ClubAds Marketing Blog


Welcome to the Hilton ...we have beds!

One of the hardest things to do in marketing is connect emotionally to your prospect. Telling them how much stuff you have in your club just doesn't do it, which makes me wonder why so many clubs continue to make that their message.

One of my favorite quotes from Thomas Plummer is, "Welcome to the Hilton... We have beds!" It's a painfully obvious, albeit funny, statement, but this is a fundamental problem with many of the advertisements you see for our industry; they are features-driven. More weights, better treadmills, bigger lockers, etc. Yes, you have the stuff and paid a lot of money for it. Who else cares? Not Jane and Joe Prospect. If they are like the majority of prospects, then they have never been members of a club, and all that 'stuff' intimidates them. Worse still, they may feel that they are not yet fit enough to join your club!

When it comes to prospects, the small percent of workout fanatics have found you and are already members or even staff! No marketing required. They know what they want and will join the best fit for them.

Next in line would be the occasional users. These are the people whom most clubs are fighting for, or the largest percentage of the 'churn', as Mr. Cates refers to them in his August 2009 Cover Story entitled, Trust. They want to be club members. They want fitness to be part of their life. They want to enjoy the experience and social side of a membership. Most importantly, they want results. Unfortunately, most don't get what they want (or need) and jump to the next shiny, new club as soon as it opens. Maybe the new treadmills with all the latest gadgets will help! Likely not...

We all know it's less expensive to keep an existing member than it is to find a new one (retention is a whole other topic that all clubs should research and work with experts in our industry to increase). Happy members stay longer, spend more and are more loyal! Stop treating them like they don't count. Treat them like you value their business --because you certainly should--with respect, and give them the attention and help you'd expect as a customer yourself. It's the very least you can do!

The final group is the non-exerciser. By some accounts, this comprises 65% of the population or more who have never been a club member. They may have never worked out at all. They are also pounded with a few thousand advertising messages every day, including yours. Do you think you are going to stand out by telling them you have TVs, trainers, showers, 25,000 lbs of free weights and a cardio deck that stretches for a mile and a half?

Benefits versus Features  Marketing

So, what's the difference between benefits versus features marketing? It all boils down to what you are going to do to help Jane and Joe Prospect. They may need to lose weight, or recover from surgery, or perhaps they simply want to be able to take out the garbage without being out of breath! Each prospect has a unique reason for coming to you, and at the end of the day, he is looking for help to accomplish one thing, achieving the results he wants.

For example, instead of including the standard 'laundry list' of stuff in your marketing message, why not make an  attempt to establish an emotional connection with your prospect by replacing it with a testimonial from a member; a real member too, not just 'this is the best club ever' one. Another idea is to make it easier to join by removing some of the barriers. Offer things like a money-back guarantee, introductory group training and group fitness classes and member ambassadors who provide support and reassurance to the new member.

People need to feel comfortable from the very first time they walk into your club. Better yet, if you build your reputation around trust and results, your members will recommend your club to their friends, family and colleagues, and that is the best advertising in the world!

One last point to consider when planning your great, new 'features' marketing campaign, one which I have made before but is always a good reminder, when the local newspaper, billboard company or printer offers to design your ad for free, keep in mind the price you pay may just be reflected in the product you are going to get. Even if it looks okay, is it on message for your club business? If you truly want to build trust --think brand marketing and the big guys like Nike, Coca-Cola, Apple, etc-- you need to be consistent in the message to the consumer. Not for a month, and not for a quarter, but forever. Campaigns can change and so can offers, but what you say, how you say it and to whom you say it must be the foundation of every piece of marketing you spend your valuable dollars on. If you can commit to make your marketing 'work out' like you help your members do, then it will start working out for you too!

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Ready. Aim. Fire. Fire. Fire!

During the turn of the century, a junior U.S. Navy Officer gave his superiors an idea of constantly firing upon targets using a method of continuous-aim firing. It never occurred to the leaders of the ship to overcompensate for the perpetual motion of the ocean, so the results because of his suggestion were incredible.

There are many similarities between a navy vessel in the water and a fledging company on the vast ocean of advertising. Both are fighting for advancement, both are in constant motion, and both are trying to hit the fast-moving targets. How did the Navy win? By using the continuous-aim firing strategy. They found their target and kept firing until they saw results, and then, they still kept firing.  READY. AIM. FIRE. FIRE. FIRE! This is what successful businesses do.

 "Direct mail doesn't work." You've likely said it, or at least thought it, and I've heard it thousands of times over the years. For the most part, it's true! How about this: Direct mail doesn't work for the same reason diets don't work!

