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Making the World a Better Place, One Community at a Time

By Andrea Sobotka

We've always known that the fitness industry was worthy of holding a special place in the hearts of communities. If you have managed to accomplish this in your community, then kudos to you and your team! The reality, however, is that over the years just like other industry sectors, health clubs and fitness businesses have become "silos" within their communities caught up in the day to day grind of selling fitness club memberships, and running and managing what goes on inside the business. There is a shift happening in the world...can you feel it? It's a pretty big shift and more importantly, it's a wake up call telling us all that it is time to start thinking "WE" instead of "ME". Your bottom line depends on it.

Now is the time for our industry to really shine! It's not just about becoming one of the good guys....it's very much about survival, success and growth through grass roots Community Marketing. Let's begin by reaffirming all the obvious reasons we are GREAT for a community:

  • - We teach, encourage, and promote health and fitness
  • - We foster strong bodies, hearts, and minds
  • - We develop professional and qualified fitness staff
  • - We provide employment opportunity
  • - We provide safe environments for members to let their guard down and work on the "self" for an hour or two
  • - We are conveniently located
  • - We appeal to every age group and a broad demographic
  • - Our product will never be obsolete

And of course I could go on and on. Now is the time to take what you have to offer TO the community. Stop waiting for it to come to you. It is no secret that some of the most successful health club operators have become integral members of their community and in doing so, have hit on the wave of the future of doing business through organic networking and giving back from the heart. For simplicity sake, we'll call this focus on the community marketing and in the next few paragraphs I will suggest some ways that you can become a bigger part of your community thus making your club "top of mind" when the question of wellness, health and fitness comes to mind.

Volunteering

There are many organizations in every community ranging from food banks, to youth groups to churches. They all need real man power to keep their missions going. I know everybody is super busy, but two to 4 hours a week can make the world of difference to a group that provides free and vital services. That hour spent can make the entire day bright for a child, animal, or senior that might benefit from those services or your time directly. When choosing a group to volunteer your services to, take into consideration: what skill sets or resources do you have that you could contribute with; what causes are, or could be, close to your heart?; Stay inside your community if you can both for convenience sake and for serving your community directly; What time of the day, week, or month can you free up a little time? ; How much time are you willing to give initially? Start small; you can always up your hours if you find you are really enjoying your volunteering venture.

Join a Non Profit Group

There are several organizations in every community that are comprised of everything from Moms, to War Vets, to Alumni, to Business Owners. Most of these groups are an excellent venue for networking and sharing of ideas for both business and social purposes. Even better, many organizations, such as some local Chamber of Commerce groups, will offer its members excellent business workshops and training resources that is headed up by the efforts of other members and business leaders with expertise in particular fields relevant to the group. Although many of these organized groups have a large focus on business networking and resources, they usually have a charitable focal point and pet projects for the group members to participate in or support financially. Giving back is a culture, not a chore.

Start by asking around your client base and even get an invitation to visit, speak at, or join a group, but short of looking in your local phone book, here are a few suggestions: Lions Club, Rotary, Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus, Toastmasters, Professional Women's Clubs, Sister City Groups and of course a whole slew of recreational focused groups. Join something! You might even find it's a nice outlet and have fun! And the BEST part is that you will meet new people, get to know your business neighbors, and gain the opportunity to spread your credibility and expertise beyond the front doors of your club.

Host a Local Event

Ok, by now you are probably hollering "enough already! I don't have time!"...well, just stop that. "Delegation" is a beautiful thing; you don't have to be Atlas here. Yes, you know those big events that go on in your town such as; Turkey Trots, Half Marathons, Run for the Cure, Car Rallies, Easter Egg Hunts, Toy and Food Drives...yes those events. I suggest that you start today lobbing to host one or two of these events on an annual basis. It is a time commitment and maybe even a space and/or resource commitment on your part...but think about it, SOMEBODY has to step up to the plate to host and run these things, otherwise we'd all just shrivel up into our own little self centered worlds. These events are what really bring a community together. You have the energy; you have people to help you, and most importantly, a community that will appreciate you so much for doing this! If you are getting tired just thinking about spending all this time and energy, just think of the eyes, ears, and hearts that will be tuned into your business just for being a community leader for a day or weekend. If you decide to do this...put your heart into it, your true intent will be felt on the receiving end and a good heart attracts good energy.

Make a Donation

Ok - This one is easy because you are probably asked ALL THE TIME for a donation to this or a donation to that, whether it be actual hard cash, or a membership for a silent auction. These donations are very important because it directly supports your community, but choose what you donate to wisely, and keep track! Not just for tax purposes, but so that you can actually be proactive and beat ‘em to the punch line next year. Imagine if you called them instead of waiting for them to call you! Or, you may want to develop a policy of rotating who you donate to from year to year in order to "be fair". You also may have a set budget for cash donations and you need to be clear on relaying what is or is not within your budget.

 Although the donation option seems the easiest, it can also cause the most anxiety because you actually have to give something out of pocket, you FEEEEEL it, plus most operators tend to think in terms of ROI. Unfortunately, the ROI on spot donations are usually small to nil (because there is so little personal/social involvement!), yet monetarily cost you the most.

A GREAT solution to the donation option one is a program called Fitness Fundraisers. Yup, I might be biased, but it IS a great solution to every good club operator's dilemma of needing LOTS of qualified traffic, giving back to the community in a BIG way, while not physically having to spend a dime, yet being responsible for helping local fundraising organizations raise THOUSANDS of dollars. This program FEEELS GOOD! You WILL get attention and the Community WILL appreciate you! Through this very special Community Marketing program, not only do you support multiple great causes in your community big time, but hundreds of people will be introduced to healthier lifestyles because of YOU...and they are brought right to your business to lead the way. Of course there are even more benefits to you and everyone involved, click here to learn more.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that what goes around, truly comes around. If you are willing to give selflessly and patiently from the heart, the universe rewards you. It is time to start thinking and acting as a "member of a great tribe", so to speak, instead of "every man for himself". Surviving the economic AND social shift depends on this important culture change. You and I are blessed to be in an industry that can make a big impact on the need for changing the way we live and the way we interact as a social AND business community. If fitness businesses everywhere made it a standard practice to become a big part of their community by getting involved in anything and everything that directly supports that community, then as an industry not only will we thrive and grow, but we can make the whole world a better, healthier, stronger place...one community at a time.

 

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