Strategy 1: Cultivate Local Relationships
The first step on the road to cultivating local relationships begins with identifying who you want to target. Think Tank participants said to look at medical partners (e.g., hospitals, clinics, providers), large employers or the local chamber of commerce, schools and nonprofit organizations. Once you identify the targets, think about what value you bring to them––how can you solve their problems? What are you asking them to do?
You need to also think about how you want to structure the relationship. Do you want to cultivate the relationships on an informal basis, or do you want to do it more formally? Depending on your answer, consider creating an advisory board for your club of these local experts. Or, you could create an ad hoc group where you work with the partners to create a report or white paper that addresses a community need.
Strategy 2: Get Political
Engaging with the political process will help protect your interests as a business owner. Think Tank attendees recommended beginning that engagement by building relationships with your policymakers and educating them about the value that your club brings to the community. It is always important to build relationships with your elected officials (town, city, county or state). This crisis has also shown that it is important to build relationships with your public health officials.
Think Tank attendees also advocated for participating in state alliances (i.e., an alliance of fitness businesses in your state) and volunteering to contribute to policy task forces that are relevant to your business (and perhaps offering to host the task force at your facility).
Strategy 3: Show Members That You Care About Them Individually
In a world of isolation, social distancing, and Zoom calls, Think Tank attendees recommended taking time to personally connect with members. An old-fashioned phone call with a member can go a long way toward strengthening the member’s connection to your club, for example. Hosting a virtual town hall meeting is another idea to consider, which allows members to hear from club personnel and provide direct feedback. Lastly, utilizing various technology as a means of member communications––from social media channels, to phone calls, and emails––offers several options for the best channel to connect with each member. Create an individual experience as best you can.
Strategy 4: Contain Your Costs
Now is the time to contain all costs and preserve cash flow. Think Tank participants recommended several business segments that should be reviewed closely for potential cost savings by reviewing your contracts, such as insurance and music licensing agreements, all operational and recurring expenses. It’s also time to look at different staffing models. Think Tank participants also urged being a “fast follower” of best practices that can be learned from other operators through webinars, articles, and professional networks.
Strategy 5: Open Your Doors as Wide as Possible
In challenging times, when cultural stress is high and membership levels are low, it may be more important than ever to demonstrate your club’s commitment to the whole community by emphasizing values such as social equality, inclusion, belonging, and diversity. Think Tank attendees also recommended outreach to local groups serving at-risk populations that could benefit from your club’s offerings.
Strategy 6: Tell your story
Sometimes club operators are so busy providing a great experience and tending to administrative tasks that they overlook the importance of promoting the club’s outstanding value to the community. Think Tank attendees emphasized the need to communicate with existing and prospective members about membership benefits that go well beyond simply making equipment available to use. Ensure that the community understands the value of the expertise offered by your club, and the advantage of having a safe and effective location for physical activity.
With rapid changes to local, state and national restrictions, the impact on fitness clubs has been always-evolving since the early stages of 2020. That is why IHRSA brings together industry leaders for conversation and collaboration. IHRSA will host the next Think Tank on January 7, 2021 at 1 p.m. EST. IHRSA Think Tank events are by invitation only. If you are interested in getting involved, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.