Category: Marketing

Smart Marketing for Your Fitness Business

Digital, digital, digital. If you’re wearing an exercise tracker, welcome to the new world. I am curious how many FitBit users input additional data and manage it. For fitness owners and leaders who are also technology geeks, this is second nature. But for most exercisers or those just starting to exercise, digital tools may not be that useful to reach actual goals.

Digital marketing is a different story for business owners. Everyone is using digital marketing. (Hello, website.) What I often see is that many businesses don’t use digital tools to collect valuable information from customers at enrollment or during the prospect phase. Here are four essentials for successful marketing, digital or traditional:

  1. List inventory. How many lists do you have? It doesn’t matter if data is in an excel file, a club management system or Mail Chimp. But it does matter if the data is old, inaccurate or not segmented.
  2. Segment your lists. Why do we segment? One simple reason is to better understand customer types and target information by age, household types, interests or purchases. Is your current system capable of producing a mailing list (or email list) for customers who have bought massage or personal training? Be sure to set key categories within any system and audit data periodically.
  3. Identify number of visits per user periodically. Exercise frequency or visits is a basic benchmark. Many corporate wellness contracts require verification of visits per month to approve reimbursement. This data also may be used to establish member rewards programs.
  4. Health improvement. We’re in the business of improving people’s health. Can we show that? Actual biometrics may be managed through software such as TriFit, often only used by personal trainers. One way membership/sales can assist is by asking members to rank their health (from excellent to poor). After six months, re-ask this question and note if there’s been an improvement and congratulate the member! If not, time to check in on their exercise goals and program.

Beware the one-size-fits all software program: it often cannot segment AND include contract information for database marketing. If you have had success, please email me, and I’ll write a case study in a future column. There is a downside to using multiple programs as data is often duplicated or incorrect. This makes it even more important to manage lists and mailings (email and physical) through a yearly promotional plan.

It may seem easy to start digital marketing projects, but it’s difficult to retain quality and professionalism unless you dedicate personnel to manage the data and have a communications plan in place. One way to make content more meaningful is to personalize with photos or video of members (or team members) and their success stories. Make that a part of everyone’s job description, otherwise you’ll never have enough content.

Digital marketing is here to stay and grow. So take the time now to make sure team members understand the communications process for inputting and managing data and collecting great stories.

Take Charge with Choose to Lose

Start planning now for a Spring 2015 promotion to build leads, sales and ancillary revenues. Last week at Club Industry in Chicago, I had the opportunity to present some thoughts on how healthclubs and wellness facilities could expand their referral network in the healthcare community. We have had success with developing self-referrals through a community-wide event, Choose to Lose. Here are some steps to get started.

First, identify the following:

  1. Project Goals
  2. Planning Phases
  3. Team/Resources
  4. Analysis & Results

I. Set Project Goals for Weight-loss Program (8 or 10 weeks)

Losing even 10 pounds can impact a variety of chronic disease conditions.

  • Participant objective, enroll 500
  • Sales objective, 125 new members, plus 8-week guest pass sales of 250
  • Community involvement of fire/police teams or other civic group. Your center/club will help them meet their objectives.
  • Program objective is to build awareness of your center’s leadership role in the community as a resource for health & wellness
  • Participant completion objective of 30%
  • Public relations objective is to receive press coverage of civic team and the medical fitness
  • Establish marketing/communication budget & tactics that integrate with your Facility’s role as a Thought Leader

 II. Project Phases

  1. Planning (Several key components below)
  2. Sponsorship & Partnership Outreach
  3. Development of 8-week self-guided program, supplemented by educational sessions with our experts (tie-in local physicians)
  4. Police & fire program, identify fitness leaders to coach groups to reach goals
  5. Communications plan, internal & external
  6. Weigh in & Weight outs, data analysis
  7. Results & PR

III. Team/Resources

  1. Your Staff
  2. Local Healthcare organizations for Screenings or Referrals
  3. Screen Team & Screening tools
  4. Potential local business partners for sponsorships

IV. Final Analysis & Results

  1. Press release with results to all local media
  2. Article/blog for digital media
  3. Video testimonials of participants with results
  4. Analysis of program, did it meet goals, why or why not?

PLANNING – Thought Leadership

  1. Develop Theme/Concept for Promotional Campaign
  2. Identify key groups for building awareness
  3. Create content for press/your center’s blog
  4. Solicit other media sponsors
  5. Create messages for front-line staff

PLANNING — Program Content

  1. Reference organizations, resources for weight-loss, walking
  2. Determine staff needs for weekly weigh-ins, education
  3. Determine method for follow-up, emails, e-news
  4. Organize fun event to incent people to complete 8 weeks
  5. Tie-in sales promotion to successful completion or special offer during program
  6. Assign staff for phone call follow-up on regular basis
  7. Track usage of guest passes

FACILITY PLANNING — Sign up Week & Weekly Weigh-ins

  1. Develop process for weigh-ins, other screenings & data collection
  2. Develop registration form, HIPAA compliance, waiver for data, etc.
  3. Testimonials from participants, release for images/story
  4. Handouts/guidelines for participants on key health benefits
  5. Speaker schedule for educational sessions at key intervals
  6. Determine if data will be logged in system/website, establish criteria

Fine tune your fitness programs for ACO networks

The first quarter of 2014 is nearly over (and hopefully that is true of our winter!), so it’s a great time to assess if your strategies are on track to make your fitness or wellness business better this year. Fine-tuning your programs and communications tactics can better position your club as a part of the new healthcare delivery model. Although it is unclear how physicians and hospitals receiving bundled payments may pay for prevention and wellness services, it is clear that they will need to focus more attention on an individual’s complete health. Let’s start with who is actually in your club and how you can leverage these relationships strategically.

1. Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen
Malcolm Gladwell shares case studies on “How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” in his 2000 book, The Tipping Point. We assigned this book to a group of fitness center managers, and asked them to formulate their own tipping points related to primary goals for their center’s business.

We especially wanted to increase awareness of chronic disease issues in the community, as we had purchased a series of ACSM exercise protocols that we believed create a key competitive advantage. But first we needed the team’s help in identifying connectors, mavens and salesmen among the membership to help spread our message–to create our own tipping point. Having your staff formulate a plan to identify such customers for key message delivery is an effective group exercise that can energize your current plan or be part of your planning process next year.

Our primary goal was to identify the Mavens, whom Gladwell describes as the “information specialists, or people we rely upon to connect us with new information.” These prime referrers want to solve other people’s problems. While probably not motivated by actual referral rewards, this group still needs nurturing. Our goal was to identify this type from members who had responded to a Loyalty Survey or who had been recognized in Leader Circle groups (based on weekly attendance). Ultimately, we wanted to discover and promote their personal improvement stories, and to develop talking points and incentives to spur them on to more referrals.

The other key groups in the Tipping Point concept are connectors and salesmen. Connectors typically make introductions in social circles because they have so many contacts in their network. Perhaps this valuable group is already active on your Facebook page. As you already know, salespeople are persuasive and charismatic, and you have them on staff.

You need all three groups working in concert to position your club for health care. But you also need “the stickiness factor,” as coined by Gladwell. That factor is the message. We’ll describe more on key consumer segments and specific messages in a later article.

2. Strategic Visioning
Change is rapidly occurring in the $2.7 trillion health care industry–especially in delivery. How will you be part of that change? When did you last take time to dream about your business, to dream with your key managers? Ask your core team members to explore their high point in working for your club, a time when they were operating at peak performance. Have them tell the story and describe the most important and helpful factors in the organization and the results. What can you learn from each other’s experience in how change occurs? Capture these details as you prepare for other changes that will be occurring in our industry. Start by asking what was it about the organization or team members that made a positive experience possible? What were the best qualities, skills or values that made it a high point? Write them down.

3. Asking Better Questions
Are you asking the right questions of your employees, your customers and yourself? The answers we get are often determined by the questions we ask. If we ask irrelevant questions, we get irrelevant answers. If we ask better questions—empowering questions—we get empowering answers. Marilee Adams, an executive coach, has developed a system of tools called Question Thinking that she outlines in her book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. In a future article we will use these tools to dive into new member orientations and health and fitness assessments. Get started with your team with these questions: What could or should our competitive strategic advantage be? What do we have the ability to create right now? In mid-term? In the long-term?

4. Living the Vision
How has your business vision changed? In an annual all-staff meeting years ago, we used the FISH! Philosophy video, which describes how Pike’s Place Fish Market in Seattle became world-famous. I still relate to its simple idea of coming together as a team to live the vision. Successful teams are guided by three principles:

Be it: make the vision part of everything you do
Commit: make a commitment to bringing the vision into your place of work
Coach it: teach others about the importance of the vision, and have fun in doing it

Are you modeling a culture of wellness and fitness among your employees? If not, how do they feel about delivering health and wellness to your customers, other clients and possibly mavens in your community? An upcoming article will explore corporate wellness programs and their role in the new healthcare landscape.

5. Leaders Lead
Leaders focus on people and ask what and why. They develop and innovate. Are you ready to lead this next innovation? It’s going to require a longer-term perspective and resources to create change in your club and its position within the community. We’ll give you tips on how to get there.

Watch for our series for the Club Insider and excerpted here, Fitness Futures and Healthcare Delivery. We’ll cover:

Developing Healthcare Referrals: Sedentary, deconditioned and overweight. You can reach this market more effectively with lifestyle programs that can expand your ancillary revenues. But first you need to use the right message to get referrals from healthcare professionals in your market.

Your Club, Your Community: The healthcare environment is changing, and your role as a top fitness provider is a community asset. Have you identified community initiatives that can help you showcase your facility to residents and the health care community?

Going Corporate: Are you modeling a culture of wellness among your own employees? One of the best ways to develop a corporate wellness program is to practice what you preach.

Sticky Messages for Segments: Understanding who your customers are is one of the ways you’ve been successful in your business. Do you know what other customers you can reach in your market area? We do. With our Prizm analysis model for medical fitness center consumers, we’ve identified 10 top segments you can reach with lifestyle programs and targeted communications.

Measure and Evaluate. Assessing your programs is yet another way to communicate your results to your customers and potential customers. Plus, it makes smart business sense for those healthcare constituents you want to entice.

Use these ideas to start brainstorming on changes occurring in our industry. We welcome your thoughts and feedback. Sign up on our web site to get a list of analytical questions to help maximize your strategic competitive advantage.