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Bounce-Back Strategies From The Industry's Front Lines

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Gary PolicGary Polic

In my previous article, I listed a number of bounce-back strategies. This month, we will take a look at those strategies in action on the industry's front lines. Through testimonials from industry leaders in different clubs around the country, we will learn what they are doing to stay positive, sell, retain members and promote their brand by being more proactive, subsequently "seizing the day" and being successful one day at a time!

Sparrow Michigan Athletic Club

East Lansing, Michigan

Robert Diamond, Executive Director
Nicole Brillantes, Membership Services Director

Retention: The leadership team engaged the MAC Members while they stayed at home with Zoom group exercise classes; Les Mills group exercise classes; email blasts; stay home, stay safe messages; text messages; Facebook themes daily; tips from the group exercise team, the tennis team, the basketball trainer and leadership; mind and body, mediation, stress relief and much more.


  • July - First Tier Sales - The MAC opened the unique "Resort Membership" to the MAC members only. Discounted the monthly fee and offered the members to opt in. This membership includes lap lane pool, leisure pool, 250-foot water slide, kids play area, outdoor tennis, pickleball, outdoor group exercise classes, water group exercise classes, lounge area, adult bar, outdoor grill and HEAT hair salon. Amazing customers service and hospitality service. We called it Resort because it really is a resort style atmosphere. This is social distanced with a COVID-19 etiquette and screening format, reservation system.
  • August - Second Tier Sales - The MAC opened the Resort Membership to Sparrow Hospital employees, our Heros, and their families to join. These are new members to the MAC and are key to our community for the work they do at the hospital.
  • Media Day - The MAC had a Media Day and asked the press to come and get a tour of the club to see the measures of screening and safety we have taken. The local news came out, and the MAC had over 3.5 million views nationally in less than 24 hours.
  • September - Third Tier Sales - The MAC has a waiting list of potential members that we will invite to join for an enrollment fee, a 12-month contract and Resort Membership dues until open inside and regular dues kick in then.

Marketing: The MAC uses email blasts, Text messaging, Facebook, social media, website, phone calls, snail mail, videos and zoom platforms:

  • We hired a drone to take photos of the Resort Membership from 450 feet up to show the 72 pods of social distancing seating and the beautiful outdoor area.
  • Screening all members with use of the MAC Screening App to show us they have been screened. They then go through our screening process at the entrance and have a temperature check at the door. Masks are provided to members, and they must be worn in commons area.
  • 1,000 MAC Members have opted in for the Resort Membership, and some MAC Members are still on hold at no charge since March 16.
  • The MAC continues to offer complimentary zoom group exercise classes and Les Mills classes at no charge to the members to keep retention strong. The MAC continues to provide a Facebook page full of messages to the members and tips, videos, recipes, etc.

Community Outreach: The MAC leadership team met with local lobbyists and are working with the Fire Marshal on a proposal to open an "Indoor Kids Online-School Day Care" for hospital employees' children ages K-12. This would provide a safe, COVID-19 free structure, as well as an online learning format for the children while their parents work at the Hospital and keep the community healthy (Most schools are closed and are online only during this fall).

Wellbridge Athletic Clubs

New Mexico Region

Jim Gay, Regional General Manager


  • We put most of our members on a no-charge hold during this time.
  • We needed to show them there were other options that would make it easier to breathe.
  • We have several options for sale at the desk (at cost) to try to offer solutions to members who are challenged by lesser mask options.


  • Positioning ourselves as the safest in town.
  • Every member gets a bottle of sanitizer and a cleaning towel when they come in.
  • Every member and associate has their temperature checked before coming into the club.
  • Touchless check-in system.
  • Club App to make reservations for general usage, basketball, racquetball, classes and swim lanes.
  • Mid-day shutdown from 1:30 - 3:30pm for sanitizing and club reset.
  • Cleaner, safer, more spread out.
  • One of the, if not THE, only club in town enforcing mask usage (yes, OVER the nose).


  • eBlasts to members on hold and recent cancels.
  • Posts to social media.

Other Profit Centers:

Blast Academy - Spin off our summer Blast Camp program:

  • Classroom environment with teacher oversight.
  • Also provides swimming and other fitness and fun activities.

Five Seasons Family Sports Club

Burr Ridge, IL

Aaron Pankau, General Manager


  • Group exercise virtual membership.
  • Renting out outdoor pool facilities by local swim clubs during non-peak times.
  • Purchasing bubble for outside pool to rent in the fall/winter/spring and to attract swimmers.
  • New Home Sales up 21% so we partnered with real estate firms for new movers.


  • Renting out space in club to local merchants, physical therapists.


  • Sending videos of club cleaning services to all members.
  • Calls/emails/text to all members.

Franklin Athletic Club

Southfield, Michigan

Jim Martin, Membership Director

Four Crucial Steps to Rebuild Your Draft... The Holy Grail!

1. The most important step you can take during these unprecedented pandemic times is to make prospective members and members totally comfortable coming into your club. You need to video your safety protocols and send it to your database and your members to assure them you have a clean and safe environment.

2. Eliminate all barriers that will slow your sales down:

A. Eliminate Initiation Fees. Maybe later but not now.

B. Month-to-month memberships... 12-month memberships could be offered, but it needs to be a good deal.

3. Set up an aggressive onboarding system. Whatever services you sell, it is especially important to let them experience as many as possible and reward them for it. Let us assume that you sell Personal Training, Tennis Lessons, Massage and Facials. In my system, if they experience two of those services, they will receive $75 in club cash. They bring a card signed off by the departments that they experienced. When they come to pick up their club cash, you can price present your special and allow them to apply their club cash to the special!

4. The number one source of sales in our industry is member referrals... hands down. Implement a strong referral program with valuable rewards:

A. $100 Club Cash for sponsoring a new member. This gets the member involved in your services. Club cash is used to purchase club services, not free months. I strongly suggest that you do not give them a free month for sponsoring a member; that lowers your draft. Referral programs, if designed properly, will greatly increase your draft. Your draft is the holy grail; do not touch it.

B. Have a great prize give away to enter sponsoring members only. One of the best prizes I have given away is a Platinum Membership for the family that wins. The more people they sponsor, the more entries they get. I give members 30 entries for every membership they sponsor. I give ten entries for every $100 that is spent on club services.

C. Platinum Prize Winner Receives:

  • No dues for one year;
  • One Personal Training Session a week for one year (or massage);
  • Unlimited guest privileges;
  • Platinum Parking Spot for the year;
  • Unlimited small group personal training sessions for the year;
  • Unlimited guest privileges for the year;
  • A private locker for the year.

Note: It is also good to have second and third place prizes).

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