// Cross program marketing - using programs to market other programs and services

by Laurie Cingle

Typically, in-house marketing of club programs and services consists of flyers, posters and brochures. We cover the walls with them. We tack them onto bulletin boards. We put them on easels and move them from location to location in various areas of the club. The frustrating thing about this type of program marketing is that most members are sign-blind! They don’t read the information we post.

Once, to advertise a family bicycle ride and picnic, we hung a mountain bike from the ceiling in the lobby of the club just one-and-a-half metres from the ground, directly in the path from the front door to the check-in desk. Attached to the bike was a banner announcing the program and its details. In our minds, there was no way our members would not notice our attempt to market this fantastic program.

Later, when a group exercise instructor asked her class participants about the bike ride, most of the members of the class said they hadn’t noticed the bike in the lobby. They, like the majority of other members, simply stepped around it without a second glance. If members don’t notice a bike hanging from the ceiling, almost low enough to hit them in the head, what else can you do to create interest?
Cross-program marketing, i.e., marketing programs through other programs, is an easy and effective way to capture the attention of members who typically don’t read your printed information. Current well-attended programs and classes provide you with a forum for getting members interested in utilising services and enrolling in other programs. The following are some examples of cross-program marketing that can work for your club.


Identify all of the classes on your group exercise schedule with a primary focus on strength training, functional training, core conditioning and flexibility training. The members who attend these classes are interested in this way of exercising, otherwise they would not attend. From the classes you’ve identified, choose one or two each week and ask the instructor to announce that a personal trainer will be waiting for them in the weights area or flexibility area to explain and teach a specific exercise targeting a specific muscle group. For example, a seated cable row, triceps extension or hamstrings stretch. It is even better if the trainer steps into the class at the time the instructor makes
the announcement so the members will know who to look for.

Allow the personal trainer to determine how they wish to present. This is a great opportunity for them to build their client base. One example is for the trainer to spend five minutes explaining the mechanics of the muscle group, describing how the machine works and demonstrating the exercise. Then a few members can be invited to try the exercise while the trainer assists, corrects and continues to hold the interest of the other members who are observing. During this time, the trainer informs all members present of current and future group training programs and invites them to participate in these programs. The members can then be reminded that one-on-one personal training sessions are always available at any time of any day. It is also a good idea to provide the interested members with an information sheet summarising what the trainer talked about and which includes the list of programs offered and how they can easily enrol.

Take care to make these sessions special by offering them intermittently. If you offer them after every class, the members and the personal trainers will lose enthusiasm for them.


The popularity of group cycling classes has naturally created a trend for classes that utilise other pieces of cardiovascular equipment. A ‘treading’ class can be added to your group exercise schedule and conducted on treadmills at off-peak times.

Individuals who participate in this class are vigorous walkers and runners. During this 45-minute class done to music, participants are ‘coached’ by an instructor who is not only experienced in running 10km races and marathons but who is also very motivating and able to create a memorable experience in every class. Ideally this instructor/coach will also be able to work with members to improve their running and walking techniques.

During each class, the coach can paint a mental picture of completing a 10km race or a marathon to further enthuse the class members who are evidently already interested in running and walking. At the same time, the coach can invite them to take this vision and make it a reality by enrolling in a group training session like ‘10 Weeks to 10km Success’ that will prepare them for specific events, or a one-hour seminar on how to select proper shoes.

The instructor/coach can remind the class participants that one-on-one sessions are also available. Local races can also be announced, with members being encouraged to join the coach and a group of other members at the event.


The number one goal identified by club members is weight loss. Many members think that by simply exercising three times a week at a moderate intensity the kilos will melt away. We in the club business know that it is not that simple. Where weight loss is concerned, making good food choices along with proper exercise is the key to success.

Once a month, the individual on your team identified as your nutrition expert can conduct a ‘Nutrition Focus’. Your nutrition expert can be a dietitian, nutritionist, personal trainer or fitness professional, as long as they do not step outside of the legal scope of practice guidelines associated with their educational background, certifications and licenses.

To conduct a Nutrition Focus, set up a table in your foyer staffed with your nutrition expert and featuring a sign that tells members what you are doing (and even if they are still sign-blind, the manned-table should not escape their attention!). Choose any food you like – common, new on the market, unusual – and put out samples. Let’s choose, as our example, a baked potato chip in three different flavours; sour cream and onion, barbeque and salt-and-vinegar. Prepare a product information sheet that compares the nutritional qualities of baked potato chips to other brands of traditional fried chips. In addition, list all current and upcoming nutrition and weight management programs and how they can enrol, along with any products your club sells and the easiest way they can be purchased.

As members walk past the Nutrition Focus table, the nutrition expert can personally invite them to sample the food. It is up to your resident foodie to engage the member in conversation. A savvy nutritionist will schedule the member for a complimentary one-on-one consultation so they can discover together which programs and services will best lead them to success. They can also be scheduled for an upcoming nutrition seminar or simply talk about the different programs offered as outlined on the product information sheet.


As an alternative to periodically offering a complimentary chair massage to members as a way to market this service, invite your massage therapist into any group exercise class to conduct an eight-minute relaxing cooldown. This can be done several times a week. Allow the massage therapist to choose how they wish to present the cooldown.

It is their opportunity to showcase themselves in the hopes of booking business. One example is to take the participants through a quick stretch followed by a lesson in simple self-massage techniques. The massage therapist can walk among the class to make hands-on contact with as many people as time allows. A savvy practitioner will invite the members to purchase sessions for themselves or to give as a gift. Special coupons can be distributed to motivate them to schedule a specially priced session before a certain date. One-on-one services and programs like Pilates, yoga and tai chi can be promoted in this way as well.

There is a great advantage of cross-program marketing done in conjunction with traditional program marketing methods. The individuals responsible for delivering the programs – personal trainers, coaches, nutritionists, and massage therapists – experience quality face-to-face contact with significant numbers of members; people they may not have had the opportunity to connect with before. We still need our flyers, posters and brochures, but the impact of personally connecting with members regarding our programs always results in an increase in member participation, which has a flow-on effect which can include increased revenues and retention for your club.


Laurie Cingle, M Ed.
A fitness business success coach and club consultant, Laurie specialises in creating successful club program champions, developing non-dues revenue profit centres, establishing market differentiation and designing programs that increase profit and retention. For more information, e-mail laurie@lauriecingle.com