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Attracting the Non-Member to Fitness Centers

To effectively deal with and attract the large non-exercising population, facility operators need to start thinking like a salesperson.


Collect and use testimonials from real people who have achieved real results.
HOW CAN THE industry effectively deal with the large segment of the population who hold in their hands the ability for the industry to move from a pitiful 14 percent level of participation to a much higher point? One reasonable option is to view this dilemma like a salesperson: address each of the potential obstacles to closing the sale in a step-by-step manner.

Dealing with an indifferent audience

This challenge involves better understanding the portion of the U.S. population that is indifferent to the benefits the industry has to offer, most likely because they are already satisfied with their current health status. A salesperson would attempt to uncover the needs of this target audience, delve into what it is these individuals are satisfied with, and find out if they would like to move beyond satisfaction and into an emotional state referred to as "delight." As such, the salesperson would realize that the fitness center needs a stronger support statement that emphasizes different types of benefits. In this regard, consider taking the following steps:
  • Collecting and using testimonials from real people who have achieved real results.
  • Creating a new picture of the industry - one that involves not just young, fit and engaging people, but one that is more all-encompassing.
  • Developing a "story" of the industry that focuses on the fact that fitness centers are about people first, not dues.
  • Marketing what people really need rather than the industry's perceptions of what people need.

Dealing with a skeptical audience

Not surprisingly, many people in the U.S. simply don't believe the industry's "shtick" (in other words, they don't believe that the industry can really do what it says it can). A salesperson would clarify what it is these individuals are skeptical about, and then provide proof to back up the facility's benefit statement. The industry can deal with skepticism by doing the following:
  • Demonstrating that the fitness industry is an integral part of the new U.S. healthcare continuum. This factor requires establishing a greater degree of credibility concerning the exercise-is-medicine role of fitness centers. As such, possible steps include installing public access defibrillation devices, ensuring that all personal trainers are certified by recognized organizations, requiring pre-activity screening for all new members, and having instructors and other personnel available who can and will help people, other than for a large additional fee.
  • Demonstrating that the industry's products and/or services are valuable. This step requires that fitness centers charge a reasonable price for what they deliver. Offering "cheap" memberships can devalue the offering.
  • Aligning with groups that already possess credibility and authenticity, such as healthcare groups.

Dealing with the objections of the audience

In some cases, the industry never uncovers the needs of its targeted audience and, as a result, everything else it does is fruitless. In this situation, a salesperson would be aware of the need to start over again, probe, confirm, support and continue until every membership prospect is able to confirm that the fitness center provides a benefit that meets that individual's particular need(s). Among the steps the industry can undertake to achieve this particular goal are the following:
  • Realizing that the audience is extremely diverse and designing fitness facilities that appeal to multiple audiences.
  • Placing greater emphasis on the value of people, and less on inanimate items (e.g., equipment in the facility).
  • Becoming more active in the community.
It has been said that a high tide raises all ships, and that a low tide lowers all ships. By all appearances, the industry seems to be focused on raising individual ships. As a result, it is quite possibly lowering the entire tide. Fortunately, we can set a more thoughtful and effective course by adopting a different approach to our efforts to attract and retain new members. On the other hand, if we continues to chart a "go-with-the-flow" pathway, we will be unable to realize our true potential, both financially and in service to others.
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