The outside perception of your health club is what your current members, past members, prospects and the local community thinks about your health club. Perception is reality. Right or wrong doesn't matter. If you are perceived to be a run down dumpy gym, and you're really a state-of-the-art fitness center, you will get the results of a run down dumpy gym.
In fact, we venture to say that the crux of all marketing problems, including yours, can be wrapped up into one simple statement:
Most health clubs' outside perception
is NOT an accurate reflection of their inside reality.
The inside reality has to do with all the things your health club does that makes
you valuable to your customers from a product, operations, and management standpoint. The "inside reality" is about what you do and what you are that allows your club to perform better. It's what gives you a competitive advantage in the marketplace. The reason we call it the inside reality is because the reality of what you do, and the customers' perceptions of what you do, aren't necessarily the same. These two words - reality and perception - are vital to this process of winning in business.
The inside reality encompasses everything you do and everything you are that makes you good. It's all your skills, your people, your expertise, your service to the customer-before, during and after the sale-your systems, your operational procedures, your commitment to excellence, your passion, and the way you conduct your business. You might think you're actually better than you are, or, you might not be giving yourself enough credit for the things you do well. Regardless, there is a reality of how valuable you are to the marketplace based on these things. That's what we call the inside reality.
If you asked your members why they joined your club, they'd tell you something quantifiable, specific, and instantly obvious. They could point to specific advantages
of joining your club and say, "That's why I'm a member here; that's why I refer my
friends to come here; that's why I'm a loyal customer of this place; that's why I don't mind paying more here; that's why I keep coming back." That's your inside reality.
Inside or Outside?
You may need to innovate your club so there's a reason for people to join. Many
popular gurus do a great job of teaching you how to do those things. But here's the
problem: Just because you've achieved "WOW!" doesn't mean customers are going to flock to your business. You still have to market your business. And that's where the "outside perception" comes into play.
The outside perception is how customers and prospects perceive your company. The outside perception is developed by all interactions somebody has with your Health Club. Customers will draw on their past buying experiences to form their outside perception. The industry on a whole has a negativeperception. Most of it is not the fault of the health clubs, but more so the members fault. Most prospects have belonged to other clubs. When they join and stop showing up, get frustrated, they blame the club.
But even if your customer service is great and your members love you, none of it
means squat to a prospective member if (1) they don't know you even exist as an option, or (2) they can't distinguish your value because of your inability to market yourself properly. They perceive that you are no better or worse than anybody else.
Marketing ineptitude creates a chasm between your inside reality and your outside
perception. To your buyers, they are totally different. Take your pride and stick it on
the shelf for a minute. Regardless of how good you are or how good your "inside reality" is, your prospects can't figure it out based on your marketing. You appear on the surface to be just another place that sells fitness. The prospect will more than likely be apathetic at best, resistant or hostile at worst.
Most health club owners know what their customers want, but can't communicate their "inside reality" to the outside world. They can't take their WOW and lead prospects to the conclusion:
"I would have to be an absolute fool to join anywhere else, regardless of price."
Think about your health club. Your ability to know what your customer wants is
what has made you as successful as you are now. You have good classes and/or memberships and you fill a market need. You've studied your market, your prospects and your business for years, and you have solutions that add value to you customer's life. Why, then, aren't you making all the money you deserve? Because you're an expert at what you do, not a marketing communications expert.
Advertising executive Rosser Reeves once said, "To be effective, you've got to make the product interesting, not just make the ad different." That's something too many of the books, gurus, and agencies don't understand. Visit an ad agency or a media sales rep and they'll say, "Just bring me any product or service and a big bag of cash, and we'll guarantee you that we'll spend all of it." They put all their creative effort into making the ad different, with no thought for the inside reality of the product or service.
It's A Balancing Act...
You've got to work on both sides of your business -the inside reality and the outside perception. If you concentrate all your efforts on the "inside reality" but you don't know how to market properly, you set yourself up for frustration and failure. You'll be pulling your hair out trying to figure out where your money vanished to, or you'll feel like the "best kept secret in town."
Or, if you're focusing all your efforts on the "outside perception," you may have bought some advertising or direct mail books, or you hired a PR or ad agency, or enlisted a media sales rep. Now you'll have customers, but they'll hate you because you're selling them a lie! You must balance both sides of your business.
Most health clubs could stand some improvement in both areas, but they struggle most with the outside perception. In reality, they have a good club and offer good value, but they don't differentiate themselves in the marketplace.
