Change and Challenge. Part 5

New programs

Clubs are beginning to focus more on providing the types of services that are in demand from a wider market, such as seniors and children, and moving away from the industry’s traditional approach of appealing to the “already interested.”

Currently, clubs are attracting an aging baby boom generation and senior citizens, yet many are not prepared to take care of those markets. To deal with the issue, clubs will be conducting more focus groups, providing different aerobics schedules and new programs. “Programming is going to be a very big issue. We can’t mass market in the industry. We are in the throes of having to rethink our programming,” says Scudder.

While tailored programs are among the most important methods of retaining customers, other issues include:

1) Effective advertising. Traditional venues of newspapers and television ads are being augmented with direct mail marketing, member referral programs and increased internal marketing.

2) Pricing. More varied pricing structures are allowing clubs to reach a wider clientele. Depending on their market, clubs may want to consider offering different membership rates for different programs.

3) Specialty clubs. Target markets are becoming the trend. Consultants predict the industry will continue to become specialized, with facilities geared toward kids, seniors and people with disabilities.

4) Managed care. “There will be a continued growth of managed care organizations,” says Gerson. “HMOs, PPOs, IPs — the whole alphabet soup.”

Although there are many trends ahead for the fitness industry in the near future, management experts agree that the key issue is not new. Whether the term is member retention, defection or customer satisfaction, the bottom line for health clubs is to find new and improved ways to make members happy.

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