By Natasha Tsoutsouris, AFS Community Expert
When I was the Fitness Director of a small health and fitness facility, I dreaded the inevitable times we had to send out the “price increase” letters *insert head thumping on desk here*. It’s never pleasant to tell members you’re going to take more of their hard earned money.
Working in a neighborhood club allowed me many advantages a large scale fitness center simply could not; I was on a first name basis with most of the members, I knew what was going on their lives, heck, I even helped a member name her first child! I was IN with these people! I don’t have to tell you the more invested a member is in your club the harder it is for them to leave. I always believed in having an open door policy with not only my staff but also my members.
So when our corporate office had us handle the issue of either dues or training pricing increases, I knew the responses would be many and they would be angry. Plagued with visions of members storming into my office, which didn’t have a door on it so I couldn’t hide even if I wanted to, I decided to get in front of this unpleasantness. How would I want to be told? What would be the most gentle way to tell me I was about to pay more for something, even if I loved it and knew I needed it?
1) Lead with Gratitude
There are a lot of different fitness options from which people can choose. Let your members know how much you appreciate that they chose you; acknowledge that you wouldn’t be the facility you are without members like them; thank them for their continued support.
I decided to get in front of this unpleasantness. How would I want to be told? What would be the most gentle way to tell me I was about to pay more for something, even if I loved it and knew I needed it?
2) Be Honest
State the mission of your facility. Whether it be to give your members the best possible experience each and every time they enter your club - “Oh, yeah! I DO love that they have donuts every day! I’ll pay an extra 2 bucks a month just for that alone!”- Or to create an environment set on the latest and greatest in the industry –“Bosus inflated with water that we strap to our backs like mules while we run down the street?? I’m in!” Whatever it is, this will be a nice, gentle reminder to your members why they chose you and why they should continue to choose you.
3) Upgrades and Improvements
When people hear they’re getting charged more they tend to focus on that one word – more. It is your job to shed positive light on that word. List all the improvements that have been made to your facility over the past year, or however how long it has been since your last price increase, to help them further enjoy their time at your facility. Mention the new/upgraded equipment, the continued education your fitness staff has completed in order to give them the best training available, any awards or accolades a staff member or your facility has received, extended hours, improved amenities, etc.
4) Now You Can Slip In The Price Increase
You have thanked your members. You have reminded them of why they chose you. You have listed any and all fantastic improvements that have been made for them…..now you can drop the price increase hammer. In order for you to continue to provide your members with donuts and water filled Bosus, you will also improve the structure of your pricing. List the new pricing succinctly. Do not mention what they are currently paying or beat around the bush. People appreciate honesty. Tell them what the new pricing is and move on. Continue by re-iterating that you are committed to providing high quality facilities and services throughout the year. Conclude the letter by giving them your email or any method of communication with which you are most comfortable.
5) When to Tell the Members
You want to give members enough time to accept the new pricing but not too much time that they think about it and look for someplace else. I have found, through much trial and error, that 30 days notice is the most effective. You can certainly come up with your own time line but knowing your business and what you believe would work best is ideal.
6) Potential Ramifications
You need to be prepared to lose some members. People will be upset. But many members, most, in fact, will cool down and see all the amazing things only you can offer them, how good they feel about themselves and the changes in their lives that occurred because of you. They will continue to pay and pay more. They will continue to support you and your business. And they will be happy to do so. Hang in there. You’ll be ok.
Natasha Tsoutsouris has been in the fitness industry for 12 years. She has worn many hats during that time, from certified personal trainer to fitness director to Pilates and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.