Choosing or designing a program that will match your club’s brand is of the utmost importance. Many club operators have failed when launching a trendy program, or licensing a format, because it is not supported by the club’s marketing brand and/or demographics. When updating programming and establishing a fee-based menu, you must ensure that the mission of the program and the vision statement of the facility match up.

To be successful in launching a new program, follow these steps:

1. Hire and Train Program Champions. To have a successful program launch, you must have a leader dedicated to the program and you must get the rest of your staff committed to helping launch the program. Hire and train a professional whose only responsibility will be to launch the program within the club: designing the marketing plan, hiring the instructors or trainers, and developing the schedule for demonstrations, "try me" sessions and open houses. Incentivize the launch manager by offering a bonus for either the number of people introduced to the new program or for revenue procured. Communicate with your team of fitness professionals about the benefit they receive by assisting in introducing the programming to their clients and class regulars. Empower the staff to audition for positions and establish a team, rather than just one or two instructors, to launch the program under the direction of the launch manager.

2. Remove Old Marketing Material. Once the date of the launch is established, plan to remove old marketing material and replace it with new materials that mention this new program. The program must be tagged on all marketing pieces, all mailers and all outside marketing campaigns. Programming that is driven by an instructor or trainer without the support of the house marketing is often passed over or only supported by the professional’s personal following or database. Take the steps to design branded guest passes, staff uniform options and member incentives to join when marketing the launch.

3. Use Untraditional Demonstrations. Your program champion and the rest of the staff on the team should create spontaneous demonstrations of the new program throughout the club to get the most dynamic response from the member base. Personally invite members to join in the day’s “try me” sessions as they enter the club or when leaving the cardio deck or group exercise classroom. Invite them to experience one or two new moves from the programming, a piece of featured equipment or even to pre-qualify to participate by completing a fit test or fit contest. Pre-empt regularly scheduled classes and introduce the team of professionals who will coach the programming. Ask members to participate in the demonstration as the warm up to the scheduled class and leave small water bottles with informational marketing about the new programming for those who try the workout. Meet and greet the members after the class and ask for contact information in order to send out launch information.

4. Plan Master Classes and Weekend Events. Take advantage of all weekend and holiday events and plan master classes where the entire team of instructors or trainers participates. This is a way to show that the whole staff supports the launch. When you showcase a team of professionals, you show members from following just one instructor or trainer. Schedule the events for a three- to four-week period, gathering leads, contact information and member availability. Invite the members to schedule consultations with the team, increasing the face time necessary to close the member on participation in the programming.

5. Update the Environment to Suit Your Needs. From the purchase of new equipment to the design of the studio, show your members that the environment is changing. Updating a sound system, purchasing the latest equipment options and a fresh paint job create the message that “the times they are a changing.” The fresh look can be the most dynamic of marketing options you can choose. Use member and team photos throughout the room, add testimonials and success stories and watch the usage numbers increase.

6. Countdown to the Launch. Market the program on all social networking sites and always start with a countdown to the date of the actual launch. Next, spell out the steps the participants will take in order to get to goal, and ask for a call to action. Your new results-driven program will move a member on a continuum from point A to point B, so outline the steps and teach the member exactly what to expect. Create a sense of urgency to join in the programming by always placing a schedule of openings per week at the entrance to the programming’s area.

7. Meeting with the Minds. One week from launch, pull in your staff and outline your expectations. Educate staff on the procedures that will be followed. Motivate staff with incentives and prizes for the staff members who bring the most people to the classes. Send the entire team out with passes to attend, coupons for sessions and invitations to attend. From this moment on, it has to be about the funfest about to happen in your club.

8. When Introducing a Fee-Based Option, Hold Sales Training. When launching a fee-based program, remember that many people on the coaching team may not be used to selling for a fee. Role playing and script writing should be included in team meetings to assure a successful launch. Introducing sales quotas and incentives to surpass goals will assist in creating a performance-based team. Next, set dates for performance reviews and always mention career growth. These are steps you need to take to build a team that will drive the new programming.

9. Lights, Camera, Action. Once the program and club are marketed, the social networks have been hit, the team is empowered, members have experienced the excitement, then it is time to launch with no turning back.

Ann Gilbert, director of fitness for Shapes Fitness for Women, leads a team of more than 350 fitness professionals. She is a well-known presenter and has received the IHRSA/ACE Trainer of the Year award. For the past 10 years, Gilbert has served as a faculty board member for the Shapes Academy, an internal educational resource for continuing education. She can be reached at annfitt@verizon.net.