Club operators should periodically take a minute and validate that good operations procedures are in place and up to date. Here are some items to review:
Increase operational efficiencies, and allow potential new members to sign up online without coming in. Look for software that is safe, secure, and able to be integrated with your website and club management program. It should be custom branded with your logo and unique enough to seamlessly mirror your existing website. Having this alone will increase the number of new members by 10-15%, per month without extra investment of staff.
Help members help themselves and create onetime or recurring offers. Summer is primetime for students and to promote those short-term trial plans like “3 months for $99” or “no dues until September.” Validate that your website is listed on all marketing pieces and places where your facility is promoted and that the “JOIN NOW” button is easy to find on the home and all subsequent pages.
Streamline the operations process of collecting membership dues that decline or return. This service should be provided at no charge to the club, and allow the staff to focus on taking care of members and their duties. In many cases the billing company can collect potential lost revenue for the club. Members should be able to pay delinquent dues online, clear up their account, and update billing information, all integrated with the club software.
Have it automatically create and includes applicable service charges to streamline club efficiencies. Be sure it includes follow up phone calls and multiple letters with return envelopes. If you’re interested in adopting an easy, respectful way to collect from members while taking the heat off of you and your employees, take advantage of a proven system. Ask yourself, what is my billing returns rate and is someone pursuing the declined accounts?
The club dues line is its life line to profit and success. As often stated by club industry leaders and consultants, the most successful sites put 70% or more of their members on recurring monthly billing. Not only for the fixed income but because it decreases the need to keep “selling” the member, year after year to renew.
Now to increase the value-add, consider pushing the option to put the member on billing to their checking account and save on the credit card merchant fees. Incentives to do so will help this such as the dues being slightly less or giving away a t-shirt or gym bag.
However, even more importantly, get your money on the day you bill – no lag time. Be sure you are in control – not the billing company. There should be no delay or holding period, even when billed to a credit card, funds should be deposited into the facility business operating account within 48 hours of being charged to the member.
In addition, is your billing company providing a credit card account updater program to help reduce declines by getting account updates automatically — such as expiration dates and card numbers. Adding an annual fee is also an option to consider putting implementing.
This is important to do periodically, at least once a quarter, with members and prospects. A strong Mail Merge component will allow for email follow up, joining offers, or notifications. Create pieces for new members, renewals, or other items that require touching base with members. You want them to see your logo and know that information will go on a regular basis.
Consider marketing a Bring-A-Buddy referral program, where for example each new member receives four free passes to issue to their friends. For a modest cost typically, your club can generate high-quality prospects leading to more members and revenue — buddy referrals are known to be the best source of leads available. Generate more sales and create an additional sales person without adding staff.
Other items to communicate are the start of new classes, club hours, staff hired or promoted, upcoming renovations or equipment additions, etc. Get the word out and keep people informed.
Carole Oat is the National Sales Manager for Twin Oaks Software and a former club owner and operator for 15 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.