By Dave Pickering
Succeeding in the Corporate Market
How can you tap into the corporate market with a sound action plan? Part two of a two-part series.
magine the value of being listed as an "approved personal fitness trainer" in a provider directory of health care professionals distributed to more than 1 million consumers. How would such a listing impact your business? For Ken Baldwin, 1999 IDEA/Life Fitness Personal Trainer of the Year, a directory listing means increased revenue and a heightened professional image for Premier Fitness, the company he manages in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. How did he do it? "By creating a strong link with the medical community," says Baldwin, who oversees 10 personal trainers and 14 of his own clients. After reviewing his business plan for Premier Fitness and making the necessary updates, Baldwin examined the market research he had conducted for the Greater Boston Metropolitan area. His analysis enabled him to capitalize on a very unique opportunity. The Baldwin Strategy: Become a fitness provider for a health insurer. Competition among health insurers in Boston has been fierce for many years. Realizing that corporations are prime clientele of these insurers, Baldwin contacted Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, one of the largest health underwriters in Massachusetts. He set up a series of informational meetings about the fitness industry and began educating the various administrative personnel who contract with traditional curative providers (primary care physicians) on behalf of the corporations. "Persistency was a major part of my efforts," Baldwin explains. "These efforts took place over several months. Continually following up with key decision makers, as well as maturing these relationships with several telephone calls and meetings, made the difference." Detailing his plan in clear, concise presentations, Baldwin was able to establish an inroad based on his approach: His group of personal trainers were true professionals and should be designated as "approved providers" in the same way that physicians had been categorized for years. Baldwin's approach worked. He signed a contract with Harvard and, as a result, his personal trainers were listed as approved providers on the company's widely distributed provider directory. Not only was Premier Fitness elevated in the eyes of people in the community but its competitors were nowhere in sight. Another benefit of Baldwin's deal was the ability to leverage the immense marketing power of the health insurer. Every time Harvard sends out a provider list, the name "Premier Fitness" is included. The corporate connection has resulted in more clients for Premier Fitness during the past five years. Clients insured through Harvard cover the costs of their own personal training and then file reports for reimbursement. As an approved provider for the health insurer, Premier Fitness can furnish these clients with reports detailing the service and its outcome. A typical report might state: "As a result of working with a personal trainer, the client was able to significantly improve her range of motion, strength and use of body." In turn, clients are reimbursed by Harvard up to $1,000 for personal training sessions. All of this new business was the result of Baldwin conducting an analysis of his market and then implementing a strategy to capitalize on repositioning his company. Seeking out one of the largest and strongest potential partners paid off particularly well.
IDEA PERSONAL TRAINER JANUA RY 2000
Make a Quality Connection Barbara Slone has been a fitness professional for more than 18 years. Based in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, she wisely researched her market area in an effort to build her own personal training business. The Slone Strategy: Tap into an existing network of corporate clients. A member of IDEA for more than six years, Slone specifically targeted Healthtrax Fitness and Wellness because the company already had a corporate sales staff drumming up business for its 15 centers throughout the New England area. (Talk about getting a jump on the competition-- Healthtrax's corporate sales program has been in place for more than a decade!) Rather than "reinventing the wheel," Slone positioned her personal training services for Healthtrax's facility in Warwick, Rhode Island, where a full-time salesperson works with corporations in that specific market area. In return for referring clients to Slone's personal training business, Healthtrax benefits as well from a knowledgeable, experienced and certified fitness provider. As a result of the corporate sales program at the Warwick club, more than 25 percent of Slone's business comes directly from employees of local corporations. "The program at the club allows me to reach a variety of corporate employees--access that otherwise would demand a great deal of my time to develop," Slone explains. "By working in this team environment with the corporate sales person, I can market my programs to companies as a part of Healthtrax's overall comprehensive wellness program." Like other Healthtrax centers, the corporate sales program in Warwick includes a menagerie of wellness services for companies, their employees and their employees' family members. The corporations subsidize a portion of the fitness and wellness programs, and the employees pay the balance through payroll deduction (as they do other employee benefits).
This article is part two of a two-part series. Part one, "Sizing Up the Corporate Market" (NovemberDecember 1999 IDEA Personal Trainer), outlined essential areas to cover when developing a business plan to present to prospective corporate clients. In addition, the first article highlighted corporate needs for health- and fitness-related services as well as strategies personal trainers could employ to meet those needs. Part two, "Succeeding in the Corporate Market," showcases fitness professionals who landed corporate accounts, set up networks for future accounts and created market needs by turning their business plans into action plans. As you read these success stories, carefully consider how your company can become a player in the corporate market. Specifically, analyze your skills, resources and future business dreams to see how they measure next to those of your industry colleagues. Where would you like your business to be in the next few years?
