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Entries in member engagement (7)


Keep Your Health Club Members Engaged Over the Holidays

The months of December and January can be both a blessing and a curse for health clubs due to the many holidays that fall during those winter months. 

Holiday Barriers to Working Out 

Many of these holidays revolve around family and community celebrations, food, and travel, and tend to be a time where people feel stressed and pressed for time. It is widely recognized that during “the holidays” people often let healthy habits slide—regular habits like coming to the club, packing lunch, and getting enough sleep can be superseded by holiday celebrations, shopping, or travel.

These challenges are a big reason January ends up with a prominent focus on weight loss and “getting back into shape.” On average, people gain two pounds during the holiday season and the habit changes that accompany it.

How to Help Members Make the Gym a Priority

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Health clubs are well suited to help their members and communities continue to maintain healthy behaviors through busy and festive times of the year, whether through challenges, community events, or leveraging technology to help people stay on track. 

This December issue of “12 Months of Health Promotion” provides tips and resources to help clubs keep their members motivated and engaged during the winter holidays. Resources include: 

  • 7 Tips to Keep Members Engaged During the Holidays
  • Strategies from the “Wearables 2.0: Leveraging the Evolution of Digital Health Technology for Fun and Profit“ webinar
  • Relevant articles and blog posts to read and share

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How Fitness Technology Enhances Health Club Member Engagement

For decades, using "fitness technology" meant little more than stepping on a scale. Now an array of wearable devices and digital applications offers detailed workout feedback in real time. 

According to Bryan O'Rourke, president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council (FIT-C), that presents health club owners with both a challenge and an opportunity. 

"The clubs that are going to be the most successful are the ones that integrate thoughtful digital strategies with the brick and mortar," O'Rourke said

Getting with the Digital Program 

A digital health club strategy can cover a lot of ground—everything from providing free apps to transferring your entire digital infrastructure to the cloud. As a club owner, only you can say what makes sense for you. 

Here are some options to consider: 

Wearables: As the name suggests, these are small fitness trackers that the customer wears, usually either as a clip-on or with a wristband. (They're sometimes called smartwatches.)

Digital trackers are light years beyond old-fashioned pedometers. Yes, they can count steps taken and calories burned. But they can also monitor heart rate and sleep patterns; some even have a GPS to help bikers and joggers map their routes. 

But the basic idea behind all trackers is simple: Trackers provide more data. More data leads to greater engagement. And engaged customers are happier customers. 

Apps: If you're not ready to make the leap to wearables—or you're worried that your customers will balk at the cost—fitness apps could a good alternative, says Michael Rucker, vice president of technology for Active Wellness

Basically, these apps tap into a smartphone's built-in tracking sensors and repurpose that data for fitness monitoring. And some of them are free. 

"If you're a high-volume/low-price club, your members are likely to be cost-conscious," Rucker said. "They're going to appreciate it if you offer them a free mobile app that does 80% of what a [wearable] does." 

And you'll appreciate the guests who renew their memberships because you made it easy for them to store workout data from both their home and your club on their phones. 

Mobile: Mobile devices and the health and fitness industry go hand in hand. The word "mobile" even suggests an active lifestyle. Health club owners can fully engage their busy, active guests by allowing them to use their mobile devices for all aspects of the health club experience—not just tracking, integrating, and customizing workout data, but also renewing memberships, checking club schedules, reserving equipment, etc. 

As O'Rourke noted, "It's irrefutable that a 'mobile-first' strategy is emerging, which means that you may need to rethink some aspects of your business model." 

A Revolution in Real Time 

You don't have to commit to a particular digital strategy today. You do, however, have to commit to having a digital strategy. Because fitness club guests everywhere are demanding a higher level of engagement that only modern technology can provide. 


Increase Health Club Member Engagement Through Community Service (and Our New E-book)

Health clubs and health club operators have always been in the business of giving—by providing practical guidance, a safe environment, and inclusive programming options for people of all ages and abilities to be regularly active.   

And now more than ever, clubs are extending their generosity beyond their four walls by focusing on identifying the needs of the larger community and then creating programs to address these needs.  

Responses to these targeted program offerings have been tremendous. Community members that take part in club outreach initiatives see results ranging from a renewed motivation to be physically active to a significant increase in quality of life. Most importantly, any and all of these outcomes have left participants feeling happier, healthier, and better prepared to take on any new challenges that lie ahead. 

