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Fee Plus Free Equals Successful Group Exercise Programming

Fee Plus Free Equals Successful Group Exercise Programming

Most fitness facility operators have realized the importance of implementing fee-based programs in their clubs. Few club owners, however, understand how to use these programs as a bridge between the personal training department and the group exercise department to increase participation, increase revenue and create a cohesive team between the departments.

Here are five great ways to use your free and fee-based programming to build all the departments into loyalty and revenue-generating areas.

1. Build the team. When selecting the team that will lead your fee-based programs, do not overlook group exercise instructors. Most facility operators choose personal trainers to lead any program that has a fee attached to it. Think outside the box. Interview your group exercise instructors. If they are a good fit, allow them to launch a fee-based program. This gives them the opportunity to increase their own revenue beyond the hourly rate, feel more a part of the team and take additional ownership of the club programs. When considering a leader, look for the following qualities:

  • Personality. Most group exercise instructors are gregarious by nature. But take into consideration their ability to be a team player. Will they build and promote all the programs and not just their own? The best instructors care about the entire club’s success, not just their 5:30 p.m. step class.
  • Commitment. Will the instructor go above and beyond to market and promote the programs beyond their own time slot? Trainers must be willing to spend extra time in and outside of the club to build a successful program.

2. Educate the team. When a new program is being considered, include the entire staff in the process. Hold a meeting with all directors and invite the personal trainers and group exercise instructors. Although most group exercise instructors work part-time and “run in and out of the club,” including them in the programming process often makes them feel more included and increases their loyalty to the facility, which goes beyond the loyalty they feel to their class. Ask the instructors who attend to provide feedback and opinions. Once the new program has been selected, provide an intense educational process so all the employees, trainers and instructors understand the program.


3. Stop walking in fear. Many department heads and trainers fear marketing “other” programs because they believe this may cut into their clients or their compensation. In reality, if your staff markets all programs, they are putting the members’ needs first and finding the best fit for them. During stressful economic times, your members may just need something free or less expensive. If your members cannot afford an additional $60 an hour for personal training, suggest they try a free group exercise class, or have them try group training at half the price. Many trainers fear they will lose their clients. In reality, your trainers’ jobs are to find the best fit for their clients, whether it is free or fee. When your staff provides great customer service to clients and members, and they feel your trainer put their needs first, they will stay a client for life. When they have the resources to pay again for the individual or group trainings, they will.

4. Market as a team. You must request action. Ensure that all employees, trainers and instructors market the program. If you have selected a great team and provided great education, this component will be easy.

5. Be a great leader. As the club owner or operator, you are the leader. Your character, values and beliefs will dictate the success of all the programs as well as the club. It is your job to build a successful team with all your employees and departments, not just the ones that generate the most revenue. If you do not see the value in a department or program because it does not align with your values, then cut it. For example, if your group exercise team perceives you do not value your group exercise program, that department will not be successful, and the team members in that department will not care about the overall success of any program, much less your club. When leading your teams—both free and fee-based trainers and instructors—share with them the value of all the programs, all the departments and all the staff. This will guarantee success with all programs, fee and free alike.


Lori Patterson, owner and CEO of VicteliB LLC, is the creator of fee-based programs that include Boot Camp Challenge and Kids Kamp Challenge. Patterson served in the U.S. Army and has been in the fitness industry for 27 years. You can reach her at, at 636-734-8594 or through the website at

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