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Column Marketing & Sales

Forward Thinking in Sales and Marketing


Your phone just rang, and you see the voicemail message pop-up on your home screen. It was an unrecognized number and based on past experiences, you conclude it’s just another sales call. You’ll check it later, maybe.

What if it had been a text? Almost certainly you would have read it. You may have even responded, or at least considered a response and whether you might reply later. Recent studies show that the average person checks their phone 180 times a day and text messages have an open rate of approximately 99%.

At HealthQuest in Flemington, New Jersey — where I manage sales operations — we’ve integrated text messaging into our sales and marketing strategy. From new prospects to follow-up, we communicate with potential members the way they want to be communicated with, and the simplicity to respond on your own time initiates an ease of conversation and led to the largest net membership in January 2018 in 15 years. In addition, 2019 was our best first quarter since 2009.

Here’s a glimpse of how we’re approaching that in our client communication channels.

Mailers: We saw a great opportunity to merge the old world with the new. The attention of mailers and adaptation of texting our sales team immediately resulted in 78% closing rates due to ease of use and instant call to action.

Social media: It’s no secret that social media has become one of the most powerful marketing assets for fitness brands of all sizes. It has allowed us to engage our members and prospects with new programming, promotions and events we offer. The member-to-club relationship at HealthQuest is our driving aspect with 43% of our new members being referred. By sending offers through these channels, we’re able to capture the quick information of inquiring and existing members directly to our member services team, leading them to book an appointment.

Email: Email marketing is a great way of helping our member respond by simply providing a way to text back rather than replying or calling. This gives our members and prospects easy ways to respond on their own time, therefore increasing the chances of response. A simple line at the end “feel free to text us at” helps your users simply tap the number and open up a text message box (they’re probably reading it on their phone anyway).

Direct Text to Prospects: Through software like GymSales, we’re able to directly communicate to leads as they inquire for information. This creates an opportunity for my sales team to instantly book appointments from omnichannel marketing sources connected through GymSales (website, Facebook ads, Instagram, blogs).

We extend this approach to current member and referral communications. On average, 82% of text message conversions are converted to appointments and of those, 71% are converted into full memberships. 

Some keys to success include immediately replying when potential customers send a response text. Texting opens dialogue quickly for fast response inquiries, telephone consultations and facility tours, while eliminating attrition-related to the inherent delays of phone and email communication.

When leveraging texts, key things to remember are: be professional, avoid jargon and use good judgement before sending emojis. For example, do not send text abbreviations (lol, ty, jk). It’s unprofessional and confusing to some.

Embrace these best practices of text messaging to communicate and help establish trust:

  • As VanillaSoft explains, “Let the contact know who is texting them. In the first sentence, have the salesperson identify him or herself by name, position and company” (2017).
  • In addition, “Create templates. Save time for your sales reps by creating sample text messages they can customize and use in different situations. This also affords you some control over brand voice” (VanillaSoft.com, 2017).
  • Set the appointment and respond immediately. This guarantees a 100% success on conversations. “Hi there! This is Gary with HealthQuest. We’re setting our schedule for tours this week, is there a particular day or time that works best for you to stop by?”
  • Respond with the appointment confirmation and sense of urgency: “Perfect, we have you scheduled to visit next Monday! Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. The complimentary month for all new members expires in 5 days. See you Monday!

As with all best practices in sales, focus on building trust and leveraging new channels like text messaging when it improves the experience of your customer or team member.

Gary Hartell is the director of sales and corporate accounts at HealthQuest.


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