We all know "that person? who is starting a diet again or keeps complaining that they've "tried everything,? and it still doesn?t work. We both know that what they really need to do is start making small changes (eat less, move more), set some realistic goals and stick to it. Although there will be peaks and valleys, success is right in front of them if they are willing to reach for it, make a plan and work at it with consistency. Now apply that same approach to your marketing. Give it the effort it deserves, make a plan to fight for your market share and work to gain your prospects attention!

The sole goal of marketing is to create enough interest to make the phone ring and the door swing. It cannot and will not sell memberships. That?s your job! With that thought in mind, consider that there are really only three things you can offer to entice your audience:

Time! Money! Stuff!

Time - Most people are more likely to buy something if they are able to try it first, risk-free. Whether it is a free trial or a paid trial is up to you, but the trial membership offers you a way to create and establish value while removing a barrier of entry. It gives you the opportunity to earn their business without high-pressure sales tactics and to show them how you will help change their life.

Money - The staple of low-priced clubs and the bane of those that are higher priced. Price can be used effectively, but it is a strategic move. Too many times the club thinks their "% off? or "pay only $X? offer is great but neglect to include the perceived value of the offer. Pay only $20 Enrollment  -a $200 savings! Discounting can be a dangerous game, and if practiced long enough, people will learn that your enrollment fee is negotiable, and you won?t have a leg to stand on.

Stuff - A very effective, but seldom used offer. People love free stuff, especially in a sluggish economy where consumer confidence is low and few are buying. The strategic benefit behind this offer is that it gives you the ability to maintain your rates and enrollment fees, but at the same time, add value. If you utilize this offer, make certain you give something of value, not just a t-shirt. Why not a shirt, hat, water bottle and free club coupons, all inside your club sports bag? Now that has value --perceived and real-- to entice a prospect to come check you out.

So, now you have a great offer that people won?t be able to resist. How are you going to tell them? That answer is not quite as easy. There are infinite possibilities and a finite amount of money with which to do it. Direct marketing is still the most cost-effective way to generate traffic. The difference is that direct mail is just one tool in your marketing toolbox. Used correctly, it can be one of the most effective, but if you use only direct mail --unless you are one of the few lucky ones -it rarely works, especially if you do it only once or twice a year.

 A consistent marketing campaign can include direct mail, flyer inserts, newsletters, door hangers, take ones, guest passes, email, web, etc., anything that gets your message directly into the hands of the prospect. The more you can diversify the vehicle and point of delivery, the better chance you have of making that lasting impression in the prospect?s mind.

Prospects buy when they want to buy and join when they want to join. The goal is to put your message into as many hands, as consistently and frequently as possible. You need to own that spot in their mind, so that when they are ready to make their buying decision to join a club, or lose weight, or change their life, or whatever their reason is, yours is the club they come in to join.

Remember again, this great analogy, and as a club operator or marketing person, keep it in the back of your mind whenever you wonder why your marketing doesn't work:

There are many similarities between a navy vessel in the water and a fl edging company on the vast ocean of advertising. Both are fighting for advancement. Both are in constant motion. Both are trying to hit the fast-moving targets. How did the Navy win? By using the continuous-aim firing strategy. They found their target and kept fi ring until they saw results, and then they still kept firing. READY. AIM. FIRE. FIRE. FIRE! This is what successful businesses do.

If you feel your marketing isn?t hitting your target, or your results are not what they used to be, consider the above and come out fighting for your market share. If you?re not going to fight for it, your competition is going to take it from you, and likely without much effort, but definitely with a little strategy!

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How Direct Mail Can Boost Your Networking Efforts

10 Tips to Help You Get the Results You Want

You have to market to stay ahead in business today. Even if you live in a small community, marketing plays a big role in making your business creditable. Consumers today are subjected to anywhere from 1,800 - 3,000 advertising messages per day. With that large of a statistic, it is no longer viable to rely only on word-of-mouth marketing.

Word-of-mouth marketing is the best way to build a reputation, but if a competitor's marketing message comes along that hits your consumers' "buttons," they may be likely to leave your business in search for a better price, closer location, or just plain curiosity.

You have to continually market to let people know you exist so they will not forget about you. The way you do it may vary depending on your type of business, but there is one marketing avenue that will get you an excellent return on investment, if done right.

