gymMy spouse and I just extended our membership to David Barton Gym in the Bravern complex in Bellevue. Since a bicycle jersey and spandex shorts are as close as you’ll come to seeing me sans clothes, it wasn’t their eye-catching tagline “Look Better Naked” that hooked us.

With great equipment, clean facilities, a friendly staff, great classes and trainers, and reasonable dues, it’s the best of several clubs we’ve belonged to. I thought our experience was worth sharing, since there seems to be a common perception that the Bravern, and any business in the complex, is “toast” thanks to their ill-fated opening in the worst economy most can remember. A good number of the people I hear pronouncing it toast have never even been there.

I can’t speak to how the complex is doing financially, but I think anyone who has clients, runs a business or works for one can learn from what is happening at the Bravern where many businesses, including the David Barton Gym, really are “trying harder.” It’s a lesson we can all benefit from.

I’m rooting for the complex to make it because the employees who I have met at the David Barton Gym are genuinely nice, hard working people who don’t need to be added to our unemployment lines.

Second, for many members, the attraction of the gym is just good old customer service, a friendly attitude and attention to detail. When an organization gets consistently quality service from a young staff, it’s worth noting. And the satisfied customers include a decent-sized group of Baby Boomers.

Finally, this is no time for business as usual; they seem to know that and are constantly trying new approaches to attract and retain their members. Consider this: I recently received an invitation from a Barton member who is Marketing Manager for Gene Juarez Salons and Spa in the Bellevue Galleria, a few blocks from the Bravern. I was invited to their first-ever “Happy Hour for Men’s Event” at the salon. For a reasonable price you were offered a haircut, (okay, so that one’s pretty easy for me), facial, nail treatment, chair massage, micro-brews, and discounts and freebies from their partners. Partners included a golf supply company, two companies providing men’s products, a brewery and the David Barton Gym.

I know it was a big success, even though I didn’t go. Why? Because by the time I got around to signing up, it was completely sold out. The joint promotion fits perfectly into the new world of social media. First, it was marketed almost completely by e-mail and Word of Mouth (WOM). Second, it was one of many such partnerships David Barton uses to build a community for its members by bringing them speakers, entertainment and programs that fit their interests.

So give yourself a gift. Take advantage of the six hours of free parking and wander through the Bravern complex. Check out the merchants, see what kinds of deals you can find and note what they are doing to engage you. You might find some approaches you can use with your own customers.