Why is Fitness Marketing Unique?
Let’s face it, most people just do not enjoy working out. In fact, only 20% of the US population meet or exceed physical activity guidelines. Simply put, most people in the US would rather spend their evenings chilling at home eating pizza and watching TV, rather than eating a salad and spending an hour on a treadmill. No matter how much health-conscious people in the fitness industry preach the benefits of diet and exercise, most people will remain reluctant.
What Motivates People to Join a Health Club?
So how do we motivate the 80% of people in the US that do not meet physical activity guidelines to change their habits? Well, it is not easy. It is very difficult to sell a product that most people just do not feel inspired to purchase. On top that, fitness memberships offer very little instant gratification. Yes, a new member may start to feel some body changes immediately, but we all know that in most cases it will take some time for new member to start seeing real results in the mirror. In our current culture of instant gratification, that a sizable hurdle to clear.
We need to understand the core of what prompts consumers to purchase a product. It has always been argued that there are two major reasons that consumers spend money are;
- To avoid or “treat” pain – such as buying clothes if you are sad, buying medicines if you are sick.
- To obtain pleasure or joy – buying a high calorie coffee drink because it tastes good, spending money on lavish vacations to relax, or paying top dollar for a pair of shoes because they look good with an outfit.
That leaves you two choices in fitness marketing, choose to market on the fact that people will have a lower quality of life, with bad physical results and weight gain if they do not exercise, or choose to market on the pleasurable or joyful aspects associated with working out.
We have always found that it is much more effective if your fitness marketing inspires people and shows them achievable, positive results.
People want to have fun, they want to be confident, and they want to feel a level of accomplishment. People also feel a powerful need to be part of a community, and that they are strong. So use your marketing to promote these factors and tap into the consumers pleasure centers. Your fitness marketing should focus on the benefits of your services and inspire or motivate people to take action
Identity Your Target Demographic.
If you want to tap into the pleasure centers that motivate consumers to purchase your service, you first must identify and define who you are marketing too. Understanding your target market is crucial to crafting the proper messaging in your fitness marketing. Knowing your target marketing affects everything from your messaging, your design, and your offers.
When your target demographic receives a piece of your fitness marketing, they should be able to identify with it and see “their achievable dream” or the achievable, positive outcome that resonates with them. If you can understand your ideal client, then you can use informed data to properly develop products, services, campaigns, and messaging that appeal to them specifically.
4 Main Fitness Marketing Channels
With so many fitness marketing options, and different ways advertise your health club, what are the best ways to spend your marketing dollars? It can become downright overwhelming trying to identity what is the right choice to generate new member acquisition at an acceptable ROI. Below, we have identified the 4 most effective fitness marketing channels give your brand exposure, generate interest, and bring in leads in your local market.
Fitness Local Search Marketing (SEO)
Local SEO is one of the most misunderstood and confusing tools in fitness marketing. It is easy to get overwhelmed and bogged down with the technical issues and terms associated with SEO to a point where you have completely lost your grasp of what SEO truly is or WHY your fitness club needs. In addition, the ongoing monthly maintenance fees associated with an aggressive SEO for fitness strategy can scare some club owners.
So answer this simple question: When a consumer in your local market performs a Google search for “fitness center” or “health club near me”, do you want your website to show up on the first page of the search results?
Before you answer, consider this… Over 80% of consumers research a product or service online via a Google search before making a buying decision. OVER 80%!!! That’s a lot of people performing online searches.
I imagine that your answer is now an emphatic “YES! My health club’s website needs an SEO strategy!” If so, then great! You have now taken the first step in the right direction. Making sure that your website is visible to search engines and beats out the local competition for search engine rankings is an absolutely essential fitness marketing strategy. If you are not showing up first on Google search engine result pages on local searches for your fitness related services, then you are missing out on a huge lead source.
Fitness Digital Marketing (PPC Advertising, SEM)
Advertising online is often referred to by many names. Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) is a popular term and refers to the platform widely used throughout the Google Advertising Network where an advertiser only pays when their ad has been “clicked on”. You may also be familiar with the term “Search Engine Marketing (SEM)”, which basically refers to having marketing ads show up within search engine page results.
Both the terms are related, as PPC ads are essentially an integral piece of SEM. When a consumer performs a Google search for a local service or product, the resulting Search Engine Results Page (SERP) will display in 2 main sections:
- Paid Ads – Typically located at the top and bottom of the SERP, as well as on the right side panel. These are marketing ads that advertisers create on the Google ads network. Advertisers are charged for these ads ONLY when someone clicks on them.
- Organic Results – Earned rankings that show websites in the local market that are valid to the search query. Your website will show up in this area of the SERP by rank depending on your website’s SEO strategy.
There are a lot of benefits to using PPC advertising as part of your fitness digital marketing. For starters, they give you great exposure to local residents searching for your fitness related services. The top of a Google search engine results page is prime real estate and does not go unnoticed by the consumer. Even the most web savvy searcher still cannot help to notice strategically placed Fitness PPC ads.
PPC ads can also be tailored to a specific product or promotion. Do you have a special service or internal profit center that you want to push in your local market? A great way to do that is to create a fitness PPC search ad campaign for it and drive the resulting clicks/visitors to a strategically designed landing page for that promotion.
Consider these numbers: 30% of consumers click on the paid ads at the top and bottom of the Google SERP, which is respectable. But here is the slam dunk… Consumers are OVER 70% more likely to click on your organic listing in the SERP if they also see that your health club has a paid ad at the top of the SERP. That is HUGE!
