[q] Once members join my club, they seem to stay for a long time, but i am having a lot of trouble attracting new members. My club has prices and facilities competitive with other health clubs in the area, but we can’t seem to get many new faces in the door. Do you have any ideas for attracting more potential members? I know we can seal the deal if we can just get them to take a look.
[a] It sounds like you have a good thing going and just need a little help getting the word out about it.
Since your current members are loyal to your club, think about implementing a referral program. Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful marketing tools out there, so encourage your members to spread the word about your club by offering incentives like discounts and price breaks. You can also ask loyal members to provide contact information for friends and family they thinkmight be interested in joining a health club-a good way to make this work is to offer a contest where if you sign a friend up to receive your club’s e-newsletter or another special offer, you can be entered to win a prize. (Just make sure you come up with a prize yourmembers would actually want to win.) This is a great way to grow your list of warmprospects.
Also, be aware of the language you use in your marketing. You say your prices and facilities are competitive, but you don’t say what it is thatmakes your club different from those others. Obviously you’ve got members who love what you’re doing, so communicate that. Do you offer creative classes or expanded hours or free personal training? Is your facility spa-like? Budget friendly? Great for families? When you’re putting together your advertising materials, be sure this unique information is clearly highlighted- to people who’ve never been to your club, there’s no reason to check it out if it sounds like every other health club out there. Come up with three or four buzzwords that you think really represent your club and feature them prominently in your club’s advertising. Then figure out where the members you want to attract are getting their information, and get your ads in front of them, whether that means posting flyers at the grocery store, making an ad exchange deal with a local chiropractor or placing an ad in your town’s alternative news weekly.
But don’t just market your club. The smartest way to market your club is to market yourself and your staff. Become your town’s expert on health and fitness-check with the local paper about writing a regular column on fitness topics or volunteer to serve as a health and fitness expert on committees. When big fitness news strikes, call your local news media and offer yourself as an expert source. Establishing yourself as an expert can give your club the kind of name recognition that draws members.
David Schaffer, Direct Marketing Expert
[q] I’m a solo club operator, so I don’t have salary or payroll to deal with-but I do have a problem with money. Advice?
[a] Managing your finances can be a huge time drain, and hiring a company to manage things when you don’t have payroll can seem like a big investment. Try a software solution: QuickBooks Pro is a good option. For about $200, you can track inventory, sales and payments. It can take a while to get the hang of the program, but most QuickBooks software comes with a 30- day free customer assistance service.
When you’re ready to grow, though, unless you’ve fallen head of over heels for your QuickBooks program, your life will probably be simpler if you outsource to an Administrative Service Organization or a Professional Employer Organization.
Valerie Sanchez-Barrett, Small Business Technology Consultant