• How Do You Get the Membership Sale? Ask for It!

    by Jim Thomas, Guest Contributor January 2015

    It sounds simple, doesn’t it? On the flip side, what happens when you don’t ask a guest to join your club? The short version is that you don’t get the sale. The longer version is that the potential member doesn’t join, joins another club, or continues putting off his or her decision. In any of these cases you have dropped the ball in your role as a health club salesperson.

    One of the most interesting sales questions for health club owners, managers, and salespeople is simply “Why do owners, managers and salespeople spend such a great deal of time, effort, energy and commitment to get in front of a prospect — only to let the opportunity to sell a membership sail on by?”

    Maybe you’re thinking that the cause of losing a sale is a sense of fear driven by a desire not to offend – or to avoid being offended yourself when your guest says “No.” But that’s not quite correct. Or maybe the sale slipping away is due to the inability to establish benefit and value in the prospect’s mind, not to mention the salesperson never really knowing when or even how to ask someone to join the club. That’s not really the reason either.

    It’s also easy to blame poor marketing, pricing, the club, the boss, the competition or anything else. Generally speaking, though, the sales problem is usually traced back to the salesperson. Let’s look at some of the qualities, or lack of qualities, that cause this:

    A lack of selling benefits and results on the part of the salesperson – selling on price and facility will rarely work

    A lack of boldness (“decent” boldness, mind you) on the part of the salesperson

    A lack of confidence or low self-esteem on the part of the salesperson

    A lack of personal accountability

    A lack of true belief in the club on the part of the salesperson

    A lack of a proven sales system that leads to the sale

    Letting the guest convince you they’re coming back

    That being said, how do you fix the problem? If it is to be, it’s up to me! Here are some strategies to help you begin closing membership sales today:

    Understand and stay focused what your real job is. It’s making sales. Period.

    Learn how to use feedback questions (“How does this look?”) to be sure you’re on target as you move through your tour.

    Learn how to listen and observe better. Listen to what your guest has to say.

    Don’t just wait for your turn to talk. Be sensitive to body language.

    Take notes on the tour. It tells your guest they are important, plus you can use the information later in closing the sale. Use an actual guest profile or needs analysis form. Be sure to find out the REAL reason the guest is in your club.

    Learn how to anticipate the guests’ and address them on the tour, before they even come up.
    Develop the art of value-added selling so you can show your club in a way that makes it irresistible.

    Learn, apply and become comfortable with several different ways to ask for a sale and use them consistently. Statistics show that more sales are made after the fifth attempt than any other time.

    Believe in yourself, your sales process, and club so much that you badly want others to become a part of it – and ask them to do so, with enthusiasm and decent boldness.

    Are you ready? Go close a sale today!

    Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting and turnaround firm specializing in the fitness and health club industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars and workshops across the country. Visit his Web site at:


  • What’s the Number One Problem for Your Gym? Obscurity!

    by Jim Thomas January 2015

    That’s right! We see it frequently in clubs. No one knows that you’re out there and those that do don’t have you at the top of their mind. Many clubs are only doing a couple things to drive guest traffic, and most do not have a specific plan for retention. They vastly underestimate what it will take to avoid obscurity and attract attention to themselves.

    We received a call from a gym owner recently. He said he had been going back and forth to our web site and considering hiring us to help him get his gym back on track. When asked what finally prompted him to call, he said a guest came into his gym the previous evening, was very impressed and joined. Upon joining, they said, “this club is the best kept secret in town.”

    Is your gym the best kept secret in town?

    Here is the simplest and easiest way to begin your quest to avoid obscurity, attract attention and stay top of mind:

    Get an app. Market and promote to your member base. Follow up with club guests that did not join.

    You must get people to download your app. Too many clubs don’t have a club app… and those that do aren’t doing enough to get people to download it. Include a paragraph in your new member letter informing your new members that this is your primary communication tool with members… such things as inclement weather, class changes, special offers, etc. For people who do not join, provide information on the club app on how to lose weight and stay in shape.