Fitness Social Media Marketing
So much of marketing is the basic idea of getting someone’s attention. Then once you have that attention, deliver a message that connects with them and has value. That is one of the areas where social media is a big player in fitness marketing.
Social media, such as Facebook or Instagram, provides health club managers with the ability to have one-on-one conversations with existing members and foster those relationships. Social media also offers the opportunity to engage new prospects and answer any questions or concerns that they may have. As a platform, social media is also a powerful place to create trust and familiarity.
With over 79% of people in the US using social media, it is also an extremely effective platform to give your brand exposure in your local market. A well-crafted Facebook or Instagram ad designed to connect with your target demographic can drive a significant amount of traffic to your fitness website and landing pages. These ads show up in the natural flow of the users news fees along with typical daily postings, so they are not disruptive to the users experience.
Much like ads on the Google search network, Facebook and Instagram ads can be paid for on a PPC basis, or on an impression (saturation) basis. Although the health club marketing industry has seen a decline in Facebook or Instagram ad clicks leading to direct purchase conversions, the brand exposure that they provide can still be calculated, as visits to websites via Facebook ads are often one of the many customer interactions that can be monitored in any detailed fitness marketing conversion tracking report.
Fitness Direct Mail Marketing
Since the 1990’s, Targeted Direct Mail has been the backbone of the fitness marketing industry. With the rise in importance of digital marketing, most fitness marketing budgets have been adjusted to greatly reduce the amount of funds dedicated to direct mail, and in some cases, health clubs have completely abandoned direct mail all together. Direct mail is considered old and outdated to some, but the most successful owner/operators in the fitness industry still understand the value of fitness direct mail and that it still serves an important role.
Much has changed in the health club direct mail industry since the days of just blindly saturating an area with mail. The ability to track the delivery of your mail and the ability to accurately report the ROI has greatly improved. Pinpoint targeting based off of demographics has greatly improved, as well as the ability to target local consumers by carrier routes, which makes affordable delivery of mailings achievable.
Direct mail has the advantage over digital marketing with higher brand recall, higher response rate, and quicker response time.
Data shows the consumers that received direct mail advertisements were able to recall them 75% of the time, compared to 44% for digital ads. I addition, direct mail has a MUCH HIGHER average response rate of .5 to 1%. Social Media, Email, and Internet Display ads only have an average response rate of .02 to .1%. Addressing response time, 79% of consumers are likely to act on direct mail immediately, versus 45% with email or digital marketing.
Most importantly, Direct mail has been shown to be far more persuasive than digital media, with it showing as much as a 20% higher motivation response rate than digital marketing. When you factor in that 100% of homeowners have a mail box, coupled with the impressive response rates of direct mail advertising, you can easily see that direct mail is STILL a very valid marketing channel for the fitness industry.
Tips and Promotions to Improve Your Health Club’s Fitness Marketing
Entice New Prospects with Special Intro Offers
While this might come off as a no brainer, it is especially important in fitness marketing due to increased competition. According to the IHRSA (International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub association), “the $30 billion health and fitness industry in the U.S. has been growing at least 3-4% annually for the last ten years and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.”
So how do you stand out from the competition? Offer consumers a promotion that has real perceived value. Rather than recycling tired old offers and gifts such as a free water bottle, free t-shirt, or even a limited 3 day pass, you need to think BIGGER! What services have the greatest value to the consumer, and also, what services are most likely to keep consumers on the hook?
Offers like 2 Free Personal Sessions, or Two Free Weeks of Fitness Classes are great ways to give consumers a good taste of what your services are like and hopefully whet their appetite for more! Whatever you come up with, it needs to be compelling to give prospects a taste of what they could be getting by incorporating your product or service into their lifestyle.
Provide Reviews and Success Stories
80% of consumers research a company on Google before making a purchasing decision. Often this also includes reading customer reviews. Because choosing a fitness membership represents a sizable level of commitment, online reviews are very meaningful in this industry, as people want to make an informed decision.
As a health club operator, it is important that you solicit as many reviews as you can from happy members and incorporate those reviews in all of your marketing. For instance, if you have high rating on Google-approved review platforms or Yelp, incorporate these into your Google search ads. Use customer quotes on your website, on your print ads, and in your imagery for social and display ads. Your happy clients are one of your greatest assets, so use them to your advantage.
Be Transparent about Pricing
One of the easiest ways to lose a new lead is to provide unclear or deceptive pricing. Savvy consumers expect to find transparent pricing outlined in obvious places such as your website, but you also need to make it easy to understand in other places, such as your fitness direct mail promotions and your online ads.
Unclear or deceptive pricing can be one of the most frustrating hurdles for consumer to overcome, and in many cases, the consumer will just abandon the purchase. The more accessible you make your clear pricing model will ensure that customers are getting the most relevant, and most likely to convert, clicks, because these individuals will be fully aware the associated costs.
Provide a FREE Trial, and Make Sure It’s Approachable
One of the biggest barriers to getting a new prospect to committing join a gym is motivating them overcome the uncomfortable nature of change. It can be difficult to convince someone to make a drastic change to a lifestyle that someone has enjoyed for years. This where a health club marketing professional needs to have measures in place to break down barriers and make the new prospect as comfortable as possible.
It has become standard in the fitness industry to offer some sort of a free trial to allow new prospects to try out a gym on a limited basis. This can be an effective strategy, but the keys to success are marking sure that the new prospect has access to the amenities that are important to them, and that the term length of the trial is long enough so that they can get a feel for how your gym will fit into their day-to-day lifestyle. This will allow them to see and feel the positive benefits that your gym will bring into their lives which should greatly increase the chances of getting a contract signed.