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.
You Get One Chance to Make A
Great First Impression
Think of ALLLLLL the new people coming through your doors this week, hoping
and praying you can help them to get fit and lose weight for the Fall.
Where do over 90% of your prospective members first connect with your club?
Who gets the only chance to make that CRITICAL first impression?
Nope. It's your Front Desk Team. Most health clubs fill the position with someone who's credentials consist of nothing more than the ability to wake up early. Big mistake.
Every owner we speak with asks us, "Why is customer service so difficult?" or "Why are most people so bad at it when all it is, is just common sense?" It's a fact that front line employees in nearly every industry make between $6-$16 an hour. Yet you typically don't see many of these people flying first class, staying at five-star resorts, or driving a Lexus. However, you expect these same people to deliver world-class service to your members, who often experience these types of things. Common sense is relative to your life experiences. Often times the challenge is created when management assumesemployees know how to deliver great service in all situations when in fact, most front line employees haven't even experienced real, world-class service before.
That doesn't mean you are supposed to pay everyone $100k to perform front line duties. Nor does it mean you need only hire a certain class of people. The ability to deliver world-class service has everything to do with a person's "service perception." How I define service perception is a person's ability to recognize opportunities and exceed a customer's expectations, regardless of the circumstances. The key being "regardless of the circumstances." When an instructor calls out sick, the power goes out, or you are shorted staffed. It is then that the front line employees need to be able to think on their feet. It is then that one's true service perception is revealed.
We had the pleasure of starting up with a new client as soon as they returned from an over due vacation. They were raving to us about the service they received from this island resort. "We were treated like royalty!" they exclaimed. As soon as they returned to the health club they had a staff meeting to re-train their staff on customer service. A noble effort. The problem was they were trying to explain an experience, not a technique. Their great message fell on deaf ears. How can a person who vacations in a cabin understand the ability to make someone else feel like the most important person in the world in a 5 star resort?
There is a high-end hotel in New York City ,which has a database of every client who has ever stayed with them. When new client books a reservation, they begin to create a report of EVERYTHING they can find out about that person. The staff is then trained on WHO you ARE, before you arrive. If you book your room under the name Robert, they will find out what you PREFER to be called and you will be greeted by every staff member you pass with a very sincere "Good Morning Bob".
Health Club Retention is in Direct Proportion
to the Level of Customer Service Provided.
Granted, when selling memberships, customer service ranks very low on a prospects hot button list. But once the sale is made, renewals are tied in directly to customer service. If your membership is ready to expire and you feel like the 'invisible member' because no one even says Hello when you arrive, it is much easier to skip renewal and try out somewhere else. If you belong to a club where everyone knows your name, it is much more difficult to leave a place where you will feel missed.
It is that simple (yet, the hardest inside reality change you'll ever implement).
Find out what they want and give it to them.
There is Hope
In order to truly be world class, health clubs have to develop learning and training programs based strictly on service and soft skills that remove gray areas and personal interpretations. This is done prior to any training specific to the functions of the actual job. Club's must first settle on what their customer service training program should be modeled upon and stick to it. Why reinvent the wheel?
An example of customer service training is a Service Boot Camp, which may piggyback new employee orientation. New (and existing) employees should receive training manuals listing all the company's customer service standards, or "non-negotiables." All team members should be tested and required to get over a certain score before they are allowed to start training for their specific role and come in contact with customers. This training should be an annual requirement for all existing employees with constant refreshers quarterly, ensuring continued awareness of your company's world-class service standards.
Some of the BEST health club's in the U.S. spend as much money on staff training as they do on advertising. Why? It is much easier and cost-effective to get an existing member to last longer than it is to get some lazy slob to turn off the TV and join your health club.
This week's newsletter only applies to the "professional" health club owner; "amateurs" can stop here. You are in a competitive game. How well you play will determine your outcome.
There are 2 types of players in this game:
1. The Amateur: "Plays the game for enjoyment"
2. The Professional: "Plays the game for money"
Like any game you play the first thing you want to know is "what are the rules?" Let's say some friends came over and pulled out a board game, each of you were to put $50 in the pot and winner takes all. You're brain would automatically ask "how do I win?" and then "What are the rules?" If you get both of those answered, you size up the competition and if you think you can win, you begin. If you don't, you decline the invitation or ask to try the 'amateur' version of the game.
Play to Win
You are reading this newsletter because you chose to play. Since you are the owner, you didn't worry too much about the rules. You figured as the owner, you have the right to make them up as you go along, right?
Now, after playing this game for a while, you learn a big part of winning this game is to have good marketing. You may have noticed some competition gaining and advancing and said, "I'd better do what they're doing", and hence the confusion in the industry. It has become a ridiculous price war.
You all sound the same and look the same from a prospects eye. No one can figure out which club is better or different so you all share the marketplace. Profit Partners chose this industry to plant our feet. Why? Because you are all playing the same game and not winning because no one knows the rules. The one who learns them and implements them first is guaranteed win this game.
We didn't invent these rules. We just systematized them and now we get paid to teach that system. These rules have been around since Henry Ford invented the car building system (not the car).
Here are the rules:
Rule # 1 Perception is Reality
Rule # 2 Know Your Competition
Rule # 3 Understand Incremental Growth
Rule # 4 Develop Your Unique Selling Points
Rule # 5 Find Out What Your Members Want
Rule # 6 Give it to Them
Rule # 7 ALWAYS Follow the Marketing Equation
Rule # 8 Know What Makes for Great Marketing
Rule # 9 Focus 95% of Your Time on the 3 Ways
to Create New Revenue
Rule#10 Marketing is a SYSTEM. Install one.
