Geography and Demographics
Most clubs focus their marketing on a radius of three to five miles around their location. They know that the majority of their members will shop on convenience. They will likely place the club in a highly populated area that contains many people with higher than average incomes. This demographic study will probably contain many baby-boomers, since they not only have disposable income, but also are also very much interested and motivated to increase their health and appearance.
You can benefit from this knowledge by looking at a few neighborhoods around you and think about where you wouldn’t mind working out. If there is a neighborhood that is within a driving distance to where you live that is also in a lower socio-economic class, then you don’t want to rule it out. Just because it is in a poorer neighborhood, doesn’t mean it will be run down, dirty, or dangerous. You should do your due diligence and see if you can put up with it. If so, you have the makings of a fabulous deal on your hands. All else being equal, when using the methods in this book, the middle-class, or lower-middle-class gym is going to be cheaper.
Even if you don’t end up at this “ghetto” gym, you will at least want to use it to practice the techniques found here. This way, you won’t be so green when you go into the gym of your dreams. Also, this will give you some ammunition to use in the next negotiation; a lower price quote. A competitor’s prices always come in handy in negotiating lower rates elsewhere.
Finally, the subject of convenience and geography raises an interesting point. Do you follow the trends like a sheep? Do you really need to work out at the gym that is closest to your house or work? Do you really need to pay more just to save 5 minutes of drive or walk time? How committed are you to both your physical and fiscal fitness? If you truly believe you can have both, you can.
Take the time to look at all the options and see if you can even double up on certain errands while going to an out-of-the-way gym. Perhaps you shop once a week at someplace nearby a gym you never thought of patronizing.
Use their Marketing and Advertising for Your Benefit
The next step is to study the Internet, newspapers (especially small local papers), TV, and radio for all fitness advertisements in your area. Don’t worry; this is not a daunting task. For instance, get a local newspaper and check its health section for the fitness club ads. Start collecting them and cutting out great deals. You are looking for patterns just as much as for specific deals. If you see one club advertising over and over again, week after week, it is a good sign that the ad is either working for them or that they are desperate. Most of the time, the ad is working for them if they continually pay for it. Get the ad and save it. You will dumbfound and impress the club management or sales people if you actually bring one in, since most people only reference them in conversation.
Do not worry if a coupon is expired. That is irrelevant 99% of the time. You can almost always get a deal as advertised, even if it is old, since they often recycle their offers and/or are desperate enough for business to give you old deals if you insist that it was the reason you came in to their club. Collecting the proof of this deal is the best way to do it. When you have the coupon in your hands, no one can deny that it was an offer that interested you, even if it is an ancient one.
Next, do not stop at one club’s advertisements and coupons. You have to collect the competitors’ ads too. This will help you get leverage. It is extremely rare that a person takes the time to cut coupons in fitness and actually compare them. This alone could save you hundreds of dollars or more.
When you come into a club knowing full well what the competition down the street is offering and you flash it after getting the price presentation, you can pretty much just sit quietly as the sales person or manager immediately lowers the price or makes an otherwise competitive deal. If there is room to move, this will surely reveal it. Don’t be surprised if they try to explain away or bad-mouth the competitor. This is a natural human reaction. Just stay cool and ask for a competitive deal. This will get the ball rolling in the right direction. Tell them you really like the other guy and that you are looking for the best possible deal they can make. Point out all the great features of the other gym. Once they make that competitive offer, simply ask: “Is that the best you can do?” After some more examples of how good the other place’s service is, you might even get more serious with: “What is the absolute lowest point you can go today? Is there anything else you can do at all?”
Do Your Homework on all clubs in your area first
This should go without saying, but the vast majority of the public never does any due diligence at all. You should do as much as you have the patience to do. Remember, you are going to save a lot of money over time. You might also find that you prefer an unexpected establishment to another and that it makes all the difference in your final buying decision. Who knows, you might get such a great deal on your first membership, that you will do it again and have two or three club memberships so that you will have the ultimate in convenience and features. After all, if you really love working out, you may end up wanting more options. If you save money on the first, you can do it again. If you have a good knowledge of difference clubs, not only do you know the best deals, but also you know what to compare each one to. Either way, you win.
To summarize, the best thing to do is search online to find everything in your area. Create a map and pinpoint each one within your areas of home, work, family, friends, or shopping interests. Don’t rule out a club just because it isn’t right next to your house. Next, study the ads and look for coupons for all of these clubs.
You might try calling the clubs, but be aware that it is very rare for a gym to give you any real information over the phone. You may get hours of operation and services, but you will be extremely lucky to get any prices. Their primary objective on the phone is to set an appointment for you to come into the club to go through their sales tour. Be friendly and see what you can find out. Set an appointment if you are ready, but you might want to do some other work first, before you call the club.
Next, ask your friends where they work out. A powerful way to get rapport with a gym sales person or management is to name drop. If you know a member, an employee, a trainer, or even a delivery person to a club you are shopping, you have an instant “in”. Remember, the sales person will give deals to people they know, like, and trust. If you know someone in their circle, you are way more likely to get that trust and hence a deal. Name-dropping requires you do your homework and know where your friends and family work out. One efficient method to get this data quickly is to use email or an online social networking site like Facebook.
During the time that you are finding out where your coworkers, friends, and family workout, be sure to ask them if they can get a special deal for you. A coupon, or better yet, the name of a decision maker at their club is very useful. At the very least, get a free week or month pass from the friend. This is going to be a wonderful tool for you later. Even if they don’t get you much of a deal, the effort will create for you an opportunity to name-drop when you visit the club, which will then give you leverage. The person who referred might get a referral reward of some kind too, which is great for them.
Ask your friends what they think of their clubs. Use this information to not only help you decide where you will go, but to help you be the person with inside information when you talk to the sales people at the club. If you hear about something cool, you can praise that. If you hear about a bad rumor, you can use it as a reason you need a great deal to overcome it.
If you already have gone through a sales presentation and have the prices on a club written down, you have a serious leverage tool at another club. You can simply ask them to beat the deal, hands down. Make sure that you really do have the lowest price from the other club first, of course, otherwise you might be making it too easy for the latter club and end up in a pinch where their regular price is already lower and you feel pressured to buy it immediately.
Finally, you may need to shop these clubs by going on tours, utilizing the techniques found within. You need to get in the practice of window-shopping if you ever hope to find the right deal for you. This is a fun and rewarding experience, especially if you are moving about town on free week passes, which are readily available everywhere in today’s market. Sometimes you can even ask for and get a free month, just to try it out. In a way, this is one method to almost never pay for a membership. Shop the club on a free pass, then another club, and then another. Finally, by the time you circle back to the original one, they may not even remember you anymore and you can get another free trial. They may have you in their computer system, but you can explain that you haven’t been there in so long, you aren’t sure if it will work for you in your current situation and with your current schedule and you need to try again. It might not work, but who cares, you just worked out at 25 clubs for free for 6 months. Your body could be transformed already!