to be in your facility will suggest that you cater to their needs. Supporting breast cancer awareness and making sure members and potential members know you do shows that women’s issues are important to you. Offering—and heavily advertising—childcare programs demonstrates that your club understands the logistics many women must juggle.
Loading your marketing materials with images of women is not enough, however. You must also create real programming for women. Do you offer women-only high-intensity interval training classes, extra women-only swim times, or self-defense classes for women? Do you offer co-ed basketball leagues or squash tournaments? Make your programming for women solid, and then talk it up as much as possible. Highlight your offerings on social media. Send emails. Offer prospective clients chances to take part for free, and invite current members to bring a friend at no charge.
On that note, make sure you’re advertising in establishments and publications that cater to women. Is there a clothing boutique or nail salon near the gym? Ask if you can hang flyers announcing a new women-only cycling class. Partner with local businesswomen’s associations and request that they include mention of your facility in their next newsletter. If you have branches nationally, consider buying ad space in magazines like Self, Women’s World, and Women’s Health.
Finally, engage the advice of the experts. Ask the women in your club what kinds of services do they want, then do your best to provide those services, and let everyone know that you’re doing so. Don’t forget to go to the official experts, too. Some marketing consultants focus exclusively on strategies for marketing to women; they can point out weaknesses in your existing campaign and show you how to polish it up for the demographic. Plenty of books and articles on the subject exist too. I’m not suggesting, by the way, that you forget all about the men—but chances are that if the women are happy, the men will be too.

Youth Obesity and You

Youth Obesity and You

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Earlier this year, reassuring news about childhood obesity emerged: For 2- to 5-year-olds, rates have plummeted 43 percent in the past decade. The data comes from a major federal health survey and is the first indication that America may be turning the corner on the childhood obesity epidemic. Given evidence that children who are overweight or obese at 3- to 5-years old are five times as likely to be overweight or obese as adults, this is very hopeful news.
But we’re not in the clear yet. It’s still the case, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that 20.5 percent of 12- to 19-year-olds—or 1 out of every 5 kids—are considered obese. Moreover, the CDC reports, only 12 percent of kids ages 12 to 15 are getting the amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity recommended by federal guidelines: 60 minutes each day. The consequences of childhood obesity, or simply of too little activity in childhood, can be disastrous later on: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, poor self-esteem, stroke, cancer, osteoarthritis—the list goes on and on.
Happily, health facilities, and in particular sports facilities that train youth, can make a big difference. First, help spread the word: Send newsletters, post on social media, hang up flyers in your facility, put up a billboard-sized sign in your window—however you do it, get the word out there that there is a problem. Use the numbers the CDC provides (they’re sadly impressive—for example: In 2010, more than one-third of American children and adolescents were overweight or obese). Also mention the good news: The fact that obesity rates for young children have dropped can be offered as a source of hope, and as motivation to continue making improvements.
Also, explicitly describe how your facility helps combat the dire figures. List the classes you offer that keep kids moving for at least 60 minutes; highlight any special deals parents can take advantage of. Invite new students in for free trial classes. Post videos showing kids having fun at your facility. If you’re a health club or fitness center that does not cater to kids, get the word out there anyway—and then explain why it’s crucial for parents, teachers, and other adult role models to stay in shape if they want future generations to stay in shape.
You can also consider doing what AussieFIT, a health club with two venues in Ohio, has done. In response to the CDC’s 2012 report, AussieFIT’s founder, Geoff Dyer, created a fitness initiative for local teens, offering free summer memberships to kids between the ages of 12 and 17. If such a program is impractical for your facility, perhaps there’s other programming—even if only educational workshops—you can offer.
If you help share the information that’s out there, show your members and clients (and potential members and clients) that you care, offer ways to make meaningful changes, and provide a free class or lecture to get folks started, you’ll be well on your way to both making a difference and boosting business.

Bringing Sales to the Next Level

Bringing Sales to the Next Level

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I have a friend who works in the sales department of an education publishing company. Recently, she won an award for having the highest monthly sales for six months running. She and her three colleagues all went through the same training, but she consistently outsells them by significant amounts (and she didn’t even have sales experience when she was hired). She told me that one of her colleagues asked her, “What is it about you? How do you do it?” My friend says she has no idea, but I do: It’s just who she is. She’s friendly to everyone and always upbeat. She really listens to people. She’s a great problem-solver. She never says no to anything. (Yes, I realize how lucky I am to have her as a friend.)

