With the current state of childhood obesity, children's fitness programs can help your community and your bottom line. But it will take more than just developing an in-facility program. Learn how your facility can take preschool fitness programs on the road and make them not just fun, but also educational.
Six ways to increase revenueIf you want to help children get fit, and make some money doing it, the first thing you need to do is think outside the box - outside the box of your facility, that is. The reason most children's programs fail in fitness centers is because management and staff look only at offering the program in-house. In-house programs are a convenience to members, but should be looked at only as a beginning. The preschool market is different from other club markets. To penetrate it, your thinking must be "mobile." Once you begin thinking of the possibilities of taking your preschool fitness program on the road, you'll see the many ways it will increase your bottom line. Here are just six. 1. Member retention. Consider how many of your current members have a small child in their lives. Whether they're parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or teachers, these people are in constant contact with this new market you're going after. In addition, look at your current dropout rate. Somewhere around 37 percent of members will drop out within the next year. If you have a program that young children love, parents who are on the fence about leaving will hang on. Current research has shown that when you market to and get the young child, you get the entire family, as well. That's powerful. Use it to your advantage. 2. Mobile opportunities. Once you have a program and hire an instructor, your fitness center's brand will travel through the community. "Club XYZ" will be seen at Dorothy's Daycare, the local park and recreation facilities, a school, etc. Each account you serve brings your business more revenue. And, it doesn't add more to your overhead. 3. Cross-advertising. Each place your instructor steps into provides you with a whole new set of adults to whom you can market, as well. Daycare staff, hospital employees, parents, teachers and others are there to hear your message. Cross-advertise with your new accounts using flyers, brochures and conversation. You're developing a relationship with these adults through a positive interaction with the children. This is more powerful than your best salesperson in action, because the relationship is built slowly and based on trust and respect. This is an effective soft sell and, over time, you will see adults come to your fitness center as a result - with little effort and advertising dollars invested. 4. Free publicity. Think about the news stories that could come out of sending an instructor to a disadvantaged neighborhood once a week. For example, host a contest in which local preschool directors write in to explain why their school is deserving of a preschool fitness program. Let the media follow you with the results. Teach at the winning school as a community service, and tell all of your media contacts. You come out looking like the good guy, and help some children along the way. These aren't just clients; they're children whose lives you will change for a lifetime. The cost of an instructor once a week is nothing compared to free media coverage and what this can do for your reputation in the community. The media loves kids, and will jump on how cute they look exercising. 5. Back door approach. Parents of preschool children can be a whole other untapped market. Once mom and dad hear the praises of their child's fitness instructor and what their child is learning about, you'll slowly break down their defenses against exercise, and be able to coax them into working out. Parents admire others who make a favorable impression on their child. Be that force and you'll slowly see the parents wandering in through your doors. It's as simple as adding a subtle offer to the back of every coloring sheet or handout you send home with the kids.
|6. Merchandise-related sales. Perhaps the largest area for growth with children's fitness lies in merchandise-related sales. The possibilities are endless: clothing, monogrammed beach and workout towels, workout bottles, mini-weights, personalized workout bands, bike helmets, ID tags, pedometers, activity books, stuffed animals, etc. Children's toys, clothes and gadgets that promote healthy living can help make some addition revenue for your program. And, they set kids up to love exercise and learn why it's important to eat right.
Lifelong marketingIt's no secret that many major corporate giants put a great deal of their marketing efforts and funds toward preschool children. Joe Camel was such a success at driving up the illegal sales of cigarettes that the government had to step in and put a stop to it. That's why cereal, tobacco, alcohol and television companies rely on the "cradle to the grave" strategy to create lifetime customers. It works, and it's time for fitness professionals to start using it to their advantage. When you market to/for the preschool child, you are grooming kids to provide you lifetime support for your business. As soon as they leave your program, you should have another program available for elementary-aged children. Steer them from one program into the next, and, by the time they reach adulthood, you'll have a larger client base of people who want to work out. This base is easier to retain than one that requires massive amounts of money to get inside your doors and keep there.
Instant GratificationPreschool fitness programs can show immediate benefits for the children who participate in them. In fact, they can do all of the following: Enhance learning in academic areas. Children boost their performance in academic areas by taking fitness classes. Whether it's reading readiness, math skills or spatial relationships, most children learn better when taught through movement. Promote early sports skills. Kids learn early how to coordinate body parts, hold their bodies and develop the movements necessary to feel comfortable participating in sports and other physical activities. Teach about the body and healthy lifestyles. Little ones eagerly learn and remember basic facts about body parts and systems, what they do and why it's important to take care of them. This is important to integrate before unhealthy habits and attitudes take hold. Develop positive self-esteem. With each successful attempt at learning a new skill, dance or exercise, children feel more confident and eager to try again. Cultivate positive social skills. Fitness programs can teach children what it means to be part of a team, how to handle losing and how satisfying it is to work together for a common goal. Offer an acceptable outlet for aggression. Fitness programs can give a much-needed coping strategy for feelings of anger and hurt. Channeling feelings this way can help decrease a number of social problems.