We’re all aware of the traditional marketing efforts that help you reach out to your target communities—lead boxes, pamphlets, door hangers, windshield flyers, corporate memberships, chamber of commerce networking and more. But your club can be doing so much more than this in your target markets.

Getting out into the community should be an important part of the job for club owners and their staffs. Leaving the facility during assigned days and hours to reach out within your communities helps raise awareness about the club, offers networking opportunities and generates leads. But being present at all the events in the communities in your market area can be difficult. Sometimes, you can feel like you are being more reactive than proactive. However, with the proper planning and accountability, these efforts can be very rewarding.

One of the best ways to do a thorough outreach job is to “adopt a town.” We developed our Adopt A Town program after helping a client who was working with more than 12 towns in its trading area. Each township had its own school system, recreation department, town council, chamber of commerce, police and fire department, etc.

Obviously, the club’s staff had too many events to keep track of, so we determined that a department manager or another designated employee would be in charge of acting as a liaison between the club and up to three towns, depending on time constraints, location and compatibility. The general manager was responsible for administrating and supervising the Adopt a Town program. At the weekly managers meeting, each manager would report on their township’s news.

In order to be “adopted,” a town had to meet the following criteria: 1) be located within 12 miles of the club; 2) have a minimum population of 10,000; 3) have a high school, middle school, grammar school and a recreation department; 4) have a town website and/or newsletter; and 5) be approved by the general manager.

To work, the relationships developed between the towns and the club has to be beneficial for both parties. The fitness club serves as a health and fitness resource for both adults and children. Managers must follow these steps to develop a relationship with their towns:

  • Visit the township website.
  • List all important township contact names with e-mail addresses, phone numbers and addresses on a spread sheet.
  • Visit city hall and meet with the mayor, town council members and the town administrator.
  • Meet with the recreation director and/or the events coordinator.
  • Get a listing of annual events and the school calendar.
  • Invite township representatives to the club for a private tour and meeting.
  • Offer gym services for health fairs, demonstrations, fitness events, etc.
  • Meet with the board of education and school officials, PTA/PTO and athletic supervisory personnel and coaches.
  • Identify religious and private not-for-profit organizations to network.
  • Contact the local chamber of commerce, rotary club and for-profit business leaders. Identify major corporations.
  • Identify competitive clubs.
  • Keep a log of all contacts and document all communications.
  • E-mail club department managers with updates as received.
  • Elevate high-level meetings with department heads, the general manager or the club owner.

In a short amount of time, the club’s staff was better able to manage all the events in which it wanted to participate, and it developed outstanding relationships with township officials, employees and local residents. Your club also can get these results by just becoming proactive rather than reactive as it becomes the primary source of health and fitness for each of its adopted towns.

Tony Santomauro is owner and president of The Santomauro Group, a health, fitness, martial arts and sports consulting and management company. Santomauro, a 35-year health and fitness veteran, was co-founder and former president of CAN DO Fitness Clubs in New Jersey for the past 12 years. He has extensive direct/corporate sales and marketing experience as well as expertise in advertising, public relations, martial arts and kids programming, equipment layout and design, class and fitness programming and all operational aspects in the field. He is an internationally certified Kukkiwon black belt He can be contacted at tonysantomauro@thesantomaurogroup.com or 973-396-2100.