As health and fitness clubs continue to face economic challenges in 2010, keeping current members and attracting new members becomes more important than ever. What drives your club's current membership strategy? Are you the biggest club in town? The newest? Do you have the latest and greatest machines? Do you emphasize programming? Price? Convenience? Are you known as the club with the friendliest or most expertly trained staff?

So many points to consider — and then there's cleanliness.

Yes, cleanliness. It's something that more and more people expect from the clubs they join. Yet, too many club owners and managers overlook cleanliness as a membership recruitment and retention strategy.

The good news: Their oversight offers big opportunities to clubs that adopt cleanliness as a key part of their membership strategy. In fact, I believe that clubs should use cleanliness as a primary strategy to create and maintain a good reputation. Why? Four reasons:

1. It's different. In today's hugely competitive fitness industry, most clubs are likely to offer top-notch equipment, amenities and programming. Those that don't will suffer. Certainly, you need to promote the things that make your club special. But while other clubs use similar features and benefits to define who they are, take ownership of cleanliness—it will set you apart.

2. It's appealing. People spend time in clubs to become healthier and stronger, not to contract germs, airborne illnesses and viruses that can live and breed on dirty equipment. A facility that promotes clean practices and uses the right kinds of products to make it easy for members to clean equipment is an appealing place to be—a place where members want to work out.

3. It's “green”…but better. Sustainability is no longer just a movement. Today, it's expected that businesses—health and fitness clubs included—embrace green practices to some degree. Yet green claims abound in the fitness industry, so raising your hand and saying “Me, too!” won't make you different. You have to prove it.

A very effective green strategy is to deploy environmentally and economically sound cleaning and sanitizing products throughout your facility—from bottle/towel holders that attach to strength training and cardiovascular equipment, to green-friendly sanitizing solution, reusable and durable spray bottles/trigger sprayers and towels, and hand sanitizer. You'll save money, your members will enjoy a healthier environment, and you'll have a genuine, defendable green strategy to promote to current and prospective members.

4. It will be really important in the years to come. The recent H1N1 pandemic demonstrates that viral transmissions are serious issues that affect people around the world and around the corner. Staph. infections also are a developing problem for fitness facilities everywhere.

As recent cases of both H1N1 and Staph. captured media coverage, people have become more aware of transmission risks, and they've grown very concerned. At clubs around the country, though, machines still are streaked with sweat after each use because disinfectants, cleaning towels and other cleaning supplies often are inconveniently located far from the equipment itself. That's not good business in general. And if it leads to locker room chatter about dirty equipment, then you're in real trouble. Moreover, clubs that use disposable paper towels and pre-moistened wipes incur hefty replenishment costs over time, while the products themselves end up in landfills and are not biodegradable—hardly an ideal green practice.

Industries change over time, and the fitness industry is no exception. People will always choose clubs based on many factors, but experts agree that cleanliness has quickly risen to the top of the list. Clubs that continue to ignore cleanliness will put their members at increased risk for illness—and leave their own reputations vulnerable. Either way, it's not worth it—especially when an easy, inexpensive and green solution is a simple phone call or mouse click away.

www.gymvalet.com

GymValet is a holder for sanitizing spray bottles and towels that is easy-to-install and universally attachable to virtually all makes and models of exercise equipment. Its multi-purpose design makes it the perfect solution for holding fitness equipment sanitizing supplies.

The GymValet makes it fast and convenient for exercisers to clean equipment before and/or after use. Equally important, it eliminates the need for high-cost disposable paper towels and pre-moistened wipes, and it creates no paper waste.

GymValet is the centerpiece of a complete GymValet Equipment Cleaning System for health and fitness clubs that includes spray bottles, trigger sprayers, towels, cleaning solutions and hand sanitizer.

Clean, green and on the machine, GymValet was created by Dr. Bruce Sherman, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist with more than three decades of experience as a fitness center director, personal trainer, nationally ranked long-distance runner and triathlete, and high school track and cross country coach. Visit www.gymvalet.com or call (866) 435-2009 or (216) 378-4298 outside the United States.

GymValet is an advertiser in the February 2010 issue of Club Industry magazine and the Feb. 16, 2010, Going Green Special Report e-newsletter.