Is Your Club the
Obvious Choice in Town?
Becoming The Obvious Choice...
Differentiation, niche marketing, and positioning. These and other related business
buzzwords have no doubt crossed every gym owner and marketing director's eyes and ears in recent years.
But what do these words really mean to you in your gym? Usually they mean that a
gym will attempt to sell memberships and classes that are somehow different than the
competitions to a certain, specific target market. In theory, this is a great idea.
If you could just reach that one segment of the market with your great and
Welcome to reality. If your gym is innovative enough to develop a truly unique
package and facility that is earning you a profit, the following inevitably happens:
competition springs up from nowhere to imitate you, undersell your price, and steal
your market share. It's immutable.
So as your next line of defense, you choose to position yourself as the quality
leader among health clubs. Or as the low price leader. Or as the service king. You
soon find yourself in a battle with four other gyms - all claiming to have the most
variety, lowest prices, highest quality or best service.
A marketing free-for-all usually ensues. Each gym owner tries in vain to shout with
the loudest voice that his health club is superior. Headlines get bigger, radio ads
get more obnoxious, advertising agencies get richer. More significantly, members
begin to discount any claim made by any of the gyms. The alternative is to slam
(put down) your competition. That doesn't work either. The public hates negative
campaigns. Remember the last election?
Is niche marketing the way to go then? Obviously, different is better than "me
too." The question isn't whether or not to be different, but rather how to
communicate those differences in a way that your members will believe and embrace
them. Your Real Opportunity for Innovation Lies in the Marketing. You don't have
to be the best gym, you just need to be better at marketing. The winner is always
the one who is better at marketing their message.
Here's What Marketing Really Is...
You need to realize three things about business to understand marketing. These
three things are always true, regardless of what type of gym you own: 1) All gyms do
just one thing: They Woo Potential Members - Period. 2) All potential members want
just one thing: The Best Deal - Period. 3) Your marketing should do just one thing:
Articulate Why You're The Best Deal - Period. You can build confidence if you
articulate your advantage. Make sure you do it in a way that is Short And To The
Point and easy to understand. (SATTP)
This is not a complicated thing. If you dispute any of the three points, please
call us to discuss it at once. We don't want to be wrong about such simple stuff.
But if this is such simple stuff...then why do most health clubs have so much
trouble executing a decent marketing plan? We say it's because, in general, we are
See if this scenario sounds familiar. When you get home from work, your spouse asks
you how your day was. What do you usually say? "Fine, okay, I'm tired, great, it
stunk". Do these words actually communicate anything? What about when you see someone you know at the store and you ask, "Whatcha doin'?" (as if you really care or can't tell by looking) and he answers, "Fine," which is actually the answer to the other
question he was expecting, which is "How ya doin'?" We are a society of lazy
communicators...we are on communication autopilot. Don't think, just talk.
These communication habits spill over into marketing and advertising all the time.
Show me 99% of all marketing material created and I'll show you a huge jumble of
hyperbole, fluff, platitudes, and yawnably unbelievable, black hole nothing words.
Words like cheapest, professionalism, service, quality, speedy, convenient, and
best. These words do absolutely nothing to communicate why you're the best deal.
NOTHING. Claude Hopkins, the greatest advertising man in history, summed it up:
"Platitudes and generalities roll off the human understanding like water from a
duck. They leave no impression whatever."
Stand Out, Don't Blend In
Look at all the gyms within a five mile radius of you. Some of these gyms claim to
be "the" experts. Most tell me in bullet points that they charge the lowest fees,
even if even if you are just looking for month to month memberships. Almost all of
them tout that they have the major brand equipment. None of them, however, give
me compelling reason why I should call them instead of their competitors. The "unique"
a claims of each gym have become generic, unappealing, and meaningless to the
potential member...who is just waiting to be sold.
Surprisingly, very few health clubs really make more than a token attempt to
distinguish themselves from their competitors. Once a gym stakes out a position in
the marketplace, the usual strategy is to foolishly proclaim to all potential
members, "Here we are, now give us all the memberships that you have been giving
to our competition...for no justifiable, rational reason."
Fortunately, you can cash in on what your competitors are doing wrong. The most
powerful tool you can use to stand head and shoulders above your competition is a
clear, concise compelling message on why you are the best choice for fitness. Your
message is the singular, unique benefit that your members can expect to receive
when they favor your health club instead of your competitor's - stated in specific,
graphically illustrated terms.
The key point is to have something good to say, say it well and say it often and
you will win.
'til next time...