Keeping Summer Membership Strong

Your summer marketing should emphasize the importance of beginning fitness now! Just because it's summer doesn't mean physical activity will automatically penetrate an otherwise inactive lifestyle. Since fitness is a lifestyle change, the idea of dropping out for the summer becomes ludicrous. If this fitness thing is indeed a new lifestyle, then life goes on in the summer as well...and three months is too long a time period to be without it.

So how do we send our message? We create programs that complement the great things about summer we love. Here are a few ideas.

* Warm weather is great, but come inside to the controlled temperature of the health club to work out safely and effectively.

* Outdoor activities are fun. They are also inconsistent in their effect on the body, and if one is not properly conditioned, they can lead to injury. Sports-conditioning programs or personal trainers should be marketed as ways to prevent injury, especially as we get older and continue to enjoy such pastimes as softball, volleyball, etc.

* Lighter summer cuisine, ice cream and water ice are all great and can be featured at a "member appreciation" day held in late May to welcome the summer season. It's fun to socialize, and this will remind your members that they really do like each other and will miss one another in the summer. They also need to keep up with their workouts to enjoy that ice cream.

* Plan a picnic event for the third week of July, after the 4th of July and before the high vacation season kicks in during August. This will reunite the members and make them want to stay around and keep active. Remember that these events have to build momentum and must be well promoted. Take a lot of pictures and make a scrapbook to show off in the fall when you have a natural influx of new members.

* Water, as in recreational water sports, often draws our members away. Members think that they will be spending the summer at the pool and won't need to stay active at the club. What makes them think that they will actually be active while lying on their backs in the sun? To compete with the outdoor swimming pools, plan some summer field trips to area amusement parks or attractions that are family-oriented and make sure the members know about them way in advance, so they are aware if they drop out, they miss out.

* Vacations are truly a great aspect of summer. However, they are generally not long enough to justify quitting for the entire summer. So decide what your policy will be and let your members freeze for one month only, not the entire summer. Remind them that vacations are generally more physically active and require one to be in top condition to survive the long days of sightseeing or other physical challenges.

* Summer fashions make the season both fun and stressful. Lighter clothing often means less clothing, and we really want to be in great shape to pull off wearing those shorts or sundresses. All year long we work on our healthy glow and physique, and then just when we need them most, we drop the workouts! Summer fashions are just the motivation our members need to get and stay in shape.

* Finally, summer brings us the opportunity to spend more time with our kids. If yours is a family club, then encourage the kids to come. Even if your club is not family-oriented, if the kids come to the club with their parents for an hour three times a week, they will survive in the play area and will be learning a lifelong good habit from this fine example.

If they want the outdoors all summer, give it to them! Meet their every need with your services and partner to get them the ones you don't have. They will be grateful and stay active, and you will all be happy campers.

--Linda Mitchell is 20-year veteran in the industry. She is the director of marketing and public relations for the Newtown Athletic Club in Newtown, Pa., and the executive director of the Delaware Valley Alliance of Health and Sportclubs.