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Rewards Programs Keep Members Coming Back for More


In January millions of Americans will be embarking on new exercise routines as part of their New Year’s resolutions. As a result, your club will be swarming with people — some who have started a new workout, some who have returned to an old regimen. But by the time February or March rolls around the masses will begin to dwindle. Everyone wants to reach their fitness goals, but eventually many fall off the workout wagon.

One study conducted by researchers at the University of Scranton found that 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but only 8 percent keep them for longer than a few weeks.

So how can you inspire members to keep their New Year’s resolutions so that their fitness goals become habits? According to Chris Russo, the manager at the Woman’s Workout Company, the solution is rewards programs.

Russo’s mother-in-law, Susan Taylor, founded the Woman’s Workout Company in 1986. Since, the club has become one of the leaders in women’s fitness in the Cape Cod, Massachusetts, area. Taylor and her husband, Thomas Plummer, created a unique way to incentivize members to keep coming back – the “Fat Tax.”

The “Fat Tax” provides members with a financial incentive to come workout. “The tag line is the more you workout, the less you pay,” explained Russo. “So as long as a member works out a minimum of eight times a month, they only pay $39. Our regular dues are $54, so it is $15 savings every month. The goal is to get them into that habit of coming, on average, twice a week. If they do that then they will also see results, which is exactly what we want them to do.”

Why eight visits? Studies show that 7.8 times is the minimum number of times a woman needs to workout in a month to see any sort of results. “We are really trying to build consistency more than anything,” explained Russo. “We set them up with a plan, try and get them into a routine and we know if they get into the habit of working out they are going to stay longer, have better results and renew their memberships at the end of the year.”

While eight visits may be the goal, 12 workouts is considered perfect attendance and those who achieve this get an additional $5 “skinny tax refund,” which can be used on products and services at the gym.

According to Russo, the membership program, which has been in place for five years, has been a success. “It works wonderfully well,” he said. “We have a very high daily usage rate, retention rate and renewal rate.”

Keeping members motivated to come to the gym is like solving a complicated puzzle with many different pieces. “You can’t just sell them a membership and hope they keep coming,” said Russo. “Take care of your members, get them down the path to success, follow up with them, reward them, make sure they are getting results and if you do all this they will refer their friends and stay with you longer.”

Think the “Fat Tax” is a great idea? The Woman’s Workout Company has trademarked the concept, but beginning in the New Year they will begin licensing the program.


By Emily Harbourne

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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