We constantly hear from the media about unscrupulous practices at fitness facilities, and this has filtered down to the public. But these practices don't "represent" our industry.
A few weeks ago, I got an email from a facility operator who was eager to share a retention solution that he'd come up with. His enthusiasm about how his newly developed program was working, not only for getting members results, but also for his retention efforts, was so genuine that I knew I had to share it with you. Not just because I think his program is a good one and could help other facility operators (see "The 'Issue' Is Retention"), but because I recognize in him what I have recognized in so many other fitness professionals over the past 20-plus years: a sincere desire to help members succeed.
Knowing this, it irks me that the fitness industry is always getting such a bad rap. We constantly hear from the media about unscrupulous practices at fitness facilities, and this has filtered down to the public. But these practices don't "represent" our industry. What the media and the rest of the public don't know is that most fitness professionals really do care about the people who join their facilities. You are in this field because of your love for it, and for your desire to help others reap the health benefits of exercise. Unfortunately, most don't have the advantage that I do of being privy to your concerns about member satisfaction and knowing exactly what will work to make members happy and keep them coming back. They don't attend the industry trade shows where the seminars about retention are at capacity because you are searching so hard for the answers.
We need to change what the media and others think about us. And, we do that by being more successful at helping our members and, then, communicating that to the public.
First, we need to share our ideas that are helping with retention rates, such as the idea from the facility operator I mentioned. Other facility operators will share their ideas next month in our annual Nova7Awards issue, in which 21 facilities will be recognized for outstanding innovations in seven categories of fitness center operation.
Second, we need to ensure that our brands (or image) are upholding the ideals of our industry. We are a service industry that strives to improve the health of our nation, with each individual facility doing so in its own unique way, depending on the population being served, the programs and services offered, etc. See the article, Be Your Brand.
Third, we need to be sure that policies are in place for hiring staff that project the image you have built for your facility. And, most importantly, that processes are put in place to show your members that they're getting what they intended to from their membership. That means connecting with members so that you understand their motivations for being a member of your facility, and offering assessments to follow through on their efforts, as is explained in the article, Retain Members with Fitness Assessments.
Last, we need to make our successes known, and not just to others in the industry. Write press releases boasting about your latest successful programs that have helped members achieve their goals, and send them to every local media outlet. The only way our industry is going to get a new rap - a good one that features positive stories that make people want to be a member of their local fitness center - is by speaking up.