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StarNet

12-28-04

Business

 Make-Over

 

 

 

http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/smallbusiness/54226

Tiana Velez: The Blitz can put more emphasis on its benefits

 

 

 

James S. Wood / Arizona Daily Star

 

 Bill Mickle, who owns The Blitz along with his wife, Michele, center, helps a client during a workout. Men shape up in fast 20-minute sessions.

 

Profile

 

● The business: The Blitz, 9155 E. Tanque Verde Road, Suite 107, 760-1141.

 

● The owners: Bill and Michele Mickle.

 

● The services: 20-minute full-workout gym for men.

 

● The challenge: Increase membership.

 

The consultant

 

Cheryl Vallejos is president and CEO of Endorse Success LLC and Prime Leaders Community. With more than 22 years of experience in organizational business management, and as author of four books on leadership and budgeting, her passion is helping small businesses create big profits. She can be reached at 730-4456 or cheryl@primeleaders.com.

 

Tiana Velez

ARIZONA DAILY STAR

 

Bill and Michele Mickle originally wanted Curves - the gym franchise, that is. While they were researching the business, though, someone suggested they look into an emerging gym concept, The Blitz, instead. They went for it, and even before their business opened the couple had 16 members enrolled. Since then, the membership growth has been slow and relatively steady, but the Mickles want to increase their numbers.

 

 The story

 

Bill and Michele Mickle are the proud owners of the first The Blitz franchise in Arizona - opened in March this year - and they have a plaque to prove it.

 

"I've probably always been one to take the different road," Michele said, referring to her and Bill's decision to start a franchise. "We believed enough in the concept that we went ahead and did it."

 

The concept of The Blitz - a national, men-only fitness club - is simple. Members spend 20 minutes alternating among different weight machines and punching bags, under the watchful eyes of owners/personal trainers like the Mickles. The two work closely together, alternating schedules so at least one of them is on site during open hours.

 

The couple managed to pre-sell some memberships by hosting orientation meetings at the future site of the gym. They placed fliers in surrounding businesses, and teamed up with a neighboring Curves for Women gym to advertise the opening. If there is one thing they haven't lacked, it's advertising.

 

"We received and continue to receive the most help from the Curves. They promote us every chance they get, and the women who go there bring their husbands in," Michele said.

 

The Mickles also placed ads in niche magazines such as Fitness Plus, distributed brochures and passed out postcards good for weeklong trial memberships. They even sent letters to local businesses and residents announcing their arrival in the area.

 

They firmly stand behind the concept of The Blitz, but Michele acknowledges that the fast-paced, timed circuit-training method is not for everyone.

 

"Everybody has to find their own niche," she said. But "once we get a guy in the door and trying it, they usually join about 90 percent of the time."

 

Current members range in age from 8 to 89, and there are about 15 father-and-son sets who regularly work out together. The latter was a benefit neither Bill nor Michele had foreseen, but they've since added the father/son activity component on their brochures - hoping to give men another reason to join.

 

For the first few months, the Mickles added 20-plus members each month. Things started to slow down in the fall, picking up only slightly in December.

 

Their goal is 150 members by the end of the year, which they're close to achieving. To do so, however, they need to find more ways to reach out to potential members.

 

The advice

 

Bill and Michele favored a one-on-one recruitment approach when they opened the gym, said Cheryl Vallejos, president of Endorse Success LLC.

 

While that method certainly has its place, it limited the number of memberships they could achieve on a monthly basis. Instead of looking to enroll clients individually, the couple should market to groups and businesses, she said.

 

Targeting larger numbers of people would also benefit the Mickles by decreasing the time and advertising dollars they spend versus going after members one at a time.

 

Vallejos suggests they contact local business owners and human resources managers about hosting presentations for employees on the need to stay healthy - and on how much they could benefit from The Blitz's method of fitness.

 

They could also "partner" with businesses by offering package deals or discounts on enrollment fees, depending on the number of employees who sign up. The packages could even be tailored to each business or community group.

 

Whether they are after individuals or groups, Vallejos strongly suggests that the Mickles consider revamping their marketing materials.

 

What they had was OK, she said, but the focus of their fliers and brochures seemed to be more about pricing, hours and location than about benefits.

 

"People care about the benefits, and 'what's in it for me?' " Vallejos said. "They need to gear (the advertising) more to the person than the facility."

 

Their marketing should focus on the benefits specific to The Blitz - such as the lack of waiting time for equipment and fast workout time - as well as those that are more general, including weight loss and strength building.

 

To keep the fliers from going stale and being overlooked, Vallejos said, the Mickles should rotate them monthly by changing the color or rewording the text.

 

She also emphasized the need for the Mickles to set periodic goals, with a detailed action plan they can follow to help monitor progress.

 

"By working through goals together, Michele and Bill will have a clearer understanding of the steppingstones to the future," Vallejos said.