Today, we're excited to share an interview with Donyel Cerceo, Director of Marketing at Merritt Clubs. Merritt Clubs is a family-friendly fitness brand with several locations throughout Baltimore, Maryland. In this interview, Donyel covers some great topics related to retaining gym members. She also offers advice to other marketers on how to be successful in the fitness industry.
I've been the marketing director at Merritt Clubs for nearly 18 years. That's almost unheard of in this industry- but I love my job.
I have seen a lot of changes in gym advertising since I started in 2004. Advertising was historically done with print ads and traditional television. Now it is almost all digital tools. We like digital marketing because it's easier to measure and quantify the return on investment.
We have nine clubs total in the Baltimore metro area. Two of our clubs are Platinum Clubs. They are in Baltimore City and have features like rooftop pools, basketball courts, and incredible views of the city. If you join one of these clubs, you have access to all of our other clubs.
Our next tier is Gold membership. It offers outdoor pools and similar gym services, but no access to two of our city clubs and our rooftop pool.
There are three Express Clubs. These are not for kids, but people can come in and work out any time. There is no towel service, pools or other amenities like we have in the Gold and Platinum clubs.
It's been interesting to market these different clubs to different demographics. I have been doing it for 18 years and it's been a fun ride.
We were shut down for three months due to the pandemic. When we first reopened, gym memberships were down 40%. Then there was a wave of gym members returning a year into the pandemic. They got tired of working out at home by themselves and wanted to come back to the gym and socialize again.
It's summertime and gym memberships are still down about 15%. However, we are fortunate that Merritt Clubs has great ownership and survived the pandemic.
We observe social distancing in our clubs. We're adamant about sanitizing and keeping everything clean so that gym members feel safe.
We also run specials where customers can buy a monthly membership at committed rates. With the pandemic, we found that people are afraid of committing to contracts. They don't know if COVID-19 will spike again or mask mandates might return. This pricing strategy has enabled us to sign up these members and helped our business rebound.
We use Perkville with its partner SolutionOne. SolutionOne allows us to give away next-level rewards to our members. We can offer things like a five-night stay at a resort in Mexico, or air pods and Ray-Ban sunglasses at minimum cost to us. This helps us with retaining members.
Perkville made a huge difference for us during COVID-19. People didn't want to cancel their memberships and lose their points or miss out on cool rewards. So the program helped us keep gym members, and it makes Merritt Clubs stand out. People wanted to come back into the club to get those points.
Our members like it when we run sweepstakes for trips. Right now, we have a reward where people can get 20% off on our programs. Members are liking that as well. Cooler drinks and smoothies are a very popular reward. It also helps sales because a member that may not have bought a smoothie, but they have the points, might try it out and start purchasing them.
We use HubSpot to track everything including landing pages and lead capture. It allows us to see what mediums are driving the most traffic.
We do "Over the Top Advertising '' or OTT. This is a type of advertising where you put a pixel on your website. This pixel tracks how many people visit your website after seeing one of your OTT ads on a TV streaming service. It can also retarget people that see OTT ads. I prefer OTT because it's more affordable than traditional television ads and easier to measure return on investment because you can track conversions.
With COVID-19, QR codes are more popular than ever. So we print them on things like passes and flyers to direct people who scan the code to our website. The integration with HubSpot can add these people as leads in our system for marketing campaigns as well.
Track everything and be aware of your marketing spend. You need to know the return on investment. If you're new to the fitness industry, creating brand awareness might be more important to you. But for Merritt Clubs, we've been around for 45 years. Our local market knows who we are. So for me, it's all about driving traffic and knowing where it's coming from.
To retain gym members, Merritt Clubs...
For more insight on how to increase gym member retention rates, check out these blog posts:
Perkville offers a way to create and manage your customer loyalty and referral program. We automate the experience by integrating to point-of-sale, scheduling and membership systems.