In these trying economic times, new traffic coming into health club facilities just isn't what it used to be. “Walk-ins” and telephone information calls are not generating enough prospects to close enough new sales. The solution? If potential members are not coming to you, then you have to go to them. Very simply put, “Get out of the club.”

This counter attack takes extra work but being pro-active with your time and energy is an investment in the future of your business. Many club operators feel that they cannot afford to leave their facility. My challenge to you is that you can't afford not to. Your other alternative is to keep doing what you are doing and continue to get the same results. World-renowned author Steven Covey refers to one of his sacred seven habits of highly effective people as “sharpening the saw.” We must take time out of our hectic schedules to stop “sawing” mindlessly with a dull blade. By taking time to step back, evaluate the situation and “sharpen the saw,” we proactively step backward to move forward and ultimately significantly increase production.

STEPPIN' OUT

Where do you go once you get out of the club? Your local Chamber of Commerce is a fabulous place to start. This is an organization of other business professionals who are also looking to grow their businesses and increase their prospect base. It is an incredible forum for networking, community involvement and establishing political connections. Roundtable discussions about marketing opportunities, relationship development and learning are regular events. Business card exchanges are usually held once a month at a local business “showcasing” itself. This is an opportunity to give your business card (your personal little advertisement) to everyone in the room and put a face with your facility.

Community involvement and charity events are a rewarding way to enrich your life while generating goodwill on behalf of your club and the local chamber. Business breakfasts are an opportunity to meet other business owners and industry leaders. You can write articles about health and wellness in your local Chamber of Commerce newsletter and give your club instant recognition and priceless credibility. You can and will develop friendships and relationships with pillars in your community.

Other ways to get out of the club can be extremely effective even if they are done on an informal basis. Buying lunch or going to the grocery store is a simple way to meet people and be seen. Make sure you wear a uniform with your logo and a nametag that also has your title, club name and town on it. Giving your business card or a guest pass to everyone who waits on you or serves you is an incredible yet simple way to touch others. Think of all the other people they may see in a day that they may tell about you. Handing out 10 business cards a day is a reasonable goal that can force you to get out of the club. You will be amazed at the response you get when introducing yourself to local businesses as a “neighbor” and dropping off some “goodies” for the staff. It is not perceived as “salesmanship” even though it is some of the most effective marketing you can do for your business. Attending parades, career fairs, business expos and local organization meetings are some of the least expensive and most meaningful vehicles to get your “good name” out there in the community that supports you.

Just remember when you don't feel like getting out there to “shake hands and kiss babies” that you can no longer survive in this industry by waiting for business to come to you. Getting out of the club is not what you should be doing but what you must do if you want to thrive in these trying times.

Dan Horan has been in the fitness industry since 1992 as a fitness instructor, personal trainer, general manager, sales and marketing director, motivational speaker and owner/operator. He can be reached at Hatfield Athletic Club at 215-822-6177 ext. 112 or via e-mail at dhoran@hatfieldathleticclub.com.