Club One, located in San Francisco, Calif. has generated a reputation for being on the cutting edge and developing family-friendly environments with their members’ lifestyle in mind. As the fitness industry has evolved, Club One has found itself continuing to change with new technologies that have allowed them to be in contact with members and communities on a much greater scale.
Bill McBride, 46, the president and COO of Club One, has overseen the radical changes via technology through marketing concepts and member interaction. However, it’s these advancements he believes that have helped deliver more opportunities for clubs and make previous endeavors more valuable.
Clubs have to stay focused on the type of content that they deliver to members and prospective members, they have to be aware of the club’s image and they must focus on the overall success of the website. Club One learned early on that a simple website wasn’t going to be its final destination in terms of reaching members and potential members.
McBride believes there is something to be said for a quality Facebook page. He has seen the difference between something quickly thrown together and a well-developed page that has endured days and hours of constant critiquing. But, McBride said there are too many clubs that believe the buck stops there. “There are still many that believe a social media strategy is a decent Facebook page,” he said. “Many don’t know the importance of member advocacy identification, leveraging your best customers, inventory management through pricing, segmentation, customization and wrapping it all into a product delivery system that is a win-win-win.”
According to McBride, the three-way win is comprised of the member, Club One and the client (the entity that owns the site that Club One manages, such as Jewish Community Centers and Property Management).
“People are changing how they consume information,” explained McBride. “People will only want information that is somehow relevant to their lives. You can not provide information or content to help people manage their health and well-being unless you are using multiple technologies to understand them on a much more intimate level.
“Technology, now, and even more so in the very near future, is an unbelievable tool for health and fitness. People want control and to the degree you are not noise, but an integral part of their lifestyle.”
Being a part of the member’s lifestyle is performed by WellPower, a program for members, about members, adopted by Club One. WellPower allows members to receive personalized fitness guidance, activity recommendations and rewards based on their goals, personality and lifestyle. “We have information for our members, about our members, about their activity, their rewards points, their interest, their usage, their likes, their dislikes, their fitness personality, if they’ve had a live orientation or not. This WellPower program and database allows us to better serve our customers with regard to things that are relevant to them. When we communicate with a WellPower member, the response rates are triple than when we communicate with a non-WellPower member. Our WellPower members have an annualized attrition rate three points lower than our non-WellPower members. If someone participates in the WellPower tools, and has a live orientation, their attrition rate is six points lower annually.
“By combining technology and human touch, we can see dramatic improvements in program participation and usage, as well as retention.”
Online marketing analysis also has played a crucial role in staying in contact with members and potential members. “We are involved in a product called Zuberance,” McBride said.
Zuberance has allowed Club One to identify its best customers via their net promoter score. By uniquely identifying those customers, they are able to pull the best testimonials from customers to fill online reviews. Club One then integrates those reviews to their social marketing, which then allows people to interact and receive the best insight into Club One. “We’ve converted our member survey into a marketing program that increases our search results as well as member referrals, which delivers pretty dramatic results.”
Technology has clearly revolutionized marketing for Club One, but McBride believes that it has only made certain old-school marketing concepts that much greater. “Actually, we’ve reengaged direct mail,” explained McBride. “We’re using direct mail marketing companies that allow us to segment in a very detailed manner, where we can segment by postal carrier route, by individual segmentation, and we are seeing a resurgence in the efficacy of direct mail through segmentation, and it’s a really big deal.
“We are using technology around direct mail. We are using technology around every inquiry we get from Google banner ads, to direct mail — it is all trackable. Every inbound phone call is recorded between the club and the prospect. Not only is it recorded for quality control and training purposes, but it is also allowing us to have a very precise efficacy rating on all of our marketing efforts. We know exactly the cost per sale, cost per lead, where we are getting every lead, conversion rates by medium — technology is being used in a massive way in terms of our sales and marketing.”
Once the person moves from the prospect to the member of Club One, they experience an entirely different level of technology — one that can keep them engaged in Club One on a daily basis.
