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    17 Replies Latest reply on Nov 29, 2008 2:46 PM by Analysights

    How to attract new members?

    Totalbody Newbie

      I own a small fitness facility in a rural town. Have about 25 pieces of cardio and strength training equipment. Been in business almost 4 years. I provide hands on approach with members, complete equipment orientation, workout routine, fitness assessment initially and every 6 weeks. Guidance provided by me or my staff until member feels confident using equipment and performing routine. Most other gyms will charge for assessments and workout routines (personal training), I include it with membership. The down turn in the economy has hit my business hard. Had 220 members at first of year and now only 132. Any body out there with a similar business that can share some advice on how to attract new members? Am considering a billboard during "hot" month of January and currently do direct marketing to all inactive clients and a specific mail list targeting potential members. Also currently trying cash register receipt advertising at the main super market in adjacent small town. Any advice would be appreciated.

        • Re: How to attract new members?
          LUCKIEST Guide
          How to attract new members?? Welcome Tammy

          It is great to know that you have been in business 4 years. It is also difficult for many businesses with the economy plunging downhill. Families are burdened with credit card debt and giving up so many necessities
          of life for themselves and their children.

          It sounds like you need a Marketing Plan. I am a SCORE Counselor. SCORE is FREE both in person
          and online. SCORE can help you develop the plan and help you budget your adverting dollars.

          Good luck, LUCKIEST
          1 of 1 people found this helpful
          • Re: How to attract new members?
            intechspecial Ranger
            Totalbody -

            Welcome to the community!

            Before you try and attract new members, I would try and find out why you lost your old ones. This might help you in future business.

            I was a part of a gym that is like yours in the same idea that they offer personal training at no extra charge. The gym was bought by a new owner. I had been a loyal member for more then 3 years, and went above and beyond to help the business become successful.

            Out of the blue the owner lost his temper for no legitimate reason, and cancelled my membership. I had made many acquantances and a few friends during the time I was a member. I heard later that the gym owner was dramatizing the entire event to all members. Bad politics and business promotion on his part.

            To make a long story short, the gym now has a horrible reputation amongst people with morals and convictions in the area, and there are many other gyms that are a safer environment then what the new owner has established his gym to be.

            One thing to consider is how you handle customer service, and it is always best to know why your members are leaving, then just try and generate more members. If you do not find out the who what and why, you are sure to lose new members as well.
              • Re: How to attract new members?
                Totalbody Newbie
                Thanks for your reply intechspecial. I do have my members complete a cancellation form when opting out of membership. The main reasons that I have tracked are the economy, no money, and not having any time to commit to exercise. My prices are very reasonable in comparison to the competition and in what I offer with membership. I have a long standing reputation in the area for being knowledgeable in my field and I also provide exercise classes for the local Parks and Recreation Department. I offer a very freindly, non-competitive environment. I feel I am not marketing to the triggers that would bring in members. I've tried so many different things and haven't been successful. Just grasping at straws at this point.

                  • Re: How to attract new members?
                    intechspecial Ranger
                    Have their been any franchise fitness clubs open in your area as of recently?

                    Franchises like Anytime Fitness, Bally Fitness, etc?
                      • Re: How to attract new members?
                        Totalbody Newbie
                        No franchise openings. Did have another small gym open up about 5 miles from my location in April 08. Not much larger then my facility. Owner is a newbie to the area and very young. He is catering to a younger crowd, lots of body building equipment. Membership is about 17% higher on the 12 month contract per month and about 20% higher on the single month option. He does not offer assessments nor workout routines. He pushes personal training. His gym does offer massage and a smoothie bar which I do not, of course these are at an additional cost. My focus is on improving health, personal attention, guidance. I also offer personal training packages and lifestyle weight management programs, don't sell too many of these. Tracking my cancellation reasons lead me to believe that the other gym is not affecting my membership. The trend for cancellation seems to be based on the economic situation and not having time to commit. With the exception of this other gym, no other facilities are close by, would have to travel over 25 miles to nearest fitness center.
                  • Re: How to attract new members?
                    Lighthouse24 Ranger

                    Since you've been in the business for four years, you know that membership and attendance at most fitness facilities declines from September through December, then spikes up in January and continues to rise slowly until mid-spring. So what you're experiencing is probably a normal trend aggravated by economic problems and uncertainty.

