Bringing Fitness to Inactive Adults
All hail the deconditioned market, for inactive adults are the answer to our prayers. Such has been the cry of the industry for years. So, why aren't we any closer to bringing the deconditioned into health clubs? Maybe becuase we call them DECONDITIONED!
Coming to the industry from the law in 1996, I created a personal- training business that tapped into the inactive-adult market successfully. After 18 months, we did nearly 1,000 sessions a month. The word "deconditioned," however, was not part of my vocabulary. Using this term is what trial lawyers do when referring to the opposition. It is never "Dr. Smith" or "Little Ralphie"; rather, it is the defendant or suspect.
Terms like "deconditioned" depersonalize and dehumanize the subject. Rather than empathize, we remove ourselves from the subject's experience, and, in marketing, that is a bad thing. Understand that these are the same inactive, busy folks who very likely barbecue with you on Sundays and go out to dinner with you during the holidays. So remove deconditioned from your vocabulary, then follow these five tenets:
First, focus on solving the human condition, not feeding revenue. Money follows excellence, not the other way around. If you want to develop fabulous revenues from previously inactive adults, first create programs that provide powerful solutions.
Second, brand your image around these solutions. Create an instantly identifiable face, feel and phrase anchored to these solutions. Create a tag line that conveys depth and impact, not cosmetics. Use everyday clients from the community in your marketing and create a soft-colored, friendly symbol to identify your program. Remember to shelve your ego and focus not on what appeals to you, but what appeals to inactive adults.
Third, reach out to inactive adults in their world and in their language. Advertise in non-fitness/non-health media. Focus on industry, community and organization publications that reach high numbers of inactive adults in a setting in which they are comfortable. Through repetition, this comfort will eventually transfer to your brand.
Fourth, throw away canned sales lines and focus 90 percent of your effort on teaching rapport. Like it or not, inactive adults don't like or trust your staff, your club or the entire industry. Rapport is the tool that rebuilds trust and eases intimidation. Without it, features and benefits become annoyances. What most people don't realize, though, is that rapport is 97 percent non-content. It comes from vocal and physical cadence and tone. Don't just listen to what prospects say; observe how they speak, and move and then match their rhythm. This creates an intangible synchronicity that inspires trust and comfort, and is immensely more powerful than features and benefits.
Finally, hire people with genuine compassion and teach them how your facility changes peoples' lives. Then have them ask the prospect what he seeks to accomplish and why it is important, and use this information to deliver a solution with passion, rather than pitch a sale. If you can't convince your salespeople your facility provides real solutions, it's time to re-examine your programming.
--As the director of The Envision Group in New York City, Jonathan Fields designs and implements rapid-growth personal training and risk-reduction programs for facilities. He is a former corporate attorney, certified personal trainer, accomplished fitness and Internet entrepreneur, and lecturer. He can be reached at (212) 489-9522.
Feel like your marketing efforts aren't as good as they should be? Charlie Hawkins, an independent consultant, suggests you follow these eight steps.
1. Understand what you do better than anyone else and capitalize on it.
2. Nurture innovative thinking. Be open to ideas from anywhere in your organization.
3. Pay attention to mavericks. If you surround yourself with people who all think alike, it may limit your ability to explore outside "safe and acceptable" thinking.
4. Trust intuition. When you are searching for new ideas, break away from traditional, linear thinking.
5. Mine the gold in "off the wall" ideas. Dig into the stack of "rejected" ideas from previous brainstorming sessions and examine them in light of today's circumstances.
6. Focus on solving problems for your customers.
7. Every new idea/program needs a champion and a sponsor. A passionate champion will take ideas from conception to implementation.
8. Fail fast and glean insights from every failure. The marketplace is the ultimate judge of success. If a new program/product doesn't cut it, cut your losses quickly, learning everything you can from the experience.
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