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Community rec centers strive to do one thing: create a community. In order to fulfill this goal, you must have people inside your facility, which requires staff to turn interested prospects into members.

Elsa Guerra Williams, the director of membership and engagement at the YMCA of Greater San Antonio, in San Antonio, Texas, said this starts with discovering “why” a potential member is interested. “Finding out the true reason behind why someone visited or inquired about engaging with us on their wellness journey is key to turning a prospect into a Y member,” she said. “We strive to connect prospects to our staff, other members and our programs.”

But convincing someone to join doesn’t come without challenges.

In today’s society, there are a plethora of options and different ways to access health and fitness. While this is great for the betterment of society, it isn’t always great for business. However, Williams said it is all about making sure your facility stands out, which hasn’t been an issue for her Y.

“What sets the Y apart from others is the tremendous focus we have on families and the individual experience overall,” said Williams. “The saying goes, ‘The Y is more than just a gym.’ This is evidenced by the fact we have been serving the ever-changing wellness needs of this community for more than 143 years and are still going strong.”

Laurie Greenspan, the marketing director at the JCC of Greater Buffalo in Getzville, New York, said the challenge is all about finalizing the sale.

“The majority of people coming in pretty much know they are going to join or have another gym they are comparing us to,” said Greenspan. “It’s a matter of closing the sale that day or it may be lost forever.”

When a prospect walks into the JCC of Greater Buffalo for a tour of the facility, they are handed a tour sheet. The sheet asks pointed questions to try and gather why the potential member is interested. The staff reviews the sheet and finds ways to show the prospect how they would be a great fit.

If the prospect decides to join, the JCC staff executes follow-ups through their onboarding plan. “The plan involves not only the membership team, but the fitness team as well by utilizing email and phone calls to keep that personal touch going,” explained Greenspan.

The JCC of Greater Buffalo’s executive officer periodically does talks and walk throughs with the sales team. “He provides tips, encouragement and congratulations,” said Greenspan. “We found it really helps with morale, which is seen by members, which also helps with retention.”

The Rose E. Schneider Family YMCA in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, has a similar approach to turning an interested prospect into a new member.

“When a potential member comes in, we welcome them with open arms,” said Carrie Ohorodnyk, the executive director of the Rose E. Schneider Family Y. “We provide them with the opportunity to tour our amazing facility and hear all about the programs and services we have to offer them and our community.”

However, if the prospect decides not to join that day, the Rose E. Schneider Family Y provides them with guest passes. This allows the prospect to come try out the Y for themselves at no cost.

In terms of follow-ups, the Rose E. Schneider Family Y executes these by utilizing their membership software, Daxko Operations and Daxko Engage, and their staff. “Each department director has their own spin on how they reach out to potential members,” said Ohorodnyk. “We also love-up on our program participants that are not members in hopes they will want to experience more of what the Y has to offer.”

But before community rec centers can turn a prospect into a member, they first have to increase brand awareness. This is where marketing comes into play.

Williams said digital marketing, social media and member referrals have proven to be the most effective way to generate interest in a membership at the YMCA of Greater San Antonio. The Y also uses a “Solutions Center” team of individuals for systematic outreach. This group is made up of dedicated staff members who focus on metrics and results.

The JCC of Greater Buffalo relies on their members to help market the facility. “As most marketers know, word of mouth is the No. 1 way people hear about you, so we try to provide the best possible customer service at all levels,” explained Greenspan. “I diversify my marketing to target different demographics using methods best suited for them.”

When it comes to marketing to older adults, the JCC of Greater Buffalo uses print ads in senior magazines in the surrounding area. To target the 40 to 60-year-old population in the surrounding areas, the JCC utilizes Facebook posts. Lastly, in order to reach the younger crowd, the JCC posts to Instagram. Greenspan said they also, once or twice a year, send postcards to a four-mile radius around their locations.

The Rose E. Schneider Family Y likes to spread the word by getting out into the community. The Y will attend community events such as school outreach programs, health fairs, trade shows and the Cranberry Community Days. This allows them to meet community members and establish a personal connection. Additionally, the Y will offer special promotions like waving the joining fee or giving people a free month.

While there are different avenues to pursue turning a prospect into a member, there is one commonality: customer service. Being honest, open and transparent will help potential members make a personal connection, and in return, you may improve one more life in your community.

Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is the assistant editor of Community Rec Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com.

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