Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting and turnaround firm specializing in the fitness and health club industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars and workshops across the country on the practical skills required to successfully build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. Visit his Web site at: http://www.fmconsulting.net.

We receive many inquiries from health club owners who want to jump-start the membership sales in their club. I always refer to it as “sales magic.” The health club is doing everything wrong, but an operator wants that one answer that will kick sales into high gear. Of course, in most cases, this is not realistic because many owners may be lacking the attitude that’s necessary or the systems that they use may be flawed. Sales magic just doesn’t exist.

However, in the event that you’re doing all the right things—basics are being followed and attitudes are good—and your health club simply needs an infusion of ideas, here are some thoughts on how to jump-start your membership sales in your club:

Partner up. Find a strategic business partner or partners in your immediate trade area that your health club can work with. Look for other local businesses that have the same objective as your health club. You can trade leads, share marketing info, sell package deals, put together a new-member welcome pack, offer sponsorship opportunities, etc.

Brand your health club name and business. You can do this by simply writing articles and submitting them to local newspapers, magazines or Web sites. Be sure to always link these articles back to your site. Speaking at local functions will work well, too. This should not be a one-time thing but an all-the-time thing. You can take it a step further and have all managers and department heads participate in their specialty.

Start an auction or a for-sale section on your health club’s Web site. For example, you can auction old equipment or services at your facility. Depending on your club policy, allow members the opportunity to sell or renew their membership on your Web site. You can even create a forum to help club members and others find workout partners.

Brainstorm often. Remember to schedule some time out of your day or week to brainstorm with your health club staff. New ideas are usually the difference between health club success and failure. Get all of your staff to participate. Have a member contest for the best ideas. Don’t get caught always doing the same thing. Even if it’s not a good idea today, you might be surprised at how it might work later in the year.

Model other successful health clubs, service industries or similar businesses. I’m not saying copy them, but practice some of the same habits that have made them succeed. Get in the habit of reading every ad you can get your hands on. All it takes is one good idea. Shop other health clubs and similar businesses. You want to find out what’s working and what’s not.

Take calculated risks. Sometimes health clubs don’t want to advertise unless it’s free, but sometimes you have to spend money to get results. Be sure to monitor your cost per call, cost per show and cost per sale. Know your numbers.

Include emotional words in your advertisements and marketing. Use words like love, security, relief, freedom, happy, satisfaction, fun, etc. Sell the benefits of what your new member will receive instead of the features of your club. Selling features of your health club will only invite comparison.

Ask your members to review your Web site. You can use the member comments you get to improve your site and you may be able to turn the reviewer into a new sale or renewal. Try having a contest with your members for the best Web site idea. Solicit feedback. Don’t allow your Web site to become simply an online brochure. Give your members and guests a reason to return.

Outsource part of your day-to-day workload. If you do this, you’ll save on most employee costs. You could outsource your member billing, accounting, marketing, sales training, personal training, juice bars, pro shops, etc. Outsourcing will not only make you more efficient, but it will also allow you to focus on driving traffic and eventually more sales into your club.

Combine a product and/or service together in a package membership deal. Doing this can increase your membership sales. Always be on the search for new incentives to give your sales staff new reasons to reintroduce themselves to club prospects. You have to keep it new and fresh.