Webinar: Uncover the Hidden Profit Center Inside Gyms & Martial Arts Studios

Can you turn a profit on your billing expenses? Expert sales consultant and school owner Erik Charles Russell says yes.

Members love convenience. In this webcast, Erik Charles Russell shares how to create a new revenue stream by appealing to members’ desire for convenient billing options. Through this model, you can generate higher income from fewer members as you reduce administrative costs. What you’ll learn:

  • How to create a profit center from service and transaction fees
  • How to raise prices and retain current members
  • Why low prices do not lead to more members

Presented by Erik Charles Russell.

Erik Charles has been in the Martial Arts and Fitness industry for more than 25 years and is the owner of Premier Martial Arts and Fitness in Watertown, NY. In 2015, he published a book based on his successes called The Art of Selling Memberships. The book became an international best seller—hitting number one in three categories in the US, Australia, and Germany on Amazon.com.

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Webinar: Lead to Member: Thinking Long-Term with Your Website

Your website is a direct tie to your business’s bottom line. If it’s not converting your leads to long-term members, you’re losing out on important opportunities to grow. In this webinar, you’ll learn strategies from experts on how to:

  • Generate leads more effectively in your area
  • Use best practices for selling trial memberships
  • Overcome common sales objections
  • Convert leads into members

Presented by Tim Sarazen, Director of Operations at 97Display & Erik Charles Russell, Membership Sales Expert

Tim Sarazen is an expert in internet marketing at 97 Display, a fitness and martial arts website and marketing agency.

Erik Charles Russell has been in the fitness and martial arts industries for 25 years. Erik has coached, instructed, sold memberships, served as a program director, and owned multiple facilities. He has perfected a new method for membership sales and marketing that he has published in his book, The Art of Selling Memberships.

Webinar: Why Your Fitness Business Needs a Mobile App

Mobile apps can dramatically increase member retention and revenue for fitness businesses. By strengthening member loyalty, you reduce attrition and differentiate your facility from competitors. Apps provide additional marketing tools to help you promote events and special offers. Integration with your fitness center software enables cardless check-in and mobile schedules.

In this webinar, you’ll get a practical overview of the benefits of having your own mobile app. You’ll learn:

  • How mobile apps increase member retention
  • How to promote your facility and products using mobile technology
  • An affordable way to create and manage your own custom mobile app

Presented by Hugh McEvoy, General Manager at MiGym

Member Solutions partners with MiGym to provide a turnkey solution for gyms and fitness studios who want engage members through their own custom mobile app. Learn more about our MemberAssist mobile app and integrated fitness software.

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10 Ways to Reduce Your Delinquency Rate & Increase Cash Flow

Business charts and graphs

In the 26 years that Member Solutions has been in business, we’ve discovered that there are ways to alter member payment behaviors to ensure prompt and predictable cash flow to your facility. Here are 10 tips to reduce your delinquencies and facilitate collections with our managed billing services.

1. Avoid statement or coupon billing methods whenever possible.

Customers that pay by statement or coupon are 23% more likely to become delinquent than those who sign up for auto-pay. Enroll customers for bank draft or a credit card option. It’s a double-win for you: Customers are more likely to pay on time and electronic payment options save you money.

2. Get email addresses from every customer.

Email is one of the fastest ways to communicate with your customers. It has become an effective tool in delinquency management. When we send email reminders as part of our payment collections service, we provide a direct link to our customer-only website where your members can make payments and update their billing information.

3. Provide a contract copy promptly when requested.

Your agreement is legal proof of the customer’s obligation to pay. The quicker we receive the agreement, the better chance we have in recovering your funds.

4. Select due dates early in the month.

If a customer does miss a payment, has a declined payment, or a returned payment, Member Solutions has a better chance to recover your funds within the same billing cycle when payments are due when a new month starts. We recommend setting the 1st or 5th of the month as the due date for all of your members.

5. Know who’s delinquent.

Our most successful clients know how and where to find this information online. Here are ways to stay informed:

  • Review the delinquency report at least twice per month.
  • Sign up for Email Alerts. We’ll email you and any staff member you designate whenever a customer has a returned or declined payment.
  • Examine the Activity Report on a weekly basis. Not only will it provide you with a list of new accounts and funding activity, but it also will list any customers with an active follow-up that is preventing or delaying billing.

