Your management software has incredible capabilities for collecting member data. And, fitness facility managers are using that data in creative ways to increase sales and improve retention.

Says Heather O'Neill, owner of South Pointe Fitness Club, Hagerstown, Md., "On a day-to-day basis, we communicate with the members by using their addresses or phone numbers. This is mainly used for account updates and billing issues. Using our data, we can sort our information in different ways to help our marketing."

Management software gives fitness centers the capability to collect information about members that can help identify who may be interested in a new program, who hasn't visited the facility in a while, even why they joined in the first place. By carefully sorting this data, managers can effectively target specific demographics that will be most responsive to marketing campaigns or promotions. "We recently used our current active member list to mail a marketing postcard telling everyone about a contest we were running," says O'Neill. "It involved members referring others in order to receive a free year. At the same time, we used our data collected from walk-in customers and our cancelled customers to offer a no-joining-fee special. This has been very successful. It helped [during] our slow season [to] bring in new members [who] otherwise would not have joined."

Staying connected

Marketing campaigns help bring in new prospects, or reignite the interest of former members, but management software can also help fitness centers keep the members they already have. Some facilities rely on maintaining frequent contact with members to improve retention, and use their management software to make it happen. Linda Barmann, membership director at Impact Athletics & Fitness Center, Cary, N.C., says her sales staff - called consultants - use email and telephone calls to stay connected to members. "[Consultants] are required to send an email after [members] join, welcoming them to the facility and making sure [to say] that, if they have any further questions, they are a call or an email away," says Barmann. "They are also required to call after [members] have their first session with a trainer."

In fact, Impact Athletics & Fitness Center has many follow-up systems in place once a new member has been signed, and several of them are directly related to information stored by their management software. Barmann says consultants do the following:

  1. Send a follow-up welcome email.
  2. Follow up with the member after their first session with a trainer.
  3. Walk the fitness floor to greet members and ask how things are going.
  4. Email a "member blast" regarding the facility's current member rewards program.
  5. Help out at the front desk at "prime time," when members are checking in.
  6. Hold Member Appreciation and Free Guest Days.
  7. Say, "hello," to members each time they see them.
Impact Athletics & Fitness Center also uses data from its management software to send the Impact Monthly Blast Newsletter. Barmann says this feature is, "very useful. This is how we communicate to all of our members. It is great because of the savings of not having to print a monthly letter and mail it out."

Smoothing glitches

It's not uncommon to experience a learning curve when starting a new project, even with the most sophisticated management software. When planning any new project using your management software data, be sure to budget extra time for potential glitches. "It took a while to figure out if the data was transferable to be printed on our postcards," says O'Neill. "I hired a graphic design firm to assist with the creation of the actual postcard, and they were able to have the postcards printed with the addresses."

Additionally, it doesn't matter how creatively you use the information collected by your management software if it's incorrect. "All the membership associates have the ability to send out an email to every person they have signed up to communicate specific promotions going on," says Barmann. "They can just plug in the dates desired, and send the appropriate message to a new or old member base." To be sure email addresses are current and unsubscribe requests are honored, "all team directors send in their updated information by the 25th of each month," says Barmann.

With so many options to use your member data available, another challenge is determining which audience to target. South Pointe Fitness Club's marketing campaigns have been successful, but O'Neill suspects that they would have achieved an even better result if a different group were on the receiving end. "Instead of using the current members' information to help increase sales, next time, I would concentrate more on the cancelled members and those who visited and did not join," says O'Neill.

The major constraints on how fitness centers can use member data collected by management software have more to do with real-world limitations than technological ones. Says O'Neill, "Time constraints and budgeting issues prevent us from using the data to its full potential. It is important that we keep our current members involved and communicate with them, but, unfortunately, we tend to focus on gaining new members instead. I know it would be nice to send out birthday wishes, holiday greetings, newsletters, etc."

Getting the most out of your management software is often a matter of trial and error - figuring out what works and what doesn't. It can take some time, but the end result is worth it. Don't be afraid of a little creativity, and remember that the sky's the limit - a little data can go a long way toward improving your fitness center's sales and retention numbers.

Purchasing Guide

ABC Financial Services Inc. 800 622-6290; www.abcfinancial.com Datatrak Club Management Software is a web-based management system that includes check-in, point-of-sale, electronic entry, inventory control, on-account charging, session tracking and scheduling, prospect and member management, time clock and commission tracking, and customized reporting. ABC Financial's Datatrak management software is free to all ABC customers. Datatrak is supported with onsite set-up and training, along with 24/7 live support.