  • 1         A clear, bold headline.
  • 2         A graphic that supports the message. The graphic should be easy to understand and add to the message the headline is trying to convey.
  • 3         Color that pops. Make the headline and other text stand out by using a color that stands out from the background color.
  • 4         Subheads that lead into text. If you have a couple of paragraphs of text with no lead in, there's nothing to entice people to actually read the copy. A subhead will give people a place to start reading.
  • 5         Benefits, benefits, benefits. One of the biggest errors people make in advertising is stating features, rather than benefits.
  • 6         The offer. An offer is always a good idea and should represent a specific reason to call now, such as "Limited supply".
  • 7         Your company name and logo. Although this needs to be on the mailer, it shouldn't overshadow the offer. Customers care most about what you can do for them.
  • 8         Call to action. Tell prospects exactly what you want them to do. "Call today for more information" or "See us online" are two of the most common desired actions.
  • 9         Contact information. Provide your name, phone number, and web address directly following the call to action.
  • 10         Return address. A return address ensures you'll get returned mail from the post office and sends a message that you're an established professional.


Direct mail

A survey by the International Communication Research concluded that people prefer receiving messages by direct mail.

73% of respondents said that they prefer receiving new product announcements by mail, versus 18% for email.

Fewer people trash unsolicited direct mail when compared to email, 31% to 53% respectively.

Direct mail coupled with community networking and involvement, and some free internet listings on local search engines, can markedly increase your business. With that being said, you need to know how to do it right.

Do it right

First, you need to know the power of repetition. If location is the mantra of real estate success, then repetition is the mantra for promotional success.

Regular, repeated mailings are the way to create big, measurable results. When you mail every 30 days for a year, you will cause a dramatic growth in your business.

With direct mail, you can send your message to a targeted group of prospects or to your existing customers for only 25 to 30 cents each, including postage.

If you put out a blast of communication you will get inflow — prospects, customers calling or coming in, and buying. Yes, if you deliver a good product you will get some business from referrals, some. But you want that blast repeated over and over and over to get the inflow that it will generate consistently. Consistency is where prediction comes in.

Say you send out 5,000 postcards one month:
—Out of that 5,000, 150 hang onto your postcard.
—Out of that 5,000, so many call the 1st week.
—Out of that 5,000, so many call the 2nd week.
—Out of that 5,000, so many call the next month.

There is a dwindling inflow from that first mailing and therefore can give a false impression of what occurs from one mailing. Someone sends out a postcard and says, "I only got four responses from my mailing!" But there is a whole dynamic that is going on that is continuing from that one mailing, way after the person who sent the mailing expects things to happen. Every month you send out 5,000 postcards you have the scenario happening above.

Eventually, it is going to snowball because it's coming in from all different places! You are really putting your communication out there consistently, in a big way, and you are going to get consistent and continuous growth.

Likewise, any local community activities that you do to help get your name out there will get you even more results if you have a targeted and consistent direct mail campaign running.

Know your target market

Don't try and sell beer to the Temperance Society or real estate to people who cannot afford it. You have to target your direct mail marketing efforts.

The mailing list is a key factor in a successful small business direct mail marketing campaign. The right list targets people who want your product or service. The wrong list fails to target people who would want to buy from you. Sent to the wrong list, your mailing will be treated as 'junk mail.'

You should also look for local community venues that cater to your target market. Register to speak at their functions; sponsor some of their charity activities; see how you can help them, their children, and their churches or organizations. But don't do this type of activity only to get the business — it will not ring true and you might get a reputation as a fake. Find some worthy cause to get behind and help. This will increase the effectiveness of your direct mail efforts.

Design your direct mail pieces to your target market

A good design and a good message go a long way to making your direct mail piece a hit.

Your design should reflect your business/franchise, be relevant to who you are marketing to, and should include an offer to create an immediate call to action. The graphic and headline is what ultimately prompts your prospect to turn your card over and read your message, so make sure they communicate to your target audience.

Don't want your direct mail to end up in the trash with the rest of the unread mail? These 10 tips will help you get the results you want:

Be consistent and commit

One thing about marketing is that you have to commit.

Consumers rarely get multiple postcards from a business. Yet, it is such a brilliant idea. When I receive multiple postcards, I take a look. I think, "Hmmm, these guys are still contacting me." That shows persistence, it shows credibility.

You need to hit your prospects with different communication about the same thing, or hit them with different products with the same look and feel, or both. The rest will come.

Moreover, you have to be consistently in the community speaking, helping, contributing, networking, and shaking hands. But you cannot rely on this alone. Direct mail is a very creditable marketing medium and the two go hand in hand. The business owner who sends direct mail to his target market and sponsors their kids' little league baseball team is going to get more business than the business owner that only relies on word of mouth. People are bombarded with messages today — you have to constantly remind them who you are, where you are, and what you can do for them. You have to drive customers to your business.

What you are building with a marketing and community involvement/networking is credibility. You are building your business through communication. You are communicating consistently, so much that people will believe you (credibility) and they will respond; they will come, they will buy.