That’s why we’ve compiled a new e-book, “Increasing Engagement Through Community Service: Examples from IHRSA Clubs.” 

This member-only publication highlights case studies from five IHRSA members with impactful community service programs: 

  • Gainesville Health & Fitness
  • GIVE Fitness
  • Franco's Athletic Club
  • Gold's Gym Dutchess County
  • Club Fit 

The e-book’s community outreach case studies are meant to inspire you to offer a community service program of your own, provide ideas on new outreach programs, and encourage you to share this information with others who are interested in expanding the health and fitness industry’s reach beyond health club walls. 

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Health Club Member Retention Is a Team Effort

The average health club has an annual attrition rate of 28.6%, according to the upcoming edition of IHRSA’s Profiles of Success.

Some attrition is inevitable, of course. Members relocate, change jobs, etc. However, chances are your club is losing at least a few members each month that you could retain with some additional effort on the part of your team. And by “team,” we mean every single employee. Each one contributes—either positively or negatively—to each of your club members’ long-term satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, with their experience at your facility.

Consider the following, which is excerpted from IHRSA’s Guide to Membership Retention, written by former IHRSA executive director John McCarthy:

Few clubs attach compensation opportunities to improvements in membership retention.

The message that almost every club’s compensation plan sends to its staff is that membership acquisition is more important than membership retention.

One of the ironies of contemporary club management is that almost every club manager gives lip service to membership retention, yet relatively few put hard cash on the line. Even more alarming is that whereas every club manager assigns two to five people to sell club memberships, and each of these people is accountable for a monthly sales quota that is the basis of their compensation, there is no equivalent allocation of responsibility, accountability or compensation for membership retention.

At many clubs if one were to ask who is responsible for membership retention, the answer would be: “Everyone.” Yet, as we know, whenever “everyone” is responsible for something, it means, in effect, that “no one” is responsible.

If membership retention is as important as everyone affirms, and if it is measurable, and if it is a responsibility that can be allocated, then there is no reason not to provide financial incentives to those who are accountable for improvements in this arena. 

Accountability continues to be the missing link in the way most clubs approach this issue. In this respect, membership retention stands in the sharpest possible contrast to the way in which most clubs approach membership acquisition in which accountability is standard practice.

The bottom line with respect to membership retention is ownership. Who owns this opportunity/challenge? Until someone senior in the organization takes ownership of this opportunity, and until compensation opportunities are attached to it, and until budgets reflect a commitment to success in this arena, creative solutions and significant improvements will continue to be unlikely.

The front desk is on the front line for combating attrition.

A friendly, welcoming, hospitable and efficient front desk is an important piece of the membership retention puzzle. Conversely, a cold, unfriendly, unwelcoming or hostile front desk can be a major factor in accelerating membership attrition.

Whereas a warm and welcoming front desk is no guarantee of rising retention rates, a cold, impersonal and hostile front desk is almost certainly a leading indicator of a club that is destined to have higher membership attrition. If there is any single litmus test for the personality of a club and, in particular, for the personality of a club’s general manager, it is the hospitality (or lack thereof) of the club’s front desk.

Continue Reading "Health Club Member Retention Is a Team Effort."

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Club Fit Uses Storytelling to Engage Cancer Survivors and First Responders

Storytelling has always had the power to personally connect people through shared experiences. 

And, fortuitously, clubs provide the perfect place for people to gather and share their stories—about where they are in their fitness journey and where they hope this journey will lead them. 

Club Fit, with two locations in Briarcliff and Jefferson Valley, NY, harnessed the power of storytelling to encourage community members to acknowledge why it is important to keep active and how they can use this positive mentality to achieve their fitness goals.         

“We’re here and have a presence in the community and so people want to bring us their stories,” says Ellen Koelsch, vice president of Club Fit. “When people tell us their stories and offer unique programming ideas, we respond by saying ‘That would be great. Would you like to do this with us?’” 

Fighting Cancer with Fitness 

Cancer is a disease that directly or indirectly impacts all of us. 

The National Cancer Institute estimates that by the end of 2016, cancer will have taken the lives of 595,690 U.S. citizens. And, over the course of the next two decades, the number of new cancer cases worldwide is expected to hit a staggering 22 million. 

