Your Health Club Members Have Gone Digital. Why Hasn’t Your Marketing Strategy?

Bryan O’Rourke, president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council, details three basic steps to any successful health club marketing strategy.

“What digital presents right now to club brands is the opportunity to gain the most quality attention at the lowest costs possible, and in the process earn the trust of consumers to transact business as a result.”

Bryan O’Rourke, principal & chief executive

Integerus, Covington, LA

For your health club’s marketing strategy to be successful, you have to be adept at capturing people’s attention. And, increasingly, their attention is focused online.

Digital and social marketing isn’t just for millennials—mobile drives 56% of all web traffic and two-thirds of emails are opened via mobile devices, according to a new report from Flurry.

“Many still seem to think of digital and social as something the 19-year-old employee can do on their own, while they continue to spend money on direct mail and other traditional forms [of marketing] without realizing that the platforms that customers are relying on for hours daily are as, if not more, relevant than traditional marketing,” says Bryan O’Rourke, IHRSA board member elect and president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council.

To gain potential members’ attention and ultimately convert that attention into sales, digital marketing must be fully integrated into your overall marketing strategy.

“What digital presents right now to club brands is the opportunity to gain the most quality attention at the lowest costs possible, and in the process earn the trust of consumers to transact business as a result,” he says.

During his IHRSA webinar, “Why Health Clubs Should be Active On Social Media Even If They Don’t Want To,” O’Rourke laid out three basic steps to any marketing strategy:

1. Understand Your Clients

“Putting yourself in the shoes of your clients may sound like something of a cliché today, but without understanding exactly what they actually need you will struggle to persuade them that you can meet their requirements. Some simple two-way conversations with existing clients will go a long way toward helping you to understand them, as will your experience in your own market sector, but without some specific and targeted market research you could struggle to glean the information that you need.

“Successful market research will not only help you to understand the needs and wants of your customer-base, but will also solidify your definition of your target market, allowing you to identify those groups of people that will be interested in what you have to offer, as well as providing you with the knowledge that you need to avoid those segments of the population that simply aren't interested. “

2. Set Realistic Objectives

“Without customers you won't make sales, and without sales you won't make any profit. As such, your marketing strategy should contain some realistic objectives regarding how best to keep existing clients loyal to your brand, while attracting new customers at the same time.

“Through this process you will start to realize how best to package what it is that you can offer to your customer-base, be it through the message that you are giving out, through the promotional materials that you may plan to circulate, or any other means of marketing."

3. Create a Marketing Plan

“It's all well and good having a strategy for your marketing success, but without a practical plan designed to put the pieces into action your strategy will fail to see any success. The marketing plan will include all of the detail from the previous two sections, such as information regarding how you plan to go about marketing to existing or new customers. It will also feature very practical bits and pieces, such as budgets for your marketing strategies and time-frames for their completion.

“Your marketing plan should certainly deal with the here and now, along with the next few weeks and months, but you should not neglect thoughts of the future when putting it together. Where would you like to see your company in the future? How will you follow up with existing clients to ensure that future vision becomes a reality?

“Try to make any goals that you set with regard to future, or present, marketing completely achievable. Not only will this prove that your marketing strategies are successful (or not), but it will also provide you with an enormous sense of satisfaction as you see your marketing goals fulfilled.”

Author avatar

Marianne Aiello

Marianne Aiello previously served as IHRSA's Senior Digital Content Manager—a position focused on crafting and monitoring IHRSA’s digital strategy and covering IHRSA events.