More than ever before, consumers are using mobile to interact on social media, visit websites, access apps and even shop online. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to routinely use their smartphones as a primary tool for accessing the Internet, according to data from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA 2016).
Think of it: Even if your clients have a desktop or laptop nearby, some of them will reach for their phone first to go online. Perhaps you do it, too, especially if you’re a Millennial. A report from comScore, a cross-platform measurement company, revealed that Millennials in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom spend 50%–100% more time on mobile than they do on desktop (Lella, Lipsman & Martin 2015).
What does this “mobile first” culture mean for you? It’s time to size up how well your online marketing responds to, but also caters to, a smartphone-obsessed audience. “Fitness is going mobile,” says John Ford, president of Netpulse, a San Francisco company that provides mobile apps to health clubs. “Not only do [gym] members own more smartphones than ever before; they’re also constantly using them while working out—whether to track calories burned or to listen to music.”
Harness this smartphone usage with the help of these insights and ideas on marketing and selling to fitness consumers in the mobile space:
Your Website on a Smartphone
We’ll assume you know what your marketing strategy is and you’re ready to make mobile a bigger part of it. Attracting new customers and delighting existing ones on mobile is much like any other type of marketing.
Consider how your prospects and clients encounter you or your business on mobile. They might be interacting with you through a social media app like Facebook or Instagram. From there, they navigate to your website, maybe to read a blog post, provide their contact information or make a purchase. What will their experience be like? Hopefully good, if your site is mobile-responsive or even designed primarily for the mobile end-user.
Luckily, there’s no need to hire an expensive design firm to ensure a positive mobile experience. “If you have a website and are on a budget, spend a little to get a WordPress theme that shows up well on mobile,” says Jill Coleman, MS, owner of JillFit Physiques in Los Angeles and creator of the Best of You Business Mentorship for Fitness Professionals. To get started, do a Web search for something like “mobile-responsive WordPress themes.”
“Many websites were initially designed to be viewed and exploited on a desktop computer,” says Fred Hoffman, MEd, 2007 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and Paris–based social media and marketing consultant for the fitness and health club industry. “Because of this, the mobile browsing experience may be very different in terms of format and functionality.”
If you routinely promote calls to action on social media or in emails (which should also be optimized for mobile!), make sure those intended actions are easy to achieve on a smartphone. For example, if people need to input information on your website in exchange for a free e-book or workout plan, how mobile-friendly is the form they need to fill out? If the form has too many items (e.g., name, email address, phone number, occupation and so on) and/or the experience feels clunky on mobile, it won’t bode well for your lead generation. People get impatient, and perhaps even more so on mobile.
The same applies for e-commerce. How easy is it to make a purchase from your website on a phone or tablet? Try it and see. Pay attention to how things display on a small screen; check details like font size (not too small), button size (ditto) and image quality (go high-res). Credit card and PayPal payments must be hassle-free. Says Coleman, “Your consumers need to be able to follow this path seamlessly without having to ever get on a desktop computer: social → website → BUY button → checkout → delivery or download of product/service.”
Additionally, Coleman points out that any type of deliverable should be able to “live” on someone’s phone, or at least be easily retrievable from there. “If you are selling e-books, video-based programs, membership sites, etc., they all need to be accessible via mobile, because your clients are bringing their phones to the gym and following your programs there,” she says. “Many customers won’t even have access to a printer in their homes to print the workouts!”
Mobile App Opportunities
Sometimes the mobile experience doesn’t involve a website at all. That’s because so much of mobile is about apps. “It’s no longer enough to just have a website or even a mobile-optimized website,” says Ford. “Members expect a mobile experience that is native, personalized and highly interactive; only a mobile app can provide this.” (Native means there’s an app specifically developed for mobile.)
Luckily, it’s easy to benefit from the world of apps without ever having to develop one from scratch (although that could be a viable venture, as well). Numerous companies allow personal trainers and businesses to customize and brand existing app templates for their own businesses. Examples include Netpulse, MINDBODY®, GoMotive and Trainerize.
Apps help create a better and more convenient customer service experience between trainer and client. But they also allow for new and interesting marketing tactics directed at a device that fitness consumers check constantly: their phones. “With a branded app,” says Ford, “an operator can send everything from announcements to hypertargeted push notifications offering open personal training sessions and other services to members currently on the workout floor. By offering deals to members while they’re working out, operators can ensure that the deals are extremely relevant, enticing members to make impulse purchases.”
Adds Ford, “Savvy operators should see their club’s mobile app as an extension of their brick-and-mortar club, and not just as a club bulletin board.”
To determine if hanging your hat on an app—whether customized or created from scratch—is right for your business, consider what you and your customers would use the app for. How would it differ from, or enhance, what you already offer? “Functionalities on an app may be very different from what is found on the desktop version of the website,” says Hoffman. “Thus fitness professionals must understand the differences between these platforms and appreciate the experience that the end-user may have (good or bad).”
Making the Mobile Connection
A mobile-first culture means people expect companies and brands to be readily available for customer service at all hours—after all, mobile makes it possible to receive customer inquiries, complaints and notifications in real time. No one needs to be at the office in front of a computer anymore, and your customers know it. “Fitness pros must monitor [mobile] channels and react quickly,” says Hoffman. “Responses (to questions, complaints, etc.) should be time-sensitive and, most importantly, should be personalized!” Adapt as needed.
“Although mobile is ’the future,’ things are changing so rapidly,” says Hoffman. “It’s possible that what we know now as ’mobile’ and ’apps’ may be very different even in a short time frame such as 5 years. Knowing this, it is essential that fitness pros be constantly abreast of changes in mobile marketing, platforms, etc.”
But whatever the platform or however it might change, Coleman points to one constant that can help fitness pros navigate advances in mobile tech: “The best trainers aren’t always the ones who know the most,” she says, “but the ones who can connect with their clients and make their clients feel emotionally safe and successful.” You already do that in person—now’s your chance to shine on mobile, too!
Facebook. 2016. Facebook stats. 2016. Accessed Jun. 6, 2016. http://newsroom.fb.com/company-info/.
Lella, A., Lipsman, A., & Martin, B. 2015. The global mobile report: How multi-platform audiences & engagement compare in the US, Canada, UK and beyond. Accessed Jun. 6, 2016. www.comscore.com/Insights/Presentations-and-Whitepapers/2015/The-Global-Mobile-Report.
NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration). 2016. First look: Internet use in 2015. Accessed Jun. 6, 2016. www.ntia.doc.gov/blog/2016/first-look-internet-use-2015.