It’s a new year and as tradition dictates, it’s time to make a resolution to get better at something this year. I say, let’s make a marketing resolution! Why not? Let’s all agree to work from a marketing plan this year. Growing a successful business requires continuous marketing and continuous marketing can only be successful when there is a plan in place that dictates the what, when and how of it all. And equally as important, a plan helps you track and analyze the results of your efforts to create a road map for the future.
A great place to start is to do some digging and determine where you need to increase your revenue. For instance, how healthy is your dues line? Do you have 30% of your members participating in Personal Training? Are your profit centers performing at full potential? Assign growth goals to these areas and develop a marketing plan to meet and even exceed your goals.
Once you know the needs of your business, have assigned measurable objectives and prioritized these goals, do some market research. Gather the facts about your prospects. In fact, one of the most useful things you can do is a member plot. Find out exactly which areas of the typical 3 – 5 mile radius from your business have the highest penetration of your members. What do these members have in common? Income? Location? Age? Like my mom always said, “Birds of a feather flock together!”
Use this information to determine how to share your message. I’m sure we’re all aware of the, “Print marketing is dead” argument. Sure, the pendulum swung to the digital world but it’s back, as it should be. And those of us in the business of creating effective marketing campaigns understand it’s the MIX of marketing vehicles that make the magic.
Learn about your members and prospects and what compels them to act. Understand to some extent their behavior, value and loyalty drivers so you can deliver integrated communications that line up with their unique needs. Find the sweet spot and deliver.
Let’s stop here and look at options:
- Digital Marketing – sharing your message via electronic devices. It can be, though will not always be, low-cost. ROI tends to be higher with digital marketing, most specifically in the social media realm where posting is free.
- E-mail Marketing – this is like the digital direct mail card. In order to truly be effective, there needs to be a compelling subject line and content with a swift call to action encouraging prospects to “Click here to register”.
- Print – sharing your message on the printed page in all traditional forms, including guerrilla-marketing pieces. ROI tends to be lower with print marketing due to its cost, yet it has a place and must be included in the mix.
- Direct Mail – though it’s technically print, it’s worthy of its own mention here. For the specificity of the medium, when done well, is very effective. Adding call source numbers and purls (personal URLs) make quantifying the effect of the project simple and come with the added benefit of capturing lead information.
- TV & Radio – powerful and has a broad reach. This marketing vehicle has a high price tag as compared with the other vehicles mentioned, however; it compels prospects into action most effectively due to its repetitive and/or immediate nature (e.g. Live remotes)
- Community Involvement – philanthropic acts ingratiate your club or studio in the hearts and minds of your prospects. Cost varies, as does the amount of time and energy. The ROI and other intangible benefits can be significant.
Guess what? Your plan is starting to take shape already!
You next steps are to decide what your primary focus will be during each month of the year. Some months are better spent focusing externally and others are better focused internally. Though you should always have both internal and external campaigns going, the primary focus is directly related to the buy cycle of our industry.
Speaking in general terms, most clubs and studios experience similar patterns of member usage in each season of the year. The trick is to learn the nuances of your unique business and identify the opportune times to run referral and prospecting campaigns, challenges and retention efforts.
Plan your member referral campaigns to follow a big sales month. Run a weight loss challenge in mid to late winter and again late spring. Host an open house in the fall when folks are getting back to their post-summer routines. Reach back to former members when prospects are most actively seeking fitness solutions as they are quite likely looking at the same time.
Start sketching out your plan now. You know what your business needs to grow; you’ve learned about your members and have identified prospects. You know how you want to communicate with them and you just mapped out when you’ll run campaigns focusing on your goals. All the pieces to a successful plan are here and simply need to be documented.
- Create an action plan to identify the unique responsibilities of the staff involved, include dates for completion.
- Select a campaign or theme to unite your various efforts and strengthen your brand identity.
- Adopt a consistent look, message and feel to your designs so you are immediately and easily recognized in your market.
- Decide on offers and expiration dates to create a sense of urgency.
- Have a system in place to track leads – make it a part of your club culture to ask every new prospect how they heard about you.
- Inform your staff, especially front line and sales staff. They need to clearly understand your expectations to convert leads into members and clients.
- Work on 3 months at a time. Once you have one quarter in place, you can copy it forward, making the necessary adjustments to goals and focus, based on results from previous efforts and the time of year.
- Making this resolution is a commitment to implement a strategy that is practical, pragmatic and produces results. You’ll feel liberated by it.
- Rather than waking up in a cold sweat at 3am because Mother’s Day is in 3 days and you forgot to schedule a promotion, you’ll sleep like a baby and whistle your way into the club with displays in place and gift certificates being sold.
- Eat the elephant one bite at a time and you will eventually have a 12-month marketing plan that will become the template to all of your future marketing. From this you’ll also come to know your business intimately. You’ll end up with more time to explore new opportunities because you aren’t reacting to the same holidays, seasons and buy cycles year after year. This is your year to take control.
Here’s to a healthy, happy and prosperous new year ahead.