Affiliated Acceptance Corp. 800 233-8483; www.affiliated.org The FrontDesk Facility Management software system manages member check-in, and logs usage dates and times. Users can schedule personal training sessions, court times and group exercise classes, and manage pro shop sales and inventory. FrontDesk Facility Management stores membership data, accounts receivables, delinquency reporting, renewals and more. It can be installed and used by any sized facility, including multiple locations, which can be networked. Added features include easy-to-use menus, multi-level system security, member search abilities and online help screens. FrontDesk Interactive provides a customer management system with EFT, credit card, payment coupon and mail-in payments.

Adder Corp. 888 932-3337; www.adder.com AdderLink ipeps (IP Engine per Server) is a high-performance KVM over IP solution. Contained within a palm-sized unit, the AdderLink ipeps enables companies to have computer access from anywhere, securely and remotely via the Internet or corporate network. Coupled with Adder's remote server management system, AdderLink ipeps gives users a tool that allows servers and computers in one data center to be securely serviced remotely.

ASF International 800 227-3859; www.asfinternational.com ClubPRO 3000, a desktop and Internet software package from ASF International, was designed to help facility owners keep track of their receivables and streamline operations. Using ClubPRO helps keep the sales process organized, and allows users to make the most out of additional profit centers, such as personal training. It also simplifies point-of-sale and inventory control functions, appointment and class scheduling, member attendance tracking, financial reporting and more. ClubPRO 3000 is available to ASF clients at no additional charge, and includes free staff training and tech support.

Aspen Information Systems Inc. 800 414-0343; www.aspensoftware.com Visual Clubmate offers member management, fitness assessments, exercise prescriptions, activity logging, check-in, incentive points, video imaging, DecisionMate, credit book, scheduling, touch screen point-of-sale, inventory, EFT and receivables management. Its modular approach allows management to choose from a variety of tools developed with the guidance of industry professionals. These software modules focus on three points of business success: managing cash, acquiring new members and retaining existing members. Aspen Information Systems has provided software solutions to clubs since 1992.

@ The Core 888 689-7677; www.atthecore.us At The Core keeps track of clients, trainers and staff; schedules and tracks workout sessions; and creates training programs, reports and more. The Core can be used by a single trainer or fitness center, and features calendars and scheduling, membership tracking, client training, assessment tracking, a staff work scheduling calendar, staff and trainer timecard wizard, trainer availability scheduling calendar, reports and more.

BetaData Systems Inc. 520 917-1028; www.betadata.net BetaData resells select hardware manufactured by industry leaders that have established maintenance and support programs. It provides a turnkey system of hardware, software, training, site planning and ongoing support. BetaSport is a single-source, fully integrated facility management system that includes accounts receivable with membership accounting, BetaSNAP!, photo-on-screen check-in, EFT options, general ledger, point-of-sale with inventory control and program registration, touch screen point-of-sale, scheduling, accounts payable, payroll, word processing and spreadsheet interface, and BetaMATCH. BetaData has been in business since 1978.

CheckFree Health & Fitness 800 242-9522; www.checkfreecompete.com CheckFree Compete offers easy-to-use functionality to help fitness facilities attract and maintain an experienced staff, minimize operational expenses and deliver an exceptional member experience. CheckFree Compete provides a multi-chain club management solution, or a web-based solution with outsourced billing options.

ClubRunner 800 554-2582; www.clubrunner.net Some of ClubRunner's features include access control for 24-hour facilities, barcoded key tag check-in, on-screen video imaging, paperless contract manager and storage, member "loyalty" points, reservations, series item tracking (prepaid books that track things such as personal training), contact management for guests and members, mail merge, email, direct link letters, reports module that includes 10,000 customizable reports, inventory manager, touch screen point-of-sale, member billing, automated EFT billing and updating, and more. ClubRunner has been in business since 1985.

Conexion 800 780-0115; www.conexionllc.com Conexion offers management software for chains, multi-location managers and single-facility operators. The scalable database enables smooth growth, while interfaces enable unlimited expandability of the management software platform. Integrated billing programs help operators better manage accounts receivable and EFT drafts. Conexion software is a combination of tools and reports offering cost control, improved cash flow and membership data, and is backed by 24/7 phone and email technical support.

Coral Springs Software 800 827-2567; www.healthclubsoftware.net QuikCheK is a management software product that includes solutions for check-in, point-of-sale, sales and marketing, retention, personal training, electronic billing, reporting and scheduling. Coral Springs Software offers billing services, or users can do their own EFTs. No-interest payment plans are available on all software products. QuikCheK can be used in all types of facilities, and Coral Springs staff is experienced in club management.