Look at your marketing and advertising. Is it instantly obvious what makes you better? Can you show what makes you unique and different and how prospects should judge your offer, what factors they need to consider when deciding, and how you provide value? If not, you have some work to do.
Ensure that your outside perception is an accurate reflection of your inside reality and convince prospects that you are the obvious choice.
How to Create Marketing that Get People to Take Action,
Become Your Prospects and Join Your Club
Remember the good old days of health club marketing? You would have your printer throw 5,000 over-sized postcards out into your community and then watch people come thru the front door over the next week or two. You would tour them and they would join that day. Sadly, it's not so easy any more.
What changed over the past 10 years?
In a word - EVERYTHING. People get 5 times more junk mail today than they did 10 years ago. Worse yet, there are more gyms today from which to choose in your area. Even the way people look for a club has changed, thanks to the internet. As a result, there is more "noise" and distractions causing people to have a shorter
attention span. How can we possibly get their attention?
Let's start with your typical prospect and what goes through their heads each day. What do they do with their mail when they get home? If they are like most of us and probably you, they sort it - bills, personal, magazine and "junk" for recycling. What goes in junk? Flyers. Ads . Bulk letters. Other crap; and all that other NOISE.
Guess which pile your postcard goes into...
You are praying that of the 5,000 people who get your expensive postcard, 1,000 don't put it in recycling right away. You are then hoping of those, 100 are even THINKING about joining a health club. And finally, you keep your fingers crossed that 25 of them either call your club (to likely ask you "how much does it cost?") or maybe
actually come walking through your front door.
So, I ask you - How's that working for you these days? Not so good, I imagine.
For most clubs with limited advertising budgets, I would stay away from postcard mailings all together. There are better ways to drive traffic and sell more memberships than postcard mailings. For some clubs, postcards may prove to be part of a well constructed and integrated marketing strategy.
So if you are going to do postcard mailings, at least give yourself a fighting chance to break through the noise, get your marketing noticed and get people who are actively seeking a club membership on your radar screen.
Here's how to do it:
1. Keep your postcard simple. The goal is to get people to take
the next low-risk step of getting to know your club better.
2. Highlight the benefits of membership; not the features of your
club. People want to lose weight, get fit, have fun and feel
energized. They could care less about your club or you.
3. Have one (1) offer that requires someone to register or download
it from your website. Not 3 offers. Not 5 offers. Just one.
4. Set up a landing page to receive the people who log on to your
site. Ask for their Name and Email address only. Deliver to them
their coupon to redeem your offer (7 days free, Free Training
Session, $100 of Enrollment Fee, etc.).
5. Make the offer time sensitive. Create a sense of urgency.
6. Drip market on them. Encourage them to come experience your
club first hand.
7. Monitor your web sign ups and be patient.
People who get your postcard and are ready to join this week will come in right away; regardless of your offer. Your postcard may be enough to get them to drive over to your club. For the other 97%, you want to capture their information, give them something of value and let them go through the typical buying cycle.
Old marketing is dead. You must adapt your marketing to the way people want to buy.
Remember, people HATE being sold, but they LOVE to buy. Do it on their terms to crush your competition.
Most Owners Have No Clue How to Measure
if Their Marketing is Working
It's not easy to tell if your marketing and advertising is making you money. We know that most people take anywhere from 30 to 90+ days from the time they decide to get off their butt to the time they sign an agreement with you. If you run a full-blown campaign to drive new membership sales, you may not see the full effects until late summer or fall of 2010. Here's how to measure success of your campaigns and lead generators...
Follow the Money Trail
Your prospects leave a trail that we can follow. You never have to guess as to what works and what doesn't work. Like a good detective, let us show you how to track someone from the moment they appear to the time they join your club. Once you put your tracking system in place, all you need to do is look at the results every few weeks to see what works (and more importantly to see where you can make improvements).
If you can trace the path of your prospects, you'll save a ton of money on 'trial and error' marketing. And it's not hard. In fact, all you need to know the answer to are the following five campaign success questions:
1. How many people called my club? 2. How many people dropped by my club? 3. How many landed on my campaign landing page? 4. How many of those people toured? 5. How many of those who toured joined?
Follow this trail with every campaign you run. You'll never guess as to what your ROI was from the investment you made.
Not All Campaigns Are Created Equal
We talk to owners and ask them to define a campaign and we'll often hear, "A campaign is centered around a strong direct mailing to the community." Yes...and no. Part of the frustration with marketing is what we like to call "wide net" vs. "targeted bombing". Targeted bombing is the concept of spending a boat load of cash on printing and postage and then hoping and praying you'll get results. There is a better way.