Wouldn’t it be great if she were working for your facility? Chances are, you already have some high-quality salespeople on staff. But how can you help them be even better? How can you take your sales staff from good to great?

1) Start with professional training for your sales leaders. This might seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re hiring experienced people and you’re confident about their ability to cinch a sale, the need for training could be overlooked. In fact, there’s a reason teachers, doctors, lawyers, and others have to fulfill a certain number of professional development hours each year. We all get rusty; especially in sales, when someone is making the same pitch over and over again, it’s easy to lose some of the vitality and charisma — that stuff my friend has—that is crucial to a successful transaction. Plus, the better trained your leaders are, the better trained your whole sales team will be: Solid skills and best practices trickle down. Ideally, you want to let your sales leaders choose their own training programs, ones that suit their personalities and styles.

2) Look for passion and interpersonal skills more than sales experience. Experience comes with time, but passion about fitness? An ease with people, a willingness to see each individual as unique and to truly listen to them, and the finesse required to help customers get their needs met? Those things are hard to fake.

3) If your sales numbers aren’t high enough and training isn’t producing the results you desire, you might have to ask yourself difficult questions. Do you have the right people on staff? Might you have to let a weaker employee go, or find a position that better suits his or her strengths? Do what you can to help naturally good salespeople get better, but know when it’s time to shake up the team.

4) Finally, focus on relationship-building. You want to think about this on a couple levels. First, what is your relationship to your sales team, both the leaders and the people who work under them? Do you have a personal connection to them? Do they know what your goals are and why those goals are important to you? Do they trust you? Second, what is your sales team’s relationship to prospects? Do they make an effort to connect personally? Do they listen to their needs and do whatever they can to fulfill them?

Keep in mind one more thing: Your facility and your staff are going to reflect you. As a manager or owner, you set the tone. If you (like my friend) are open and upbeat yourself, if you really listen to your employees and you tackle problems in creative ways, you’re likely to find that your sales staff (and, for that matter, other employees) do too.

Establishing a YouTube Presence

Establishing a YouTube Presence

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YouTube is the second most used search engine in the world. The first is Google. When you consider the facts that (1) Google owns YouTube, (2) Google’s search engine algorithm weighs heavily the presence of videos on a website (in plain English: if you’ve got videos, your site will appear higher up in Google’s search results), and (3) videos are much more likely to go viral than text-only online content, the conclusion you should draw is obvious: Your facility can benefit from having a presence on YouTube.
But where to begin? Or, if you already have a selection of videos on YouTube, how to optimize? Don’t worry. There are some simple steps you can take to establish yourself in the YouTube universe.
First, if you haven’t already, create a YouTube channel for your facility. This takes seconds to do and allows you to build up a mass of users who subscribe to your account; it also lets you send emails to subscribers. Be sure to upload the videos you create to your channel.
Then consider the production value that’s right for you. Your videos do not have to be perfectly polished works of art; in fact, anything too polished could be off-putting. You want to keep them authentic, comfortable, and welcoming. You also want them to be cost-efficient. This means investing just enough resources to get your point across; you might be able to make a perfectly fine video with just a smartphone attached to a tripod accessory (just make sure you’re paying close attention to sound quality; if you invest in any sort of high-tech equipment, let it be a great microphone).
That said, keep in mind that viewers won’t stick around for long if a video is too low in quality. And you want them to stick around, because the whole point is to give them a direction to take. By the end of your video, you should tell viewers to contact you, stop by, or check out your social media channels. Including a call to action — and making the video compelling enough so that viewers stay long enough to get the call to action — is crucial.
As far as other content goes, the sky — and your imagination — is the limit. Videos featuring quick, helpful routines created by your trainers are an obvious choice, and are sure to be a big hit. But don’t overlook other possibilities: videos of new members, perhaps explaining why they chose to join your facility; videos of staff discussing their favorite parts of their jobs; videos of events you’ve hosted or sponsored, especially if they’re events that show your dedication to your surrounding community. Also, videos of CEOs, managers, or owners offering personal, sincere stories about how they’ve overcome hardship or what motivates them or why they do what they do can be extremely compelling. Don’t forget that humor always attracts attention. As do children!
Other things to keep in mind: You want to be sure to help Google — and viewers — connect your YouTube video with your other online content. That means, in the description of your video, include a link to your website. The flip side of that is connecting your clientele (and potential clientele) with your videos: Be sure to tweet the videos, share them on Facebook and Google+, promote them on Instagram — make them an integrated part of your social media strategy.
As part of that strategy, you should also take time to invest in the YouTube community. Become an integral part of that community by commenting on other videos within your fields of interest. Add links on your website to videos you find interesting. If other YouTube users perceive your facility as a supportive, community-minded entity, they’ll support you, and then the real magic of YouTube will kick in, with word about your facility spreading at lightning speed.
Of course, as with all of your marketing efforts, you’ll want to maintain brand recognition. Include your logo, use fonts and colors associated with your brand, establish a consistent voice and personality, and ensure that the tone conveyed in the video matches the tone you have established elsewhere. The pay-off — a higher profile on Google and a reputation as a video provider — will be huge!