On her own, Slone (or any other solo trainer) most likely could not have pulled off another clever marketing tool used by Healthtrax: health fairs hosted on-site at the companies. Included in the fairs are blood pressure and cholesterol screening, fitness assessments, health risk appraisals and wellness programs.
Create a New Market Diane and Jeremy Thomas, owners of Fitness Partners on the Move, took another approach to tapping into the corporate market--they created their own. Based in Orlando, Florida, the couple decided to set their business apart by becoming an indispensable resource for fitness professionals. The Thomas Strategy: Create a market within an existing market. Like many Orlando health and fitness entrepreneurs, the Thomases were already offering traditional studio and in-house personal training services when they decided to expand their business. After analyzing the market, the couple began to see how challenging it was for regional companies to
locate qualified fitness professionals in the area. The solution: a referral network. By bringing together individuals who had been competitors in the past, the Thomases not only developed a sense of community in the profession but also positioned their business as the area's only referral resource for fitness pros. In their new market niche, the Thomases provide an overall administrative component for others within the field by managing a provider network made up of the area's leading fitness professionals. If a company needs a qualified personal trainer to anchor its in-house fitness program, for example, the couple's high-profile network is typically first on the list as a resource. In turn, the Thomases collect a referral fee from the corporation once a connection is made. As the network administrators, the couple also establishes the parameters and standards for participants. This caretaker role helps ensure that community members have favorable experiences from high-quality, certified fitness professionals. Collectively, these experiences positively impact the community's perception of the industry. In addition to the network, a market analysis prompted the Thomases to help form the Greater Orlando Wellness Council. Made up of exercise physiologists, personal trainers, massage therapists and other fitness professionals, the council gives specialists a forum to meet, network and exchange ideas for the purpose of creating new business opportunities. "One major outcome of our brainstorming get-togethers was the development of Health $ense, a consortium of business professionals that includes personal trainers, dietitians and a blood lab," Diane Thomas explains. "By combining and networking our skills in a collective manner, our group is able to meet the needs of small business, which are oftentimes overlooked by hospitals or wellness companies that seek out larger corporate clients."
I D E A P E R S O N A L T R A I N E R JANUARY 2000
IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. has joined forces with the International Fitness Club Network (IFCN) to form a Personal Fitness Trainer Network (PFTN). The IFCN PFTN will be the first comprehensive worldwide network of its kind. For 10 years IFCN has operated a network of 3,000 quality health and fitness clubs that provide services to over 28 million employees and insureds of many of the world's largest corporations and health insurers in more than 35 countries. To belong to the network, IFCN health clubs agree to offer (1) their lowest membership rates and (2) free one-week preferred guest membership certificates to corporations in the network. Clubs also agree to meet the Health Club Quality Standards established by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). The IFCN PFTN will offer a similar model. As preferred providers in the IFCN PFTN, IDEA members will offer special benefits to the employees and insureds. IFCN will then be able to direct the 28 million-plus consumers to conduct business with the PFTN providers through direct in-house corporate marketing and by listing and highlighting each individual personal trainer on the IFCN World Wide Web site. Network trainers will need to meet specific criteria, just as health clubs do. IFCN and IDEA will be developing the criteria with IDEA's personal training committee over the next few months. Informational updates and enrollment forms may be found at www.IFCN.org.
Learn From Others Quality of service is a common thread throughout each of these success stories. When qualified fitness professionals provide the highest levels of expertise, they enhance the public's perception of the industry and ensure that the actual experience remains exemplary. As I interviewed each of these professionals, it became clear that the more formal their approach to the market, the quicker they were able to address the issues and opportunities
they saw emerging. Another commonality was leveraging "strength in numbers" by developing networks. Networks create control, exclusivity and, oftentimes, command of a market area (think about the health care industry, for example). Networks also allow for better budgeting methods when it comes to marketing and packaging a product, thus providing a greater return on investment. As you continue to develop your business plan, keep these success stories and action plans in mind. Each has a component you can apply to your own circumstances. In addition, be sure to involve your accountant, personal financial planner and banker throughout the process. Seek their advice. Gain insight from their professional experience. Ask them what they have learned about the business community as it relates to their business, then apply whatever has commonality with your strategies. Once you have developed your business plan, make it a point to meet with your local chamber of commerce, small business administration or similar group. Although often overlooked by small business operators, these organizations can provide tremendous networking, marketing and financial resources. The primary purpose of such groups is to help businesses become and stay successful. Undoubtedly, though, one of the best things you will ever get from these sources is advice. Yes, you will find poor advice mixed in with outstanding advice. The key and secret to determining the difference is seeking out as many individuals as your time can afford. How much time would you like to invest in your future? It's your company! You and you alone make that decision. Dave Pickering is founder and president of the International Fitness Club Network, a division of Health Fitness Corporation.
© 2000 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.