With more than a decade of experience in health club marketing, I’ve seen a lot of failures and far more successes when it comes to marketing.
Today, the art of health club marketing is far more complex than it once was. However, many of the same basic principles still apply. Too often, health club owners overlook the basic techniques that have separated successful campaigns from those that never turn a profit. Here is my list of—not 10, but nine—effective marketing tips:
1. Know your audience. A campaign becomes successful when you fully understand your prospects’ needs, how to help meet those needs and how to create demand. Are you listening to what people think and say about health clubs? They hate long-term commitments, the dreaded enrollment fee and salespeople. They wonder who’s going to help me, how am I going to make the time, and will I stick with this? Speak to the consumers’ needs in your marketing.
2. Integrate and communicate. Consider the entire user experience before you launch a campaign, including e-mail to website. Are your prospects and your members having a consistent user experience? Your marketing campaign will be most successful if you’re delivering the message eight to 10 ways. Integrated marketing communications is a holistic approach to marketing communication. The concept includes online and offline marketing channels. You don’t need a big budget as much as you need to make the time for this type of marketing.
3. Market online. Start leveraging e-marketing campaigns or programs, such as search engine optimization, pay-per-click, affiliate, e-mail, banners, webinars, blogs, micro-blogging, RSS, podcasts, Internet radio and TV, Facebook, Twitter, etc. As an example, blogging is a great way to reach your audience, share your thoughts and even help you with your Internet marketing. A number of free services are available that offer free blog services. Some bloggers post comments to their blog each and every day while others post once a week. Regardless of how frequently you post to your blog, the most popular blogs focus on a specific niche and provide valuable information, content and commentary that encourage interaction with blog followers.
4. Market offline. Direct mail is not dead; it’s just most effective when integrated with other offline and online channels. Traditional print (newspaper, magazine), public relations, industry relations, billboard, radio and TV are still effective, but success depends on when and how you use them. For example, newspapers still work well for open houses and fitness studies. Billboards are best for grand openings and website traffic. Broaden your fitness club marketing program to include some PR for pennies. Distribute press releases about your opening to local news outlets. Write exercise and fitness articles for the health section of your local newspaper. Some companies can help you distribute your news to consumers and journalists.
5. Focus on the offer. A marketing offer is the driving force of marketing promotions that drive results. In fact, market testing has proven that the offer is the most significant criterion for conversion. Focus on your offer to obtain a direct response if you want to be successful.
6. Don’t just sell on price. With the birth of the low-price competitor, I’ve seen health club operators fail because they sell on price alone, and their price may not be better. This leads to a discounting war, lower profitability and, often, bankruptcy. Rather, focus on creating so much value that the perception of price becomes insignificant.
7. Be a solution. Stop leasing space and offer programs that work. In 1974, approximately 3,000 health clubs existed, but today, approximately 30,000 exist. Despite that, obesity is an epidemic, and health clubs haven’t been the compelling solution. Offering and marketing programs with a short commitment and a guaranteed result that is guided by a motivation coach is a winning strategy.
8. Synergize. The most creative ideas come from working with your staff. Many times, health club operators make independent decisions behind closed doors and discount the input of their staff. Don’t feel like you need to have all the answers or great ideas. You may start with an idea, but an open dialog with creative individuals will make it better. I often find that the overlooked staff members know more about things such as text, Internet and social marketing.
9. Get data centric. Record and analyze all possible data and conduct a return on investment analysis of your campaign. Provisioning an 800 number and custom URLs to record incoming calls and data is the easiest way to gain a clearer understanding of your return on investment. You can’t manage what you’re not measuring.
These techniques and tips are applied by successful health club owners on a daily basis. The result is an ever-growing rate of marketing success.
Maria Parrella-Turco is the senior partner of New Paradigm Partners. She can be contacted at 840-870-0704, ext. 707, or firstname.lastname@example.org.