    Prime Real Estate. How many people have a smart phone? If watching people at the airport or in restaurants is any indicator, it seems like everyone does. So, your message is pushed to the best of all real estate – right in the palm of the members or prospects hand.

    Geo-Fencing. You set your club app to deliver a push notification every time your member enters you gym with encouragement to take a class, try a personal trainer, bring a friend, or maybe a discount on a smoothie when they are done working out. Or how about this, every time your member gets within a specified distance from your competition, they get a notification reminding them about your gym?

    Club Concierge Service. This is a great way to improve member loyalty (retention). Notifications to encourage regular attendance. Celebrate birthdays, membership anniversary dates along with announcements of members who are getting great results. Use your app as the primary source of member communication for changes in schedule, weather related closing, or anything exciting going on at your gym.

    Resource Center. This is a great follow up tool for those who don’t join your club right away. Provide daily tips on exercise and proper eating for those that travel, have limited time, are trying to do it on their own. This will help with member retention along with staying at top of mind for prospects that may eventually join your gym.

    Motivation. Daily affirmations to help keep everyone excited and focused on getting results at your gym.

    Sell a membership (or anything else). Of course, links to sell membership, personal training, etc.


    Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting and turnaround firm specializing in the fitness and health club industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars and workshops across the country. Visit his Web site at:


  • The ROI Paradigm (Return on Ignoring)

    by Billy Dawson, National Sales Manager November 2014

    I remember when my family joined our current health club. Our previous club had failed to notify us that they had eliminated the martial arts program our five year-old son was in until we showed up to a deserted classroom one night. Then it occurred to me the only time they ever communicated with us was to confirm they had received our monthly payment! 

    So we cancelled our membership and went to a new club. 

    The new club had a tae kwon do program, and the dojang was packed with kids who were outfitted in bright white doboks, striking the air in unison, and the ki yaps were loud and crisp. There was also a sense of calm, as the Master would work with the children from one knee, on their level. As the students continued conditioning, the Master walked over and invited my son to take the class in his regular clothes. At five years old, punching and kicking the air (as well as screaming his ki yap at the top of his lungs) made our son glow and smile from ear to ear. What’s more, watching the Master continuously touch the top of our son’s head, while speaking to the class, helped calm us.

    We knew our son was in good hands. 

    As we toured the two-floors of this well-lit facility complete with a spa, salon, pool, and plenty of machines to work out with, I saw members in the lounge area chatting on the leather sofas, more members gathered at the juice bar (which was stocked with fresh fruits and salads), trainers engaging with members, and people just acknowledging each other in passing. I got the sense that everyone enjoyed the experience of this club. The camaraderie and social vibe made it really feel like the place that, on a couple different levels, would serve my family’s health and fitness needs as well as provide an experience our son (and his parents) would never forget. 

    Then, over the course of the next two to three years, the recession hit and we could see the overall club traffic decrease. The martial arts program probably retained around 80% of the members including us, because the Master and instructors never lost sight of the experience we paid for. They had regular and consistent communication with us, via email, reminding and encouraging us to stick with the journey our son had started.

    They also promoted the club’s events and trial programs, and asked for ideas on activities that would increase participation and bump up the fun. Their emails spoke directly to us and they never wasted time with items we weren’t involved in. I was always able to read the emails on my phone before leaving the locker room, and never felt like they were intruding. They knew who we were, why we were there, and how close our son was to reaching more of his goals, and so they effectively used email to communicate with us. 

    And it wasn’t just a recession – it was a near Great Depression part two.

    Besides being hard to get our bodies to the gym to work out after a long day of work, and seemingly more bad news, it was just as hard to get our children there too! We actually started looking forward to reading the Master’s emails because they motivated us to keep coming back – to not give up – to not get lazy in the face of depressing times. They never took advantage of having our email addresses by sending too much, as it was always just enough.

    We weren’t just members to them. We belonged to their club and they were accountable for keeping our experience and our son’s experience going.

