You are the new owner of your own personal training studio and you want to get the word out about your club. You are the general manager of a multipurpose club and you need to find ways to reach your members. You are the program director at a small club and there is no budget to market your programs.

If you are in any of these positions, you know that finding ways to get sales for your product is difficult with little or no budget. When I was in this position, I developed some programs to help us get members and make sales using little money.

As a fitness manager, I needed to improve class attendance. During the month of Thanksgiving, we offered free raffle tickets for a turkey to anyone who attended classes. We received two turkeys for this promotion from a local grocery store. In exchange, we agreed to display the store's name in all the flyers, information and on the prize announcement. This style of advertising using a barter system works great.

As the owner of a small fitness center, I use local businesses for many of our contest prizes, and they allow me to display my brochures at their businesses. In exchange, I offer coupons for their business in our newsletter and on our Web site. We have partnered with hair salons, health food stores, restaurants, flower shops, sports stores and other related businesses. To get these exchanges going, you must develop a personal relationship with these business owners. To do that, a personal visit almost always works better than a letter.

If you think about who your customers are and where they might regularly visit, you can develop other ideas for advertising. Look for places where your target market may be more concentrated. Our studio is located one block from the train station. We handed out bottles of water with our studio information on them to people waiting for the train. We simply went to a warehouse store and bought cases of water. We then used our computer to develop a printed ad to tape around the bottles. For less than $50, we reached more than 150 potential clients and directly received 18 new clients. We have manned tables at youth sports group registrations and have handed out sports drinks in this same manner. When designing your labels remember to use ad copy that can be tracked This will give you a better idea of what works for your company.

Joining the local Chamber of Commerce, assisting in charity fitness-related events, or starting a community event of your own will allow you to meet potential clients. Typically, the first meeting for a Chamber of Commerce is free. Sometimes, joining more than one Chamber is desirable. Many of my clients live in a nearby town. I joined that Chamber for a year to see what other businesses and people might be interested in barter advertising. I also started an annual 5K race in conjunction with holiday events that the town already had in place. It has been a great community event and a chance to give out information about our studio.

MARKETING IS NOT JUST ADVERTISING

Marketing is everything you do to make and retain sales of your product. This starts with the appearance of your space, employees, desk help, carpeting, bathrooms, and anyone who comes in contact with your client or potential client. Walk into your studio at least once a month with eyes wide open as if you were a potential client. What draws your attention first? Is it the papers on the desk, the disorganized weights or the towels on the floor? Or is it the happy, smiling faces that makes the first impression? Keeping clients is less expensive than finding new ones. You need to keep contact with your clients. Because you can't do it all yourself, you have to take the time to make sure that your employees have the same vision as you do, will treat your clients properly, and believe in you as their leader. You should know your staff by first name, their interests, possibly their birthday, and take time to notice their accomplishments.

Andrea Metcalf is president/owner MBC Fitness Essentials Inc. She can be reached at www.mbcfitness.com or by phone at 630-493-3000.