From Techno-Slow to Techno-Savvy
I have worked in this industry for more than 30 years, and the biggest complaint I always hear from members is that we sell ’em and leave ’em. Naturally, all clubs send members either an annual renewal bill or they EFT their members' accounts for the monthly dues, but for many clubs, that's the extent of the communication. I believe that's why we lose a significant percentage of our members annually.
Fortunately, clubs are evolving to combat this perennial problem. Some clubs try to improve their retention by initiating programs that reward members for working out and achieving their goals. They host contests and competitions to encourage club participation. In addition, they publish monthly or quarterly newsletters to keep members informed and renewing. After all, it's cheaper to keep the members you have rather than attract new ones.
Organized on the Inside
While the problem of member communication is a significant issue that club owners need to address, they must first be able to solve inner-office organization. Additionally, on the sales side of the ledger, you need to lower the member attrition rate before you begin to grow your member base. The best and least expensive way of doing that is to target your member referrals, missed guests, and alumni members — all of whom should be in your database.
Usually your member records are in your billing software. But what about the two or three referral names per new member? Are they on forms in a drawer in each sales office? What about your missed guests? Are they still on guest registers filed in a drawer? What do you do with the records of alumni members who move, quit or can't pay their monthly dues? Do you know where your database is?
There are a variety of software programs available that can separate your members, guests, alumni members, referral names and prospects. Once your leads and members are separated, you should send them periodic invitations to your open houses and health fairs. In addition to utilizing software programs, you may find additional help from data management services. Many companies offer these services for customers using their software.
Once you have begun to collect good data, then you must take the next step and use the technology that is available to you on the Internet to communicate with the people in your database. You can send an e-mail, an e-newsletter or an e-invitation, to name a few options, and you can send any of them out with or without a link to your Web site.
One particularly effective communication tool is an e-newsletter that offers the recipient health and nutrition content, as well as information on club improvements, upcoming events and membership specials. E-invitations with eye-catching graphics work very well. Most people in your database will appreciate being invited to your club parties, especially if they're also offered educational information about nutrition and/or fitness.
Keep your database fed with the proper information by collecting e-mail addresses from your members and prospects. Add a line to your guest registers and in your contract for recording people's e-mail addresses. Make sure you ask everyone their preferred method of communication: e-mail, fax or direct mail.
For your existing members, you could hold a contest offering a prize for clients registering their e-mail addresses. You can also attract members online by using Internet companies that enable you to offer your members and guests chat rooms and free Web-based e-mail addresses (firstname.lastname@example.org). With this services, members can only access their e-mail by going online and logging into your club's Web page, thus guaranteeing traffic to your site.
Depending upon your level of technology, the information of club delinquents can be integrated and you can become a “techno-pain-in-the-butt.” Remind them via e-mail that they have not been at the club lately and you have noticed. If nothing else, this will show your clients that you are organized and committed to your members.
For every member who chooses e-mail as the preferred mode for communication, you save printing and postage, which is good business. You may also enjoy a double win because by e-mailing club news, health information and/or invitations to your next health fair/open house, you're giving your members, referrals, missed guests and alumni members the motivation necessary to get them back into your club.
— Paul Bosley has more than 30 years of experience in the club industry. In addition he is the founder of www.healthclubexperts.com, which offers club owners a one-stop Internet portal. He can be contacted at (203) 407-0334 or email@example.com.
7 Steps to Connectivity
Purchase your name ending in .com, .net and .org. Design your Web site and plan for periodic updates. List your URL address on all of your other marketing materials.
Select the best database software program for your club.
Determine how to best collect e-mail addresses for your database.
Offer members and guests their preferred option of communication: e-mail, fax or direct mail.
E-mail invitations and/or e-newsletters to your members, alumni members and potential members in your database.
Introduce chat rooms on your Web site for your fitness experts to communicate online with members.
Decide if e-commerce is necessary for the sale of your membership packages, services and products on your Web site. If so, select the best option available to you.