|Health Club Marketing Tips |
Monday, October 03 2011
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 negative perception. 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.
'til next week...
Monday, May 16 2011
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...
Monday, July 31 2006
Demand Full Fees:
Never Discount Again
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.
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.
Until next week...