Let's size up your competition. They are in the same boat you are. There is NO rule that says: "You must spend $50,000 a year on advertising". If your competitor is, they're stupid and you'll beat them. No, they are reading this too. They have their life savings in their club and they are trying to beat you. One of you is going to "get this" and run with it.
Now to the "how do I win?" question. The owner who creates a system which brings in new members every month, gets their current members to stay longer and gets their current members to spend more than their competitors is the winner.
Since it is a system, the winner doesn't have to be in the club everyday. The winner sees revenue growth every quarter. The winner is known around the community as someone who 'made a difference'. The winner is know as the health and fitness expert. The winner can open other locations which also succeed.
The winner can take their model and franchise it across the country. The winner makes enough money from ancillary sales to put their kids through the best university in the country, go on great vacations and have more time for themselves.
Compare Your Skills to Other Owners
The other players remain stuck in this trial and error, poke and hope stagnant revenue world. It is a decent living, but if you want more than that you have to break out from the pack. Here is the starting point.
Take ten minutes and take the Health Club Owners Marketing Rules Exam. You have been given ALL the answers over the past eight months in our newsletters. We used our newsletter to not only give you the rules, but to also teach you how to implement them all into your system.
Okay. Picture this. You just came off two months of low activity, missing members, your summer vacation and a reduction in sales. Join the club. Most clubs see a drop in sales several times a year for of a list of reasons:
It's getting nice outside;
It's crummy outside;
It's vacation season;
The ______holiday (you fill in the blank);
People are away;
Kids are getting settled in school;
It gets darker earlier.....
You've heard them all. Better yet, you've said them all. Here is the bottom line. If you think this month will be slow or if you think this month will be busy... you're right.
Speed of the Boss is the Speed of the Crew
You don't need 7 excuses on why it is slow, you only need one. Just pick the one you like and tell it to your staff and we're done. See you next month.
Hey, what are you doing still reading this? Oh, I get it, you must be one of those 10%-er's. The cream of the crop. The owner who wakes up everyday with a knot in your stomach. The type that got into this business to do something special. To be someone in the community. To bring value to people. To make a difference on this earth. Well join the club. I'll keep going then...
Be a Leader!
People NEED to be led. We are all born dependant. Some people stay that way and others choose the tougher road. If you accept the fact that you are already a leader, because of that choice, then you can accept the fact that people will follow your lead. Good or bad, they will follow. So here are the rules:
Set a Goal: Make this month the best month EVER! Make a Plan: Spend 10 minutes (right now not later) being creative Get Your Whole Staff on the Plan: You will need EVERYONE to break a record. Create an Event: (Sell it like it is the invention of toilet paper) Commit To It For a WHOLE Month: (Remember speed of the boss...)
Now some of the 'leaders' who are reading this, clicked off and said "I get it" and they are off manufacturing the greatest month in their history. Others are still looking for more direction and help. Others are saying "What the hell does this have to do with marketing?"
The 5 steps above are the same five steps we do for every client we work with. Substitute this current month with the next 12 months and you'll get the picture.
But you say, "I don't need you... I can do it on my own."
True. But you won't. It is a lot of work and time to go from good to great. Great leaders are great at delegating. If you could get someone to do this for you, month after month for a year, you'll go from good to great. If you follow baseball, a good hitter ends the year with a .280 batting average.
A great hitter ends the year with a .300 batting average. The difference? 12 singles over 600 at-bats. That is mind blowing. A dozen little singles are the difference between good and great. The .300 hitter takes the most batting practice - everyday. The .300 hitter hires extra coaches and trainers to push him, motivate him and help him stay focused.
It is okay to be just "good". The world needs a lot of "good" health and fitness centers. It is not as hard to be good and you're still better than most if you're good. But if you want to be great... You have to tune up your leadership skills and work smarter, everyday.
Have a Marketing System
We have rolled out great systems in many health clubs of all sizes. Why is it the exact system has killer results in some, average in others and mediocre in others? The answer is leadership. Remember step number 5 above. COMMIT to it for a month. A leader commits. They go all in. They sell out. First in and last out. A manager doesn't. They say things like "I like it but my staff won't do it". You can lead a horse to water but you can't make 'em drink. (No, but a leader will figure out a way to make them thirsty).
Ten (10) Leadership Rules:
1) Treat People Well - We see too many owners manage with fear and intimidation. Macho Management is from the 80's. Replace Quotas with Incentives.
2) Build Personal Relationships - This is opposite of corporate America, but it works. You want your members to feel like they have a second family when they interact with your staff.
3) The Secret: Praise and Recognition - Everyone has weaknesses, ignore them. Focus on their strengths and praise them for improvements. What gets rewarded gets done.
4) Total Commitment is the First Step to Greatness - Look at your breakfast - the egg was committed, the bacon was a total commitment. Your staff must see you are totally committed.
5) Develop a Positive Attitude - One of the hardest things to develop on this earth is a positive attitude. Fortunately it is also contagious. Your staff is a reflection of you.
6) You Get What You Expect - People will rise to the standards you set for them. Expect the best and encourage people to set a standard of excellence.
7) Get Your Priorities Straight - If your personal life is out of balance, your business life will be too. God 1st- Family 2nd- Business 3rd works for us. Do you have yours?
8) Don't Be Afraid to Fail - Fear of failure holds more people back than anything. It's okay to fail as long as you track it and learn from it. Failure is the seed of success.
9) Build with Quality - If you're going to build anything, build it right. Don't shortcut your future by skimping on quality that will last longer and produce more.
10) Never Give Up - No one can ever truly be defeated until they stop trying.
The road to success has many disappointments, but the person who rises to the top is the one who NEVER gives up.