    As parents, the experience of that first wooden board your five year-old punches and breaks with their tender little fist is incomparable. They are so amazed and excited all at the same time. There is nothing like that and you never forget it.

    As club members, we didn’t just join because we need 18 machines lined up next to each other. It’s the intangible experience we needed to have too. By nature, we crave the experience of social interaction and connection; to be acknowledged and heard; a sense of belonging. There is nothing like being ignored - and if we are, we never forget it.

    What if you’re ignoring your members? What if they don’t get that sense of belonging? What if there’s no interaction and connection with them? What if you’re not listening to and acknowledging them? What if you’re not delivering the experience you sold?

    I can tell you: another club will sell them the experience - and they will deliver it too. New clubs are opening every day and the competition is fierce. There were nearly 1,700 new clubs in North America in 2013 – that’s almost 5 new clubs a day! Many of those new clubs know how important that connection is with their member base, and they are consistently reaching out with the right messages for them.

    They’re not just out soliciting “Likes” for their social media pages for no good reason, pretending that’s all it takes now; because it’s not. They’re out delivering the experience, and kick starting it with their first “Welcome” message on day one, because they know members have a louder voice than they ever had before, and if they fail, the members will speak out. It’s those new clubs that know how to identify their members and communicate consistently and professionally with them, so as to encourage, motivate, and retain them that will get the chance to deliver the experience your members seek.



    Author is Billy Dawson, National Sales Manager, Retention Management  -

  • The Trouble with Selling Health Club Memberships to Seniors

    by October 2014

    The Boomers are coming! The American population is aging, and most have never been members of a health club! This represents a huge opportunity for your business!

  • Turning Likes Into Dollars Begins With Trust

    by Deneen Laprade September 2014

    You comb the pages of the Internet to glean from it the best social media content you can share. You even write your own branded content and post it to various outlets regularly. Like many club operators, you’ve expanded your marketing mix to include social media. And like many club operators, you can’t make a direct link from posts, shares and likes to actual dollars. 

    If you’re like many of the operators I meet with regularly, you take more pictures now than ever. On a regular basis you expose prospects to more than the events, fundraisers and challenges, but the regular day-to-day down and dirty sessions, as well. You post offers and promotions hoping they’ll go viral and you’ll have a line around the block. We’ve all seen it work with deals of the day, right? You share this content with social media and you receive likes and shares and winks and nods and yet, you still don’t see the money! Why do you think that is? 

    Consider that the social media aspect of your marketing plan is more about brand awareness and that it will eventually lead to sales. It begins with Trust. Let’s focus on this Trust and what it means to your business. Start by concentrating on your niche, you’re already the expert, now you need to become the Trusted Advisor. Knowing that the effects of marketing are cumulative, you’ll appreciate the fact that the role of Trusted Advisor evolves over time. 

    Each post, whether you create it internally or are sharing from another source, must hit these three points: Each must be Timely, Relevant and Useful. Share fun ideas and information that can be implemented now, especially things that tie in with the seasons and community events. Connect each post, whether it’s a recipe of the week, a great early morning workout to celebrate or an offer for prospects to experience your club firsthand to the rest of your marketing plan. You can even toss in a few Internet specials, just to keep things interesting.

    Establish a schedule you can handle and that includes a few select outlets your members are using. Beware of over-reaching and keep this list short and manageable. Only share content that is in line with your brand! These best practices lead to a group of followers who look forward to seeing and hearing what you have to share. Let their responses guide future posts.

    Provoke thought and action. Engage your followers with fun fitness challenges, acknowledging achievements and conducting surveys. Your loyal group will appreciate the opportunity to weigh in and you’ll learn even more about what they want.  Sprinkle in what’s unique, new and different in your club. Create offers that meet the needs of members and prospects and simultaneously satisfy the needs of your business. Ultimately, you will be telling people where to spend their time and money in your club. And they’ll do so happily. Because they trust you.