A successful campaign doesn't have to break the bank. You need to take the Theme of the campaign and apply it everywhere in your club for a set period of time. You may include posters, banners, table top displays, flyers, print ads in magazines and local papers, and maybe even a direct mail piece. But here is where most campaigns fail - many clubs fail to integrate the campaign into every facet of their sales and service process.
Make sure your campaigns are fully developed, explained and tested in these areas, before you launch:
A) Have a landing page on your website where people go for more
information and details,
B) Make sure your Front Desk Team has a script of all details for
calls and drop ins,
C) Have your staff track drop-ins and call-ins who have responded
to the campaign.
How'd You Do?
Give yourself credit where credit is due. Make sure your analysis is done properly. Here are some actual statistics from a recent client campaign:
Calls to the Club: 64
New Web Visitors: 88
New Sales: 17
The cost of the campaign was $3,750. It included banners, flyers, lead boxes and a few other tactical pieces to drive new leads from the community and from members. This club sells memberships for $49 a month, or $500 paid in full. How well did the campaign perform for this owner? Let's take do the math.
The quick 'down and dirty' would lead you to think pretty crappy. 17 new members at $49 a month is $833 dollars. Spend $4 and get $1 back. But that's bad math!
This club's lifetime value of a membership is $882 (18 months at $49 a month). That's $14,994 for $3,750 spent. A 399% return on investment. We wish our stockbroker could match that!
Plus, the club also had 88 new leads from their website that subscribed to the e-Newsletter and Free Pass. They received a series of messages from the club, encouraging them to come in for a free trial. They are still in the buying cycle. No other area health club evens knows these people are looking at memberships. But you do... because you captured their information when they stuck their hands up!
The moral of tracking the success of a campaign? You can't just base it off the number of new memberships you get in the first 30 days. You are not giving you and your marketing the proper credit!
14 Money-Making Marketing Ideas, Programs and Tactics You Can Use Right Now!
Need some new marketing ideas to take your club from good to great? Profit Partners has 14 money-making programs and tactics that have been tested and proven throughout the USA, Canada and abroad.
Take 5 minutes NOW to watch this brief video. See how many of these 14 time-saving and money-making strategies would work in your club. So shut your door, mute your phone and focus on new health club marketing ideas for the next few minutes.
How to Sell More, Keep Your Sanity and Grow Your Club
Have you ever been fishing? Our offices are about 1 mile from the Atlantic
and occasionally, we see those Day Trip boats at the marinas.
You know, the ones where you just show up with about 100 other people
and they set you up for 4 hours on the high seas. They give you the poles
the bait...everything. Then you go out and bob around with 100 lines in the
water. All of a sudden, it seems like 20 or 30 people have there poles bent
over with fish on!
SellingMemberships is Like Fishing on a Party Boat
The more lines you've got in the water, the better chance you've got to
hook an evasive fish (or prospect). Seems logical to me. We've seen it on
the boats and in the clubs. Think of all the ways we can actively pursue
new business and improve member retention. Just like if we have more than
one line in the water, we'll catch more fish. We can treat sales the same way.
Throw Out At Least A Dozen Lines Off Your Boat
Until someone comes up with the magic formula to have people flocking through
your door, you better have a lot of lines in the water. When we say 'lines' we
mean things like educational brochures, tip sheets, seminars, guest trainers,
newsletters, follow up systems, member referrals and many more.
If you use a wide-range of of approaches every month to increase your sales,
I promise you'll have great results. Will all of them work all of the time? Heck NO! All the more reason to have as many 'lines in the water' as you can to catch
The secret to selling a lot of memberships is to have as many 'lines' in the water
as possible. Make sure you're doing a lot of different things to make sales. When
some don't work well in any given month, it won't matter. Other things you are
doing to make sales will be working for you.
Do More Things to Make More Sales
Here is a list of offers and promotions to get your brain going. Don't overlook the
simplest and most obvious. Sometimes they'll have the most powerful effect and
make you the most money, quickly. Here you go:
Free trial passes
Nutrition tip sheets
Fitness tip Sheets
Diet tip sheets
Member referral program
Sales person closing guidebook
Front desk prospect tips
E-Newsletter for members
Automatic follow up for prospects
Contact management for members
Guest instructors or trainers
Bundling of services
Low risk offers
Direct mail campaign
Corporate marketing program
Using Unique Selling Points
We could list 20 more, but you get the idea. How many lines can you fish with?