Member Solutions Managed Billing Solution - Software on Monitor

6. Work together with Member Solutions.

The clients we see with the lowest delinquency percentages work with our team to make it easy for members to manage their accounts and make payments. Some clients prefer to be direct with their members, while others prefer a subtle approach. Either method will increase collection results, so long as you’ve communicated your preferences to our team.

Once you know who is past due, you can simply hand your customer a Member Solutions’ business card and say, “Member Solutions has informed us that they have been unable to contact you. Here’s a card with their website and contact information.”

Once a customer is aware that you may know that they have a billing issue, they are more likely to pay on time to avoid embarrassment.

7. Ask your customer to provide you with their most accurate billing information.

Have them provide it to you directly rather than obtaining it from a driver’s license or previous billing account which may be outdated. Ask the customer to verify their vital billing information when they are signing the agreement.

8. Make sure that your customer knows that Member Solutions is servicing the billing portion of their agreement to avoid having payments charged back.

Your endorsement of Member Solutions provides your customers with the reassurance of your professionalism and commitment to quality service. Place the Member Solutions decal in your business and hand out contact cards, both provided free of charge. Talk about our customer portal, designed specifically for your customers to make payments, update their billing information, print payment history, or contact our customer service team.

9. Offer settlements to members who have trouble paying.

The longer an account remains delinquent, the less likely you are to receive payment. When a customer is no longer attending class or using your facility, they are more likely to stop paying altogether.

Once an account reaches 90 days delinquent, we recommend automatically offering the customer a settlement for a percentage of the remaining balance. This could bring you income in the form of a lump sum payment and leave the customer on better terms which could result in new customer referrals or re-enrollment in the future.

10. Don’t accept payments at your business.

Generally, we discourage our clients from accepting payments at your place of business. Accepting payments creates more work for you and increases the likelihood that your customer will receive delinquency phone calls and correspondence when they are not past due.

Worse yet, it also increases the chance of double billing your customer when the payment is not reported immediately to Member Solutions. Finally, once you accept that first payment, chances are it will occur again and diminish our authority when the customer decides not to pay.

5 Sales Email Mistakes That Are Costing You Gym Members

Computer typing writing

A lead fills out a form on your website for more information on one of your fitness programs.

You need to follow up. That includes sending follow-up emails. But with literally hundreds of emails in a lead’s email inbox, how can you make it so that your email doesn’t get deleted as soon as it’s received? How can you improve the chance that the lead will take the next step to visit your facility or take a class?

Here’s a don’t-do list that can help when crafting your follow-up emails:

1. Don’t write subject lines like an advertisement.

Avoid spammy email subject lines like How to lose 30 lbs. and keep it off.

The email subject line is the first thing that a lead sees. It should be relevant to the lead’s interest. For example, if a lead requested information on your Fitness kickboxing program, send an email with the subject line: “Membership options for Fitness Kickboxing with |LS|YOUR BUSINESS NAME|RS|.”

Making the subject line relevant to the request will increase the likelihood that the email will be read and get you that much closer to converting the lead to a membership.

2. Don’t send only canned, mass emails.

Continue with relevancy by making the email content about what the lead requested. Sticking with the Fitness Kickboxing example, include information on the program, the schedule, directions to your facility and other related content.

This doesn’t mean you can’t use canned email templates to respond quickly to common questions or requests. Just make sure your response truly addresses your prospect’s needs before sending.

Member Solutions Member Manger Software- Email Marketing Template

3. Don’t leave your lead hanging without a next step to take.

Every email that you send out should include a call-to-action— words that urge the lead to take immediate action. Common calls to action include Call Now and Sign Up Today. If you are including a link to your class schedule, you could include the call-to-action Sign up for a class today.

4. Don’t leave out your email and phone number.

All emails to your leads should have some sort of personalization to it including a way for leads to reach you. Some people prefer to pick up the phone. Others like email. Everyone is different. Include multiple contact methods within your emails. It will greatly improve the interaction between your fitness business and potential members.

5. Don’t shy away from lending your expertise.

You want to be known as the leader in your neighborhood, so tell everyone who will listen what you know. If you have an instructional fitness video, an article you’ve written on diet and exercise, any how-to materials at all, include them in your emails. Doing so will showcase your expertise and get the people that inquired about your programs inspired to take action.

Bottom line: Keep your follow-up emails relevant to the lead’s interest and provide ways for them to easily take the next step and get a hold of you. Doing so will get your leads in the door much quicker.

What kind of follow-up emails work for you? Tell us about it below.

4 Ways to Build Solid Customer Relationships in Your Fitness Business

Personal trainer and client smiling while discussing workout scheduling at fitness center

Are you focusing as much energy on your current members as you are with your new ones?