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Our Surefire Marketing Solution for Your Club

In the fitness club industry, 40% of our clients leave each year. We must replace them and find even more in order to remain profitable. Prospects are the lifeblood of the industry, and we require hundreds of them every month.

Where do we find them?

IHRSA studies indicate that 90% of people most likely to join your club either live or work within a 15- to 30-minute drive of your facility. Advertising directly to this audience concentrates marketing efforts on the people that count, and dollars are not wasted outside your market area. The most effective way to reach these prospects is with marketing that gets directly into their hands.

"Direct mail: My first love and secret weapon."
- David Ogilvy, Ogilvy & Mather.

The BIG advantages:

Audience selectivity: We will identify the audience most likely to join your club and market directly to them.
Exclusivity: Your direct mail travels by itself and stands alone so your message does not have to compete with other ads.
Geographic flexibility: Exercise the power to deliver your message exactly where it needs to go.
Control of message: You get to control your brand, your offer, your call-to-action, and your timing.
Cost effective: Rather than paying for wasted hits on radio and TV advertising, with direct mail, you can send your message to a targeted group of prospects or to your existing customers. For example, 20,000 cards printed and mailed for only 34¢ cents each, including postage.

Once you have identified the target, execute your direct marketing strategy with a clear, appealing message using direct mail postcards, flyers, inserts and guerrilla marketing.

There are three essential components. They are, in order of importance:

  •     Delivery: Locate the right audience; decide on quantity or number of hits, and consider frequency - how often you will distribute your message. Regular, repeated mailings are the way to create big, measurable results. For example, if you mail every 30 days for a year, you will cause a dramatic growth in your business.
  •     Offer: Present enticing, risk-free benefits of joining; not just features of your facility. Include a call-to-action.
  •     Look: Your advertising should have the right appeal to grab attention. Convey a strong statement that positions your club top-of-mind, and generates enough interest or excitement to make your audience take action.

A good design and a good message go a long way
to making your direct mail piece a hit.
Check out these 10 tips that will
help you get the results you want!

Advertising should be simple. First, we identify what we want: More members! Then, we identify our target market; decide on the strategy to reach them and execute it. Simply make your plan and work your plan. Repetition is the mantra for promotional success. When you communicate consistently, people will believe you (giving credibility) and they will respond; they will come, they will buy.

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Marketing 101: Owners Never Plan to Fail but Often Fail to Plan!

You need a marketing plan. Without one, you are like a person in a dark room trying to find something. Eventually you may stumble across it, but how much time did you waste in the process? If you had turned on the lights, the odds are that you would have found it a lot faster. Let?s see if we can turn on a light or two.

A good marketing plan helps you define goals and develop activities to achieve those goals. Keep it simple when you start, but return often to revise and update it. Here are the basic elements to get you started:

  •     Describe your Unique Selling Proposition
  •     Define your Target Market
  •     Clarify the Benefits of your Club
  •     Position your Club
  •     Create your Marketing Communications Plan
  •     Define your Budget and Resources
  •     Revisit and Refine your Marketing Plan

How do you tell the world about you? We refer to this as a marketing communications plan. This plan will match your available budget of time and money to the most effective means of distributing your message. The best plan is an integrated program that has all parts of your tactics working together to promote a consistent message to your customers.

Your plan should include consideration of marketing methods in these five critical areas:

  • External Marketing:  Traditional advertising such as direct mail, radio, TV, newspapers.
  • Internal Marketing:  Retention, referral, former members, and low user campaigns.
  • Corporate Marketing:  Health fairs, wellness seminars, payroll stuffers, email blasts.
  • Community Outreach:  Charity events, blood drives, safety fairs, sponsorship opportunities
  • Guerilla Marketing:  Cost effective vehicles such as lead boxes, take-ones, passes, etc.

Although virtually every entrepreneur or business owner has ideas about how to market their company?s products or services, few actually have taken the time to develop a marketing plan. Whether your marketing budget is $1,000 or $1,000,000, it makes sense to plan out how, where and when you will spend it throughout the year.

For a free copy of How to create a Marketing Plan, click here.

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Launch A Summer Referral Promotion Now!

Create some buzz in your club this summer!

The summer tends to be a little slower for many clubs, but it doesn?t have to be. It is a great opportunity to combine a couple months of your marketing budget, have some fun and get a ton of fresh leads and new members.

Referral promotions are nothing new to our industry, but unfortunately, too many clubs don?t put enough time and effort into getting the message out to members and creating some excitement about their promotion. A bike hanging from the ceiling or a grill against the wall surrounded by a few posters just isn?t going to cut it any more. You need to market your promotion and get your members talking and wanting to be apart of it.

