In January, your club probably was full of hopeful exercisers following through on their New Year's resolutions. The parking was tight, lockers were full and equipment was scarce. Throughout the month, your team was trying to serve both new and longtime members.
As you read this in March, your team (and maybe you) may still face these crowding issues. More likely, though, you're seeing a dwindling crowd as “resolutioners” who made a mental and financial commitment to join your club start to thin out their visits.
They may be discouraged by the lack of instant results, or they may feel like they don't belong in your crowded, busy club. Many of these people will declare their resolutions failed and blame themselves, feel incompetent or decide that their resolve is just too weak. They'll decide that they aren't like the other people in the club. They just can't get fit. Maybe the club environment is not for them after all.
What's worse is that we let them do it. Fitness professionals can become frustrated by working with people who have multiple setbacks. They become discouraged or even disgusted when new members who committed to paying a thousand or more dollars for a membership don't pay more for personal training.
The truth is that we need these people. We need to keep the 2010 resolutioners in our clubs. We can do so by becoming passionate about helping them succeed.
Below are some steps to help you do that and keep resolutioners as faithful members throughout the year.
1. Identify the at-risk resolutioners at the point of sale. Easier said than done, but with a series of careful questions, your sales team will recognize who has an iron resolve and who has more of a “plastic” one.
2. Put at-risk members into a program that offers support, accountability and fun. This may be your new member orientation program, a weight-loss program, a coaching program or any other group programming that puts them with similar people. Members stay longer when they connect with other members, so create opportunities for them to support each other in a casual, fun environment.
3. Introduce these members to service providers who can help. If you think the new member could benefit from personal training, nutrition services or massage therapy, introduce them to the service provider. Personal introductions make it easier for new members to consider paying for a service they had not originally planned to purchase. If service providers can build that relationship and show members how they can help, members know they can call on those providers when the going gets tough. At best, you may have just sold a peripheral service.
4. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. Whether by phone or e-mail, reaching out to resolutioners on a regular basis long before they are due to renew will help to solidify their resolve. It doesn't matter whether the call is made by their membership sales person, a personal trainer or a massage therapist. What matters is that the person calling knows the member and what they are working toward. Just that periodic check-in can be enough to refuel the fire the member had on the day she joined and get her back in the club.
5. Celebrate their success. We hear about success stories in our clubs all the time, but we need to share them with the rest of our members. Search out these successes and make them public (with the member's permission, of course). Before and after photos, testimonials and the member's favorite class, trainer or program all are elements you can use to show how this member succeeded. Consider getting these people to speak in front of your new members at any time of the year to show them that they, too, can reach their goals and that they also belong in the club.
The 2010 resolutioners spent a lot of money in pursuit of their 2010 goals, and we spent a great deal of money to attract them to our clubs. We owe it to these members and to ourselves to keep them on track.
Amanda Harris is vice president of fitness and wellness at ACAC Fitness Centers in Virginia. She also is a management development specialist with more than 15 years of industry experience, including 13 years as a personal trainer.