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Q&A: How to Max Out Your Health and Fitness Marketing Potential

Let’s face it, everyone can make up any reason not to workout. So in an effort to encourage workout participation, the fitness industry provided options. Thousands of options. Traditional gyms, boutique studios, online subscriptions, apps that are part of a boot camp. You see where we’re going. But as an influx of services have made their way onto the scene, it has become harder for fitness companies to identify best practices for achieving success in this space. We sat down with our Health & Fitness Sales Lead, Holly Martin, to gain insights and recommendations for marketers in this vertical looking to achieve just that.

Q. What is the biggest challenge of the gym and online fitness market?

The fitness industry is currently booming as an over 25 billion dollar domestic market that isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. What started as a brick and mortar experience has evolved into a world of varying options, creating more competitors battling for the same customer within one space. Those same brick and mortar gyms are no longer competing just with the next health club or Cindy Crawford DVD (am I the only one that remembers this? It was amazing.) but instead competing with your phone, and the internet, and workout groups, and so on.


Q: How does consumer behavior contribute to these challenges?

Let’s be honest — your consumers don’t know exactly what they want, but think they do. At one end of the spectrum is the seasonal dieter that on a weekly basis says something to the effect of, “Ugh I should really work out today…” but has little intention of actually doing so. On the other side, there are the workout fanatics that have no plans of switching up their current routines any time soon. So how do you work with these personalities? You have to focus on acquiring new customers, while not only keeping the ones you have, but also growing their value. Not to mention, the way you reach them will vary depending on whether they’re brick and mortar or online subscription customers.


Q. Before getting into the separate offerings, what are some health and fitness advertising best practice recommendations that you could apply to all companies working in this space?

The holy grail lies in balancing exposures that create recall/action, while not exhausting your audience to where they don’t pay attention to your message anymore. This can be done by marrying math, data analytics, psychology, creative, and probably some pretty substantial tech to organize it all. Easy right? The good news is there are experts that do this everyday and can help.

Just as it’s your job to have a clean facility or proper functioning app, it’s our job to drive cost effective marketing through multi-touch attribution. Let’s look at a few things you need to focus on:

1. You want to drive customer acquisition, and not limit yourselves to brand awareness or content engagement. To do so, you need to strategically plan what that customer journey looks like on social media. For example, when we worked with a national fighting gym leader earlier this year, we recognized that from a consumer standpoint, the brand name had been been somewhat of a double-edged sword for them: Associating with the world’s most insanely fit athletes is a massive asset, but leveraged incorrectly, the fighting aspect could turn away a significant portion of the customer base. Through research, we defined the journey from impressions to sign-ups for users of different classes of the gym locally and nationally.

2. Creative isn’t one size fits all. Your creative approach needs to work cohesively with media strategy. In the same example, based on our insights and the fitness brand’s desire to appeal to a wider audience, we adopted “you belong here” as a creative platform for messaging and visual assets. To better reflect this new positioning, we shifted focus away from fight training and moved towards an all-ages portrayal of the things universally appealing about brand athletes: intensity, dedication, and passion. Building on the intensely-varied training of the mixed martial artist, we focused on the variety of classes offered at the gym (including many for women, children, and families).

3. Your advertising plan needs to be a multi-touch attribution model throughout your customer’s journey. This requires you to identify the most efficient and effective paths to convert. You have to find the fanatics that are proud of their commitment and routinely post about their workouts and progress on Facebook and Instagram. At the same time, you have to engage in conversations with them on Twitter when they complain about eating too much over the holidays. You have to connect with aspirational gym-goers when they announce their resolution to work out, or when they pin healthy recipes on Pinterest. In other words, one exposure is not enough.

In addition to this, I’d suggest putting a little more discovery work on the customer while they are in the comfort of giving you their lead information. After you’ve acquired that oh-so-precious email, name, and phone number, continue to ask them just a few questions on their experience and what they are expecting. They may still be on their couch, but they’re identifying what will eventually get them off of it. It takes a two way conversation.


Q. So, what specifically should brick and mortar gyms be doing differently?

We’ve all heard it a million times: “The hardest part of getting fit is getting your butt off the couch and in the gym.” Unfortunately the one-size fits all, “first week free” marketing no longer cuts it. We’ve seen it too many times.

Show, don’t tell

Your responsibility, instead, is to show the experience gym-goers will feel upon walking in your gym. Then, focus on the aspects that are most meaningful to them. Are they looking for equipment their house doesn’t offer? Is it the gym experience that appeals to them? Are they searching for a workout community? I, for example, was a member of a large health club chain for years but wasn’t seeking a community — in fact the last thing I wanted was someone coming up and bothering me while I was at the gym — I simply was looking for equipment that didn’t fit in my house.

Know your primary customer

As a brick and mortar marketer, you also have to accept that you are no longer conquesting from the gym down the street. You shouldn’t be trying to unless you have an offering that is truly unique, and that you know your audience is looking for. Conquesting from another gym is pretty hard and usually an inefficient use of resources, unless the customer is really not getting what they expected, or there is a big life change going on.

Go beyond one-size fits all

So who should you be looking for? You want the “Ugh! I need to start working out.” guy. You want the person that has the desire to workout but needs to be pushed over the edge — they will be how you grow your business. It’s important, however, to be smart in the way you speak to them. Go beyond the expected “one week free” option, or personal training packages for all, by offering different creative and messaging that will meet them at their unique need and comfort levels. By doing so, you remain competitive while also showing you understand your customers.


Q. And what about online fitness subscription businesses?

Easy come, easy go

Ah, online subscription models. I’ll tell you this, the ease of acquiring a new customer is also what makes them extremely easy to lose. As an online fitness subscription marketer, you must keep in mind that content is king. You have to constantly serve fresh content while remarketing to these prospective and current customers because their commitment level is much lower than someone that actually walks into a gym.

Apply gamification: Don’t make it look too hard to beginners

The images used in advertisements should not only feature fitness buffs; they have to cater to all levels. As someone who has religiously used online workout subscriptions for years, I speak with confidence on this one. Out of all the times I’ve given login information to friends to try my programs for themselves, they’ve never ONCE actually used it. Why is that? Upon asking them, the consistent answer was, “It looks too hard.” If your prospective customer’s first encounter isn’t something that interests them, they will not continue to explore and find more appealing options.

Go for the frequent fitness customers

You need to target the person that already considers fitness a part of their life. I can’t tell you how many people say to me, “How do you force yourself to workout at home. I could never do that!” For me, however, I need this method as I have a crazy schedule and like someone telling me exactly what workout will do what I want done with my body. All of this is to say you have to know what regimen your customers are looking for and how to effectively drive them to it.

Be analytical

Lastly, it’s important to note that as an online subscription model marketer you aren’t exempt from needing math, data analytics, psychology, creative, and probably some pretty substantial tech to organize your efforts. In fact, because of the noncommittal nature of an online subscription versus the actual gym, you’ll need a heightened version to track what is converting your audience, and to effectively optimize out content that doesn’t.

In a nutshell, being able to differentiate yourself in the health and fitness market, and effectively reach a reluctant or noncommittal audience, comes down to meeting the expectations a customer has in their head but has not truly outlined for themselves. Provide the workout option that they can perfectly see themselves being successful with, and then help facilitate that happening. And just like that, the heavy lifting is done.

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