First of all, there is a prevailing mentality amongst many members that "I never win anything so I?m not going to bother.? Here are a few ways to introduce a multi-pronged approach to your summer referral and get some buzz happening:

Extend the time
Often a promotion runs for one month with a mediocre prize and limited marketing. It starts off strong but fades fast. By making it last for six or eight weeks you can double up your marketing budget and use the extra time to continue building momentum.

The promotion
We used items such as B.B.Q. grills, bikes, Vespas and more. You can pick whatever you like depending on your budget, market and demographics, but here is a scenario using a grill as the prize:

Work with a local retailer to make a deal for the grill and include their logo and store info on all your marketing. They are usually willing to cut you a great deal if you offer something in return ? like a few thousand impressions to your member base!  Once you have the grill you can plan on how to dress up the display area. For those of you with multiple clubs, here is an opportunity to create a little friendly competition between your staff at each location.

One of the simplest ways to have members overcome their objections is to make it as easy as possible for them to enter, while rewarding them for their effort. Enter the t-shirt as the motivation for referrals! It?s amazing how people, regardless of income, will do just about anything for a free t-shirt. And not just any shirt, this one needs to be designed specifically for this promotion. You also need to have referral cards printed with room for members to put their information as well as the name, phone and email of five friends. Once completed the shirt is theirs.

This is the point where the fun and buzz begins. Encourage everyone to wear their new shirt when they come to work out because there will be random prizes given out everyday throughout the promotion to those who do. Nothing too big.  I suggest internal things like smoothies, juice, bars, PT sessions, coupons or small inexpensive items relating to the grand prize. Then weekly throughout the promotion offer slightly larger prizes, drawing from the names of members who have made referrals ? items like supermarket gift cards, BBQ utensils, aprons, etc.

The goal is to have as many people as possible wearing the shirts around the club in order to get other members asking how they can get one too, thus creating a domino effect ? which means increased referrals while member excitement levels build at the club.

To get your referral promotion message out you can choose from a variety of options, but try to mix them up as much as you can based on what you can afford. The goal is to minimize your expenses while putting the majority of your budget into the shirts and prizes. Our recommendation would be to plaster the club with posters ? large ones (24 x 36 inches) in high traffic areas and smaller ones (11x17 inches) throughout the club  - stall doors, pillars, counters, door ways and bulletin boards. Whatever number you think you need, double it, as you can?t have too many.

Send an email ? using graphics that match your campaign materials ? to all your members announcing when the promotion starts and telling them what they need to do to be involved and win. You should follow this up with other emails listing how many members have gotten involved, when there are only a certain amount of shirts left, what each week?s prize is going to be while mentioning who won the previous week?s prize. Facebook is also a brilliant tool for sharing this type of information, but if you are going to use facebook, you need to have posts at least 3 times a week if not more.

If you don?t have a good database of member email addresses, or depending on the number of members, then you should look at a direct mail piece in order to get the message to them in a cost effective format.

Cap Off Your Summer Referral Promotion With A "Welcome Summer 2010 Party!?  

It's always a great idea to cap off your Summer Referral Promotion with a Member Appreciation Party "Welcome Summer Party? right when Summer begins on June 21st as the time and place for the premium drawings.  This generates energy during six weeks to two months of your promotion and importantly, the party should generate a last push for new member referrals going into the Summer.  All members, and newly joined referred members, who joined during the Summer Referral Promotion should be invited to the party.  The BBQ grill  giveaway or perhaps a Grand Prize Drawing for a hammock can help generate more attendance and more referrals right up until the party deadline.  The club energy will truly buzz if promoted well.  The point is make it FUN for everybody by having a focal point "Welcome Summer 2010 Party? kick off to end your Spring member referral promotion.  That event will also help keep your club in the members minds during the Summer, too.  And, remember?promote?promote?promote!   Have little badges with the party name for each staff member saying something like:  Don?t miss our "Welcome to Summer Party 2010 on June 21st!? and be sure that all staff wears them at all times.  Also, remember regularly scheduled  P.A. announcements in the club as well as announcements by group exercise instructors and Personal Trainers will help boost attendance.  This in-house promotional effort will enhance your other marketing efforts for the promotion.  

The best part of a club referral promotion like this is the interaction it creates between members and staff and between your different members. With a little early planning and strategy it will be simple to manage how and when you communicate your message and ensure you keep the momentum strong during the life of the promotion.

Now go have some fun, fire up your staff
and members, generate a bunch of new leads
and make it a profitable summer!

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