Building an Effective Annual Sales and Marketing Plan

Article written for CLUB INSIDER. Original article can be found HERE.

There are several ways to approach the development of an Annual Sales and Marketing Plan. The question is, what way is the most impactful, effective and yields the best return on investment? Having spent over 30 years of selling memberships in most states in U.S. and most major U.S. cities, this is what I’ve learned works best:

Keep It Simple.

As the saying goes, keep it simple stupid. Don’t make your plan too complicated or full of details that don’t matter. When I first started pulling together an Annual Sales and Marketing Plan, I’d clutter it with meaningless data and information that was not central to our success. The items listed below are the primary topics and tactics that I recommend you focus on.

Think Like a Prospect.

The most important thing you will do is to identify your target market / audience and ensure your message speaks to them. What do they need or want? You must see your product and brand through the customer’s lens because this is vital to not only immediately get their attention but cause them to take action. The visual and written communication must be compelling and immediately catch their eye. When I say immediately, I mean within two seconds.

Your Message is Clear and Concise.

If your message or advertisement is cluttered with words or pictures, a prospect will not even look at it. One picture, maybe a maximum of two, along with a few simple compelling words is most effective. If you catch their attention, you can redirect them to your website or a different page that tells more about your facility or other pertinent information you want to share.

Where and When to Spend.

When should you spend your advertising dollars? Should you spend more money when it’s slow, busy or even it out throughout the year? I’ve tried it all, and what I once had a wise marketing guru tell me is, “spend money marketing snow shovels when it’s about to snow or is snowing.” That’s when you get the biggest bang for your buck. Spending a bunch of money in an off-peak season is like trying to sell snow shovels in the summer. It doesn’t work no matter how much you spend.


I recommend that you create 3 – 5 campaigns and then several promotions within each campaign. I like five annual campaigns: New Year (Jan – Feb), Spring (Mar – Apr), Summer (May – Aug), Fall (Sep – Oct) and Winter (Nov – Dec).

Each campaign should have a 60- to 90-day theme. Themes can be focused on New Year’s Resolutions, Summer Shape Up, your outdoor pool if you have one, or other topics. Take each campaign and break out your annual sales quotas and goals so that you know what outcome you expect.

Hot Tip:

The Fall tends to be the toughest time for clubs to attract new members. For that reason, I recommend that you create an event that is compelling and build your campaign around that. For example, you can have an Anniversary Event or Fundraiser. Any type of event to give your sales team a reason to call a prospect and create energy.


Promotions are an effective way to get prospects to take action. I suggest you have a promotion each month that ends at the end of the month. Therefore, within a 60-day campaign, you would run two promotions. For purposes of consistency, promotions should typically have a similar value throughout most of the year. Perhaps, you may want to have one or two that are your strongest promotions. There should be a “call to action” as part of the promotion such as “Join Now and Save.”

Discounts vs. Building Value.

Rather than offer too many discounts, I suggest you build value and offer premiums as a call to action. For example, you can offer a complimentary beach towel with your logo on it as part of a summer pool campaign. Perhaps a heart rate monitor as part of a New Year’s Resolution campaign. The list of possibilities is endless, and prospects get motivated to buy and excited about well-thought-out premiums that add value.

Be Fluid.

The Annual Sales and Marketing Plan is a document that should be updated every month and adjusted according to the previous month’s success and current market conditions. There are a number of reasons why your plan may need to be updated, such as current local or national events.

Track and Measure Results.

The Annual Sales and Marketing Plan is a document that should be updated everyIt is vital that you know where your sales came from and if your marketing dollars are working correctly for you. You need to make sure your membership sales team identifies where each sale came from. Just as important, you’ll want to take the total monthly spend and divide it by total monthly sales to get an average cost per sale. month and adjusted according to the previous month’s success and current market conditions. There are a number of reasons why your plan may need to be updated, such as current local or national events.

In conclusion, developing an Annual Sales and Marketing Plan is perhaps one of the most important things you’ll do in the planning phase for each upcoming year. And, it is never too early to start! Keep it simple, stay focused on the customer you want to attract and build compelling and exciting campaigns. Always adjust the plan throughout the year and your chances of success will be maximized. Good luck! If you’d like a complimentary sample template of an Annual Sales and Marketing Plan, I’d be delighted to share one. Email me at

HWLS  specializes in health club ownership and operational consulting. With our multi-faceted approach, we are dedicated to helping health clubs thrive.