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New Years is right around the corner, and with it, the busiest season for health clubs. Every year, health club marketers ramp up their marketing efforts in order to prepare for the rush of resolutioners. But is that the best strategy? Let’s look at some strategies health clubs can employ to increase gym members throughout the year, while maintaining their current members.

Stop competing.

Avoid falling into the cycle of competing on price. This may sound counterintuitive, but manipulating your price too much devalues the brand. Plus, there’s always another facility around the corner willing to go lower.

In the same vein, avoid making your equipment and facility your unique selling point. Again, it exposes your brand to the potential to be marginalized by a competitor with newer equipment or a larger facility. (One exception may be a pool, which creates an opportunity to offer unique activities and classes).

Create a sense of community.

So if it’s not price or facility, then what is it? As you might have guessed, it’s people and programs. To truly make your facility unique, increase customer loyalty. This will help defend against the wild swings of seasonality. Hire enthusiastic and energetic employees, offer programs that provide structure and make each person feel like they’re a member of a family not just a gym.

Take advantage of seasonal swells.

Despite best efforts to encourage year-round fitness and mitigate seasonal swings, we’re fighting the tide of human nature. The combination of winter weather and holiday indulgences will always drive a seasonal swell. Combined with a reasonable offer, this is a great time to boost membership.

Tell. Don’t sell.

You want members to continue to be active even after the holidays, so employ tactics that keep consumers interest and motivated, like wellness tips. As marketing becomes more and more targeted, messaging that makes the deepest connection is relevant and valuable content. Think healthy recipes, fitness tips, motivation tactics, success stories and more.

Add value.

As an alternative to discounting, provide added value incentives, like personal training sessions or fitness assessments. Look for tactics with relatively little incremental cost and a high-perceived value to deeply engage member and drive loyalty. Other tactics could include, giveaway items like branded pedometers, water bottles, gym bags, etc.

Reward a job well done.

Staff members are the face of your brand and the key influencers of a member’s experience. Having a system in place to reward employees for exceptional customer service ultimately drives employee and member satisfaction.

So which is more important – acquisition or retention? Sure, you’ve got to start somewhere. But retention should always be the primary objective. It costs far more to acquire a new member than to retain a current member. Plus, long-term members more likely to provide positive recommendations to friends and colleagues.

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