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Sept. 20 2006 12:00 AM

           In my last article, "Buyer's Guide for Health Care Businesses," I discussed the necessary tools needed to run a fitness business. However, once you are up and running, the challenge is how do you differentiate your business from all the others when your competition has the same tools?

            Most fitness businesses rely on their features (size, years in business, list of equipment, etc.) to lure and sell fitness services to their prospects succumbing to the old philosophy "Build it and they will come." But with more and more options good and bad available to our target audience, you will need more than the latest equipment and nice aesthetics to win your target audience's business. What will separate the cutting-edge fitness providers from the rest of the fitness industry that look only to mirror every other fitness business that exists today? The answer is an effective Member Intake Process (MIP) Consultation.

            MIP is a systemized integration of all fitness services and products. Through an effective MIP system, fitness providers capitalize on the facility personnel's "position of influence" to individually dictate what, when, how much and how often the prospects will utilize available services and products to achieve desired health and fitness goals. The beauty of this strategically designed MIP system is that it is perfect for the first-time, de-conditioned audience that wants to be told exactly what they need to do, allowing for maximal revenue per member without any sacrifice of integrity.


Above Your Competition

            I imagine you must be saying to yourself, "The local fitness provider down the road says they do the same." Fortunately for businesses looking for that competitive advantage, what a company says and does is usually nowhere close to being true. For instance, if you were to tour a facility with a salesperson, I would guarantee that 99 out of 100 facilities would promise you everything under the sun with the membership fee. You will be offered the typical three personal training sessions and a customized program with your membership. In reality, the member actually receives three general equipment orientations and a cookie-cutter circuit workout. The facility believes the new member perceives this as an added service and, hence, hopes to benefit from the member. However, the member's experience with the initial intake into the facility is minimal and validated as minimal by seeing his or her spouse or friends getting the same orientation/workout. The new member typically appreciates the time the facility personnel have spent with him or her but doesn't always see the value in the facility as truly being the ultimate health and fitness resource. Without any defining value established, the new member/prospect has no reason to purchase any other service, no reason to refer a friend or, even worse, no reason to continue his or her membership when obstacles (lack of time, money, illness, vacation, etc.) present themselves, resulting in missed revenue opportunities and deleted residual income.


Relationship Building

            So the next question is how to avoid making the same mistake as traditional health and fitness facilities. The answer is with a systemized MIP template. By utilizing an MIP template, the facility ensures consistency of execution and professionalism to parallel an already established health care practice, while at the same time allowing flexibility in the MIP template for individualization and maximum results for both member and facility. In a nutshell save yourself time, energy and money.

            There are four critical relationship situations that increase the likelihood of people buying something from you? They get to:

1. Know you

2. Like you

3. Feel comfortable with you

4. Trust you


               The goal during the MIP consultation is to accomplish these relationship targets while executing the core components of the MIP. When constructing your MIP consultation template, be sure to include the core components of fact finding, assessment, exercise prescription overview ("game-plan") and referral. Successful completion of the MIP core components dramatically increases the closing ratio to secure, on average, seven out of every 10 prospects to purchase out-of-pocket health and fitness services.


Going Beyond Assessment

                        In the process of accomplishing the above four tasks, it's important to identify the problem that the new member wants resolved and then demonstrate clearly, step-by-step with a start and end point how you can solve that problem. The best way to do this is via a consultation, not just an assessment. An assessment can tell the member where they are in terms of health and fitness levels, whereas the MIP consultation not only identifies the health and fitness status, it more importantly provides a solution via an exercise plan that will assist them in getting from Point A to Point B. This consultation via the MIP is an opportunity for the professional to listen to the goals of the individual, identify the Y-Factor (why achieving those particular goals is important from an emotional perspective), balance availability, screen medical history, assess postural and functional limitations, factor in current activity level, identify and solve past obstacles, while complementing family, professional and social obligations. Only after this information is obtained can any professional truly create a personalized "game plan" to safely and effectively reach the prospects desired goals. Remember, the target audience not only needs to be told exactly what to do, but they expect to be told and will pay for those detailed instructions.

            Utilizing the information obtained during fact finding and assessment allows for an initial exercise prescription (ExRx) overview game plan to be presented to the prospect to begin the selling process. The advantage of utilizing an MIP system with an ExRx overview as the foundation is that it opens up an entire new revenue line.

            An ExRx details each and everything members do each day of the week. This should include the days a client or patient would work with a personal trainer, exercise on his or her own, as well as scheduled days off for recovery. Specifically, the ExRx would include what days would be spent resistance training; including which exercises to do, how many sets and reps, how much rest between sets and a warm up and cool down. The ExRx would also include what days a client or patient does cardiovascular and/or mind/body exercise including intensity, duration and type of activity. Additionally, the ExRx should include behavior strategy steps to improving a client's supportive nutritional intake.


Driving Dollars to the Bottom Line

            Every facility owner/operator wants to generate huge non-due revenues (NDR), such as personal training (one-on-one, small group training) to take pressure off new membership sales and membership retention. The challenge with personal training is that only a small percentage of members will invest in personal training services regardless of how inexpensive the fees are. However, when presented with the ExRx overview during the MIP consultation, prospects now see an alternative to the traditional expensive one-on-one sessions. With a more win-win situation, a prospect who participates in an MIP consultation can now decide in what capacity he/she will invest to ensure the desired goals are achieved. This capacity can range from one-on-one training, combination of ExRx and one-on-one or ExRx only. Having this range is a welcome contrast to the traditional option of either personal training or nothing at all that is available by most fitness providers. An effective MIP not only promotes personal training but also systematically ups sales of other products (heart rate monitor, supplements, etc.) or programs (yoga, Pilates, spinning, massage, etc.) into the ExRx overview to support the bottom line of the business.

            An effective MIP consultation is only good when there are prospects. The MIP consultation is not to be confused with effective marketing. A plus for existing health care providers is that there is already an established database of patients who know, like, feel comfortable with as well as trust waiting to be served!


            For more information or questions about constructing your own MIP consultation process, contact Mark J. Rullo, MS, CSCS, MES at 724.972.8060 or via email at