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As you get ready to gear up for cold weather, holidays, end of year celebrations and closing out your budget year strong, how many of you have a solid January plan in place?

After years of planning out great January events, activities, promotions and more, I finally realized I was late to the party. Why do we wait until January? What if we pursued new members, put retention activities in place, and had our best promotions in November? Could we get ahead of the game?

We all know everyone is offering their best deal in January, right? But why? Anyone who has been around for a year or two knows communities will flock to a gym on January 1. In fact, they can’t get there fast enough. 

Communities sign up for gym memberships in record numbers in January, and they would even without a promotion. Knowing this, let’s put the promotion out in November, and include events and activities to engage them through the holidays, so when January hits, they are already on their way to a successful New Year.

Here are a few tips for getting your New Year promotions started off right:

  1. Get creative with your membership promotions early in November. Think about how you can make November your biggest sales month of the year. This could include offering a lower joiner’s fee or enrollment fee. It could also include offering December for free if a new member signs up in November — imagine how happy new members will be to save on those monthly dues during the holiday season. Offer what you can and take a risk. 
  2. Use knowledge of your community to get some buzz going about a fun event or activity at your location. Offer up some holiday challenges, a Turkey Trot or cookies with Santa, anything that will help create positive energy and excitement.
  3. Ramp up your referral program promotions. Send direct mail pieces, put inserts in the local paper, buy a billboard, get a radio ad, or get multiple TV ads on local channels. Just do it early!
  4. Elevate your social media presence ahead of the holidays. Think about how much time people take off, staying home from work, scrolling through their phone. Post new videos, stories and pictures of the fun action at your location. You can even go a step further — connect with a social media influencer, have them post from your location, and watch the members flock to your facility.
  5. Celebrate your new members. Create opportunities for them to connect with each other, expand your group exercise offerings, add more staff during peak times, and make sure everyone feels like they should have been there all along.

The reality is that people have options, and they are thinking about getting fit and meeting people long before January every year. Be the first to get to them, be the best with them, and start in November. You won’t regret it.


Courtney Harrness is a multi-site executive director for the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities.


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