Having engaged, happy customers not only helps make your business more successful, but it also makes your job worth going to every day. When you open your doors on day one, it’s pretty easy to remember the important details of your first clients’ lives; birthdays, family events, career successes. As with any relationship, these are the details that form strong bonds and create customers that will stay with you for a long time.

As your member base grows, it becomes increasingly more difficult to have enough time in the day for those meaningful conversations—it’s not that you don’t want to, but if you spent even just five minutes a day with 200 members, that wouldn’t leave you with time to do much else. It is, of course, still vital to engage your customers. As with so many parts of your business, having systems in place helps to ensure that your customers know how important they are to you should be a key part of your operations.

1) Technology

Most modern technology is geared towards one thing: convenience. In this case, let technology do the work for you. If you have only a few short moments with one of your members, would you rather spend that time collecting an overdue payment or asking them how their weekend was? Assuming you answered the latter, letting your members know that they can make payments online will help you to forego the often times awkward conversation you need to have about their tardy payment.

If you have an event or class for which they need to register, let them know that they can register from the convenience of their home. Don’t make them stand at your front desk signing forms and writing checks when you could be asking them about their goals or soliciting their feedback.

2) Go Above & Beyond

What may seem like a little thing to you may alter the entire scope of somebody else’s day. You never know how an email to one of your customers may brighten their mood. Because it would be nearly impossible to manually send an email to each and every current and former member you’ve ever known, have a system in place to do it for you.

At a minimum, make sure you’re collecting birthday information and setting an email to be automatically sent on the right day. Remember, every email you send doesn’t necessarily have to contain information about upcoming events or sales. Sometimes a simple “Happy Birthday!” will go a lot further for your business.

3) Connect on the Phone

Of course, not everything can be an email or text message. Speaking to your customers directly, even over the phone, can help cement the relationship you’ve built. If you’re worried you may be missing someone, set yourself a reminder. Assign an ongoing task for someone on your staff to do touch base calls. Most importantly, don’t wait until the member hasn’t been there for a while; engagement is proactive, not reactive.

4) Hold Member Appreciation Events

Everyone wants to grow their member base. Holding “Bring a Friend” events is an effective and often times lucrative way to hit that goal. Remember, though, you can’t grow your member base without doing your best to keep the current roster engaged and happy.

Holding member appreciation events can do just that. Host a free event in which your only expense is your time (a special group class) and only invite your current customers. Some may argue that the value gained from these events can even far exceed the cost of an event you pay for out-of-pocket, such as hiring a special speaker or trainer.

Before and after the event, give them the chance to mingle with each other. Take the opportunity to talk to them on a personal level. Cultivate a community within your business. If you host these events regularly, not only will your relationship with your customers improve but your customers’ relationships with each other will improve, too.

As always, Member Solutions is invested in your success. We offer a variety of tools that can help you systemize important aspects of your business so that you can focus on what you do best. If you’d like to learn more about how you can make the most of these tools, don’t hesitate to contact the Training and Support team at 877.600.3811 or support@membersolutions.com to schedule a training session today.

About the author: Justin Bodamer is the Product Support Manager for Member Solutions. The Training & Support team is dedicated to helping you and your team make the most of your software and services. You can contact him at membersolutions@membersolutions.com.

Killer Customer Service: 5 Quick Tips for Your Fitness Business

Two young women hand credit card for membership payment to representative at front desk

Upon entering a sushi or Japanese restaurant, you may be greeted by the chefs with the expression, Irasshaimase, which means Welcome, please come in. It is one of the reasons I love going out for sushi, and I eat a lot of it.

Whether you’re a personal trainer, a fitness club operator, or a yoga studio manager, you want to create that same special feeling when people enter your business’s door or even walk into a class that is being taught.

The policy at our personal training studio is very simple: Every trainer greets everyone. They do not pass a client without saying hello. If the client is leaving, they say goodbye. These greetings and salutations go a long way to making our clients feel at home in our gym, which is exactly the feeling we strive for.

The easiest way to provide killer customer service in your fitness business is to do more for your members.

Here are five quick and simple ways to amp up your customer service:

1. Offer Towel Service—Provide clients with workout towels and shower towels so they do not need to carry around a wet towel all day in their gym bag. If you do not have access to laundry services, you can brand the towels with your business logo and use the towels as promotions by giving them to new clients as a welcome gift. The towels will serve as additional advertising should your clients visit another gym.

