• Weight Control and the Workplace: A Valuable Opportunity for your Club

    by John Agoglia December 2013

    Employers are feeling the weight of the obesity epidemic, and are struggling to find ways to implement programs that work, says a report released by Northeast Business Group on Health.

  • Alabama Succeeds in Keeping Students at Football Game

    by Michael Gaio October 2013

    In Alabama, passion for the mighty Crimson Tide washes over the entire state. Consequently, when head football coach Nick Saban speaks, people listen. So last week, when Saban blasted Bama fans for leaving games early, the university listened.

  • Increasing Pool Revenue Through New Programming

    by September 2013

    Over the summer, most municipal recreation facility operators allocate the majority of their pool space to two activities: swim lessons and open swim. Mickey Boyle, aquatics supervisor with the Geneva (Ill.) Park District, is no different. In 2013, he had to accommodate 770 families that participated in Geneva's swim lessons program. His flexibility to implement new programs is hindered, as virtually all of the 18,000 square feet of water surface is occupied for swim lessons and open swim starting at 8:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

  • Contests Boost Fun and Sales for Independent Health Clubs

    by John Agoglia July 2013

    You don't have to reward your members with gold to get them excited about coming to your club.The city of Dubai recently made fitness news when the city’s government offered gold, actual gold, to its citizens as a reward for losing weight. If a citizen shed two kilograms (4.4 lbs.) during a 30-day contest designed to combat the city’s growing obesity problem, they were rewarded with two grams of solid gold.

    While it is doubtful that independent health club owners can expect the U.S. government to make such a generous offer - and odds are insurance companies are unlikely to do much more than they currently do - there is an opportunity for club owners to boost use, retention and word-of-mouth marketing by offering rewards to members who not only join, but have personal success at the club. Best of all, there are ways to do this without breaking the bank.

    Whether the prizes are nutrition bars, water bottles, free tanning or personal training or even a month free membership, the prizes can be relatively inexpensive and will be appreciated by members. All it takes is a little creativity and some effective marketing to entice members to take part in a contest or special promotion. These contests and incentives will encourage your members to come to the club, get results and more importantly, refer their friends and family.

    One way of upping retention is to offer a contest just for coming in - especially during the traditionally slow times of the year.

    One club has had great success with a “come in to win” contest during the slow summer months. For each visit, the member gets a punch that equates to a ticket in a raffle to be held at the end of the summer. There are also bonus tickets for bringing in guests, working with a trainer, liking or following the club on social media and more. All of these steps help to build the club's brand and keep members coming in rather than handing in their cancellation notices.

    Other clubs are having success with fitness-based contests that not only keep members motivated, but also help turn their daily trek to the gym from a “have to” into a “want to,” by keeping it fun and creating a little friendly competition.

    For example, one independent club recently held a “race around Easter Island” for its pool members. Each member logged their laps swam along with the time they spent doing land training. The participants were awarded “miles” that they put toward a race around the “island.” The miles were displayed on a large white board, upping the competition and keeping members coming to the club as they raced for two free months of full membership. This contest not only allows members to gain bragging rights (and share those with friends and family outside of the club), but also integrates some of its summer-only members into the club, which may result in year-round members.

    Other independent club owners may want to up the ante a bit and partner with other businesses in the area and run contests that not only reward members, but can bring in new business as well.

    Partnering with a local cafe to create a smoothie or salad of the month that is tweeted or posted on Facebook can really engage members on social media and spread both businesses' brands—and by offering a gift card to a business that caters to like-minded patrons can boost sales at the cafe as well. Add to that the smoothie or salad being named the “GYM X” smoothie/salad and you can boost your club's brand awareness.

    There are plenty of contest ideas and partnership opportunities available to keep members and prospects engaged with your club, it just takes some creativity and follow through for independent health clubs to successfully boost business and fun at the same time.


    About the author:
    John Agoglia has spent nearly two decades either working in health clubs or writing about them. He currently writes for several digital and print publications and provides marketing strategy and content services to companies in and out of the fitness industry.

  • Schools Strategize to Increase Student Football Attendance

    by Paul Steinbach June 2013

    Ohio University students traversing campus in the fall can't help but notice the posters and flyers promoting the Bobcats' next home football game. Sidewalk chalk and a graffiti wall reinforce the message. Student Facebook pages and Twitter feeds are likewise plastered with daily reminders and paid advertising during game week.

  • Can Independent Health Clubs Fix Their Image?

    by AB Staff June 2013

    A recent article by the Chicago Tribune spent a good deal of time warning consumers that were considering joining a health club to be wary of "the hard-sell."

    The article mentioned how exercise is important and joining a health club may be a good idea for the "right person," but made sure to remind people to read the contract, find out if they have an escape clause and make sure the price being paid is the club's absolute best.

    Sounds a lot like working with a used car dealer doesn't it? Well, maybe not a real used car dealer but at least the stereotype most often portrayed in movies and on TV.

    Is this how potential customers view your club's sales pitch? We're here to help.


    Unfortunately, this is still too often how health clubs are thought of by the public and pundits alike. Health club owners and staff are still seen as slick salespeople trying to take advantage of people looking to lose a few pounds, look good for a wedding or help with a medical condition.

