“If you’re waiting until January to start your marketing, you’re probably too late.”
New Year marketing campaigns seem to focus exclusively on January, but in the words of Mark de Gorter, the chief operating officer of Workout Anytime, “you’re probably too late” if you’re heavily marketing only in the first month or two of the year.
That’s not to say a January marketing blitz is an insane notion — the first month of the year is notorious for producing the highest influx of new members at gyms around the world. But this can’t be the only component to your New Year marketing strategy.
“While a large part of our business certainly takes place with new enrollments in the first quarter and January in particular, we believe preparation for the New Year begins earlier,” said de Gorter.
The question you should ask is what would motivate a New Year’s “resolutioner” to come to your club, instead of one they’re familiar with, if they’ve never heard of you until the first of the year?
“We’re big believers in year-round advertising,” said de Gorter. “You need to be in front of the consumer all year long. It’s important to be in a strong mindshare with the consumer so when they decide to join a gym, your brand is on the shortlist.”
In fact, potential clients are less likely to pick clubs that only market in January. “You can’t only market during the peak times of the year,” said de Gorter. “You’ve got to create that connection with consumers throughout the whole year.”
This connection can be created in a variety of ways. Traditional advertising media — television, radio and print — can generate buzz in the surrounding community, and social media is a game-changer when used correctly.
According to de Gorter, Workout Anytime doesn’t have a secret sauce for marketing. “We use the same vehicles most others do,” he said. “We’re primarily locally-based, we’ll do a lot of direct mail marketing, focus on social media, and we’ll do a lot of outreach with retail vendors in each of our local communities.”
The critical component is consistency. Even though you’ll want to put the pedal down in January and February, establishing a “strong mindshare” with your local consumers in preparation for that first quarter is a year-round affair.
“You’re always going to be a proximity-based business,” said de Gorter. “You’re going to be marketing primarily to the people in your local community, and it’s all about the way you position your clubs.”
This doesn’t mean your January marketing campaigns shouldn’t look different — your marketing strategy in and just before that first quarter should work in conjunction with the brand your club has spent the previous months building.
“We’ll do quite a bit of marketing in December,” said de Gorter. “For example, we provide gift certificates as part of our enrollment packages and trial membership packages for enrollees. Somebody who gets that certificate in December will also get trial membership certificates to give as stocking stuffers that are redeemed in January.”
Workout Anytime has also driven high enrollment numbers using a simple method to create a sense of urgency in potential members. “This is time-tested promotion material I’ve used throughout my career — we marketed in January that the rates were going up in February,” said de Gorter. “It was an amazing lift in our business in that month.”
But no matter what marketing plans you concoct or content you produce, you have to make sure the experience in your club aligns with what you’re promoting and your members’ needs.
“Marketing doesn’t stop when the ads go out — marketing is how you answer the phone, how you conduct your first workout and how you treat your members’ guests,” said de Gorter. “We believe focusing on all those touchpoints for consumers is an important part of our marketing.”
Generating buzz about new equipment and offerings at your club is another great way to aid in your year-round marketing.
“We like to have our clubs upgrade their facilities in January, by adding just one new piece of equipment at minimum,” said de Gorter. “That gives you something new to talk about and promote with your members.”
And all these practices are in place to help Workout Anytime enhance their members’ experiences. “If we can create the experience where our members are delighted to come in because they’re getting results in a place that takes interest in their results and goals, we can win that way,” said de Gorter.
The real way for your club to win at New Year marketing is to shift your strategy to emphasize year-round marketing. New Year’s “resolutioners” will be more likely to walk through your doors if you’ve established your presence and your ability to help them reach their fitness goals.
“You need to be present all the time,” said de Gorter. “Just ramping up your spending in January and not supporting it throughout the year isn’t going to help you. You haven’t created a mindshare in the consumer leading up to that month. Marketing for January really takes place in the months leading up to it — you’re building awareness of your brand and building an image of what you represent.”