Ed Tock is a partner in Sales Makers, a marketing and sales training consulting firm that has worked with more than 1,000 clubs and won the IHRSA Associate of the Year award. Tock is also a regular columnist for Club Industry’s Fitness Business Pro’s Focus On Clubs. He can be reached at 800-428-3334 or eddie@sales-makers.com.

Marketing your club for new members has become more of a challenge. You are required not only to work a little harder but a lot smarter. The traditional forms of advertising, such as print media and direct mail, seem to result in very little, if any, response in many markets.

I recently attended the Fitness Industry Suppliers Association (FISA) meeting that brought together more than 35 experienced and multi-site club owners. At the meeting, I facilitated a roundtable that yielded many marketing ideas that you can use to help your business grow. Below are 26 of those ideas.

It’s All Fun and Games
1. Hand out a game card that has special promotions and participation boxes that get stamped whenever a member works out or purchases products or services. Have members fill out an entire game card to be entered in a monthly giveaway and in a longer-term big-ticket prize drawing. Many clubs call this WINGO, or Win When You Go Bingo.

2. New members love purchasing new products and services, especially when they get special savings. Give all new members a time-limited game card where they get special savings on personal training, pro shop purchases, etc. When they fill out one line of purchases (similar to tic-tac-toe), they receive a free T-shirt or are entered to win a monthly prize giveaway.

Go Guerilla
3. Hand out bushels of inexpensive golf balls to local courses with your brand and a guest pass printed on the surface.

4. Deliver baskets of apples to corporate firms with a cover letter, requesting a meeting to discuss corporate wellness initiatives. Make sure each apple has a small sticker displaying your logo and an invitation or guest pass.

5. Read your local newspaper for wedding announcements and handwrite a personal invitation to brides-to-be with a special training offer for her and her bridal party. (This is good for grooms, too.)

Retail Boosters

6. Give members an incentive to visit your juice bar by placing a decal on your shakes or smoothies with a decal that has a challenging fitness question. If members answer correctly, enter them in a drawing to win a monthly prize. Place these decals on the tags of other merchandise to reward members for repeat purchases, too.

7. Give branded club money for referrals. You’ll keep the money in-house, and, chances are, the recipient will spend a greater dollar amount when redeeming the gift money.

Publicity Stunts

8. Hold a Dollars for Dumbbells fundraiser for your club’s favorite charity by having your members raise money for every pound lifted at your club in one day. Ask corporate partners to match pledges dollar for dollar. Invite community VIPs and news media to cover the event.

9. Get corporate partners to pledge dollars for every pound of body weight lost by your members during a six-month campaign. Prepare a large glass container filled with the money your members raised, and stage a photo-op with the media where you present the money to your charity.

10. Hold a testimonial competition called “What Motivates You?” Ask members to write about how your club has helped them reach their goals. Give a free-term membership to the winner and a free smoothie (or other reward) for each submission. Stage professional photo shoots using your members as models and use them in all of your print ads featuring their testimonials.

Technology Marketing
11. Stream live video to your Web site so that visitors can watch the action at your club in real time. Show segments of group fitness classes, get shots of members raving about their workouts, and loop them with YouTube-style clips and commercials on your Web site.

12. Put e-mail footers on all your outgoing e-mails. Carefully select members and then ask members if they’d be willing to attach your logo to their e-mail signatures to further promote your Web site in exchange for club discounts and specials. Select other business friends with whom to do cross-promotions. By using this strategy, you can target a new audience of potential members.

13. Donate several three-month memberships or three sessions of personal training to charities and churches. This helps establish relationships in the community and gets your name announced several times as they give away their prizes.

14. Stuff bags with seven-day passes at church/temple bazaars.

15. Host a police and fire department competition. You can call it “Guns and Hoses.” Use it as a fundraiser for them or their favorite charity.

16. Create a “The Biggest Loser”-style contest. You can have two to 12 teams. One club at the FISA roundtable advertised locally and received 800 applications. After the club picked teams, all other applicants received a two-week pass to the club with at least one session with a personal trainer.

17. Hold a raffle where prizes are donated by many vendors or people in the community and auctioned off at an event. Everyone at the event buys tickets that are placed in baskets in front of every prize. Every person who donates is also given free tickets to participate in the event.

18. Chamber events are good for marketing, too. Provide an expert speaker on health, nutrition, wellness, fitness or weight loss for free at your facility.

19. Consider putting money into a billboard on wheels. This can be done locally by hiring companies, or this can be your company car/truck that is wrapped with your logo and photos.

20. Create gift cards with club money. These can be used for referrals or for new members as an incentive to join

21. Start a rewards program. Some clubs have purchased miles from airlines to be given out to members for referrals or for usage.

22. Reward perfect attendance. You can give new members a punch card for 12 visits. Every time the member exercises during the month, their card is punched. At the end of the 12th visit, they receive either a one-month membership for a friend, two two-week memberships or four one-week memberships. During the eighth to 12th visit, remind the member to think of with whom they want to share their experience at the club and try to keep a list for a follow-up.

23. Place inserts in apartment building newsletters. This type of placement is sometimes free or very inexpensive.

24. Establish a referral network with other businesses in the community.

25. Create an e-newsletter with links to other businesses (and link your club to theirs).

26. Establish a referral network with spas. Many spas will pay 10 percent for referrals.