Why is it the cycle of attendance at a fitness center varies so much throughout the year? In January, everyone makes a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and really get it together. In February, they’re still coming to the gym but not as often. And then, by March and April you’re starting to have to beef up your advertising to convince people to “get the bikini body they’ve always wanted” before summer gets here.
It’s an endless cycle that, as gym owners and managers we have to overcome. And, we cannot overcome it unless we truly understand where it comes from.
The bottom line is once we make the sale committing a customer to a one- or two-year contract, we sometimes forget about them and move on to the next person we want to sign up. Sure, we ask for their email and their phone number, but do we actually call or email them? If we do, it’s probably not as often as we should. If you’re finding your fitness center in this cycle of declining membership, here are some things you should consider.
First and foremost, education is key. Regardless of how knowledgeable your customers are they need to be reminded of why going to the gym is so important. If you think simply telling them is the answer, you may be wrong. People need to hear from themselves (remind them of their personal reasons why they joined the gym in the first place) why it is important for them to go to the gym. In order to remind them of their own words, we first need to listen to them.
Listening is the first necessary step in sales, so show your customer you are listening. A great way to do this is to ask them before they join your facility what their top five reasons are for going to the gym, any gym. When they give you those reasons, write them down. Next, ask them what their main interest is in the gym. Let’s say they say aerobics, then which classes? If its weight lifting, what are their favorite machines? As you will see, there are some great things you can do with this information.
Also, be sure to ask if they are looking for motivation and ask them if a weekly reminder of classes is something they would appreciate.
The second important thing to remember is just that -- reminders. Posting signs everywhere to let people know what is going on at the gym is one good reminder, but it’s not very personal. So, if you have their email and their phone number, use it to your advantage.
Before they become one of those missing members, email them something of interest to them on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. For instance, if you know they like yoga, email them the yoga schedule for the week. If you know they have children, email them the childcare center hours, so they can see what will work best for them.
Tailor the emails in categories to save time. Create emails for yoga, yoga and children, treadmills, abs machines, etc. This will categorize who gets what email so when you get new treadmills or a new abs machine or a pilates class that yoga members may enjoy, you can email that group of people and keep them informed.
Calling is also an option, but be sure to simply leave a quick, clear message. If you do reach someone, be short and to the point: “Hi Donna, I was just calling to remind you we have our power yoga today at 5 p.m. Thank you. Have a great day!” Don’t ask them if they’ll be coming or not, that puts pressure on them.
Tying It All Together
The information you gather in the first interview is very important and you need to keep it whether they become members or not. With a little extra effort and a small expense, it may really pay off. Those five reasons they gave you in the beginning can now be used.
On their birthday, when they sign up, or a week after they have come in but have not signed up, send them a key chain with your logo on it. On the other side of the key chain, put the five reasons they gave you in the beginning. “My Five Reasons” will make it very personal and it will remind them why they wanted to join your facility.
These key chains are very cost effective and easy to put together. Simply pop them open, slide in the list and it’s done. Send the key chain with a happy birthday letter, welcome to (facility name), or a note saying we hope to see you soon. Also put in your note that because you find their dedication to fitness important, you wanted them to have a “My Five Reasons” reminder to keep them motivated.
Low attendance at certain times in the year is expected, but we need to start changing how we overcome it. We have a very different society now, so maybe our strategies should be very different as well.
Kati Trammel is the advertising and public relations account executive for MCCS Marketing, Semper Fit Retail, Food and Beverage based in Okinawa, Japan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.