    Although some are still willing to "cut a deal" if prospects take advantage of a special that is, "ending today," most independent club owners have moved on from that type of business model. However, they're still plagued by an image of bad business done in the early days of health clubs. That makes it even tougher to compete with big-box chains that have the marketing clout and the name that may make consumers feel safer doing a deal with them.

    So the question is, what can independent owners do to put a shine on their image? We've sought out some suggestions from a few club owners to try and help answer that question.

    1. Make your pricing as transparent as possible: By not burying fees such as maintenance or facility fees, etc. in the fine print makes people far more comfortable that everything else is fair.

    2. Make sure everyone is paying the same price: As one club owner told us: "Be consistent. If you're enrollment fee is $100, make sure it's $100 for everyone." The same thing goes for dues. Believe it or not, members talk to each other. If Jim and Mary both join when the price is advertised as $39 a month, but Mary negotiated it down to $29 because the salesperson needed "one more" to make bonus, you will have at least one unhappy customer if he or she finds out.

    3. Brag about your pricing policies: Letting people know that the business is run professionally, fairly and with members' best interests in mind can be the club's unique selling proposition; certainly every nearby club can point out treadmills, classes and more, but can they say they are there for the member first?

    Following these steps will not only be good for your business, they can help shake the "used car salesman" stereotypes that unfortunately (no thanks to articles like the one in the Chicago Tribune) still exist in the health club industry today.

  • A Strong Mission Statement is a Must

    by AB Staff April 2013

    After reading our last blog you realize how important it is as an independent health club owner or manager to hire to the company's mission. But, first it is important to not only have a mission, but also make sure it is meaningful, inspiring and true to the business.

    The importance of a mission statement cannot be understated - yet too many businesses either work without one, or if they do have one, it fails to make its mark.

    In a few sentences, a good mission statement captures the essence of a business' goals and the philosophies underlying them. Equally important, the mission statement tells customers, employees, suppliers and the community what the business is all about.

    According to an article on the first steps an independent health club owner has to do is ask himself or herself some soul-searching questions so the company knows what its mission is before it can tell the world:

    • Why are you in business?
    • What image of your business do you want to convey?
    • What is the nature of your products and services?
    • What level of service do you provide?
    • What roles do you and your employees play?
    • What kind of relationships will you maintain with suppliers?  
    • How do you differ from your competitors?
    • How will you use technology, capital, processes, products and services to reach your goals?
    • What underlying philosophies or values guided your responses to the previous questions?

    It is the last question that can truly help a club owner get to the real “who” the company is as it is that philosophy and those values that are the foundation the business is built upon — and most likely the reason for starting the health club in the first place.

    While it is important to have mission statement that provides the employees, customers and others with a snapshot of why the company exists, club owners want to be sure that they stay focused and be sure to think not only of today, but what the company plans to be in the future regardless of whether it stays a local one-club health club company or grows into an industry leader.

    Need some inspiration? Take a look at these mission statements from some well-known brands:

    Disney:  “The mission of The Walt Disney Company is to be one of the world's leading producers and providers of entertainment and information. Using our portfolio of brands to differentiate our content, services and consumer products, we seek to develop the most creative, innovative and profitable entertainment experiences and related products in the world.” 

    Lifetime Fitness: “Our mission is to provide an Educational, Entertaining, Friendly and Inviting, Functional and Innovative experience of uncompromising quality that meets the health and fitness needs of the entire family.”

    Target: "Our mission is to make Target the preferred shopping destination for our guests by delivering outstanding value, continuous innovation and an exceptional guest experience by consistently fulfilling our Expect More. Pay Less.® brand promise."

    Harley Davidson: “We fulfill dreams through the experience of motorcycling, by providing to motorcyclists and to the general public an expanding line of motorcycles and branded products and services in selected market segments.”




  • Northwestern Experiments with Dutch Auction Ticket Pricing

    by Paul Steinbach April 2013

    In Holland, the price of flowers starts high and drops the longer it takes to sell them. It's been that way for more than a century. But not until this year did that sales approach inspire Northwestern University economists and, in turn, athletics administrators, who believe their suburban Chicago institution is the first in this country to use a Dutch auction to price and sell game tickets. ...

  • Are Ticket Prices Trending Upward?

    by Paul Steinbach March 2013

    Whether its capitalizing on success, bankrolling a facility renovation or simply serving as a sign that the economy is on the mend, a number of professional and collegiate sports entities are raising ticket prices before their next seasons start.

  • Club Chains Should Level with Potential Franchisees

    by AB Staff March 2013

    We must be in the wrong business. If we owned a fitness franchise, rather than our privately owned facilities, we'd be wildly successful while rarely going to work. We'd be required to know nothing about business or fitness. We'd have almost no staff to manage, and members would simply arrive at our door because we existed.

    Really. It's true. It must be, because we read it on the websites of fitness franchise companies. There's no reason to know anything about fitness or business if you want to start a fitness business. They will teach you everything you need to know, and their support staff will be there for you around the clock to answer your questions. You don't even need money, because their startup costs are so low and their monthly licensing fees are so reasonable that you'll have nothing to worry about. It's all about making your dreams come true.

    Is anyone else sick of this?