Partnering for Profits

By John Agoglia
April 10, 2006

A former personal trainer in New York, John Agoglia has built a successful career writing about the business side of sports and fitness. In addition to his journalism work, he has recently launched his own copywriting, editing and marketing consulting company, WriteOne Marketing Solutions. He can be reached at john@writeoneonline.com or www.writeoneonline.com.

If your fitness facility doesn’t view cross promotions as true partnerships, they might as well not even be a part of your marketing plan because they’ll never do you any good. Here are four ways to make these campaigns, also called co-branding or cross marketing, a success.

1. Look past the front door. Far too often fitness facilities stop their cross-promotions at the front door of local businesses. Take a walk around your local downtown, and odds are you’ll find a lead box or some fliers or guest passes on a counter or a location near the front doors of every kind of business—some may even be from your facility. Unfortunately, for many, this is as far as they go with their cross promotions. Also unfortunately, there is no cross or promotion involved in this type of marketing—so it won’t get the desired results.

Fortunately, this situation has an easy solution. Ask your marketing director or sales reps to speak with the business owners and offer them something in return. Of course, they’ll have to do more than just stack your passes at the front door, but odds are they’ll be more than happy to do it and both businesses will benefit. For example, instead of walking into a local health food store and setting up a lead box or dumping some fliers on the counter, ask the owner or manager if he or she would like to target your “health-conscious” members by running a promotion. Perhaps all members could get 10 percent off their purchase, or you could gear your monthly promotions around your personal training packages.

2. Think outside the box. When I say think outside of the box, it doesn’t necessarily mean crazy promotions like dropping turkeys from a helicopter on Thanksgiving (a notorious radio promotion). It really means thinking out of your box—the four walls of your facility. You really need to think about activities that will help both of you land your partners’ businesses. Think about sponsoring the healthy section of a menu at a busy downtown restaurant. In return, hire them to cater your events like Member Appreciation Day (You do have a monthly Members Appreciation Day, right?) and birthday parties. Work with local bridal shops and wedding planners who can refer to you their clients who want to “lose a few pounds” before the big day. You in turn, can have a bridal fashion show in the group ex room for your clients. Work with insurance agents and financial planners, who are looking to keep their clients fit and healthy. Offer to sponsor “Financial Fitness” seminars, which brings new people to both of your businesses. Your healthy food partner can cater it for some added benefit as well.

3. Target your partners. Sure you want as many people to walk through your door as possible. But the only thing better than that is to get as many qualified people to walk through your door as possible. It is important to target your partners to make sure you are attracting the right clientele.

Don’t target a children or family establishment if you don’t offer children’s programming. If you run a high-end club, maybe the tanning studio near the college isn’t the right place for you. A lead box in every pizza joint and convenience store may yield a ton of names and numbers of people trying to “win” a free week, but may not yield enough members to make all those calls by your sales staff worthwhile—maybe the skin care salon or day spa is a much better choice even if it has lower traffic. In return, you can offer them the opportunity to donate gift baskets to your Member Appreciation Days, referral contests and even outfit your locker rooms with samples that can send them business and make your members feel pampered.

4. Forget me not. You and your staff needs to follow-up regularly with your cross-promotional partners if you really want to see prospects walk through the door of your facility. It is too tempting, especially for sales reps, to constantly look for new promotional partners and forget about the ones that are already behind your product. A simple phone call to a realtor or a drop-in on the jewelry store on Main Street is an easy way to remind them about your partnership. Better yet, you have the opportunity to update their monthly membership card to your club—if they are using your facility, they are far more likely to recommend it to their customers.

While cross-promotions with local businesses is nothing new or earth shattering, by thinking out of the box, spending a little time and (gulp!) some money on building strong cross-promotional partnerships, your facility can see some extra, qualified prospects.