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New Year’s Resolution Solutions

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It’s a New Year and I’m feeling motivated. This is going to be the year I finally make a change — I’ll get my body into the shape I’ve always wanted! I’ll go to the gym and start a new workout and diet plan, determined and moving forward. Although, a few months down the line, I know my motivation will start to waver, and I’ll visit the gym less and less often as the year goes on. This is what happens year after year.

This story is one some of your members are probably familiar with. Some of the members, who could relate, have come to your gym, and gone. Some have stayed.
How can you increase the chances that members will stay at your club? Take a look at how these clubs prepared for the New Year’s rush.

Planning New Year Promotions

“The New Year represents a time when many of us think about resolutions and improvements we can, [and] should make in our lives,” said Sharon Nevins, the vice president of marketing for Maryland Athletic Club. “It’s a motivating time of the year.”

Well aware of the imminent influx of new members as a result of New Year’s resolutions, Maryland Athletic Club began planning for the rush in September. “September is a pretty important month for acquisition,” said Nevins. “So it’s important to stay focused on the here and now, as well as plan for January.”

Baltimore Photographer Marty Katz

To prepare, Nevins said Maryland Athletic Club placed emphasis on promotions that offered prospects extra perks, in order to entice them to pick Maryland Athletic Club over competing clubs. “We try to offer value-added promotions, such as personal training sessions or gift cards, in addition to the typical ‘no enrollment fees or free month’ promotions, which are so typical of the fitness industry. We believe in the ‘you get what you pay for,’ mentality. Ultimately, people join a health club to feel good, get healthy, see results and to socialize — not to find the ‘cheapest club in town.’”

This year, Maryland Athletic Club ran a campaign called “The Most Coveted Card in Town,” which Nevins said played off of Maryland Athletic Club’s membership card being a “hot commodity,” in the Maryland community.

Club One began strategizing for the New Year in September as well. As prep work, Club One updated and improved upon marketing communications and displays. “We’re also taking a good, hard look at member feedback and satisfaction scores to pinpoint member experience improvement opportunities,” said Kari Bedgood, the vice president of marketing and PR for Club One.

Mountainside Fitness, on the other hand, treated January just like any other month. “From a marketing standpoint, we form our budgets, media buys, and in-store initiatives on an annual basis,” said Billy Malkovich, the CEO of Mountainside Fitness. “We recognize that January typically represents 20 percent of our annual new members, but outside of that we do not treat it much different than any other month.”

No matter when you start planning for the New Year, Nevins said it’s important to be at least brainstorming on how to stand out from others during the New Year’s rush. “It’s important for us to be out in the community and marketing all year long, so when January rolls around, we are the club of choice, or at least top of mind of the clubs to consider,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Club One.

This New Year, Club One will offer a three-day guest pass for members’ friends and family to use, in order to experience Club One’s amenities and services. “We focus more on positioning the club as a solution to a specific need,” said Bedgood. “Through various touch points throughout prospecting, it’s about delivering the right message at the right time to connect most likely joiners to a deeper understanding of what they need to reach their health and wellness goals.”

Retention

“First and foremost, we are committed to our members getting healthy and fit, and to making sure they get the results they came for,” said Nevins. “Ultimately, if a member doesn’t see results, they are less likely to stay.”

Maryland Athletic Club increases its retention by setting up each new member with an initial coaching session with one of Maryland Athletic Club’s fitness specialists. “We go over goals, why they are here, and how we can help them,” said Nevins. “We really try and make sure everyone goes through the initial assessment. People who reach their goals are the ones that are going to stay and be happy.”

Additionally, Maryland Athletic Club created an ambassador program of long-time members, who serve as a buddy system to acclimate new members to the club. A year into it, Nevins said the program has been successful. “It has been great,” she said. “We selected a dozen members, who tended to be advocates of different parts of the club. We did that purposefully, because if new members needed help, sometimes it was better to put them with a member, instead of a staff member, to guide them.”

Mountainside Fitness.

Club One focused on customer service to retain its new members. “Get to know your members and deliver exceptional service,” said Bedgood. “Happy members stay members. They also happen to spend and refer more. Introduce members to staff and fellow members. Send personal notes and acknowledge them for even the small stuff, like walking through the club doors. Act with integrity and do everything you can to support a member. It’s less about the product and more about personal connections that deliver brand loyalty.”

“We try to gain an understanding of what motivated each member to join our club,” explained Bedgood. “What is their goal? What are their interests? How do they prefer to be communicated with? Gathering motivational triggers helps us make personal recommendations that set each member on a path to success, and communicate in a more relevant and personalized manner — both of which are critical to retention.”

For Malkovich, he discovered one of the keys to retention was enticing members to use the facility as much as possible during their first few months. “For us, on-boarding a new member is the key to retention,” he said. “The more we can get a new member involved in at an early stage, the more likely they are to succeed. We have found that if we can get a new member to use the facility 26 or more times in the first 90 days, it has a significant impact on their length of stay.”

Additionally, use January and the months before it to reach out to old members, and entice them to return. “One of our greatest sources of new members are prior members,” said Malkovich. “We put a lot of effort into reaching out to canceled members because many of them rejoin. The difficult part is communicating enough without imposing.”

This New Year, create your own New Year’s resolution — focus on your brand’s goals, and use the refreshing feeling of the start of a New Year to attack those goals with invigorated motivation. Create a detailed plan for attracting prospects, and retaining your existing and new membership.

By Rachel Zabonick

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Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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