Feature Article - March 2011
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Focus on Members

In a Tough Market, Customer Relations Is at a Premium

By Brian Summerfield

It's Not a Club, It's a Lifestyle

Another effective way to attract consumers and keep them coming back is to be something more to them than just a product or service they patronize. As author, cartoonist and marketing guru Hugh MacLeod has said, "The future of brands is interaction, not commodity. It's not something you buy, but something you participate in."

The key to frequent usage, then, is to create an experience that members come to view as an integral part of their lifestyle—a place they want to go to rather than have to.

"Think about some of the little things you can offer that make it a destination, instead of something that makes members say, 'Oh, I've got to go exercise,'" Parayre said.

For instance, the club as a social venue is emphasized at ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers, which is based in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region. The members, particularly the senior segment, enjoy the interpersonal aspects of the club as much as the fitness, said Christine Thalwitz, ACAC's director of communications & research.

"We take the whole atmosphere into consideration," she said. "For example, we don't play music in our clubs—that's a very personal choice for members. Plus, they can talk to each other."

In addition to devoting large areas of its facilities to social interaction, "comfortable" dress is encouraged at ACAC clubs. The idea is that "real people" work out there, and that notion is reinforced in the clubs' promotional materials, Thalwitz said.