‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all throughout gyms, marketing strategies were stirring, trying to bring members in.
As the above rhyme indicates, it’s that time of year again. December and January are right around the corner, and holiday marketing is close on their heels. But seasonal strategies don’t come with the first snow and sign of Santa; often, they hit before.
“It’s really important during the fall — really October, November — to start pre-selling the marketplace and warming up the marketplace, getting ready for the big January push,” said Nancy Terry, the senior vice president of marketing at Sport&Health, located in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. “We see more people steadily joining the clubs during [these] months, and so it’s a great way to lay your foundation for the first quarter.”
In the fall, Sport&Health begins to feature its sports programming and group training. Once Thanksgiving hits, a Black Friday sale is held, giving discounts to those members who sign up for membership. However, November begins with the Sweat for a Vet event in honor of Veterans Day, which in the past has raised $100,000 for charity.
“That kicks off the season for us, saying thank you to our members and giving back to the community, and helping the local veterans in the area,” said Terry. “You give them a thank you, some discounts off of some programs coming up for first quarter and then you give them two passes to share with friends throughout holidays. So, that’s a great way of building your referral funnel and generating more leads for that January period.”
At Mountainside Fitness in Arizona, deals and promotions also start in November. For instance, in 2013 there was a $0 enrollment special through the last two months of the year. “By starting with an aggressive offer before the New Year’s rush, we incentivize those who are thinking about joining a gym before the busy season,” said Stephanie Pereyra, the director of marketing. “The difference is really about motivation and incentivizing members to join early before the New Year’s rush.”
By having what Pereyra calls an aggressive offer, she said Mountainside is looking to standout, as during the holiday season there are many deals to choose from. So, they throw add-ons like personal training sessions and childcare to wrap their offer in a bigger box with a shinier bow. “This is designed to help members kick start their fitness routine and get the results they are looking for faster,” she said. “We want to stand out to prospects and really illustrate why we are the best health club option, so we strive to create the best first impressions. This maximizes sales and retention during the busy season.”
However, Pereyra explained Mountainside looks at the “big picture” when it comes to marketing. Its strategy stays consistent throughout the year, each season simply allowing for opportunities to build campaigns or form special offers around a particular holiday. In fact, for MINT in Washington D.C., it’s almost all about doing what has been done all year long.
“Most of our people — they join the gym because they want to come to a gym and they are going to a program,” said Patrick John, the CEO. He explained how MINT is not looking to attract a New Year resolution-fad crowd. “I think a lot of it is just education about fitness, or just commitment to fitness.”
While November will see the launch of a new fitness program, Tribe Team Training, in November, and January will constitute in a large push for this programming, John said that’s about it for the club’s holiday marketing strategies.
But he did note for some clubs, boosting membership numbers in January works best. It simply comes down to the people. “It’s the consumer doing it, not the business doing it,” he explained. “The business is there for them — the consumers really have no excuse for [not] going.”
So, how can clubs fight this consumer mentality that fitness is only for the season when resolutions are made or gifts are given?
First, it starts with the staff. “I think it’s all about the mindset of the organization, realizing there’s always opportunity, and then just make sure that message is out to everybody loud and clear that we’re not going to accept a down month,” said John. “We’re going to do everything in our power to keep things up.”
Second, it’s the members. “Educating your members I think is key,” said John. “I don’t think we’re actually perfect at it by any means, but that is what we try to obey to make sure you’re always talking to them, you’re never talking down to them … tell them the whys.”
So as the holidays creep closer, help your members — new and old — keep in mind that fitness is not just for the winter months.
By Heather Hartmann