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The fitness department is an integral cog in the health club machine, generating a high percentage of revenue and member engagement — ultimately helping clubs turn tentative customers into dedicated members.
Unfortunately, members don’t always find their way to Group X or personal training on their own. This is where marketing comes into play.
There are different strategies, respectively, for marketing your personal training sessions and group exercise classes. To gain better perspective, Club Solutions sat down with the marketing directors at three clubs from across the U.S. to share their best practices for marketing fitness programming.
Kristin McConnell, the director of marketing at The Atlantic Club in New Jersey, believes the most important component of marketing personal training programs is removing the pressure many new clients find inherent in some sales scenarios.
As a result, The Atlantic Club often takes a soft-sell approach, presenting personal training as an opportunity members should consider, versus pressuring them to sign on the dotted line.
For example, “During [November and December] we held 30-minute complimentary training sessions with select trainers, which allowed members to meet someone new, learn new exercises, machines and creative ways to use our fitness floor,” said McConnell. “This campaign broke down hesitant barriers members may have and allowed them to meet different trainers before they committed to our personal training packages.”
In addition to those complimentary sessions, The Atlantic Club visually educates members on the benefits of personal training through banners and individual flyers within the clubs.
At the core of these marketing tactics is the need to actively engage new and current members alike.
“During certain times of the year we focus larger digital campaigns showing the variety of [fitness] options available through video clips, social posts and paid digital advertising to acquire new memberships,” said McConnell. “But we also remind our current members about all we offer and encourage them to try something new and mix up their workouts.”
No matter what you’re specifically promoting, whether it’s personal training or a Group X class, the onus should always be on educating and empowering your members through your marketing message.
“We are breaking down the intimidation factor when members watch our video clips or see our ads, which are motivational and benefit-based the majority of the time,” said McConnell.
At Hockessin Athletic Club in Hockessin, Delaware, complimentary training sessions for new clients have also proved to be a great way to expose potential clients to the club’s training programs.
“We find a lot of success in pairing new members with personal trainers through two complimentary sessions,” explained Lisa Maguire, the marketing director for Hockessin Athletic Club. “In our first two sessions, we focus largely on the member’s goals and physical fitness level in relation to those goals.”
Follow-up is the name of the game for Hockessin Athletic Club. During the complimentary sessions, trainers challenge prospects to honestly evaluate their fitness journeys. “If no purchase is made, we later have this information as a reason to reach out to them and see if they’ve been successful in their endeavors without a personal trainer,” explained Maguire.
Hockessin Athletic Club wants its personal trainers front and center representing the club. “Outside of the complimentary sessions and related outreach, we also market our personal trainers on social media by highlighting their accomplishments, clients and bios,” she said.
Maguire believes making the personal trainers seem more relatable is critical to gaining new clients and retaining them. The same can be said for group exercise instructors. Members want to feel some connection to the people who are, in essence, leading them on a path to improved well-being.
It also helps to position trainers as a resource for all members — not just clients. “Another way we’ve been successful is highlighting new equipment and [encouraging members] to ask a trainer how to use it,” said Maguire. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the trainer to assess the member’s goals and fitness levels and offer assistance in the form of personal training.”
When it comes to Group X, Maguire explained getting new members plugged into a group setting fosters accountability and can be critical to their long-term participation. “Group exercise is a huge retention tool,” she said. “We routinely add new classes and upgrade our equipment and when we do, boast via social media, emails and in-club marketing materials.”
Finally, Maguire added another effective method for marketing your fitness department is fitness challenges. They encourage healthy competition as well as healthy lifestyles.
“We run two group fitness challenges each year,” explained Maguire. “The first is our ‘Make It a Habit’ challenge in January, where participants must attend a certain number of different classes to receive raffle tickets for prizes. The second is in August — the ‘Dog Days of Summer’ challenge — to help boost attendance.”
According to Daniela Spaid, the director of marketing and public relations for Fitness Formula Clubs in Chicago, the best way to market your fitness department is to have quality programming.
“Word-of-mouth marketing is always the best,” said Spaid. “We launch new classes quarterly and have all of our membership department team attend a kickoff class so they can promote the class from personal experience.”
Ensuring members see results through your fitness programs can also lead to more word-of-mouth, providing inspiration to others seeking similar goals.
Another smart practice is mixing up your group class schedule on occasion. “We have had great success in offering specialty classes with fun themes,” said Spaid. “Our group exercise instructors also do a great job of posting updates and checking in to class using their personal social media channels.”
When it comes to personal training, Spaid explained Fitness Formula Clubs’ member onboarding process provides a great opportunity to expose members to trainers. “Wherever they can, we recommend structuring an onboarding process that introduces new members to trainers early and often,” she advised.
Spaid explained they also ensure their trainers have an established presence on the club’s website. “We ask our trainers to write blogs about specific training topics and we share them on our website and all of our social channels,” she explained. “We also include a link to redeem a complimentary training session with the author, which has worked very well.”
Ultimately, your fitness department offers some of the best tools for members to reach their goals. But if you don’t market your programs properly, members won’t know they exist.