Sherri McMillan, M.Sc., has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 20 years and has received numerous industry awards, including the 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, the 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, and the 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year. Her million-dollar training studios in Portland, OR, and Vancouver, WA, have received Better Business Bureau Business of the Year recognition. McMillan is a fitness trainer, a fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals (including “Go For Fit—The Winning Way to Fat Loss,” “Fit over Forty” and “The Successful Trainers Guide to Marketing”), a featured presenter in various fitness DVDs, an international fitness presenter, and a spokesperson for Nike, Nautilus, Twist Conditioning and PowerBar. She can be reached at http://www.nwfitnesseducation.com/ or http://sherrimcmillan.blogspot.com/.

The holidays are just around the corner, presenting fitness club owners and their staff with the perfect chance to do something special for club members. Here are some things you can do to catch their attention this time of year.

1. Show the love. Your members should know year-round how much you appreciate them, but the holidays are a great time to really drive the point home, perhaps by:

  • Hosting a party. You could host a year-end member appreciation party. This year we’re hosting a Blast from the Past party where members can dress up in a costume from their favorite era. We’ll play a slide show of photos from the events we hosted during the year. We’ll announce personal trainer, group instructor and customer service rep of the year. We’ll host a trainer auction with money going to a local charity. We’ll have costume and dance contests. It’s a fabulous event and probably the best holiday party in our area.
  • Giving your members a gift. You don’t have to do it, but what a nice gesture to let your members know you’re thinking of them. We’ve given water bottles, fleece hats, gift cards and bags. I especially like to give gifts with our logo on them because it’s a nice promotion for our business. Next year, I’d like to do a fitness calendar with proceeds going to a local charity.

2. Spread the love. Host an event that members can do together to support a local shelter or important community cause. We host an annual holiday exercise-a-thon and collect food and clothing for the local shelter. We typically load up three to four trucks with goods for the shelter. We also host a gift-giving tree for which members can bring in gifts that go to local children in need. Doing something like this as a group creates a strong bond with your members and develops your community.

3. Challenge them with love. We host a one-month holiday challenge from Nov. 24 to Dec. 24. Members get points based on workout consistency, nutrition adherence, adding variety to their routine, bringing in a guest, trying out a new service, etc. If they complete all components of the challenge, they receive a T-shirt (with our logo on it, of course) as a reward. This challenge keeps members accountable during the tough holiday season and helps them avoid the typical holiday weight gain.

4. Sales with love. Do you have a plan to encourage members to focus on the gift of health, fitness and vitality during the holidays? People are spending money on gifts in late November and throughout December—so why not encourage members purchase a gift that will literally change someone’s life rather than a sweater that their loved one will never wear? Here are some sales ideas:

  • Offer a holiday sale or promotion. All smart business owners do this during the holiday season. You have to entice your members and prospects to want to invest in your services. Plus, this type of offer will get them to prioritize their commitment to their health and fitness now and set them up for a healthy and fit 2011 before they have spent all their funds.
  • Give members $25 to $50 gift cards as a member appreciation gift for the holidays. Again, this will encourage them to use it, increasing the chances that they will continue with you into 2011. Consider giving them two gift cards—one for them to use and one for them to give to a loved one as a holiday gift.
  • Give all your members free (or offer low-priced) trial pass gift certificates that they can give to their friends, co-workers, family members and acquaintances (hair stylist, children’s teachers, neighbors, etc.). They make great stocking stuffers. Our gift certificates include an initial complimentary training session and one to two weeks of free group training sessions. Let your members spread the word and help you launch into a fabulous January.
  • Display lots of great gift ideas throughout your club. Hot items include heart rate monitors, foam rollers, tubing with protective coating and stability balls. You can usually sell quite a bit of product during the holidays because members like the convenience that shopping at the gym provides.

I hope this gives you some ideas and gets the creative juices flowing.