Excitement over shiny new equipment and eagerness about the opening of a new coed facility are not the reasons your next female prospect will join your gym. Think instead about why the gals gather for Bunko or why they join the local league and know it is seldom to win a game or even to participate in a fundraiser for the charity of choice. They join with one purpose in mind, and that is to just belong.

The following nine strategies will assist you in attracting female members:

1. Promote a "comfortable start" rather than a science-based assessment. When integrating the new female member, know that she will see more importance in feeling comfortable in her surroundings than she will in knowing the results of the skeletal and muscular imbalance assessment or body composition number. You will have more success if you assign her a fitness ambassador, who may or may not be a certified personal trainer and who will attend the first group fitness class with her, introduce her to members with like goals, and take time to discuss every little thing associated with the way she looks or feels at the club. The member will then receive her invitation to attend the new member party allowing her to participate in a lunch-and-learn or view a fitness fashion show of items available to her at the pro shop. You also can create a coupon book of tear-off coupons for try-me sessions of popular small group sessions and partner it with an invitation to work out with a certified coach who is hand-picked by the new member's ambassador.

2. Create a socialization space within the club walls. Take note of what happens after the popular group exercise class ends. Ask the instructor where he or she is headed after the class. Follow the crowd out the door and watch as they head to the local donut shop, lunch room or specialty shop. Keep the woman in your club longer and get her used to purchasing within the club by strategically placing a socialization area within a stone's throw of the pro shop or breakfast bar. Increase the amount of organic and health food options to be purchased. Supply reading materials on the benefits of the supplementation sold, and invite guest speakers to attend weekly informational workshops. Ask suppliers to send sample-size options for gift giving and display them in the now popular social area.

3. Assess your program options. Variety, although being the spice of life, will not outweigh what the woman is really looking for in programming, and that is results. Women want to feel accomplished after their workouts, as if they have achieved more than in the past. They want mind-body, dance and full-body options that allow them to address the time management challenge they often feel. Offer class options of 30 to 45 minutes as well as classes that combine formats and offer the total package in one session or visit.

4. Launch a weight-loss program. Weight-loss challenges are popular with women. Many are willing to gamble a few dollars on whether they can win. Others jump at before-and-after photo shoots or even cooking contests and weekend fit camps. The goal must always be that the member can get all she needs to address her lifestyle change within the club walls. That will include emotional eating support, dietary guidance and meal planning, as well as supplementation.

5. Redesign your kids club. Moms drop off their children for one reason: to have their own time to work out. Mothers must feel as though their children will be safe and cared for without disturbing their workouts. Today's moms also love the idea of their children participating in organized activities while in child care. A few of the most popular activities are story hour, kids yoga area, video and computer dance games, and an organized study area supervised by an attendant who is on a first-name basis with the mom. No matter the size of the facility or kids' club, the mom's number one request is that the facility supplies a way for the parent to view their children while at play.

6. Offer a staff incentive program based on positive member experience. Although most club operators offer sales incentives for staff in today's club, a growing trend is to offer incentives based on an assessment of member experience while in the facility. Scored surveys and evaluations move between members to management, allowing for a new set of member service standards to develop with the facility. Grading and promoting, on procured sales gross alone, seems to be a thing of the past.

7. Design and launch a wellness lecture series seasonally. A popular practice that will attract and retain the female member is to ask members to share the name of their practitioners. Once you have gathered the names of the popular hairdressers, nail techs, doctors or therapists, the club can invite the professionals to cross market within the club and lead the seasonal lecture series for the female members. Popular lectures include those from the plastic surgeon to the eyebrow expert and from the chiropractors to the podiatrist.

8. Open the store daily. Run the pro shop like a true retail establishment. Accessorize the mannequins and always have a clearance rack stocked. Dress the staff in a featured item and make updates in items seasonally. The smoothie shop of the past needs to be updated to have the look of a popular high-fashion establishment.

9. Rebrand for the female member. Attracting the female member means more than separating an area so not to be seen by male members. It means more than offering an easy-to-follow circuit line or even female trainers. Using soft colors, soft lighting and prints help clubs project a brand with the woman in mind. Rebrand to move the woman front and center in your facility. Make it known that you are focused on wellness issues associated with the fastest growing fitness population.

BIO

Ann Gilbert, owner of Shapes Fitness for Women, leads a team of more than 85 fitness professionals. She is a well-known presenter and has received the IHRSA/ACE Trainer of the Year award. Gilbert is a master trainer for SCW Fitness and a member of REX Roundtables. She has served as a faculty board member for the Shapes Academy, an internal educational resource for continuing education. Gilbert can be reached at anng@shapestotalfitness.com.