Given the number of people affected by cardiovascular disease, Heart-Healthy exercise offers a tremendous opportunity for club operators.

When a prospect has had any sort of experience with a health club, he is 300 to 400 times more likely to join your facility compared with an individual who has never been behind club doors!

What this means is that club operators MUST find creative ways to get people into their facilities, exposing them to the benefits of regular exercise and thereby increasing the chances of future enrollment. One way to increase nontraditional club traffic is through programming.

Unfortunately, when you use the word "programming" in the health and fitness industry, club operators often cringe at the thought of another offering that will require a lot of time and effort to implement without returning the promised additional revenue. From a purely marketing perspective, however, programming, doesn't have to be complicated or sophisticated in order to be effective.

Programming for marketing purposes means attracting a small niche of prospects into your club with a plan for converting those individuals into happy, long-term members. In order to attract a niche of prospects, your marketing must appeal to a very specific consumer, have a low barrier of entry, and promote something that is simple for the consumer to achieve.

In this year's Marketing Tutorials, we will focus on how to market to people with specific conditions, such as heart disease, arthritis, stress and diabetes. These special populations offer a huge potential for operators who are willing to provide introductory programs for them to sample.

Marketing Heart-Healthy Exercise Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in America today. The most recent statistics from the American Heart Association show that in 1995, 41.5 percent of all deaths in the United States were directly related to cardiovascular disease.

Although many different factors contribute to heart disease, lack of physical activity is now clearly shown to be a major risk, with 12 percent of total deaths directly linked to inactivity. Given the number of people in the United States who are affected by cardiovascular disease, Heart-Healthy exercise offers a tremendous marketing opportunity for club operators.

What Is Heart-Healthy Exercise? With Heart-Healthy exercise, individuals monitor their resting heart rate as an indicator of their fitness results, rather than more traditional measurements like weight loss, fat loss or inches lost. Therefore, the Heart-Healthy program focuses on educating individuals about target heart rates for training, taking one's pulse during exercise and understanding resting heart rate.

Because Heart-Healthy exercise focuses on heart rate, the marketing campaign will attract two primary types of prospects. One is the individual who is concerned about cardiovascular disease. Two, because heart rate is a much less intimidating measurement for fitness, it will attract a more mature, deconditioned individual than traditional club advertising.

Although you could run a Heart-Healthy campaign at any time of the year, February is American Heart Month, making it an ideal month for two reasons. One, consumers will be hearing about American Heart Month from other sources, promotions and public service announcements. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the media is much more likely to pick up press releases when your club promotion ties in with a national event (see sidebar).

Where Should You Promote? Anywhere and everywhere! Your marketing should be done in three areas: external, internal and community outreach.

Your external marketing could consist of any traditional forms of advertising, such as newspaper, flyers, radio or direct mail (see page 44). Internal marketing should include posters and/or flyers (see page 45) throughout the club, as well as a member letter when possible. In addition, a member competition can add some excitement to the club environment; however, it should be self-competitive, rather than pit members against one another (which can discourage participation).

Finally, your community outreach should include a sequence of strong press releases throughout the month for added exposure. All you need to do is follow the sample press release on the opposite page.

Whether it be through the newspaper, flyers or direct mail, the external marketing for your Heart-Healthy campaign has to follow the principles for creating an effective advertising piece.

1. Create a compelling headline.

2. Clearly state the benefits.

3. Make a strong offer.

4. Add some sort of guarantee (when appropriate).

5. Have a definitive call to action.

6. Make the offer better than risk free.

Turn the page for promotional samples that use these principles.

Use this template to create a press release to promote your Heart-Healthy program to the local media.

Contact: Club manager Club name Club phone number [include area code]

New Heart-Healthy Program Helps Individuals With Cardiac Risks and Concerns

For Immediate Release

[Club Town Name] - With an eye on helping people who suffer from cardiovascular diseases or those who have a history of cardiovascular risks, [your club's name] has developed and launched a Heart-Healthy exercise program.

In Heart-Healthy exercise, individuals monitor their resting heart rate as an indicator of their fitness results, rather than more traditional measurements like weight loss, fat loss or inches lost. For those concerned about cardiovascular disease, heart rate is a much more important factor because lowering the resting heart rate means less work and potential strain on the heart and cardiovascular systems of the body.

Individuals who begin to participate in a regular exercise program of cardiovascular activity can typically reduce their resting heart rate by 10 beats per minute over a six-month period. A 10-beat-per-minute reduction in resting heart rate will save approximately 15,000 beats of your heart, which can add more active and productive years to your life and life to your years.

The Heart-Healthy program teaches people how to monitor their heart rate while engaging in any type of cardiovascular activity ranging from walking to dancing to biking and swimming. Participants can use either a heart rate monitor or take their heart rate by hand on their radial artery (wrist). Such monitoring allows the person to stay within their target heart rate to achieve maximum benefits in a healthy and safe fashion.

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in America today. The most recent statistics from the American Heart Association show that in 1995, 41.5 percent of all deaths in the United States were directly related to cardiovascular disease. Although many different lifestyle factors contribute to heart disease, lack of physical activity is now clearly shown to be a major risk, with 12 percent of total deaths directly linked to inactivity. Given the number of people in the United States who are affected by cardiovascular disease, Heart-Healthy exercise is an exciting new program that can help millions of Americans.

The Heart-Healthy program will begin on [fill in date] at the [club name]. Individuals interested in participating in the program should contact the club's fitness director [name of fitness director] at the [club's telephone number].

[Name of club] has been serving the [town] community for more than [number of years in business]. They are the area's leader in [fill in with a blurb about the club, making sure to just state facts; do NOT be sales oriented in any way].