Taking note of the need to address rising cancer incidence and mortality rates, Club Fit decided to start a program that would help cancer patients regain their strength and conviction. And, the decision to start this program was officially solidified after attending the IHRSA International Convention & Trade Show and hearing Julie Main speak about her personal battle with cancer and the importance of overcoming the disease’s limitations with physical activity.   

A “Think Fit for Kids” fundraising event to raise money for brain tumor resarch.

Since that time, Club Fit’s cancer wellness program has employed strength training, cardio, and yoga techniques to help participants feel healthier and more confident. The program is conducted by certified instructors who create personalized fitness routines for participants of all ages and abilities. The program is free for all members and non-members are invited to participate in a 90-day free trial. 

Over the years, the program has seen continued success thanks to its strong partnerships with local doctors and hospitals who refer patients to the club.   

“Participants must have medical clearances from their doctors to be involved,” says Koelsch, “and they are required to meet with trainers ahead of time so that they know exactly what to expect at the start of the program.” 

Continue reading "Club Fit Uses Storytelling to Engage Cancer Survivors and First Responders."

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U.S. Health Club Membership Reached High of 55.3 Million in 2015

Membership in U.S. health clubs reached an all-time high of 55.3 million in 2015, representing an annual growth rate of 3.3% over the past three years, according to the newly released IHRSA 2016 Health Club Consumer Report

The annual publication, which is based on a nationwide sample of more than 32,000 interviews, also found that another 9.1 million non-members exercised at clubs in 2015, bringing the total number of Americans utilizing health clubs to 64.4 million—also a record high. 

Exercise Habits of Millennials, Generation X and Boomers 

Health club usage and activity preferences vary widely across generational groups, a finding which club operators can consider in strategic positioning and program development.

Generation X is more likely to utilize resistance machines and treadmills, while Millennials are more likely to participate in yoga and cross-training programs. Boomers are more inclined to engage in Tai Chi and aquatic exercise. 

“As the Consumer Report bears out, distinctions in activity participation impact club preferences among consumers,” said Melissa Rodriguez, IHRSA’s senior research manager. “While Millennials opt for studios to engage in specific training formats, Generation X’ers are more likely to use fitness-only and multipurpose clubs for access to various training equipment.” 

About the 2016 Health Club Consumer Report 

Through several club applications, the 2016 Health Club Consumer Report guides club operators in leveraging such demographic trends in efforts to stand out from the competition. 

Owners of full-service health clubs may consider cultivating an offer that emphasizes group training and building a strong online presence in order to engage Millennials. Club operators who aim to target Boomers may not only offer relevant exercise programs, but also provide stellar in-person customer service and foster ongoing interactions with club staff.


Boost Member Engagement, Retention with IHRSA's May 12 Webinar

When members first join a health club they can be a little wary. New members are often out of shape, and many made the decision to join a gym because a physician’s or family member’s advice. 

“A lot of times, people don’t come in to your health club for the most positive reasons,” says Chris Stevenson, owner and founder of Stevenson Fitness in Oak Park, CA. “They’ve driven by your facility 100 times and, for some reason, that day they decide to go in and you sell them a membership—make them part of your family. And since they’re skeptical and deconditioned, they don’t know what to do—they’re lost. So ultimately our goal isn’t to sell a membership—it’s to help people get healthier. And when they don’t get that guidance right off the bat, the odds of them continuing are very slim.” 

Stevenson will share proven tactics to help members receive that guidance in his Thursday, May 12 webinar, “Member Engagement: The Key to Retention.” 

“Onboarding is one way we engage with members to make sure they’ll become long-term members, and then we also have ways we track member use,” he says. “If we see a dramatic change in use—if someone hasn’t been in in a while—we flag them and encourage them to come back in.” 

Another retention method Stevenson employs is getting members involved in group exercise or some ancillary services, like personal training or small group training.  

  • During the hour-long webinar, Stevenson will help attendees: 
  • Discover the importance of on boarding members properly.
  • Explore the key strategies to keeping members consistently active and involved at your club.
  • Learn how to develop key tactics to use group X and other ancillary services as retention tools.
  • Review strategic practices to use social media to drive engagement and retention.
  • Learn how to plan diverse events to appeal to your different demographics.

“Diverse member engagement is the ultimate key to retention and keeping people for a long period of time,” he says. “The way competition is popping up left and right, retention might mean members have multiple memberships… The more levels people are engaged with us, the better retention is.”

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