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Make Room for Fee-Based Programming

Make Room for Fee-Based Programming

Fee-based programming may make sense for a growing number of health clubs. However, switching over to this type of programming comes with its challenges.

To initiate fee-based programming, your best option may be to just set a start date, communicate with members that the club is moving in a new direction with its programming, re-audition the instructors and remarket the group exercise brand.

You will need to revamp your group fitness lineup. Design class formats that assist members with goals that include general conditioning, adherence and accountability. Schedule free beginner classes several times during the week and promote them as learning classes, demonstrations or clinics. Invite all to attend the general conditioning classes and educate them about when and how to move into the specialized, fee-based classes that will take their fitness goals to new heights. These fee-based options should be scheduled at prime times daily. Invite regulars, renewing members and prospects to attend sample fee-based classes and offer them a member-only punch card or fee option as they get started.

Redesign the group fitness room with a focus on the new branded programming options.You need to transform the look and the feel of the group fitness room to create an environment that will promote the fee-based programming. Owners of facilities challenged with only one studio will need to figure out how to share the space or move some of the programming to the workout floor, outdoors or in offices. You may want to add room dividers, murals and creative storage for equipment.

When setting up the new schedule, leave time between classes to allow equipment to be returned to storage units and to enable staff to attend to administrative duties. Let existing members know that the room is now reserved for the specialized programming, so a professional transition between programs occurs.

These new programming options should be promoted as part of the new member integration process with personal invitations and introductions to the programming. The sales and training staff must be incentivized to promote the programming during first visits. You can give members coupons to redeem for free beginner clinics or demonstrations. Successful promotional strategies include inviting local celebrities and politicians to the launch of new programming, as well as sending out press releases and articles to local publications. You can also offer demonstration programming at charity events, local running events and health fairs. Advertising on Facebook and Twitter accounts and designing a clothing line to add to the pro shop will assist in promotion of the new lineup.

To be successful, you must hire and train professionals who are willing to sell a service. Staff that has had experience only in traditional group fitness programming can find it difficult to promote fee-based programs, so you must educate your team about how to do this after you have clarified the company’s new direction. Teach them how to influence their members, how to promote the programming and what they can gain financially from fee-based programs. Recruiting certified professionals, coaches and specialty instructors from outside the facility will round out the programming staff. Once you have your team, set up a performance-based wage system that will drive them to promote the programming.

You’ll then need to rebrand your group exercise programs. Group fitness options are often promoted as being appropriate for all levels, as having certified instructors who will make modifications or add intensity for any member, and as options that are included in all basic membership packages. Beginner-friendly options attract guests and nonmembers, but the new fee-based classes, which can be aimed at taking regular members to new fitness levels, must become part of the club’s brand for this to be successful. You can’t be successful with this type of programming when a fee-based program is added here or there rather than revamping the whole schedule to make room for new branded options.

Ann Gilbert, director of fitness for Shapes Total Fitness for Women, leads a team of more than 350 fitness professionals. She is a presenter at many industry conferences and has received the IHRSA/ACE Trainer of the Year award. For the past 10 years, Gilbert has served as a faculty board member for the Fitness Academy, an internal educational resource for continuing education. She can be reached at

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