At first glance, the gourmet coffee industry’s growth in the past two decades might not seem very relevant to your health club business. But when it comes to marketing, the industries definitely have something in common, says former Starbucks Coffee marketing executive John Moore, who now operates his own marketing practice, Brand Autopsy.

Health clubs today often face one of the challenges that Starbucks had to surmount in order to become the successful brand it is today: convincing the public to make something they might think of as a luxury a part of their daily lives.

Starbucks marketers helped shift people’s opinion of a $5 cup of coffee by playing to their aspirations, Moore says, adding that health clubs can do the same thing.

“Starbucks helped people to actualize their aspirations in life. They got the feeling they were special because they could pay $5 for a cup of coffee,” Moore says. “Someone that was making $25,000 a year could be in line with someone who was making $225,000 a year—and they were getting the same beverage. It gives the customer the opportunity to actualize a lifestyle. Gyms do the same thing from the view that we all want to live a healthier lifestyle. Gyms help us achieve our lifestyle goals.”

When Moore addresses attendees of the Club Industry 2011 show in Chicago, his keynote speech will focus on why and how clubs should utilize the marketing strategy that he promoted at Starbucks and later at Whole Foods Market. Moore says that clubs should focus less on traditional advertising and more on generating positive word-of-mouth advertising.

“People trust their friends. They trust what other people say, more than what companies tell them—it’s as simple as that,” Moore says. “The power of a recommendation is greater than any marketing campaign a company can do.”

The challenge, Moore says, is that business operators do not decide what gets talked about—their customers do. That is the reason why Starbucks and Whole Foods do not spend their marketing budgets on producing better TV commercials, he says, but on creating a better customer experience.

“Customer touch points lead to customer talking points,” Moore says. “So it’s important to think about all the places your customer has touch points, especially in a gym. What happens when someone walks into your door? What do they see and come in contact with immediately? Some of the seemingly smallest details—for instance, bathrooms, the locker room—are what ends up getting talked about.”

To hear more of Moore’s advice on how to harness the marketing power of your members, register now for the Club Industry 2011 show and mark your calendar for his Thursday, Oct. 13, keynote speech at McCormick Place.