    Additional considerations are to find a method, product or service that coordinates the schedule for all posts, blogs, web updates, e-News, etc. Fresh content delivered on time, as expected, is critical to your success in your role as Trusted Advisor. A healthy ratio of informational posts to offers should be about 3 to 1. In this way your offers receive the attention they deserve, rather than being perceived as just another post from you asking them to spend money.

    Social media should be only one aspect of your overall marketing mix and while you will turn some of the likes into dollars, you are best served to view it as a brand awareness piece, rather than a direct sales tool. By positioning yourself as the Trusted Advisor within your club and beyond, you have the distinct advantage over the competition because you have taken the time to grow roots in your community. Whether we like a brand or we don’t has a significant influence on our buying decisions.  Create a natural connection in the minds of your followers that links fitness with you so when they are ready, you are the only choice.

    Deneen is an accomplished, energetic leader in fitness and wellness with proven ability to create and manage effective marketing campaigns and programs that result in revenue growth, increased profits and retention. As a Marketing Coach, she applies her years of experience at club level to meet the marketing needs of clients. You can contact her by e-mail or visit her on LinkedIn



  • The Alternative to Sales and Discounts: Give Them a Test Drive

    by Thomas Plummer September 2014

    Earlier this week, we discussed why your club should eschew sales and discounts as a marketing tactic. Perhaps you were asking, "So, what's the alternative? Am I supposed to just hope that enough people show up at my gym ready to pay full price on a membership?" 

    No, of course not! Instead of lowering the perceived value of your services through price-based marketing, implement exposure marketing: entice people to try your product first before making a buying decision. Allow people to gain the necessary experience before deciding whether or not the services that your gym provides are worth the full price of a membership. "Try the gym, meet the staff, meet the members, and if we don’t earn your business, then we don’t deserve to have you as a client.”

    Exposure marketing is usually considered to be a classier way to attract clients, and more importantly, it is also the method that allows you to protect your integrity by getting full price for your product once the customer has some experience with you.

    If you have driven a car for 24 hours, price will be the deciding factor far less often. How did it feel? How did it drive? How did your family like it? These questions are now coming into play when deciding whether or not to buy, and often obscure the singular focus on cost. Other examples of this  are free samples including everything from cookie chunks to an introductory massage, and extended trial usage periods.

    Perhaps the most well known use for us is the paid trial membership where the gym offers 30 days of fitness at a fixed price, such as 30 days for $30. This membership is not a reduction of service, such as three training sessions for $99, but rather an introduction to everything you offer at a trial rate. If you treat them like a member, and include everything in your gym for this price (training gyms might be 30 days for $89), then the potential member has a chance to experience the product, service, and being around your other members prior to making a buying decision.

    Exposure marketing has two strong mechanisms going for it that price driven marketing doesn’t:

    It creates interest in a product that wasn’t there in the consumer prior to their experience. You have to create interest in the 83% of the people in this country who have never been in a gym, or who have and failed, before price is relevant. As stated earlier, price-based marketing assumes prior interest and thus only applies to the 17% of your market that has any interest in being the member of a gym. Someone who has never been interested in a gym isn't going to all of the sudden be interested in doing so because they see that the price of a membership is a little bit cheaper. They need to be turned on the the idea of a gym membership, not just the price of a gym membership. In your marketing materials, feature articles about fitness, tips on how to get started, success stories and testimonies, and educational information on fitness. You just need to get the attention of those people who have never been interested in going to a gym before, and once you do so, you can more easily get them into your gym because...

    Using a trial eliminates risk barriers for the potential client. Remember, risk is the largest barrier to inquiry for most potential clients. Many people would like to try a gym, but they are afraid of signing up for something that is too expensive and traps them too long without first getting a chance to really see if they might like it. We, as an industry, have created this ourselves by using such practices as first visit pressure, double-teaming the potential client in an office, and cold calling. Throw in the potential client’s experience and knowledge of gyms closing in their town, and you can see why anyone might be reluctant to commit to fitness during a first visit.