2. Provide Online Appointment Scheduling—Your clients deserve quick access to your schedules so they can make changes and book the sessions that they want, when they want them. The great thing with using fitness software like Member Manager is that frees up your time from answering the phone or emailing people back and forth to book appointments. Online scheduling will end appointment errors (no more double-bookings), and keep your clients happy and in charge of their scheduling.

3. Run Internal Events and Contests—Contests and events can be easy to put together and fun for your clients and trainers. Track the number of steps and reward those that hit 10,000 steps a day, or use the elliptical and stair climbers to track against the elevation of mountains like Everest or Fuji. Internal competitions, contests, and events will keep your clients engaged and your trainers focused.

4. Host an Online Store—This is another double-purpose service offering, one that clients love and that you can use to generate more revenue for your fitness business. Sell your memberships, personal training sessions, your fitness gear, and even your events through an online store. Add your affiliate’s websites to this same store to generate even more revenue for your fitness business.

5. Spa-Up Your Bathrooms —Your clients are busy and need to get ready for a day of work or a night out. Provide soaps, shampoos, and accessories to transform your change room into a spa-like space. If you do this right, you can also sell these same products to your members by setting up distributor agreements with suppliers.

When you deliver superior customer service like this, you can use it as a competitive advantage to contend with other fitness gyms and studios, to justify your price points, and to promote additional revenue streams, all while making your existing clients raving fans of your fitness facility.

How to Respond to Membership Contract Complaints

membership contract signature with pen on paper

A written billing agreement―otherwise known as a membership contract—is a standard business document used by many membership-based businesses. Every day, martial arts schools, fitness clubs, yoga and Pilates studios, and MMA gyms establish agreements with their members. The membership business offers classes, lessons, equipment, and/or training in exchange for payment from the member. Through the membership contract, the member agrees to use services provided by the business and pay for them at an agreed price under certain terms and conditions.

Sounds clear-cut, right? Unfortunately, issues surrounding membership contracts arise, and those issues can be anything but clear-cut. Members often oppose the terms of the signed billing agreement, stating, “That is not what I was told when I joined.” Membership contract complaints turn into a ‘contract dispute’ and can then escalate to a formal consumer complaint filed with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and/or the State Attorney General.

Formal complaints issued through the BBB and/or State Attorney General aren’t to be taken lightly. Here are 6 tips you should consider before responding to these complaints:

  1. Make sure you fully understand the membership contract complaint before you respond. Angry customers tend to throw everything they can into a formal complaint in order to prove their case. Before you formulate your response, find the customer’s proposed resolution. Once you know of the requested resolution, you can better address the complaint.
  2. Keep your personal feelings out of it. Your anger or disappointment has no place in a formal response letter. Many local BBBs post responses online for others to review. State the facts only.
  3. Back up your responses with documentation, e.g. a written billing agreement or cancellation form. Be sure to black out any bank account or credit card numbers if they are included in your documentation.
  4. Keep copies of the complaint and your responses. If the issue is not resolved with the first correspondence, you may receive a rebuttal complaint. Having a copy of the first letter helps in responding to the second letter.
  5. If you do not agree with the customer’s suggested resolution, offer an alternative. This displays your willingness to compromise and end the dispute on amicable terms.
  6. Whether the consumer complaint is filed with the BBB or the State Attorney General, it is very important to respond by the suggested deadline date. This is especially true of Attorney General complaints. The Attorney General has the power to investigate further and can prosecute if it finds wrong-doing. Your best bet with Attorney General disputes is to find a way to resolve them as quickly as possible.

As I’ve mentioned before, your ability to resolve the membership conflict complaints is an extremely important part of keeping your business successful and your business reputation protected. Often times it is best to find a resolution that works for both parties.

For additional guidance, read my post on how to properly handle member cancellations.

About the author: Margo Stauffer has extensive experience in managing customer service teams in several industries, including eight years in the health and fitness area serving franchisees throughout the world.

Sales Scripts to Improve Your Martial Arts Membership Selling Skills

Woman talking on mobile phone

In my last post, I covered how you should respond when a prospective martial arts school member insists on getting a price from you over the phone.

The truth is that price is just one of the objections you’ll face during membership selling. In order to turn a hesitant prospect into a long-term member, you need to address each and every one of their concerns. Specifically, most prospects will push back on the same four areas—location, schedule/time, motivation/commitment, and their significant other.

