Fancy television ads, colorful magazine spreads, eye-catching direct mail pieces: what do we truly hope to achieve with our ongoing marketing efforts? The answer: satisfied paying customers. However, with tremendous competition in the fitness industry today, traditional forms of advertising are no longer enough to garner significant results in most markets. It’s time to step it up. There is a difference between advertising and advertising effectively. To develop a successful marketing campaign, begin by taking two steps:

  1. Devise a concrete plan.
  2. Choose a straightforward message.

Your Plan

View marketing as an investment rather than a cost, and then strive to generate a return on this investment. You can achieve this by strategically planning all your marketing efforts. Be methodical when developing your plan:

  1. Precisely define what you are promoting.
  2. Identify your target market.
  3. Outline your objectives.
  4. Determine how you will measure results.
  5. Establish a timeline.

Refine your answers by working with the “5 big questions” below. Your timeline should end with a deadline for achieving your specific objectives. Once this deadline is met, be sure to evaluate the results of your campaign so that you can make any necessary improvements when you move forward.

The 5 Big Questions

As you create your campaign, keep these 5 questions in mind. The answers will guide you in making important choices throughout your marketing process:

  1. What does your facility do better than other facilities in your area?
  2. What do you do differently that other clubs don’t?
  3. What services or amenities do you offer that other gyms don’t?
  4. What qualities do you want your business to be known for?
  5. Why should customers join your gym as opposed to the competition?

Your Message

Your message must be simple and straightforward. That said, benefits-oriented marketing is an effective long-term strategy for building membership. This approach means that focusing on the positive features of your facility is not adequate for conveying an enticing message. What benefits do these features offer for potential clients? How do these features provide an enjoyable and successful experience?

With this in mind, don’t limit yourself to one prominent message. Run a variety of campaigns targeting multiple markets. For example, design different ad campaigns focusing on families, strength training enthusiasts, older adults and young singles. Your club can likely accommodate all these groups; however, the features and benefits they desire will be varied. There is nothing wrong with simultaneously running multiple campaigns as long as the target markets are different.

Finally, provide a call to action. Urge people to call for an appointment or to visit your facility for a free pass. If you do not spell out a clear call to action in your ad, you will likely see a dramatic decline in response rate. Make sure you tell people what to do.

To learn more about creative advertising methods, see the full article in the October 2008 issue of IDEA Fitness Manager or online in IDEA’s Health and Fitness Article Library.