Technology Has Changed the Conversation
Technology has brought different ways to communicate with consumers, and now they are more receptive to the health message. Healthtrax CEO Steve Capezzone has noticed vast changes in how we communicate with both members and potential members. “The 21st century is less about print and mail and more about your social media brand, website, and constant presence of your messaging on the big wide world of the web,” says Capezzone.
He remembers when health clubs would print and mail everything, including:
- health promotion newsletters,
- free community wellness program course booklets,
- postcards featuring free health education events,
- guest physician lectures in facilities,
- information on health fairs, and so on.
Now health clubs—including Healthtrax—email events and health tips to their corporate clients, post news and events on social media, and run digital advertisements on in-house televisions and static posters.
But not everything has changed. For Capezzone, the value of networking face to face in the center of and around the community from business to civic events is crucial to ensuring that people see Healthtrax as not only the face of fitness but also as local experts that serve as a resource in the area. Building this kind of reputation allows clubs like Healthtrax to ask for—and receive—referrals from their members, community networks, and clinicians for lead generation.
Technology has not only changed how we communicate with consumers, but their receptiveness to hear the message of the benefits of exercise. Just ask Columbia Association Director of Sport and Fitness Dan Burns. He has seen a significant increase in awareness around the health and wellness message. The conversation around health and wellness is becoming mainstream. Burns says, "[With] the proliferation of apps and technology that track or deliver information and metrics, more and more people are joining the march toward a longer and more fulfilling life.” This is good for clubs, he says, because it makes consumers more open to the message of getting more people more active.
The Key to Overcoming Challenges is Your Club's Mission and Message
Keeping up with lower-priced competition is one of the challenges Danielle Brouchard of Aspen Hill Club faced, but she found that by staying their course and providing excellent service Aspen Hill Club was able to win out over their competitors. Brouchard emphasizes the importance of having “a committed staff that comprehends what real service is about and ensuring that member needs and expectations are met as often as possible.”
Aspen Hill Club is not the only club that faced this challenge. Healthtrax also had to overcome competition. Capezzone says, “Since 1979, we have been witness to fitness fads and competitors large and small coming and going in our rural markets.” The thing is, members often come back to the higher quality club that has superior service. He says, “When surveying members who leave and return, the common thread is that our staff, amenities, classes, and programs just feel different. They miss us.”
Another challenge clubs face is breaking down barriers to exercise. All three clubs aimed to make their clubs a welcoming place, with inclusivity being an important theme common to all three clubs.
The Columbia Association is focused on addressing common barriers to exercise. As Burns points out, “There have been many challenges over the years, many of them revolving around getting people to overcome their fear, their excuses or intimidation. We have worked hard to get people to participate by creating inclusive and easily accessible programs and services that speak to a wide variety of people.”
Capezzone noted that his club consistently faced “an industry-wide challenge which is to break down the barriers and misconceptions often held by non-traditional joiners. Our challenge amidst more and more niche competition is to stay the course and attract the ‘fragile eggs’ to join and thrive in our safe, supportive environments.”