Gyms and studios must leverage digital marketing tools and automation features to be successful in the modern era
This article is part of ATN’s DISRUPT 2023 video series, which features key conversations with executives from the most successful brands in fitness and wellness. To watch more videos, click here
These days, if fitness facilities don’t automate consumer engagement and marketing they will be left behind. That much is clear. But it’s not enough to simply set up a text or phone call cadence and some all-purpose messaging and call it a day. Not by a long shot.
On the marketing end, obtaining useful data, and then synthesizing and utilizing it appropriately is where the rubber meets the road. Understanding the nuances of the numbers and using them to your advantage and toward meeting your audiences’ needs is marketing 101. This sounds obvious, but if you don’t have the right platform or the right support, this piece can become convoluted, making your automation investment a waste of money and time.
As part of DISRUPT 2023, Athletech News facilitated a panel moderated by Sarah Pellegrino, Host of the Value Proposition for The Fitness Business Podcast, and featuring Nick Hahn, vice president of product for Club OS & ASF, and Jarrod Saracco, president & founder of Health Club Doctor, to dive into these topics and help operators understand how to meet the needs of the modern fitness consumer – and your facility – through automation.
Know Your Audience
When it comes to communication, it must be personalized and customized to the recipient. This encompasses not only the messaging itself but the means used to facilitate it.
“Generation Z and Millennials make up 75% of gym members, and this demographic works off of their phone at all times,” Hahn said. “You must communicate with this group via text, and offer them the ability to schedule classes, training sessions and conduct any engagement with your facility via their mobile devices.”
Clubs must also categorize communication differently between new members, existing members, and alumni.
“There is a whole different set of communication needs that a new member has and it’s nearly impossible to communicate with them without automation,” Hahn noted. “You must be able to track and understand their action within the facility – what classes they take, what items they purchase, what smoothies they consume, etc. – so you can personalize their journey and move them from a new member to a member who has incorporated you into their lifestyle.”
“Conversely, less is more when it comes to alumns,” Hahn cautions. “These folks know your brand and what you offer and have either moved on because of a lifestyle change or because they are dissatisfied. Providing them well-spaced updates to let them know what’s new or different since they’ve last been there is the best approach,” he says.
Saracco agrees, saying, “Messaging must stem from who you are as a facility, and then address the unique needs of the specific consumer.”
When asked what software features are most important, Saracco first points to customization.
“Every business is different. I want a system that can be set up based on my needs, not the needs of the facility down the street, or the huge club chain that operates completely differently than I do,” he said.
“Also important is versatility,” he notes. “The system must be able to communicate with different audience groups, as we’ve talked about, and it must have the ability to integrate with my other marketing items such as email newsletters.”
“My other priorities are support and training. I’m not going to partner with a company that leaves me to figure it out on my own,” Saracco adds.
Navigating the Numbers
Getting lost in the reports or making business decisions in a vacuum is a common pitfall that operators may need help avoiding.
“The numbers can lie,” Hann says. “Meaning they can tell whatever story you want to hear, so it’s important to look at numbers within context.” He gives closing rates as an example. “If you don’t hit your desired number here, maybe your appointment bookings are down. For every measure you need to look at the counter-measure to understand the whole story and decide on the best actions to take.”
“My favorite example of this is cancellations,” says Saracco. “An owner or operator may panic over 100 cancellations, but out of that 100, there are people who have moved, passed away, changed their lifestyle, etc. A good software partner will work with you to determine what’s important to track, and how to holistically dig into the numbers to uncover meaningful insights.”
In the end, Saracco says a tech partner should truly act as an extension of the business and understand its operations.
“I want certain KPIs tracked that may be different than other gyms’ KPIs,” he says. “I want flexibility in the system to completely align with my business. And I want ongoing support. That’s why I chose Club OS and ASF. They understand the uniqueness of my business and my needs and partner with me accordingly.”