Welcome to summer! Unless you are on the west coast of the country where it is summer twelve months of the year, most health clubs will slow down until the little kiddies get ready to return to school in the fall. Families and friends will take their major vacation at this time of year, attend cookouts and other social gatherings and move to the outdoors to get much of their physical activity.
By this time you will have already created your plan for the summer, to maximize all the relevant opportunities (outdoor group fitness classes, member parties, community involvement, etc.) so it is time to get on the ball and plan for the rest of the year. Take a deep breath, pause and reflect on what just happened and what lies ahead.
Plan, Execute, Track, Rinse and Repeat
Okay so I added in the part about rinsing, but you get the idea. The summer is an ideal time to review your “Marketing Checklist”. You do have a marketing checklist, don’t you? Position yourself for a successful fall and second half of the year by taking a step back and reviewing your overall process. Here are just a few important items that are worth some attention during the dog days of summer.
Go back and revisit the first six months of the year from a marketing perspective. What worked? What didn’t work? Are we on budget? You do have a marketing budget, don’t you? Organize your files so you can readily access your campaigns and overall marketing efforts, with a summary of results and budgets for each month.
Create a marketing blueprint for the rest of the year. Chart your marketing course, being sure to include all of these target areas in your plan, complete with campaigns and budget projections; prospects, members, former members, tours and guests, referrals, retention, corporate, community outreach and special events, functions and social communication. Integrate any or all of these media vehicles to convey your message; website, social media, guerilla marketing, direct mail, email communication, traditional portals (radio, newspaper, television, billboards) and internal club signage.
Gather your staff for a meeting, company picnic or team building event and ask them for feedback, comments and opinions. Ask them “how can we improve”? They are the people who are on the front lines and will be able to provide valuable information as you put together your upcoming marketing plan. This should also include your members. “How can we improve your experience at the club”? This can be done with a short little survey, either electronically or the old fashion way. Make sure to offer them something to thank them for their time.
Once you have reviewed the first six months and have gathered the staff and member feedback, develop an “operational plan” for the next six months of the year. Share this information with your management team and key staff members, establish priorities including assignments and deadlines. Be sure to communicate these results and your plans on how to maximize them based on the input you have received.
5. Member Experience!
Review the “new member” experience. How are new members being introduced to the various areas of your club? Are we making the most of opportunities to create more revenue per member by offering training, spa services, lessons or other programs? How are members meeting one another? It goes without saying that the first 30, 60, 90 days of a new member joining your club are the most critical in shaping what their experience is going to be. Focus on this aspect of your overall process as developing a core member, someone who visits your club on average of eight times a month for optimal member retention. If you truly have your eye on retention numbers this exercise is essential to do every six months, at least!
6. Web, Web, Web!
Nearly 70% of people will visit your website before they ever call or set foot in your club. A pretty sobering statistic but it is now the way of the world, and has been for over five years. Stroll around your website. Is it time for a makeover? What is not on the site that you implemented this year? Is it easy to navigate through the site and find information? Do you still have that newsletter from 2008 on your site? Are you coming up in the top three spots when you search for a club in your town? Most importantly ask for feedback from members and non-members alike. There is a good chance if you were the original architect of your site, or it was done by your brother in law for free, you may not have a clear, unbiased view of how good or bad it truly is.
Mid-August to Labor Day is the unofficial start to the second “January” in the fitness industry. Summer is the perfect time to plan for the rest of the year. Planning ahead allows you to take advantage of unique opportunities that come your way, especially when you have everything else already in place. It also doesn’t mean that your plan is etched in stone and immovable. In fact planning ahead allows you to focus on the “important” aspects of running your business because you are not constantly putting out fires or only dealing with daily emergencies. So jump right in…and plan. The water’s fine!