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The Direct Mail Demise

direct mail

If one could attribute a single marketing source as responsible for building the gym and fitness industry today, it would definitely be direct mail (DM). For decades, DM marketing was the most reliable and predictable source in the industry.

Times have changed, and by 2017 most fitness owners have either stopped or dramatically reduced the amount of DM for new member generation campaigns. When marketing to fresh prospects (not former members or referrals), there seems to be universal acceptance that DM now produces low, if any, ROI.

Mobile disruption was responsible for this historic shift that took the industry by surprise. Many owners have been slow to identify and react to this change and some owners are now looking back 24 to 36 months and realizing that DM was draining marketing budgets much earlier.

Why would this not be recognized sooner?

At the end of any super-cycle in marketing there’s always a period of rationalization and denial. When results have been so predictable, for such a long time, it’s perfectly natural to doubt contradictory numbers until a new, clear trend is established.

However, business history never rewards those late to recognize sweeping changes. The natural selection of the free market eventually eliminates the weak.

So how can gym owners and executives prevent their own club’s marketing extinction? Now is the time to separate all marketing by offer, then track and source meticulously.

First, when you place an extremely low price or high incentive “hooked” offer on a DM campaign, that is what prospects will come in and demand if there is response. No one comes in and pays retail, somehow forgetting that a low price motivated them to respond. The number of prospects who ask for a DM ad specifically are the number that the campaign attracted and no more, so do not rationalize.

Second, address back-matching does not always indicate direct correlation to sales. The number of households around a club are finite and you have likely been mailing to them for years.

Most DM ROI reports match send addresses with new member lists. Just because someone lives at a residence you have sent a postcard to, does not necessarily prove the new member ever even saw that post card unless they ask for the specific offer.

Finally, listen to recorded calls that most DM campaigns provide. If there are a very low number of recorded sales calls from a DM campaign, it is highly unlikely you would have a high multiple of that in new members. Eight inbound calls cannot somehow morph into 30 or 50 new members, no matter what an ROI report indicates.

When you source all leads with accuracy and can trust marketing stats, the budget allocation for the future can be accurate and effective.


Bill Konstand founded TAG Digital Marketing in 1999 and is a member of the Forbes Agency Council. TAG manages complete digital marketing and Internet presences for fitness centers worldwide. For more information visit taggymmarketing.com, call 866.702.0972 or email sales@tbsworks.com.

Bill Konstand

Bill Konstand is the president of TAG. For more information email bk@tbsworks.com.

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