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Leads, Strategy

Written by Courtney Holmes

Many established businesses face the same problem when they are ready to make the move from traditional marketing to more sustainable marketing like inbound marketing. The old or traditional way that health clubs grew their business was through billboards, local media (like radio), print, and television. They also converted the purchased audience to members with offers.

It is the classic marketing funnel.

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Making the Transition in your Health Club Marketing: Traditional to Inbound

The health clubs that bought the right media and used the right message created a reliable flow of leads for their sales team.

But things have changed.

Ad buying is just as expensive but less valuable in terms of generating leads and health club memberships. The reason is people are just not watching live television, listening to terrestrial radio, or reading print anymore at the rates they use to. Direct mail doesn’t convert as well anymore because traditional advertising is less effective.

Did I lose you there?

Map Transition to Inbound

How is the success of direct mail related to the success of traditional media? Well, it has something to do with awareness. Most people may simply have no idea who you are. You just popped into their mailbox one day and asked them to join. Comes off kind of abrasive, right? No wonder direct mail has a bad connotation! It can begin to feel like the only communication companies have with prospects is,  “Join, Join, Join!”

End the Money Pit

In a nutshell, health clubs stuck in this cycle are generating fewer memberships and spending just as much in advertising (if not more) to combat the change in media consumption. The big question is, “How do you transition to inbound marketing when inbound marketing can take 6 months to a year to really give a good return on investment?” Let me break it down for you.

Health Club Marketing Transition

Begin reducing your media buys right now. Stop the local magazine, radio, and television ads. Most of that type of advertising is designed to build awareness about your health club. Move that budget over to Like ads in Facebook. Spend the same budget you were spending to target people who might be interested in fitness to target people who are actually interested in getting healthier.

I sold advertising, I worked in radio and print. Basically, the only thing we could tell our clients is that 30% of the people who read a particular section of the newspaper and listened to a particular radio program might also read Vogue magazine or own a second home. Radio and print strategy is based off of Nielsen-like research that interviews a population of people that listen to a particular program or read a certain article. It’s a crapshoot.

Facebook is different. Facebook allows you to target an audience based off specific elements or interests rather than guessing the percent of people that might have the desired goal or interest. With Facebook your dollars are more concentrated on the people that matter to your brand--the people that are more likely to convert. 

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Make that transition gracefully. Be patient and monitor your ads. Keep prospects engaged with great content in your newsfeed.

Start blogging and share your blog posts via email and social media. Get people to interact with your brand through your own content, not content in magazines, television, and radio that you have no control over.

Don’t compare your Facebook fan numbers and website traffic to the number of people you may reach in a radio ad. The numbers may be smaller, but you’ve now targeted the right audience--the people that are more likely to become gym members.

Email Marketing is Magic

Magic Card Transition to Inbound

Now you want to increase your frequency. In the advertising world we always recommended a frequency of 3 or more. That means you want the average number of people to hear/see your advertisement at least 3 times. That is the magic number for conversion. If a prospect is in the market for a gym membership and he/she hears your ad on the radio 3 times or more, he/she is likely to act on the offer advertised if truly interested.

In inbound marketing, you have ultimate control of frequency if you can develop a good healthy email subscriber list. If you can get a prospect’s email address, you can send him engaging content more frequently to increase conversion, and it will cost you much less. The cost associated with email marketing is not the cost of the software but the time it takes to create the content that is sent.

If you have a good strategy, you can design your content to be renewable, and you can send it to every new email subscriber for however long you find it necessary. It is about marketing automation where invest up front, and you can just watch the machine work, tweaking it here and there for optimal conversion.

Direct Mail is the Bottom

The final transition you should make is your bottom of the funnel ad spend. Once you have increased your web traffic and social media fans to healthy numbers, you can start sending your fans and email subscribers offers for membership.

You have to build your audience just like the media companies did. But once you are at that point, stop buying door hangers and direct mail because it is wasting resources and hurting your brand. You want the people who engage with your brand to be the ones who are receiving your offers. It seems less abrasive, doesn’t damage your brand, and converts at a higher percentage if you only give offers to people that are already engaging with you.

Ad example Health Club Marketing
Just to recap, make sure you first transition your awareness advertising to digital marketing, then transition to email marketing and Facebook for publishing your special offers after you have built an online audience. As you know, each health club is different. Some can transition right away because they already have a healthy fan base and email subscribers. Others will need to give it time to transition. But get there before your competition does, because it could be the difference between success and failure.

Courtney Holmes is an Inbound Social Strategist She works on keeping life simple. She is obsessed with yoga. In love with her husband. And is always failing at being a great dog trainer to her youngest - her 3 year old mutt and terrorist, Augie.