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!

Use Your Club Size To Your Advantage

Use Your Club Size To Your Advantage

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Over on the IHRSA blog, there’s an interesting post about how small gyms in rural towns tackle the unique challenges they face. It’s true that for any health club or sports facility with a small pool of members and clients to draw from, there are difficulties that clubs in more populous places don’t experience. You might compete with larger clubs nearby, vying hard for attention against brand-name franchises. Or you might struggle to fill up your classes or operate programs or leagues that are tricky to manage without a certain bulk enrollment.

The best strategy? Use your club size to your advantage. Sisters Athletic Club, in Sisters, Oregon, makes a point of creating a homelike atmosphere in its facility. First of all, the gym provides no membership cards. Instead, even though the club boasts 1,600 members, employees are required to know every member and greet them by name when they enter. Here’s where small-town advantages come into play: The town has only 2,000 residents. Chances are, the member entering is your neighbor anyway. Also, the club strives to create an anti-gym feel. Outside, the 19,000-square-foot facility looks like a lodge. Inside, a rock formation fills the lobby, classical music infuses the air, and an art gallery spreads out near the front desk. You can’t see the cardio court from the entrance, and you don’t smell anything that even vaguely suggests you’re in a gym. The hominess is complemented by fastidiousness; everything is spotless.

Playing up the sense that the facility is an extension of their members’ homes is crucial for Sisters Athletic, in part because the club’s biggest competitor is nature. There’s so much skiing, biking, and hiking nearby that the facility has to give members the sense that they’re getting something they can’t possibly get outdoors. It’s precisely its small, comfortable feel that allows it to do so.

The situation for B-Fit 24/7 Fitness in Adrian, Michigan, is different: The local population consists of 24,000 and there are big-name competitors not too far away. So, B-Fit has a bigger pool to draw from than Sisters Athletic Club, but there are more options for the folks who make up that pool. B-Fit has to really stand apart from the crowd in order to create a loyal clientele and attract new members.

Their solution? The club has made itself the only one in the area that’s open 24 hours, and it pitches itself as the “ungym” — unlike the traditional gym model, B-Fit does not require members to sign a contract, and it refunds members who don’t reach their goals. Also, the club works hard to forge relationship with the 80 percent of the population that isn’t naturally exercise-oriented.

For sports facilities in similar positions — either with only a tiny pool to draw from or with big-fish competitors nearby and a relatively small pool of potential clients — smart marketing, along with lots of event hosting, might be the key. Looking to fill up your baseball league? Try putting up flyers in towns one to two hours away; parents will go surprisingly far to keep their kids interested in an activity, and adult players who are committed enough to join a league probably won’t mind the travel. As far as events go, don’t limit yourself to birthday parties. Put the idea in the minds of potential customers that you are there for all occasions, from celebrations for specific events and holidays to celebrations for no reason at all.

The overriding lesson is this: What you think are weaknesses might be turned to advantages. Exaggerate the very qualities that seem limiting — your small size, the restricted pool you’re in — and figure out what about those things might appeal to those around you.