First, make your list. Then, determine if you have all the 'poles and bait' you
It may sound like a wish and a prayer, but owners who understand selling value
and have worked to establish their unique selling points (USP's) never have to
discount enrollment fees or dues. In a few minutes, neither will you.
Every Guru has Told You to Compete on Price
Go to every website of our competitors. All you see are tactical pieces
(postcards, banners, flyers, etc.) that slap your logo on materials that are
emblazoned with "Special Price"... "Lim*ted Time Offer"... "Join for $1"...
You get the point we are making.
Recently, we discussed the HUGE disconnect the fitness industry has created
with the type of advertising you see across the country and in every market;
regardless of size and demographics. You learned that we confuse our prospects
by first telling them we are great, the best club to look and feel great and have
the best x, y and z. We then get them scratching their heads as to why are we so eager to just discount and diminish the value of what we have to offer.
Why The Heck Do You Do This?
You resort to discounting for a number of reasons: Fear- If we don't keep up with all the $19 a month gyms out there, we'll lose
our membership base. Herd Mentality- If everyone is doing it, it must be the right way to market.
You remember what mom told us about this logic "If Jimmy jumped off the
bridge would you jump off behind him?" It's Easy- Lazy marketing and advertising resorts to discounting on prices.
There are a number of ways to fix this quickly for a club owner. No Other Solution- Our minds are so cluttered with an overload of marketing,
offers, promotions, campaigns and specials we can't think straight. Trust me,
this "writers block" is common, but it can be overcome.
Your Prospects Are NOT Seeking Lowest Price
One fact that we cannot emphasize enough is for you and your team to
understand what your prospect is thinking. Their motivations, fears, concerns
and objections change over the cycle of determining who is going to do the
best job of helping them look and feel great.
Do not confuse selling memberships with being the place where your prospects
can look and feel great. You are not selling memberships. The membership is
merely the vehicle to help your member look better, feel better, relax and reach
their personal health, fitness and beauty goals. You are selling benefits.
It is not about the money. Whether you charge $39 a month or $79 a month
or more, it is the last thing that is of concern for 98% of the people who walk
through your front door. What is critical to your prospects is:
Convenience- They want to be assured that you are close to their home or office.
This is more a decision about time commitment than a financial commitment. Great Service- They want to feel important and not a number. You are in the
hospitality business whether you like it or not. No Hassles- They want to get in, get fit and get on with their day. If you do
that better than the gym down the street; you'll be more successful. Results- They want proof. Proof that you can help them reach their goals
quickly and safely. Value- Not price. People will pay more if all their needs are being met. You can
charge $150 a month, but you better back it up with great value.
Selling Your Memberships On Value
We were speaking with an owner earlier this week who has historically priced her
club at $39 a month with a $199 Enrollment Fee. She explained that one of
her tactics was to run discounts each month; each month with a different theme.
The bottom line, she tried to make the prospect feel like they were getting a "deal"
for acting quickly. The problem was she built her business on a model that
assumed $199 plus $39 a month. Because of her discount strategy, she only
averaged $79 in Enrollment Fees for each new member. That is a 60% reduction
from her business model. No wonder she was only taking home $89,000 a year
as the owner! She was giving all her margin away. She was committing one of
the Cardinal sins in the business today. She had lazy sales people, lots of
competition and she was petrified she would lose out to the gym down the street
once people knew they were cheaper.
Remember we discussed the confusion in the prospects mind? They are told you
are the best thing since sliced bread, but it really isn't that great so we'll chop the
price down. There is a better way.
Apply incentives to the mix and you can sell at full price, project a great value and
make membership at your club the experience your members want it to be. All it
takes is a thorough understanding of what makes you better, unique or different.
You can develop a number of great incentives to encourage your prospect to take
action and join. It can be encouraging and motivating, as opposed to a feeling of
diminishing worth and value through discounts.
You will find what you need in a number of critical places: Your Unique Selling Points
Your Competitive Advantages
Your Members Comments and Opinions
Your Inside Reality
Just like we showed you that you do not need to advertise to make a lot of money
in this industry, you also can avoid the Price War mentality.
Remember: 1) Results are best achieved through targeted marketing, plus prospect hot buttons,
plus competitive intelligence, plus USP's.
2) Market to a target audience for best results.
3) Use incentives to encourage and eliminate discounts that de-value.