Programming Essentials: 5 Business Tactics for Success

For Gym Operators

Programming Essentials: 5 Business Tactics for Success

What keeps people from joining a health club? The 2014-15 IHRSA report stated that 54 percent of the respondents declared it was too expensive and not affordable. This statistic alone should be a key indicator that something needs to change.

Many in the fitness industry have a unique opportunity to positively impact the 80 percent million Americans that are inactive by reinvigorating a few business practices. In particular, operators are key stakeholders that should be arming themselves with programming essentials in order to be successful.

This post was written by Tracey Harvey, who has three decades of experience working in the health and fitness industry – currently specializing in managing wellness over illness in older adults. For more information, check out "About the Author" at the bottom of the page.

1. Mass Appeal

Health clubs often attract a variety of members and have minimal success with a solo advertising message hoping to attract everyone.

However, mass appeal does not mean a shot gun approach but rather identifying the true demographic needs of those living and working within a 5 to 10 mile radius of your club. Staying current on demographic reports, market growth, and insights for your locations should be done routinely. There are various free online resources and services that can help you attain valuable intelligence that will help you plan and execute more targeted and successful marketing campaigns. Weaving in short term, fee-based specialty programming for non-members can help exceed budget expectations and infuse your membership base year-over-year. With such a competitive landscape, differentiating yourself in the market place and re-tooling current practices should be top of mind.

2. Accountability

How do you hold your trainers and team members accountable to client’s results and revenue requirements?

Accountability is a business tactic that is critical to the success of your organization since it is closely related to the retention of your members. Retention of valuable employees can be just as important as retaining members. Rewarding those team members is a programming essential. Do you have a culture rich in the beliefs of continuing education? Is your location the most desirable to work? Do you have one cohesive strategy approach to employee retention? Consider conducting “stay interviews” with valued tenured team members and ask why they have stayed and what they would improve or change.

3. Group

The worlds of group fitness and personal trainers need to collide in order to create the magical affects necessary to inspire wellness in the inactive. Specialized experiences continue to drive consumers to boutique fitness models in large part due to the emergence of the digital middlemen as stated in the ClubIntel Top 10 2016 Predictions Report. While group programming does not always equate to the aerobics room, it can be most effective when small groups gather (of all ages) to learn more about specialized programs. These programs can incorporate the physical and the obvious social components but also the other five dimensions of wellness: intellectual, occupational, emotional, spiritual, and environmental.

4. Integrated

Don’t mistake team members that socialize with one another as always connecting on a regular basis, as good cross communication amongst departments.

Consider streamlining operational responsibilities and reward organized, creative, and passionate department heads to lead multiple departments in order to create one comprehensive schedule that includes ALL programming. Realizing the convenience in segmenting schedules by department and manager; appealing to your current and future members should take priority. Taking a tip from the retirement living industry, you could explore broadcasting your classes at a glance with a room locator key. Members and especially the “prospective” member may go to your website for initial research but will not take the time to open every segmented calendar. Showcasing at a glance your weekly calendar and programming description details for all hours of the day can be a key marketing tool.

Download this free sample template to customize for your facility.

5. Customized

Every market, club, studio, and its members are unique and special. That is why for even the most experienced operators/managers continually identifying areas of opportunities to customize programming by analyzing these strategies and re-aligning current practices could be a revenue booster. Specialty programs in small groups can reap very big gains if you focus on 6 to 8 week fee-based programs with wellness components, such as a "Pain in the Back" series, "Men’s Barbell Blast," or even a theme equipment-based class that could be a non-intimidating introduction to non-members.


  • 2015 International Fitness Industry Trend Report
  • Physical Activity Council

Author Information

Tracey Harvey
Tracey Harvey's picture

Tracey Harvey, National Program Director Wellness Services, EnerG® by Aegis Therapies, is a nationally recognized leader in contract rehabilitation and wellness services with more than 8,400 therapists and clinicians providing proven therapy services in over 1,400 facilities across 42 states. Harvey has over three decades of experience in the Fitness/Wellness/ Retirement Living Industry and champions evidence-based programs across the nation to increase overall results using aspects of innovative business development tactics to drive quality, consistency, and successful outcomes.

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