The right club management software is a critical component to running a successful business, especially when it comes to member engagement. ABC Financial’s industry-leading software is a trusted solution that can benefit any club.
Ali Stauffer, the vice president of marketing for City Fitness (representing six locations), is a customer of ABC Financial and an expert on marketing and member engagement.
Here, she shares her club’s strategies for marketing, building and engaging targeted audiences using data, and why the right technology and strategies make a difference:
How do your members prefer to be contacted about updates and new services? Why do you know these channels are effective?
AS: Our member communication strategy is rooted in our inbound philosophy. If you create the products and services members really want, you don’t have to do much to promote them. All you have to do is make them easy to access.
With that in mind, the best medium wholly depends on the message. We’ve sold out special events in less than a minute using only Instagram. We created artist-collaboration T-shirts that sold out with only strategic placement in the clubs. Important notices go out over email, which is also valuable for targeted, automated campaigns to onboard new members and get them engaged with our programs.
What retention messaging resonates best with your current members?
AS: The same thing that draws members in is what keeps members around: community. If we can give people a place they can’t wait to go to every day, where they can connect with other people, and where they leave feeling better than they did when they arrived, they’ll keep coming back.
What do you see as the biggest threat to member retention in 2019?
AS: Getting distracted by trends, instead of listening to your members. It’s easy to look at what your competitors are doing and chase the latest shiny object. It’s harder to know who you are, who your customer is, what you can do for them better than anyone else, and how to consistently over-deliver on that promise.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t keep a pulse on trends and work to constantly improve. But you have to be judicious about what you decide to implement so you can truly nail it, without compromising what you already offer.
Engaging with members and prospects on social media continues to require a high level of effort. Where does your team concentrate their time, and on which tactics are you seeing the most return?
AS: Instagram is one of our most effective — and cost-effective — marketing tools. We use it primarily as a branding tool. We’ve organically built a large, highly engaged audience by consistently sharing lifestyle content that’s entertaining and relevant to our audience. We’ll use it for tactical promotions very selectively, so our audience stays engaged and responsive.
Here’s one successful example: before opening a new location, we teased the new club on Instagram and Facebook with cityscape photography of the skyscraper where the gym was being built. We generated 485 leads in a single day with this tactic.
We’ve also had a lot of success promoting events on Instagram. This year, we hosted a “top secret” event series where we revealed the details of each week’s event on Instagram every Sunday at 8 p.m. The content was off-the-wall and colorful, and involved pictures of popsicles. Each of those events sold out in minutes. Some sold out in literally one minute.
The quality of your content is more important than any specific tactic. None of those tactics would have been successful had we not been promoting something worth getting excited about, with content that resonates.
What tactics have you traditionally used to attract new members that aren’t as effective today, and what are you doing to change your approach?
AS: I’m looking closely at the return on investment (ROI) on direct mail. It’s a good way to diversify and reach people who you might not be reaching on social, but the volume of leads generated seems to have declined over the years.
On the flip side, I’m seeing enormous value in creating events and activations that get people talking on social media and in the press. We throw an annual event called “Commotion,” which is a massive three-part group workout backed by live music at a concert venue. We end up reaching hundreds of thousands of people through earned media, and those earned media impressions are so powerful because they come from sources people trust. Plus, all that press coverage boosts our visibility on Google, which is our single largest source of leads.
How often do you evaluate your overall new and existing member marketing campaigns?
AS: We have automated systems in place that work well with a little monitoring and maintenance. We keep an eye on performance, and recalibrate as needed.
We’ll also roll out improvements and new campaigns when we see opportunities to improve the member experience. We’re rolling out a new onboarding sequence for new members right now, in conjunction with a new member guide website, all to help get members excited about, and prepared to take advantage of, all the resources and amenities we offer.
What insights about your current and future members do you regularly gain from your membership and gym usage data? What’s an example of what you’ve done with these insights?
AS: We utilize usage data to build targeted automated communications that engage members with our club’s resources and amenities. For example, we have an automated sequence that helps members get started with our training program. When they register for their first complimentary training session, we send them an email the day before the session that tells them what to expect, how to prepare, and puts them in touch with the coach in case they have questions. After the initial session, we have a series of nurturing communications to increase conversion to ongoing training programs.
How do you use your gym’s management software to help focus club marketing?
AS: The data helps us target communications to improve the member experience and engage members in more of our programs and amenities. We can promote certain programs to members who are likely to be interested, prep members before a class or training session, share onboarding and engagement information in relation to the date a member joined, and thoughtfully nurture members who aren’t engaging.
For more information on ABC Financial, visit abcfinancial.com/.