“We’re converting our member management software to Motionsoft, and we have a lot of things in play in regards to what happens on the club level with guest registration, with kiosk-type enrollment, with member self management,” explained McBride. “We have a lot on the docket in regard to in-club technologies as we convert over to a new member management software platform. Right now we are using Microfit and Visual Fitness Planner together in a customized assessment solution where we’ve identified welcome-tracks based on a person’s needs. We have four different assessment programs based on the prospect or who the new member is.”
McBride believes that using technology for assessments is only the beginning of how technology will ratify the member experience. “We’ve got some clear ideas of how a smart-club looks, but we’re still working on that for the latter part of next year,” McBride explained.
McBride doesn’t believe that employees will ever be completely taken out of the equation. “We believe that nothing replaces ‘human touch,’” said McBride. Club One has used technology to become a more streamlined team that can function on a high-level, and continue to get members results.
McBride said that it has been important over the past few years to become more streamlined to survive certain economic challenges. “I think when you’re going through challenges, and we all were going through challenges with the economy, it’s very important to have clarity around. There is a lot of benefit to stepping back and reevaluating and going through a strategic plan review. Then, as you make progress against that, you reallocate and add resources to those initiatives.”
Being able to execute initiatives correctly begins with having the proper employees in place at all levels. McBride explained that Club One sends potential employees through a rigorous interview to ensure that they are the proper fit for Club One.
“When you hire people, the only way to get happy, friendly, optimistic people, is to hire happy, friendly, optimistic people,” McBride said. “You can’t turn cats into dogs, and you can’t turn dogs into cats. If you’re interviewing someone and they don’t smile a lot, and they are going to be in a frontline service role, that should be a red flag. You want people to smile naturally, that are friendly and optimistic.”
McBride said that each and every employee goes through at least three interviews before they are employed at Club One. “There are all types of interview questions,” McBride said. “One of my mentors recently threw the question at me; when you’re hiring people, ask the question, ‘are you lucky?’ That could be versions of are you lucky; are you fortunate; do things normally go your way? But, that type of question typically indicates a sense of optimism and a sense of, ‘yeah, things typically go my way; yeah, I look at things from a bright-side perspective.’ Those types of questions help to get to the optimistic, friendly, smiling demeanor, and can be very powerful on the frontline positions.” Club One also uses group interviews when there is a big team dynamic involved.
It’s important to use each interview to uncover strengths and weaknesses of a particular person. McBride used the example: “If you have a role where someone has to use technology, and they aren’t comfortable with technology, you’ve got to uncover that in the interview process rather than when you get them onboard and start training them.”
The secret to ensuring quality people is finally determined by the hiring manager, and a trust in that person to develop the right questions and understanding the people that typically work for the club. “We think it’s very important to be very clear about the expectations of the role,” McBride said. “The hiring manager has to be very clear about what they are hiring for. We are very candid concerning what the organization is about from a values perspective, the goals of the organization and we spend some time around that.”
McBride believes that poor hiring begins with the interview. “With employees that don’t work out, you can usually trace it back to a poor hiring decision,” said McBride. “Either you hired the wrong person, or the wrong person accepted because they didn’t receive enough information about what they were doing.”
McBride’s vision for Club One has made the San Francisco club one of the greatest places to work, but also a club that finds itself continually on the cutting edge. In the upcoming years, it will be more important for Club One to find people that can help it remain on the cutting edge, but also perform tasks using the technology they have in place.
For McBride, the battle for members is internal, and not with other neighboring clubs. “There are so many people that aren’t going to clubs at all, that the competition is the non-joiner of any club,” McBride explained.
“The competition is the sedentary lifestyle, more so than any club model.” It’s that continued belief that keeps Club One focused on improving the member experience in every shape and form, from technology to hiring the best employees for the purpose of perpetuating the “human touch.” -CS
By Tyler Montgomery