CSI Software 800 247-3431; www.csisoftwareusa.com CSI Software provides membership management software and services designed for fitness centers, campus recreation centers, JCC/YMCA/YWCA organizations, and parks and recreation departments. Its management software provides the functionality to manage prospects, guests, members and employees, as well as various services provided by the organization. CSI Software has been in business since 1978.

Electronic Billing & Collecting Services 800 766-1918; www.achbilling.com With Express Check-In software that includes e-document storage, a point-of-sale module and Return Free EFT with delinquent collections up to 120 days with no fee increase, facility operators can monitor attendance and perform management functions. Electronic Billing & Collecting Services software has support staff available to provide help, analyze data or offer consulting services. The Express Check-In E-document System is a true paperless entry system. There are no conversion fees or start-up costs. For more than 20 years, Electronic Billing & Collecting Services has been a full-service payment processing, delinquent collections and database management firm servicing the fitness industry.

EZFacility 866 498-3279; www.ezfacility.com EZFacility's Trainer Management System provides scheduling, management and financial reporting for any size fitness facility that offers personal training services as a part of its business. It is a web-based product, which means the client never has to buy, install or maintain any software. The interface is user-friendly, and can be used by staff with even the most basic computer skills.

InnovaTech 800 275-8636; www.innovatechsoftware.com InnovaTech offers HealthCalc desktop software and online technology products, integrated health/fitness assessment and member management solutions. MemberTrack, HealthCalc's management module, provides front desk check-in and activity program management. The system is compatible with card readers and displays digital photos upon check-in. Data management tools include mail merge, labels, broadcast email features, and more than 200 individual and management reports. Data can be imported and exported. Online solutions are also available, and feature tools to tailor the site to users' needs.

KI Software 800 829-4321; www.kisoftware.com eClubLogic is designed to be a data-intensive management system that captures and stores data for fitness center operation. It allows management discretion in tailoring data capture and storage. Specialized accounting and billing modules are integrated to organize and store financial data and to assist in back office operations. Financial data collected at the point of sale become part of the management system.

Paramount Acceptance 800 316-4444; www.paramountacceptance.com Paramount Acceptance provides an array of web-based applications to manage fitness business needs. To use its ASP.NET SQL Server technology, fitness centers need an Internet connection to achieve 24/7 access. Paramount's Front Desk software suite includes a maintenance log/task manager, plus a corporate sales site. Its software features personal training session tracking, and provides reporting capabilities to help track and manage programs. It can incorporate Microsoft fingerprint identification hardware into the check-in process.

PT Manager 888 243-7619; www.ptmgr.com PT Manager Scheduling Software helps facility operators track client sessions and schedules, trainer schedules, trainer payroll and email confirmations, plus it produces a variety of management reports. Versions are available for small training studios; Pilates, yoga, aquatics and massage facilities; and spas. There is a special version of PT Manager Scheduling Software for large fitness centers, JCCs and YMCAs.

QuanComm 800 537-6265; www.quancomm.net QClub is a management application designed for multi-site organizations, whether owned, managed or franchised. At its core is a GAAP-compliant accounting system that automates revenue deferral and recognition. Business rule definitions enable virtually any employee to process member enrollments, changes, freezes, cancellations and renewals, while ensuring adherence to company policies. Member billing and payment processing are automated and fully integrated. Modules include member check-in, point-of-sale, scheduling and session package management. QClub can be integrated with QCRM for sales prospecting and customer care capabilities, and QComp for compensation management and extended reporting.

TouchFit 423 847-1808; www.touchfit.com TouchFit is a management system designed to manage the day-to day operations of a fitness facility, and it also includes a proactive approach to retention. TouchFit determines which members are most at risk for dropout, and follows those members for the first nine months, alerting staff when an intervention is required. TouchFit software includes front desk check-in with photo verification, member management, fitness assessments, EFT billing, appointment scheduling, point-of-sale, equipment checkout, a touchscreen kiosk for member interaction, auto email generator, and a web component that allows members to record their workouts online, view monthly statements and sign up for classes.

Twin Oaks Software 866 278-6750; www.tosd.com Twin Oaks offers EFT billing that is certified as CISP compliant, and has structured all data storage and processing to safeguard member information. Twin Oaks supplies its software free to monthly billing clients. In addition to its desktop software, Twin Oaks Software offers iSoftware - plug-ins that allow fitness centers and their members to manage information over the Internet. Integrated billing and receivables management, and unlimited, free technical support are other product features.