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Waiting for walk-in traffic is not a marketing strategy. In order to continue bringing in a monthly flow of traffic, you need to have a systematic plan in place, but it can be very intimidating to begin putting a complete and extensive marketing plan together.
Too many clubs use a shotgun approach to marketing. They try one thing and when it doesn’t work immediately, they move on to something else. Successful marketing is not a one-time mailer or buying ad space because someone came to your door with an amazing ValPak offer. Marketing in this manner has never really worked for our industry (or for any other industry, for that matter). If you just perform a la carte marketing, you will likely never experience a steady flow of prospect traffic.
To begin developing a customized marketing plan, the first thing you need to do is determine the budget you have to work with. Remember, even if you feel you don’t have a budget, you probably do. The last thing you want to do is wait until you need a boost in your revenues to begin marketing. Instead, your marketing efforts should never end. Marketing textbooks will tell you that the average amount you should put toward marketing is 13% of revenues. Not profits, revenues.
But many club owners are having difficulty simply paying the bills… what then?
It’s a tough situation to be in: You can’t make money without spending money, and you can’t spend money if you don’t have money. But if you look closely, you will find some areas to cut costs or increase profit centers by a few dollars. Begin with a marketing budget of 2% of your revenues—whatever it is you can spare! You must allocate a portion of your revenues to marketing, and you MUST plan how you spend that money. The better prepared you are, and the better the marketing message is that you are delivering, the more likely it is that you will see a higher ROI. Then you can increase your marketing budget the following month, and the month after that. But you need a plan to make it happen efficiently.
Getting It Done
It won’t take long to create a plan for success. Sit down one Saturday afternoon and create a separate page for every month of the year. After evaluating your budget, you should know how much you can allocate to marketing. Think about what types of marketing works best at certain times of the year. For example, January is New Years Resolutions, March is Prepare for Swimsuit Season, June is Summer for Free, August is Back to School. These are the obvious ones, but you can get creative with this!
Perhaps if you’re a Northern club, cold weather sets in faster than in the Southern states. Perhaps if you’re in the south, people want to beat the heat during the summer by exercising indoors. Or maybe your demographics will help determine your marketing plan. For example, if you live in a blue-collar area, one of the best times to advertise could be tax return time. Or, if you offer child care, the summer is a perfect time to give parents a break from their kids while they work out. And if you live in a college town, choose certain events on campus to be a part of.
Using the theme of the month method, determine what types of marketing will best reach your prospects. Utilize direct mail in January. Get involved with youth organizations in the Spring and Summer. Is there a parade or a festival in your town? Think of ways you can volunteer or get involved. Obviously, the plan might need to be tweaked as the months progress, or if you’re presented with unique marketing opportunities. As a health club owner, you are accustomed to constantly bobbing and weaving; marketing is no exception.
Your marketing plan is essential to your overall success as a health club owner. Everything you do should be based on a system. Take the time to develop your plan, then adjust accordingly as you progress through each month, but stick as closely to the plan as possible and you could find your marketing budget is increasing monthly.