Behind the Scenes

The Good Sessions Just Keep Coming...

I mentioned in an earlier post that I'd attended some great sessions, and I can't emphasize that enough. Today I was energized, inspired and learned so much.

Bright and early this morning I hit up a BodyPump class on the Club Studio floor, which was one heck of a (good!) way to start the day. No doubt I'll be feeling that tomorrow. And then, grungy and all, I headed to Jasmine Jafferali's session "Cutting Edge Nutrition for Your Clients," and was blown away. I had worked with Jasmine previously, as she is a Step by Step writer, but I'd never heard her speak. She's great! And she even gave out free healthy brownies. Talk about earning brownie points with me. (I couldn't resist making that joke; corny as it is.)

She filled the group in about how to talk to your clients about nutrition and gave us the latest trends and research regarding artificial sweeteners, gluten, coconut oil, organic foods and genetically modified foods. It was pretty eye opening and after learning that the FDA only inspects 1 percent of all meat, it makes me think twice about what I'm putting in my mouth. Other fun facts included that one out of four women have a gluten allergic but rarely know it (gluten allergies can cause migraines, GI distress and depression), that leafy greens are the No. 1 cause of food-borne illness (second is turkey, then chicken, then red meat), that Splenda can be used to kill ants (ack!) and that coconut oil is good for you. Eye-opening stuff.

The next session I went to was all about retention. Titled "Retention Planning that Works" and led by Mark Miller, VP of Merritt Athletic Clubs, it was right in line with what the panel on the economy was advising: Focus on retention. It's said to cost five to seven times more to attract and sign a new member than it is to keep a current one. The average length of a membership is 80 weeks, Miller said, but if club improve that amount of time, then they can add thousands to their bottom line. In fact, 52 percent of members who visit a club less than four times in the first month quit within the first year. Ouch.

Miller identified why people leave (fear of the equipment, fear of getting hurt, not fitting in, etc.) and explained Merritt's system for keeping those people in the club. Through a detailed series of appointments with staff, follow-up calls and really working with the individual, Merritt has worked to keep its attrition rates low.

Miller shared six strategies for staff at a point of sale. They include having the new member make an appointment, introducing them to a fitness trainer, giving them something at their next visit (a T-shirt or results from an assessment), putting a time stamp on your coupons and making sure that members know what to expect. That last one includes calling them and making sure they know to bring a towel or water bottle to their workout or having members just confirm their attendance.

Again, echoing what the panelists said, all clubs must be built on staff members with good attitudes who are upbeat, caring and share the vision of the facility. Miller concluded the session with a quote from the FIA Retention Report that I think summed the importance of retention up pretty well:

"If the clubs with the lowest retention rates achieved the retention of the best club, they would more than double their income in 12 months."

Now who doesn't want to do that?!

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