Money's Tight — How Can Fitness and Wellness Businesses Hang On To Members and Clients?

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When the economy’s struggling, how can fitness or wellness businesses attract and retain clients, members and customers?

Keep customers plugged into wellness by accommodating their personal budget crunch during a recession or economic downturn.

Forget how you’ve always done things. Be the business your customers need and want you to be.

Help customers stay healthy at home

Customers who want to avoid multiple weekly trips to a gym may have an interest in staying fit at home. Why lose those dollars to Wal Mart or Target? Unlike them, your business is an authority on wellness. For example, you may be able to keep them plugged into fitness and healthy living by offering video classes, podcasts, pedometers, walking shoes or other home-oriented products and services.

Go to them

Don’t make them come to you. Analyze your customer list by zipcode and neighborhood. Look for clusters of customers and offer group wellness programs in that neighborhood -– at a church, for example. Train several people at one participant’s house. Partner with a related business to use their facility if it’s closer to a group of your customers. Don’t go it alone -– ask your customers where it might be more convenient and gas-saving for them. Some will happily offer suggestions closer to home -– for example, a conference room in their office building, or space at their subdivision’s community center.

Consider adding e-commerce and/or mail order

Help customers buy from you without driving to your store. It’s worth adding shipping and delivery services if you can price it competitively versus what your customer would pay in gas to make the trip. High gas prices make UPS and Fedex charges look good. Perhaps you can ship refills on supplements to local customers instead of having them pick up a new supply.

Offer frequent shopper programs

Give points for every visit customers make to your business. Exchange points for products, services, extra membership months, etc. Offer bonus points for bringing friends. Even better, team up with other nearby businesses and make the points redeemable within, say, the same shopping district.

Cross-market with nearby businesses

Let your customers know that they can take care of multiple errands with just one trip. They may not have noticed that a pet supply store is right around the corner from your “food-minus” low-sugar/low-carb/low-fat/low-calorie store. They may not have realized that there’s an insurance agent at the other end of the strip shopping center. Just because they visit your yoga studio doesn’t mean they know about the martial arts dojo a couple of storefronts down for their kids.

Consider a new membership model

We’ve seen memberships cancelled at fitness centers because members want to avoid making extra car trips. Consider dropping the traditional monthly/annual membership model and allow people to pay for a predetermined number of visits. If they don’t use the visits this month, roll them over.

Turn your one-trick-pony business into a one-stop shop

Bring more services into your location, tailored to your customer mix -– perhaps life or career coaching, flu shots, personal convenience items, massage, healthy frozen entrees, fun parent/kid events — so that visiting your business saves your customers gas money by letting them make one trip instead of several.

Target work-at-home customers

Many businesses have employees who work out of their homes. And lots of folks are self-employed. While these people are often hard to spot, they’re actually all around you. These individuals often want a change of scenery during their workday. They want a reason to get out of the house. Perhaps adding WiFi wireless internet access and other business-friendly services would encourage them to visit your business.

Make the most of drive-by visibility

Someone wearing a sandwich board, a banner hung across your store-front, a huge bunch of bright balloons — get their attention!