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Marketing: How I Drove Higher-Quality Leads into the Sales Funnel



I am the proud owner of sweatpants that have built in fuzzy socks. Basically these little slices of winter-attire-heaven function as the bottom half of a onesie and are absolutely one of the best purchases I’ve ever made in my life. How did I discover this glorious gift to all winter sufferers? I was scrolling through Facebook on a particularly cold day and knew that I must own them immediately.

Feejays, the brilliant brand behind my new favorite article of clothing, is a small local clothing company in southern California. Best I can tell, they cater largely to surfers, but yet I became not only a customer, but a brand advocate all the way from my couch in Washington, DC.

I often study my own buying behavior as a tool to learn more about how we can become more sophisticated and strategic in our own fitness marketplace. In a quick historic look on our marketing practices in the fitness industry it seems our messaging has largely focused on appealing to the masses. Our campaigns have focused on our facilities, how many equipment options we have and how our gym has “something for everyone.”

But I didn’t click on my footie-sweatpants because they were a clothing store that sold everything, I clicked (and bought) because they served an immediate and specific need in a creative and interesting way. I know we do this for our members every day in practice with our programming, staff and classes, but I find that this operational reality often doesn’t make it into our external messaging.

I’ve thought a lot about this in terms of the growth of fitness studios in our market. I’ve visited just about every studio in DC and made it my business to chat with these patrons to figure out what makes them click. I found in my exploration that studio-hoppers love being guaranteed a singular experience they enjoy, with the same class offered multiple times a day, in an intimate environment. This specificity is not the only thing driving the growth of studios, but it certainly plays a role.

I find this interesting because what these studio-goers say about what drives them exists at exact odds with our industry’s traditional communication strategy and what we believe our prospective members want. We know our members want variety, but I think we have largely mistaken that all of our prospects will respond to that same message.

Based on this, I wanted to experiment with leaving our “something for everyone” messaging behind and creating an interest-specific campaign. While I recognized that a “Meet Us At The Barre” campaign would exclude a portion of our demographic that cares nothing for barre classes, my hypothesis was that creating a message around a specific offering would drive higher-quality leads into the funnel.

Turns out I was right…so right in fact that we have replicated this strategy in subsequent months with Zumba, Yoga and Cycle. These interest-specific campaigns drove high volume leads to our sales team and have had a compelling conversion rate for us over the course of the quarter.

Okay, we are on to something, but how do we capitalize on this discovery?

This month we experimented again. I wanted to see if we could run these as micro-campaigns on social media only, targeted directly to folks who have expressed an interest in each specific modality in our ideal zip codes. Because these audiences are relatively small, we were able to run our ads on an extremely reasonable budget, while simultaneously running a larger, more general campaign.

As I write this (at the time with 8 days left in January), our micro-campaigns are outperforming our main campaign on lead generation with a smaller budget and much higher ROI.

You can find links to our campaigns here:

This initial success has led me to examine our business in a hunt for other interest-specific options outside of the group fitness world, and we have some ideas cooking for the rest of Q1. I would highly recommend looking around your gym for ultra-specific messaging that could speak to your prospective members in a more individualized way, while also maximizing your digital spend.

Our belief is that prospective members are looking for a specific experience as a gateway to a larger and fuller lifetime as a member. Our initial findings show that providing a digestible and simple solution resonates much more effectively than a more broad and global message on everything your facility has to offer. Understanding this has powerful implications not only in lead generation, but in effectively competing against the growing presence of studios in our neighborhoods.

Look across your offerings and find the elements that would resonate with someone who is looking for a singular experience, and then wow them.

In other words, be the footie sweatpants for your prospects on a cold winter day.

Tara Sampson

Tara Sampson is the director of marketing at VIDA. For more information email tsampson@vidafitness.com.

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