Every New Year’s Day, people across the U.S. make a list of their top resolutions for the year ahead. Historically, exercising more is the most common resolution made by Americans. During the busiest time of the year, it’s important your club stands out from the rest.
Gary Hartell, the director of sales and corporate accounts at HealthQuest Fitness, said they are preparing for the New Year’s rush by blending both old and new marketing strategies.
“A large factor in our industry is re-engaging members during slow seasons or holidays,” said Hartell. “We’ve found it helps strengthen our Q4 objectives, and that catapults us through Q1. We’re adding text, call-to-action to mailers, incorporating member engagement through social media and video, and refining new member onboarding programs.”
HealthQuest credits its success to combining both old and new marketing mediums and channels. “We communicate with potential members the way they want to be communicated with,” added Hartell. “The simplicity to respond on their own timeline initiates the ease of conversation.”
According to Hartell, in all marketing initiatives it’s vital to include quality imagery and video. It’s also important to share stories about the brand and their target market. HealthQuest shines a spotlight on customer success stories, positioning them as “brand heroes.”
Lastly, additional best practices include adding call-to-actions on their mailers — which resulted in a 78% closing rate. Additionally, their integration with GymSales by messaging referrals has increased prospects by 43% in 2019. They track their ROI through cross-referencing their mailer list with active members in the system and recently joined members.
Merritt Clubs, located in the greater Baltimore area, focuses its New Year marketing strategy on brand awareness in the local community. “We also focus on having our teams out in our communities,” said Donyel Cerceo, the marketing director at Merritt Clubs. “A lot of clubs only focus on marketing that generates traffic. We still continue to do brand awareness marketing in the neighborhoods we serve, as well as traffic-generating campaigns.”
Cerceo explained even though they have been in their market for 42 years and people know their brand, they still want to be top of mind with consumers. She said being directly present in the community has really helped them achieve this.
In order to help stand out from competitors, Merritt Clubs has a larger marketing budget for the month of January. They are able to add things like TV ads into their marketing mix, and also invest more money into programmatic marketing.
Overall, digital marketing has been the most promising marketing medium for Merritt Clubs, with a focus on driving web traffic. “Digital continues to be the fastest growing medium for us,” said Cerceo. “About 85% of our leads come from digital marketing.”
They track these leads through HubSpot, which is able to show them exactly what media their leads are coming from.
In-Shape Health Clubs
In-Shape Health Clubs’ vice president of marketing, Kris Mulkey, said they also use a variety of marketing platforms leading up to the New Year. Focusing on email, digital, direct mail and radio, she explained they each have their own purpose.
“We use all these things for reach, to drive awareness and with emails they can click to join,” added Mulkey. “Digital marketing you can get super targeted with and you can track your ROI.”
In-Shape optimizes its ROI every two weeks to see if there’s anything they need to pivot.
However, In-Shape doesn’t create new programs for the New Year, rather it focuses on pushing the ones they run year-round, starting around Thanksgiving.
“We have a campaign called Shape Your Life that we’ve been running for a little while, and this year we’re really going to bring it to life even more,” said Mulkey. “It’s all about showing prospects and members how being a community can really help you reach your goals and become happier and healthier, which is our ultimate goal.”
According to Mulkey, they run the campaign year-long, but they really start pushing it for those folks who have health-related resolutions, because it will resonate well with them.
“The campaign has marketing lines like, ‘Strong on the outside and fierce on the inside,’” explained Mulkey. “So, it’s like your body talking to you. Hopefully when someone sees it, they can really resonate with that and know we would really be a good place for them to fit in.”
Mulkey explained they focus on the community, amenities, programming and all the other things they have to offer, rather than membership prices. She said price is not the reason someone joins a club — it’s just a factor. “They join because of the people in the community and the programming,” she said. “Really, it’s just making sure we’re letting people know who we are. Our campaign shows real members and team members. So, when you see an ad or you hear a radio spot and you come into the club, it’s exactly the same. What you see is what you get.”
Mulkey said overall, members are looking for a place where they can fit in, so it’s important to make sure you are communicating what you have to offer and your club’s personality.
Her final piece of advice is this: “Price is obviously a factor, but what they’re really looking for is a community where they’re going to feel comfortable, can make friends, and be able to grow and meet their goals. If all they see is price and they don’t get a feel for who you are or the reason why they should join your club, then they’re going to pass you over.”