Accessing the Corporate Membership Market

Do you have a strategy to penetrate the corporate membership market? Do you have slow membership recruitment periods? Do you have a great fitness team with innovative programming capabilities, but no one outside your club knows about their skill sets?

The Fitness Study concept is a membership recruitment tool designed to recruit corporate employees who are non-members and non-exercisers, as well as retain them as members once they join your club.


Mercy HealthPlex, a for-profit three-club chain in Cincinnati, launched a 30-day fitness study on Aug. 1. The study was structured to identify barriers to change from a physiological and psychological perspective that would stop a non-exerciser from becoming an exerciser; and to develop and test strategies that can minimize, reduce and eliminate those barriers so that each participant could survive as a mainstream health club member.

This pilot program was designed to accommodate 55 corporate employees who were non-exercisers and were encouraged to join the study by their employer. During the screening process, the following reasons were given for the interest in the study: a program with flexibility to meet diversified work schedules, a convenient location, an atmosphere that would make them feel comfortable, an option to be able to work out with their co-workers and an option that was supported by their employer.

In order to create an environment that is engaging and non-intimidating, Healthplex positioned its fitness team, point persons and lifestyle change facilitators for these participants.

The ability of participants to succeed is predicated on their ability to develop a new behavior within 30 days. The fitness staff is responsible for quantifying each participant's goals, identifying barriers to change, and developing participant-specific strategies that can overcome their barriers to change.

The fitness team must get each candidate to buy into each of these points plus commit to be in the study for 30 days.

As the programming gatekeeper for each participant, the fitness staff determined what exercises the participants should do. Decisions were based on goals that each participant negotiated with their gatekeeper.

The following process summarizes the study launch:

  • The fitness manager conducted interviews with candidates to assess qualifications.

  • Ten days before the study, each participant had an interview with a fitness staff member to complete a needs analysis/goal-setting process; preliminary HRA and health history analysis. At the end of this step, the fitness manager determined which member of the fitness team would be assigned to which participant.

  • Five days before the program, each participant met with a membership consultant who reviewed and executed a participant expectation agreement; completed a 30-day club membership contract; scheduled the personal fitness assessment and HRA analysis, 12 personal training appointments, a nutritional consultation session, and a final PFA and outcome assessment appointment.

  • Each participant completed 12 personal training sessions, two PFAs and one nutritional consultation session. The fitness team member identified which group exercise classes they would participate in.

  • At the end of the study, participants completed a new habit survey. This survey permitted participants to perform a self-assessment to determine if they had overcome their roadblocks.


If these participants were able to acquire a new habit, then this habit would translate into club memberships. The participants' feedback was used to determine the next step in developing an ongoing plan that was designed to facilitate success in club membership.

Of the 200 inquiries, 121 became fitness study candidates. Ninety-one of these individuals became participants on Aug. 1. As of Aug. 15, 81 participants were still in the study.

Healthplex is anticipating that it will convert 30 percent to 40 percent of those individuals who completed the study into health club memberships.

Bob Esquerre, MA, MES, NSCA-CPT, fitness consultant and owner of the Esquerre Fitness Group, can be reached at

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