BEST NEW MEMBER INTEGRATION PROGRAM

Akron General Lifestyles • Akron, OH

A commitment to assisting new members on the road to fitness earned Akron General Lifestyles, Akron, OH, the Best New Member Integration Program award for 2009. And although retention wasn't the primary goal of the program, it was a by-product of keeping members engaged, says Jason Ivory, Lifestyles health and fitness manager.

“We introduce new members to all our services to get them to take advantage of them so they have a greater experience in our facility and can achieve their fitness goals,” says Ivory. “We're not measuring retention, but it's the industry standard that the more people are involved, the more they'll stay.”

The program includes built-in follow-up opportunities so new members don't feel overwhelmed when they join the club and are more apt to stick to a regular exercise routine.

The Road Map to Fitness includes several stages, beginning with a one-hour new member orientation, followed by a fitness assessment from one of Lifestyles' exercise specialists. The baseline measurements gathered in the assessment help the staff with member follow-ups. The specialists then create a personalized exercise prescription for each new member.

“The program's been wonderful,” says Ivory. “An exercise specialist does the assessment and then suggests programming, or an exercise prescription, based on the member's ability and fitness levels.”

Every two to three months, the member's exercise prescription is updated by the Lifestyles staff, and a six-month reassessment is planned to be sure the member is on the right track to meet his or her fitness goals.

Another aspect of the Road Map is an educational seminar entitled “Permanent Weight Loss Revealed” conducted by the personal training coordinator.

“The personal training coordinator does a seminar talk about the science behind exercise, and it has generated interest in personal training. We're ecstatic about that,” Ivory says. “One thing that floored us was the impact on personal training revenue that the seminar generated.”

An average of 10 percent of the weight-loss seminar attendees signed up for personal training, which resulted in increased revenue of $500,000. The financial goal of the Road Map program originally was set at $300,000, so the additional revenue was a welcome surprise, Ivory notes.

Since the program's inception, 50 percent of its new sales have come from referrals. The increased referral rate allowed the club to decrease its marketing dollars while still maintaining growth. Lifestyles did spend $500 to have a full-color marketing flier made that outlines the Road Map to Fitness. The sales staff uses this promotional material when speaking to new members, Ivory says.

In addition, the Road Map program increased new member orientation by 50 percent and increased reassessment numbers by more than 300 percent. The additional follow-through adds another touch point for new members while they're getting acclimated to the club, Ivory says.

“When you get people to follow through, even if they haven't been coming in regularly, it's another point at which we can make an impact,” he says.

Ivory notes that when members are active and engaged in the club's activities, they are more likely to feel they're a part of the community, which in turn increases retention.

The program educates members about the club's services so they will participate in more offerings, which helps them get to know other members.

“People don't quit a social environment, but they may quit a gym,” Ivory says.