Clubs typically jump into the New Year with a big marketing push. January 2021 will be different.
January has always been a time for increased participation and club utilization. With many clubs closed across the country, owners need to think creatively to keep their members engaged and ready to return to their bricks and mortar businesses post-pandemic.
“Don’t lose sight of what consistent and honest communication can do for your future,” says Paula Comfort, a partner with 360impact Group, a Toronto recruiting and training company. “Take care of your team and they will take care of your members and clients. Make them feel a part of something with purpose and direction.”
Comfort offers these additional tips:
- Have your instructors and trainers reach out to members directly. Imagine getting a call from one of your favourite trainers offering inspiring words of motivation.
- Encourage members to try a complementary online class, especially if they think they might not enjoy the virtual experience.
- Partner with health care professionals and offer your services as an added value for their clients/patients. Offer a 4-week program to get them started.
- Keep your expenses to a minimum. Have one person who is accountable for and dedicated to business development and revenue management.
AnyTime Fitness: Focusing on the Fitness/ Health Connection
“We know that January 2021 is going to be very different than January 2020,” says Jolene De Vries, owner of Anytime Fitness franchises in Esterhazy and Yorkton, Saskatchewan. The pandemic shut down her clubs for three months. Currently the clubs are reopened, but team training is restricted to eight members per session with everyone three metres apart.
“We’re working at capacity with these restrictions, but we can’t run enough sessions to meet the demand,” says De Vries. She also notes that a new masking-while-exercising policy is having negative effects since many members find exercising in a mask very uncomfortable.
Anytime Fitness’s strategy for the New Year is to simply promote physical activity as a way to better health.
For example, more than 1,600 Anytime Fitness owners are hosting a virtual charity fitness and nutrition fundraiser in support of the Movement Foundation, on January 2.
As well, the company’s 2021 campaign slogan is “Stronger for Good.” The message is that exercise is essential to living a healthy life – physically, emotionally and mentally. It also reminds people that regular physical activity can fight diabetes, depression, obesity, hypertension, heart disease and more, and it is essential to good health and wellness.
“The campaign isn’t specifically directing people to our clubs,” says De Vries, “but if they need assistance in the future, we will have a special program and a great deal for them.”
Schwartz/Reisman Centre JCC: Playing the long game
“The past months have been a roller coaster for us, as they’ve been for the rest of the industry,” says Stephen Gray, multi-campus manager of group programs and events at The Schwartz/Reisman Centre JCC in Vaughan, Ontario . “We shut down in mid-March, reopened in August, closed again in October, and then reopened for four weeks before closing once again.”
From the beginning, Gray and his colleagues have understood the importance of keeping connected with their members.
“We didn’t skip a beat,” says Irina Grouzman, the facility’s manager of fitness and health. “We credit our current high level of social media engagement to our early pivot to a digital focus. Personal and group-exercise quickly went virtual, and we delivered a loaner equipment kit to each personal training client. Members are really appreciating our efforts to stay connected.”
The JCC social media channels are serving as a digital town square, adds Grouzman. Their pre-COVID-19 1,700 Instagram followers ballooned to the current 3,300, earning them the largest number of Instagram followers amongst the 150+ JCCs across North America.
Their social platforms offer feel-good postings, contests, tips, workout ideas, funny videos (their Hanukkah Workout https://www.instagram.com/p/CItgTKMA7E9/ is nearing 7,000 views), and posts that create conversation versus strictly providing information.
In 2021, the JCC Instagram page will continue to be an important marketing and engagement tool. The organization will launch paid specialized programming, launch a program that combines fitness with e-gaming, and bring back their signature FitFest weekend event.
As a non-profit, the JCC is fortunate to have a few hundred generous members who have donated their annual dues or a portion of their dues.
“We’re playing the long game,” says Gray. “Once we’re able to open our doors, we want our members to be in good spirits and happy to come back quickly on Day 1.”