                    Another possible challenge you may be facing is that people in small rural communities often view self-improvement differently than people in metro areas. In a larger city, there are more "strangers" -- so a person could meet a new client or customer, a future spouse, or his/her next boss at any minute. Consequently, people seem to invest more in themselves (fitness, education, wardrobe, etc.) to be prepared for those opportunities. In a small rural town, everyone knows everybody to some degree, and accepts them as they are (which is nice) -- but the other side of that coin is that self-improvement can have a "stigma" attached to it (where it's only a certain "type" of person who goes to the gym or buys a designer label item or takes classes to continue an education). That can make it very hard to grow or expand a business like yours, and requires a little different marketing strategy.

                    You're probably already focusing on new residents, but if not, do so. If someone new moves into the area, do what it takes to get them in to your facility ASAP (offer a free trial membership, for example).

                    Beyond that, the thing that works best for me when marketing education/training in rural areas is to make it appealing (both in terms of pricing and the design of the program) for someone to bring a friend, partner, or colleague. Friends and partners are more likely to encourage and support each other, and to keep each other actively involved. So consider offering a "two for one" membership deal. Design some of your assessments and routines so one staff member trains two people together (instead of one-to-one, like traditional personal training). That could drive up membership, retention, and revenue without significantly increasing your costs. You might also consider having an "open house" that targets couples or best friends -- the idea is to create a fun "event" at a time of day that two people will be hanging out together anyway, so they will stop by and check it out. The key is to market to two people, and get them to sell each other on joining -- and then on continuing to exercise.

                    Welcome to the community and good luck!
                      • Re: How to attract new members?
                        Biz Online Adventurer
                        I agree with Lighthouse24...
                        Having been in the fitness industry for 14 years (on the equipment manufacturing side), the typical slowdown throughout the year occurs most of the time.
                        Now is the time for you to be planning for your membership boost that occurs with New Year's resolutions.
                        Find out where your members hang out after working out - advertise there, if possible.
                        Do a refer a friend program and give the referrer a month or a week free on their existing membership.
                        What separates you from your competition besides one on one training? Market that as well.

                        I found that when you are a small business, getting others to "sell" for you is the best way. Your members are your 100+ sales force - do what you can to maximize this.
                        Do a contest for the most referrals
                        Print up inexpensive business cards with one month free and pass out to your "sales force"
                        Print up beer coasters with one month free and hand out to all the local 20/30 something hangouts
                        Figure out what your competition did last year, and do it better!
                        Welcome to SBC!
                          • Re: How to attract new members?
                            Totalbody Newbie
                            Thanks to both Lighthouse24 and Biz Online, I appreciate your input. You are right, my industry is slow this time of year, I think my concern is the 41% decrease in membership since the first of the year. To me that is an alarming number. I have tried most of the advertising and marketing tips you both offered. My business card has a 7 Day Free Pass on the back, I also hand out 7 Day Free Pass cards to all local nail salons, hair salons, doctor's offices, schools, and any business that will let me put them there. I offer a referral program to all my members when they sign up and I advertise the referral program at the facility and yes, I run incentive programs occassionally to promote the referral program but I haven't been very successful with this, not sure why. I have a web page ( and I update it monthly with my specials for membership. I try to recapture my canceling clients with a personal letter that offers them the opportunity to re-join with free time added to their contract. I send direct mail postcards to my inactive client mail list every 4 months. I have a targeted mail list that I purchased and I am aggressively marketing to them, I also send to all new residents in the area. I do public speaking engagements when ever asked and shamelessly promote my business at these events. I give away numerous 1 month memberships to all sorts of community events and clubs as door prizes or for silent auctions. I am considering a bill board during the "hot" month of January, what are your thoughts on that form of advertisement? I am also currently participating in a cash register receipts advertising program at the major super market (there are only 2) in town, I'm offering the 7 Day Free Pass and 10% off all gift certificates with that program.
                            I do not have any business background. I'm running my business by instinct and anything I can get my hands on to read. Sometimes I second guess what I am doing to market myself because my response rate is not very comforting. I have a very good reputation in the area, lived here all my life (47yrs) and I have been in the fitness industry for over 11 years. I teach exercise classes at a local community center 4 days a week and I also teach classes for the Parks and Recreation for the county. What else can I do? What am I doing right? What am I doing wrong?
                        • Re: How to attract new members?
                          MarketSmarter Newbie
                          Welcome to SBOC.

