Program design and implementation for small-market businesses
The hard part is not finding the programs, but trying to implement them into existing schedules, while keeping clients interested and meeting their needs. This is particularly tricky in a small market because of the small population we have to work with. I have attended many conventions to learn about new program ideas, only to find many of the ideas had no place in my business. Many other professionals I have talked to have struggled with this same issue.
The list of program possibilities is endless. If you are looking to offer new programs, or want to restructure old ones, your No. 1 concern, of course, is the people you are serving. Service is what you should always come back to. What are the interests and needs of the people you are serving.
The latest trend does not always mean success for your programs. Many owners put a large investment into lateral motion trainers because they were a new option, only to have them collect dust after their clients showed no interest, or after programs were improperly implemented. This is just one example of many. When designing your programs, ask yourself: What purpose do I want this program to serve? Will it meet the needs and wants of my clientele? Do I have the qualified staff to teach it? Do I want this to be an ongoing program or a seasonal one? Have my customers expressed an interest in this program? Careful planning and introduction of a program can determine its success.
After you have determined which programs you want to offer, it’s time to concentrate on implementation. This can be your most trying task. It’s easy to be so excited about offering something new, that you forget to make the necessary plans to ensure its success. So how do you implement a program so it will fly? As mentioned, it comes down to the needs and wants of your clientele and the service you provide. Also keep in mind what type of training effect you want to accomplish. The first part of implementing a program is to create an interest. You can write an editorial for the local newspaper or your club’s monthly newsletter. Plant a little seed in your clients’ minds and then water it. If you have some good research on what you are offering, share it with your clients. You can inspire people by demonstrating your new program.
Offering introductions is a great way to get a new program off the ground. Six- or eight-week introductory clinics can aid in getting and keeping programs moving. The time of year you offer a program will often determine its success. I offer walking clinics in the spring — after a long, cold winter, people can’t wait to get out and enjoy the sun. Aquatics would be more successful during the summer than winter. If you want to keep your pool full all year long, during the winter you can gear programming toward therapy classes. Changing your programs throughout the year can meet many needs, as well as keep interest high.
Changing the minds of your clients
People tend to close their minds to change. By introducing something new, we take people out of their comfort zones. But if you introduce people into these new programs in a gentle enough manner with proper instruction, you can gradually change their minds. Be sensitive to people when they are learning something new. Don’t expect too much too soon.
When launching a new program, make sure to give it a chance to succeed. If it doesn’t fly the first time, don’t give up on it. If, after a few times, it’s still not successful, try offering it at a different time of day or different time of year.
Take kids programming, for example. After school, of course, is better than evenings. Saturday mornings also work well for kids. Don’t expect kids to want the same programs as adults. Keep it fun with lots of props, such as jump ropes, hula hoops and balls. If kids get bored, which can happen quickly, be spontaneous to recapture their attention. Summer, for example, is a good time for early morning classes, whereas these classes tend to taper off as winter sets in.
Seasonal sports training is a great way to ensure programs throughout the year. If you live in a ski area, ski conditioning is a great program to offer. Consider baseball conditioning for the spring. If you operate your business in cowboy country, line dancing will go over better than cardio funk, and so on. These are just a few examples. You be the judge of which ones best suit your customers.
Be careful what you call it
When getting programs off the ground, often the name you choose can determine its success. Farming communities, for example, may not feel the need to “exercise” because of the physical labor they do. However, if the title is stress management or weight management, they may partake. Larger cities may lead more toward dance-style classes. You can see that how you title your programs will meet the needs and interest of your clientele, as well as serve your training purposes.
Those of us who work with small markets are often tempted to keep up with the large markets and latest trends. This does not always lead us to success. Carefully plan and implement your programs to meet your client’s needs, not to keep up with the latest trend. Small market success can happen with the right programming.