What do you do when the “purpose” of a fitness program shifts from free and accessible to a fee-based activity?
It can be a challenge to change the perception of fitness programming that was once all-inclusive and focused on building a healthier lifestyle, to a new goal of generating revenue for your club or organization. Traditionally, when we develop a fitness/wellness program or design a lifestyle challenge for our members, we usually launch these activities with a few goals in mind:
- Improved general and psychological well-being;
- Greater self-confidence;
- Enhanced lifestyle; and,
- Increased physical confidence.
Of course, the true purpose of our fitness programming is ALWAYS to deliver improved health outcomes or benefits to the participants. We want to improve lives and make a difference; this is the reason why we chose this profession and the promise we deliver to our clients.
In today’s competitive landscape, we can’t always deliver great fitness programs without seriously considering cost recovery or profit. There are considerable investments of time, energy and resources to develop engaging fitness programs and these costs need to not only be recovered but to contribute to other expenses to operate the facility.
Our new reality
For my team, increasing membership sales and fitness program revenues have become our most important objectives. As a result, the goals for our fitness programming have expanded to include a new focus; attract new members, increase personal training opportunities/revenue, and capture/engage members into new fitness programs. Mostly, we needed to create fitness services that cost our members extra fees to participate.
To be successful, we had to ask ourselves two key questions:
- How do we develop these programs with a sales approach without diminishing the benefits?
- How do we make the participants feel like they matter more than the money?
The “Biggest Winner”
We decided to develop a layered approach to our programs and services. We started with one great program and layered/piggybacked all other programs and services from this first initiative.
We launched “The Biggest Winner” Challenge (BWC). The cost to participate in this challenge was very low for the services provided, which significantly reduced the objection to join. We allowed everybody to enter this challenge, both members and non-members alike. Participants also signed up in teams to create the workout buddy connection. The BWC ran for ten consecutive weeks allowing unlimited access to our facility for the duration of the challenge. It also offered participants access to a personal trainer, nutrition coaching, individualized workouts, weekly challenges and more.
Here is how we layered the programs and services moving forward to create the revenue opportunities:
- Mid-way through the BWC, we offered a membership promotion exclusively to the Challenge participants. The offer expired at the end of the Challenge (e.g. Sign-up now and receive one month free, etc.) Participants who enjoyed the BWC, and who may not have ever stepped foot into our fitness centre, experienced the benefits of membership. Sales goal #1, check!
- Two weeks before the end of the BWC, we made an exclusive offer to the Challenge participants for a special reduced personal training rate if they purchased a training package before the BWC ended. Participants who built a relationship with their trainer and who experienced results during the Challenge would have the opportunity to keep them. Sales goal #2, check!
- Early in the challenge, we started promoting a new 10-week fitness program starting when the BWC was over. Promotion for this program was to the entire facility including the participants of the BWC, to attract new and existing participants. By this time, the buzz about the BWC had created interest for other members to join our excellent fitness programs. Sales goal # 3, check!
Gaining momentum from this initiative, we continued to piggyback/layer programs one after another. Our focus was simple:
- What will keep them coming back for more?
- What need can we satisfy for them?
- How much money can we charge for this?
Of course, the programs we designed had to benefit the participants and help them reach their fitness and wellness goals. The response was what we had hoped and more:
- Some non-members decided to purchase a membership, some of these same participants also took advantage of all the other programs and services offered.
- Participants who weren’t ready to commit to purchasing a fitness membership bought personal training sessions with a trainer and signed up for our next program.
- Others just continued to sign up for each new fitness program.
In the end, we achieved our goals, created new revenue streams for our facility, increased revenue in existing services and generated new sales leads through satisfied customers.
Fitness programming with a purpose became a massive success for our facility and had made it very easy for us to believe in the product we are selling. Through this process, our team learned that success does not happen by chance, it happens by design.
Critical takeaways for fitness programming with a purpose:
- Listen to the needs of your staff, clients and members;
- Think Strategically;
- Plan Methodically;
- Execute with Passion;
- Deliver high value (justify the fee); and,
About the Author:
Jodi Anderson is the Fitness and Wellness Program Director at the Fanshawe Student Wellness Centre in London, Ontario.