    The second risk barrier is that the client doesn’t know if they will fit into the culture. It is like being a 21-year-old female and walking into a bar where there are a hundred old guys listening to Sinatra and sipping on whiskey. The bar looked good from the outside, but it is horror movie scary once she is in the door. Sometimes you just don’t belong in a certain business or setting, but in the gym business, it may take multiple workouts to discover this for yourself. Experiencing the product and the culture has to be the centerpiece of all marketing if you want to kill the risk that prevents people from even trying your business.

    Trial memberships solve these problems. The risk is known and low, in this case no more than the price of the trial membership, and you have a full 30 days prior to making the buying decision, giving you plenty of time to see if the culture of this business is right for you.

    Trial memberships should have these factors to be successful:

    You must use a reasonable testimonial. Don’t use someone who has lost 100 pounds in your ads. Very few people can identify with that client and he or she is not a role model, but an entry barrier. Use someone who is normal, who has lost 10-20 pounds and who a potential client can identify with as a role model.

    Use a positioning letter to generate interest in what you do. For example, a letter imbedded in the ad that talks about the “five biggest myths of fitness” would work nicely signed by you and with a picture of you and your staff at the bottom. This also personalizes your business in the market against those competitors that might be faceless or national chains.

    Include full service in the trial. Give the potential client a strong overview of everything you do and spoil the person during the trial period. Remember, if you treat the person like a member they will become a member.

    Keep the price at about half of your lowest entry point. For example, if your base membership is $39/month for one person, your trial should be at 30 days for $19. This also applies to training gyms.

    The goal is to expose the gym and what you do to the maximum number of potential clients who don’t have current gym experience. Remember the 17% of the population that was mentioned earlier who are gym members? It does you no good to advertise to them. They have found their gym, have probably already been in yours and are more concerned about service, equipment and location than they are by price since they are experienced gym people.


    This piece was originally published on Thomas Plummer's blog and is being re-published here with his permission. Check out some of his other content here

  • Four Reasons Why You Should Never 'Put It On Sale'

    by Thomas Plummer September 2014

    There are several ways to attract new clients into your business. The easiest of which is putting your product on sale. By "putting it on sale,” you discount or reduce the price of your service or product to attract new clients. In other words, you put what you do on sale. You are lowering the perceived value of what you and your fellow employees do.

    Examples include discounted membership fees, two-for-one specials, buy-one-get-one-free offers, and close out specials where the price is dropped for a limited time. Many fitness professionals don’t think they do this — and often feel that they are above this type of marketing. But offers such as “three personal training workouts for $99” are just another way of dropping your pants in order to attract new clients.

    In the fitness business, we, as owners and managers, are far too often guilty of taking the path of least resistance. As already stated, easiest way to market is to just drop the price and then pound whoever shows up in response on the price. There are a number of problems with this system:

    Price specials assume prior interest.

    Reducing the price of your service assumes that somewhere out there is a client who is dying to use your service but hasn’t yet responded because the price is restrictive. This sounds logical, but if it were true, then why has the total percentage of people participating at a fitness facility only increased by 1% in the era of the low-priced gym? Currently, only 17% of the people in this country belong to a gym, up a whopping 1% since the last survey.

    You can make a case that the total population in the U.S. is up; therefore, this number is higher in relation to the total it represented just a few years ago. While this is true, it still points to the fact that we don’t do a very good job at penetrating the percentage of people who are not yet interested in fitness and haven’t joined a gym. If sales and low prices were the answer, we should have been overwhelmed by millions of new members who were patiently waiting for someone to offer a $9 membership. We did offer it, and they didn’t come. So maybe there just isn’t enough prior interest.

    Price related sales devalue your business.