                          I agree with what everyone is saying, but a few questions:

                          How do your members pay you? Monthly? Annual Contracts? Do you have auto debit or auto-bill?
                          You mentioned you had 220+ members, how often did they come to the gym?
                          What was the second reason people mentioned for leaving the gym? The economy, cost , time are always the easy answer because you can't refute it.
                          - It might be worthwhile to conduct an online survey with your past members to get deeper insight into why they left and what they are doing now for fitness.

                          Lastly, what type of referral program do you currently have in place?

                          The other thing you may want to do is innovate your fitness offering including boot camps or cross fit (the latter program requires much less time than a typical workout and the results are fantastic).

                          If you want to discuss those answers offline or learn about boot camp or cross fit (I'm an instructor), I can be reached at
                          • Re: How to attract new members?
                            JoeReuth Newbie

                            If you're not doing so already, have you offered a "reduced" package for less money to those opting out of their contracts? If a primary reason for your business fall off is the result of some of your members not having enough money, then a cheaper option may be what some are looking for.


                            Joe Reuth
                              • Re: How to attract new members?
                                Totalbody Newbie
                                Thanks for your reply Joe. Yes I have offered a special promotion for the clients who are not renewing. I actually send a personl letter which includes the offer. My success rate on this has not been very favorable.I also offer different membership options, monthly, 3 month packages, 6 month and 12 month contracts. I can't seem to find whatever it is that people will jump on.

                              • Re: How to attract new members?
                                borrowedtime Adventurer
                                Hi Totalbody,
                                Have you thought about Business Incentives. This will help bring customers, you can give away to new customers, do contests, help bring the moral of employees up, unlimited uses. My company has incentives , all complimentary vacations and cruises. You could even give away after they have lost X amount of weight. "Heres a vacation to go show off you NEW Body". Check out one of my websites at
                                Maybe this could help you bring new customers to your business. You can also call 1-888-833-1763 ext 301. Hope this helped. To your success.
                                • Re: How to attract new members?
                                  Analysights Newbie


                                  The first step is to get an understanding of what caused those 88 members to terminate their membership. Your goal here is to determine how much of the membership reduction was due to uncontrollable factors (like the economy) and how much was due to controllable ones (e.g., price, service, etc.). You can go about this in a number of ways. Using the information you already have about them (from their membership applications), you can yield several clues about them: age, gender, occupation, distance from your facility, etc. If members need to swipe a card upon entry to the facility, you also have their activity levels on file. Do these former members have any key factors in common? Was their activity dropping off shortly before termination? Did many of them work in an industry affected by the economy? You might also want to send a brief survey to each of the terminated members to see if there was something about your facility they liked or didn't like. Also, check through your chamber of commerce and your fitness facility trade groups to see if other fitness facilities are seeing declining membership.

                                  VERY IMPORTANT: Once you've identified common characteristics among your former members, look to see if there are active members who share those characteristics. There is a strong probability that they too will terminate, and you want to intervene and retain them. Acquiring a new customer is 6 times costlier than retaining an existing one, and you don't need to lose any more!

                                  Secondly, identify what your active members like and dislike about your facility. You can then promote the strengths of your facility in your marketing. Like your terminated members, your active members will likely have things in common as well. Now, you want to promote to people with those characteristics. A referral program might work well here. Also, you might want to negotiate discounted dues with some of the local businesses in the area to see if they might offer membership to your facility as an employee benefit. There's a number of other options too.

                                  Tammy, if I can be of further assistance, please let me know.