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The holidays bring out a lot in people: gratitude, giving and motivation for a healthier lifestyle. As a result, January is a popular time in the industry where facilities see an increase of new members. But when is it appropriate to start holiday marketing campaigns?

For the YMCA of San Diego County, the answer is sooner, rather than later.

“For anything holiday-related, beyond having the year mapped out well ahead of time for budgets, we’re planning no later than summer,” said Heidi Hutchison, the chief marketing and experience officer for the San Diego Y. “For the world we’re in at the YMCA, January is truly king. However, we’d be remiss to not join the holiday campaign conversation in November and December.”

To stay ahead of the game, the Y launched gratitude campaigns at the beginning of November to thank their existing members. In December, they plan on encouraging consumers in their market to give the gift of health and purchase Y gift cards as holiday presents. “True to the mission of the Y, we’re mapping character values with promoting services,” said Hutchison.

Holiday campaigns can not only attract new members, but they can also help retain current members, according to Hutchison. “Because we’re focusing on gratitude in November, our ‘Refer a Friend’ programs are great for member retention,” she said. “We’re focused on getting people connected to get better health results. You’re more likely to go to the gym if your friend is going with you.”

The facility is also working on promoting their KickStart orientation program to existing members as an effort to boost retention. “We’ve found that if members get engaged with us or receive any kind of orientation, they’re more likely to stay with us,” explained Hutchison.

While there are a variety of marketing platforms, the San Diego Y has found digital works best for them. “Without question — digital,” said Hutchison. “We’re meeting consumers where they are during the holiday season — they’re shopping online.”

Overall, Hutchison has two ‘must-dos’ when it comes to holiday marketing. “Do have a presence, but don’t over saturate,” she said. “It’s a perfect opportunity for the Y to show off our cause marketing side and not just discount. Another must-do — you must be very targeted. There is a lot of noise in the market and it’s difficult for your messages to be heard.”

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