The good news is that there’s an easy, fool-proof way to eliminate each of these four objections. To learn how, all you and your staff need to do is practice these simple sales scripts.

Membership Sales Script: Answering the Price QuestionQuestion: How much is it to join?

Never give your membership prices until they’re ready to buy. Giving a price before they’ve experienced what you have to offer is telling them is that there’s no benefit to choosing you over the competition, other than price. However, you must answer their question.

You: Thank you for your interest. The price of your membership is going to depend on the program that you choose. We have quite a few options. Have you ever trained before, or is this something new for you?

Prospect: Oh, I’m new at this. I’ve never joined a gym before in my life.

You: Ok, great. Well, we’re very beginner friendly. We’re good at helping new people with little or no experience get great results in a safe and healthy way. What’s the goal you’re looking to accomplish by becoming a member?

Prospect: I’m looking to lose weight.

You: Very good. That’s actually the number one reason why people become members here—so you’ve called the right place. May I ask your name?

Prospect: My name is Judy.

You: Ok, Judy. What I normally do is have you come in and try out our club/program for free. I’ll talk to you a little bit more about your goals and some ways that we can achieve them when you come in. This free session gives me the opportunity to see where you are and helps me make the best program recommendation that I can for you. This also allows you to try us out—without any obligation and to see if you like it. When are you available to come in for your free session? Do you work days or nights?

Appointment Tip for Prospective Members

When setting an appointment with your prospective member, confirm that she knows where you’re located and how to get to you. Be sure to get a phone number and to add them to your member management software, which will allow you to track your interactions with them through the sales process.

Erik Charles Russell has been in the Martial Arts and Fitness industry more than 25 years. He owns Premier Martial Arts and Fitness in Watertown, NY. In 2015, he published a book based on his successes called “The Art of Selling Memberships”. The book became an international best seller—hitting number one in three categories in the U.S., Australia, and Germany on Amazon.com.

Membership Contracts: How to Properly Respond to Formal Complaints

A written billing agreement ― otherwise known as a membership contact — is a standard business document used by many membership-based businesses. Every day, Martial Arts schools, fitness clubs, yoga and Pilates studios, and MMA gyms establish agreements with their members. The membership business offers classes, lessons, equipment, and/or training in exchange for payment from the member. Through the membership contract, the member agrees to use services provided by the business and pay for them at an agreed price under certain terms and conditions.

Sounds clear-cut, right? Unfortunately issues surrounding membership contracts arise, and those issues can be anything but clear-cut. Members often times end up opposing the terms of the signed billing agreement, stating “that is not what I was told when I joined“. These complaints turn into a ‘contract dispute’ and can then escalate to a formal consumer complaint filed through the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and/or the State Attorney General.

Formal complaints issued through the BBB and/or State Attorney General aren’t to be taken lightly. Here are some tips you should consider before responding to these complaints:

  1. Make sure you fully understand the complaint before you respond. Angry customers tend to throw everything they can into a formal complaint in order to prove their case. Before you formulate your response, find the customer’s proposed resolution. Once you know of the requested resolution, you can better address the complaint.
  2. Keep your personal feelings out of it. Your anger or disappointment has no place in a formal response letter. Many local BBBs post responses online for others to review. State the facts only.
  3. Back up your responses with any documentation you may have, i.e. a written billing agreement, cancellation form, etc. Be sure to black out any bank account or credit card numbers if they are included on your documentation.
  4. Keep copies of the complaint and your responses. If the issue is not resolved with the first correspondence, you may receive a rebuttal complaint. Having a copy of the first letter helps in responding to the second letter.
  5. If you do not agree with the customer’s suggested resolution, offer an alternative. This displays your willingness to compromise and end the dispute on amicable terms.
  6. Whether the consumer complaint is filed with the BBB or the State Attorney General, it is very important to respond by the suggested deadline date. This is especially true of Attorney General complaints. The Attorney General has the power to investigate further and can prosecute if it finds wrong-doing. Your best bet with Attorney General disputes is to find a way to resolve them as quickly as possible.

As I’ve mentioned before, your ability to resolve the conflict and complaint is an extremely important part of keeping your membership business successful and your business reputation protected. Often times it is best to find a resolution that works for both parties.

For additional guidance, read my post on how to properly handle member cancellations.

Margo Stauffer is the Director of Customer Service for Member Solutions. She manages the Customer Service and Client Services Teams. Over the years, she has managed customer service teams in several industries including eight years in the health and fitness area serving franchisees throughout the world. She has been with Member Solutions for nearly five years.

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