    Have you ever seen an item of clothing with a substantially slashed price tag and thought, “So… what’s wrong with this thing?” Putting something on sale means that you couldn’t sell it a full price so you have to dump it at a lower price. I know it, you know it, but why do we think the potential client doesn’t know it? Once you start down the slippery and eternal road of price slashing, it becomes almost impossible to change direction. The verification you need to prove that sales drop the perceived value of your business occurs when someone calls the gym and asks, “What kind of sale do you have going this week?” Sales lead to sales and eventually erode the perception of value entirely. Once you are having to follow one sale with another sale, because you’ve accumulated a cheap customer base, you are no longer actually running a sale, you are just selling your services for a lower price. 

    Price based advertising eventually fails.

    The longer you run price driven ads, the less effective they become. Try running one year for $199. Let’s say that this campaign brings in 100 new clients that month. Everyone is excited and you can’t wait to repeat it again next month. The problem is that each successive time you run a price driven ad leads to a further erosion of the market.

    The term applied to this occurrence is “Law of diminishing returns,” which means that an act repeated over and over again will have a lower result each time. For example, if you plant a field of corn and get 50 bushels this year, you will only get 48 next year because you have slightly diminished the soil quality (just like you do with your market when repeating a sale).

    Advertising price works the same way. Over time, everyone who wants a membership for $9 in the market has bought one. Each time you run the ad, you will get a lesser response. Of course, the difference between corn and members is that if you live in a marketplace that has huge turnover, such as Orlando, or a college town, you constantly introduce an influx of new potential clients who are now seeing your ads for the first time. But most markets are more fixed in nature, with a much smaller annual turnover. These markets will show the constantly declining response over time.

    Price ads force the conversation to always be about price.

    Price ads are built upon the one-visit sales process, where the person responds to an ad and then gets pounded in a sales office (by the way, don’t have a sales office in your gym) during a 20-minute visit with the “buy or die” sales approach. The ad was used as bait for the real game, which is the office sale and all the old techniques that made this sales system so despicable to so many consumers.

    Fitness, and especially functional fitness, just has too many moving parts. It doesn't translate into one workout or one sitting at a sales desk. In fact, the “one workout and close theory” might be one of the dumbest ideas to ever take hold in our industry. Take a guy who hasn’t worked out in years, give him to a young trainer who works him out too long and too hard, makes sure he wore his 1980s workout clothes, and then tries to close with him right when he’s become convinced that you are a sadistic maniac. Don’t forget, he is also embarrassed by his conditioning and inability to keep up. Embarrassing potential customers isn’t a great sales technique for your gym to adopt.  

    If you can’t talk about fitness and your product from a common position of understanding, established through experience and success, then all you have to talk about is price, and then it becomes “Let’s make a deal time.” We force the price wars upon ourselves because we just don’t give the potential member any other choice.



    This piece was originally published on Thomas Plummer's blog and is being re-published here with his permission. Check out some of his other content here

  • 11 Ways to Tell If You Are a Dinosaur On the Brink of Extinction

    by Thomas Plummer September 2014

    The dinosaurs never saw it coming. There was no planning, no stocking of food, no gathering of the team to plan their survival. There was just the often asked dinosaur question, "Hey, has anyone seen Bill, he was just here a minute ago?”

  • Looking at Your Club Business Through Fresh Eyes

    by September 2014

    Let's consider the experience of some unsuspecting would-be gym members. They have visited websites of local facilities, "liked" Facebook pages and read online reviews. They have narrowed down their search to four facilities within a short drive time of their homes.

  • How to Create Effective Marketing Content

    by Thomas Plummer September 2014

    Retro marketing built this industry, but electronic marketing will build its future. Websites, blogs, social media, and almost all other forms of electronic marketing evolve so fast that it is almost impossible to keep up. TheImage coupon sites, for example, were a rage for about a year or two and then died. Writing about how to design a coupon would have been an exercise in futility since that form of marketing came and went before the paragraph could be written.

    Keeping that in mind, the most beneficial approach to learning how to market in this rapidly evolving age is to master some simple concepts that are applicable to any form of social media or electronic marketing that may arise in the future. Understand the rules and any version of the game you play will be easier.