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Five Steps to Gain New Members

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Promoting a generic fitness program is a thing of the past, and successful fitness businesses of today are finding a new way to build their memberships. Today’s members come to fitness with injuries, medical conditions and differing levels of ability. These potential members are the 80% of the population that are not meeting the basic recommendations for daily or weekly physical activity. Fitness centers are finding that the Pilates profit center is a successful way to retain and reach out to these members. With Pilates, a facility is able to offer programming that puts the person first. Because of its versatility and ability to meet all fitness levels, Pilates is the perfect modality for new exercisers.

Following are five recommended steps to gain new members for your club:

1. How to reach the new exerciser: The first challenge is reaching out to the inactive or new exerciser. The media is doing this for you. With Oprah and Mari Windsor boasting its benefits, there are very few people who have never heard the word Pilates. The world now knows that Madonna and other stars are doing Pilates and losing dress sizes, and that Tiger Woods and other professional golfers are using Pilates to enhance their golf game. What better marketing could you create? Your first step on the marketing side is to let it be known that you offer the best Pilates program in the area.

2. How to design the program: The key to creating the best program is instructor education. Invest in a properly trained instructor and bring in quality education for your staff. Be sure that your Pilates instructors have experience in the fitness business, especially working with special populations such as seniors. Pilates training does not prepare an instructor to work in the fitness environment. The best fit for this new position is one of your senior fitness instructors who has completed a Pilates mat educational program. Choose a wellrounded instructor who understands your demographics.

Be sure to charge members an additional fee for Pilates mat classes. If you believe that they will not pay for these classes, you are mistaken. New members would rather pay a small fee to have a skilled teacher with a small personal training class than participate in an overfilled, low quality, free Pilates class. If you do not charge for the class, this potential profit center will become the nonprofit center that steals 20% of your base-operating expense and eventually gets cut from the program.

3. You got them in the door, now what? New exercisers will need a great deal of help to get started – including education and hand-holding. This all begins on the initial visit. Members do not like highpressure sales. If you pressure them, they may join on-the-spot, but they may end up hating you for it. This hate will come out to bite you when they cancel in the second month, or don’t renew at the end of the year. The best approach is to provide the new exerciser with a free trial period. Assign visit times so that they have an appointment to meet with you to begin their education. These visits could span a period of two. It is also useful to add some positive reinforcement like a gift for members who sign up in the first seven days.

4. So, what happens on the trial visits? One common mistake made with this type of member is the early in-depth assessment. This member knows that they are horribly out of shape, and an assessment will only reinforce the fact. After all, who likes someone who tells them they are fat? Instead, spend the time introducing this member to other members, specialized trainers, and programs. A good idea for their first visit is a one-on-one 30-minute visit with the Pilates mat teacher. During this visit, the instructor can sell the benefits of the class and provide basic instructions to allow the member to comfortably join a class. The assessment is important for any new member, but it can be introduced during the third week, after the member has committed to changing his or her lifestyle.

5. How to retain new members: Member retention is the bottom line in a fitness business. The key component in retaining these members is small Pilates classes with well-educated instructors. This will provide these instructors with the ability to accommodate these new members by providing the effect of personal training in an inexpensive mat class. The trust that will be built with this new member will keep him or her with you. Give your members the time to make a decision, the education to exercise, a program that is possible, and teachers who can provide personal instruction without the cost of personal training. Why wouldn’t members renew?

For more information and educational products on building your member base with Pilates, visit www.phipilates.com, or call us. Join our quarterly e-newsletter with free tips on building your Pilates program.

Christine Romani-Ruby is the Founder and Owner of Phi® Pilates, one of the fi rst companies to offer a comprehensive Pilates education to both fitness and rehabilitation professionals. She can be contacted at 877.716.4879, or by email atcruby@phipilates.com.

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