Monday, 22 December 2008

How to survive the crunch – focus less on sales

I was pleased to see the article on the credit crunch in December’s Health Club Management magazine, but disappointed to read so much about sales and so little about retention. I think it is a dull reflection of the industry that so many operators are focusing on new sales offers during the financial crisis.

While new joining offers will encourage more people into the gym and move towards Fred Turok’s vision of 1 million more people exercising, I think these credit crunch deals are really trying to win over members from other clubs, and the more this happens, the more the industry will suffer.
When times are tight, it’s much easier (and cost effective) to cut back on gym membership than utility bills, so we must demonstrate value for money and really good service.

The only chain in the December article mentioning a strategy for existing members or soon to be ex-members is énergie. Hooray for them for thinking about existing members during the crunch.

Focus on your existing customers becomes as important as new sales in times like these (if not more so). Your clients should always be your best sales channel, and you should do everything you can to retain them. All staff must be involved in your retention policy, empowered to make decisions, and measured on results. This could easily lead to better job satisfaction or even better pay for fitness instructors, another big concern of mine.

2009 is going to be an evolutionary year in the fitness industry. Many of us will be watching the development of the budget club closely, and I think that membership trends could look very different. I look forward to the HCM retention features in April and July 09, and I believe that the successful clubs in 2009 will be those who channel as much into retention as they do into sales.

Letter to Health Club Management magazine 22/12/2008

No comments: