What 1978 and Fitness Have in Common



I moved to Orange County, California in 1978.


My very first job in my new state was working for Jack LaLanne’s European Health Spa as a young 24-year old aspiring fitness manager.


“I loved the job.  I loved helping people
learn how to get healthy.”



But another big part of the job was getting new members.  In fact, the higher I rose in the ranks the more getting “new members” became my job.


I was fascinated by all the psychology in getting people to say “YES” to a membership.  


Some of it was clearly “bait and switch” and some of it was downright deceitful.  And some of it was nasty.


One time a district manager provided this tactic:


“If it’s a woman, let her know that the “husband sequence” goes like this:

1.)  “Honey, perhaps you ought to think about losing a few pounds…”
2.)  “Honey, you really need to consider going on a diet…”
3.)  “Honey, when are you going to get going and lose some weight…”
4.  “———————……”


“If it gets to number four and your husband is no longer saying anything, he is probably having an affair!”


Unbelievable… but this was one of their actual selling techniques back in 1978!  


Talk about horrible sales tactics… but that’s how it was done back then.  And, you’d be surprised how many people signed-up out of fear or guilt.


I never took part in any of it.  And, I finally left the industry for a while as it just seemed to be getting more and more disingenuous and sleazy… at least at the big box club level.


But, that’s not really my point.


What is striking today is how the basic business model for fitness has not changed.  It’s the same now as it was in 1978… and earlier.  It is still all about “chasing new members.”   Period.


Are You Old Enough to Remember..?


Let me give you some perspective.


In 1978, Jimmy Carter was president.  Ashton Kutcher and Kobe Bryant were just born.  Radio Shack released its first computer (TRS 80), gas was $.63 a gallon and the Sony Walkman was still a year away.


Popular TV shows were Happy Days and Little House on the Prairie.  The top movies were “Grease” and “Saturday Night Fever” and the Bee Gees practically owned the airwaves with “Shadow Dancing,” “Night Fever” and “Stayin Alive.”


During this same time the fitness industry was selling “Life Time Memberships” (some of you will remember those and the mess it caused in California).


Fast Forward to Now


So, here we are four decades later, and like me, you probably receive a dozen or more emails each day from all the popular fitness marketing gurus with the same common theme: “How to get more clients/members.” 


Oh sure, they may specialize in personal training studios, boot camps, clubs or even “online training”… but the message is always the same…. HOW TO GET MORE MEMBERS!!   HOW TO GET MORE CLIENTS!!

Trouble Breeds Trouble


The trouble with this “mind set” is that the fitness industry is an extremely competitive industry.  


So, if you embrace the “get more clients/members” strategy you will inevitably become engaged in price-wars with all your competitors… who also embrace that same strategy.


As a result, today we now have the $10 per month / no contracts / key card clubs.  What next…?  Five dollars a month…?


Let me share with you, two ideas:




Later in my marketing career, I learned one of the most important issues was “cost of customer acquisition.”  


Regardless of the industry or type of business, there is always a cost that is associated with getting a new customer.  “Customer Acquisition Analysis” is conducted by all the major retailers including Walmart, Target, Nordstrom as well as online retailers like Amazon, eBay and Apple (iTunes).


What you learn very quickly is that the cost to acquire a NEW CUSTOMER is almost ten times (10x) the cost of leveraging an EXISTING CUSTOMER.


This is exactly why there are so many “Loyalty” programs available. From airlines to rental cars to grocery stores… they all know that customer loyalty is crucial to their business.  It is money better spent.


In fitness, this means having a pro shop or even a vending machine.


It also means providing new services (like weight-management…hint, hint!) and services like sport-specific training, outdoor hikes, fitness cruises, fitness contests, corporate outreach programs, value-added premium memberships, charity drives, etc. 


My friend Joe Palmieri has a value-added “drive-by” 30-minute lunch time workout he markets to local office workers and others on a tight schedule.


I know one club that offered car valet and $25 dollar dry cleaning coupons as part of a premium membership (tradeout).  Seems silly… but it works!


Listen, I don’t care what your consultants tell you… it’s expensive to chase new clients/members.  If you spend 100% of your time chasing them, you will be out of business in almost no time.




Today, more than ever, it’s crucial to keep your clients and members engaged with your business and your brand — especially when they are not physically at your location.   


If you are a 100% online trainer, you know how important this is.


The best way to do this is to constantly conduct outreach tactics that re-direct or attract existing clients/members back to your website.




Today’s marketing savvy fit pros, health coaches and lifestyle consultants all know that regardless of the TACTIC… it should ultimately lead back to their websites.




Because that’s where the actual conversion happens.  


And, in this case the term “conversion” means more than a simple sale. 


The conversion might be the capture of an email address.  Or, the start of a relationship allowing a prospect to get to know you and your business. 


It also means a referral when an existing client shares your website with a:

  • family member
  • friend
  • co-worker


Today, simple client engagement on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube etc., via  groups, posts, stories, videos, etc., simply ISN’T ENOUGH!  


I’m not saying you shouldn’t communicate on these platforms.  You should.


But, they are all “rented properties” with little to no chance for serious CONVERSIONS. 


So, bring them home!   All of your posts, stories, videos, etc., should ask or re-direct the prospect or existing client/member back to your website. 




And, once back at your website, you should offer them actionable information such as:

  • Product Reviews
  • Actionable Health and Exercise Information
  • Smoothie and Shake Recipes
  • Meal Plans
  • Online Purchase Opportunities (apparel, supplements, etc.)
  • Exclusive Memberships

This is exactly why I created the content driven Digital Welcome Kit. 


It provides actionable CONTENT for your existing clients as well as new prospects.  It is a hub of information.  And, way to keep your current clients ENGAGED with your business and your brand.


After all, it’s no longer 1978…!


Looking for free content you can download right now? 
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