Curtis Mock is the president of Vitality Marketing Group, a consulting and campaign company for the health club industry. He has managed, owned and consulted facilities of all sizes throughout the United States for more than 12 years. He is assisted by a team of eight consultants who work specifically with independently owned health clubs nationwide. Curtis also is the primary contributor to VMG's Gym Goldmine resource, which boasts more than 3,000 subscribed health club owners. You can reach Curtis directly at cmock@GymMarketing.com.

The month that makes or breaks health clubs is almost upon us. January is a special month in the hearts of every club owner, as it is the month that often is responsible for around 20 to 25 percent of the year's total sales. A good January will carry you through the entire year, whereas a low-producing January can become the demise of many a club, especially start-ups.

So what can you do to make sure your January is as successful as possible? Here are six things you can do right now to make sure you have a solid foundation for success heading into the new year:

  1. Make sure your staff is fully trained and ready for the increase in traffic. Your staff is a prospect's first and last impression of your club. Your front desk, salespeople, managers, personal trainers and anyone in between need to know your expectations and goals heading into the new year. Create a list of expectations for each of the positions. Have your staff sign off on the expectations and set aside time to train them on how they can exceed those expectations.
  2. Plan your New Year's marketing in advance. Don't wait until after the holidays to figure out how to attract people into your club. Look at your budget, write down everything and put in place the right resources for a successful campaign. If you're accustomed to spending $500 a month in marketing, triple that amount during the relatively risk-free return on investment month of January. If you're planning to use direct mail marketing, you often need your New Year's orders in by the beginning of December for your mailer to hit mailboxes at the first of the year.
  3. Use a variety of marketing strategies. As popular as direct mail marketing is, don't let it be your only form of marketing. You need to mix it up a bit this time of year to make sure you reach people in a variety of ways. Improve the signage at your facility, send your current members gift cards to give to their friends, have one of your staff members distribute fliers to every local business, and set up a table at a local grocery store with healthy holiday shopping lists and recipes sponsored by your gym. You can use many low-cost marketing strategies this time of year. The key is to use as many as your budget and schedule allows.
  4. Implement a solid referral program. Before the first New Year's resolution member arrives at your door, start your referral program. Whether it is a large grand prize, multiple small prizes or a contest among your members, take care of the details early. That includes signage in your club, a series of e-mails, letter mailings and phone calls to members. You also need to be sure that your sales team inspires new members to bring their friends and family to the facility.
  5. Offer amazing incentives to new members. Don't try the same old boring half-off enrollment and first month free offer. If you are unoriginal, your guest will likely continue on their way to your competitor to see if it has more fun and exciting offers. Have some fun with your promotions. Offer free tanning until summer, free water for a year, $50 worth of free pro shop vouchers, an extra personal training session, gift certificates to local restaurants, or any other unique offers. Give away anything and everything you can to get them to join, especially if you're in a highly competitive market.
  6. Set specific goals for January. A goal is a dream with a deadline. Thinking about and expecting more members and more revenue in January is not enough. You need to have specific goals in place, and these goals need to be written down. You also need a plan of attack. How will you accomplish your goals? What steps will you take? After you write down your goals, share them with your staff and let them know how they can help make a difference. A simple method for determining a goal is to sell 10 percent more than you did last year.

Are you ready for January? It's almost here, so you better get systems in place and organize everything. Train your staff, determine your marketing mediums, develop your referral program and your new member incentive package, and determine specific goals. If you implement these strategies, your January will be much more successful.