Why The Fitness Technology Council Is So Important To The Fitness Industry

Getting competitors to work together is hard. However, a lack of collaboration and the failure to create standards can result in missed opportunities for all. You know the adage, "rising tides lift all boats". The health club and fitness industry yearns for the potential of wide spread exercise prescription, physician referrals and truly integrated wellness which could lead to new business models and a greater impact on the health of our society in the future. Unfortunately without more standards that ideal future is going to be harder to achieve.

The importance of standards can be illustrated easily by looking at other industries. For example, prior to the advent of the nearly ubiquitous Internet of today, a few people in the computer industry got together to establish something called a Wi-Fi standard. The Wi-Fi standard (also known as IEEE 802.11) was created through the collaboration of several big  technology companies, including 3Com, Cisco, Nokia, Apple, and Microsoft. It took only a few years for Wi-Fi to become the biggest standard in wireless communications, and its domination continues to this day. The collaboration of competitors to create a standard makes a fine example of how technology companies can work together to create new markets, provide new services to customers, and still put plenty of money in the bank. Without the standard, the explosion of mobile devices, PC's, tablets and Internet adoption in general would have been severely curtailed.

On Wednesday February 22, 2012, FIT-C will offer a free webinar on its mission and share more details about how players in the fitness and health club business can come together to help create a brighter future for all participants. I hope you will click on the image below and register. Let's work together to make the future of our industry better for everyone.

About the author:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, and shareholder and executive in several fitness companies. He consults with numerous global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank is Chair of the Medical Fitness Association’s Education Committee and a partner in the Flywheel Group. To learn more contact Bryan here today .

The New Enterprise Requires A Progressive Technology Platform

Believe me, all industries and institutions, and in particular the health club, fitness and wellness business, are going through tremendous change, whether one wants to admit to it or not. History tells us that transformative times are met in two ways: as an exciting opportunity for advancement or as a threatening force to the status quo. What people think about change is usually aligned with how much they benefit from the way things are not the way they could be.

When I say that the fitness, wellness and health club industry is wrestling with "Digital Darwinism" "the evolution of consumer behavior when society and technology evolve faster than our ability to adapt", I'm addressing that pull between the future and the past and today I think a lot of that tension lies in misunderstandings around technology. With obesity so rampant and preventable chronic illnesses so pervasive, our modus operandi must change to achieve a brighter future . Achieving this future requires doing things in very different ways . Understanding how to recreate the enterprise around technology platforms is a major part of what needs to happen to make things better.

Other progressive industries are changing the way things are done and learning from them is a good means of exploring the path to this future I refer to. Watch the brief clip below with Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts, who is creating the ultimate Social Enterprise using salesforce.com, incorporating social and mobile elements across the entire organization, and connecting with employees and customers in a whole new way. Your business is your customer experience and platforms enable organizations to deliver on that experience. As Angela summarizes to CEO's who remain skeptical , that failing to adopt her approach she doesn't know where business models would be in 5 years. She's right . As the historian and author Daniel Boorstin said, the greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance - it is the illusion of knowledge. We have a lot to learn but its there for those who want to find out how. Watch !

About the author:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, and shareholder and executive in several fitness and health club companies. He consults with numerous global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank is Chair of the Medical Fitness Association’s Education Committee and a partner in the Flywheel Group - an expert in salesforce.com development and implementation. To learn more contact Bryan here today .

Before Jumping Into Paid Social Media Advertising - Keep These Tips In Mind

Social Media Platforms Are Offering New Types Of Paid Advertisement Opportunities. Here Are Some Things Health Club Owners Should Keep In Mind Before Taking The Plunge.

One of the biggest shifts in consumer behavior during the past decade is the increasing use of the Internet as a key part of decision making when people shop for goods and services. Health clubs are not immune from this trend and as a result, many marketers are evaluating and rethinking traditional advertising methods. The fact is that club members trust traditional advertising less and less. Therefore, marketing’s key goal should be to gain the trust of potential and existing customers. As a result smart health club owners and brands are evaluating their messages and engagement efforts closely (see my recent post Still Investing In Old School Advertising ? to learn more). They are also considering how customers are relying on social media networks more and more as part of the buying process.

Customers relied mainly on search engines like Google to obtain information from the Internet in the recent past as part of their buying process. However, more people are now spending time on Facebook and other social platforms than Google. As the age of Social Media has emerged, networks, including Google’s own new social platform Google+, are evaluating or actually providing paid advertising opportunities for businesses to reach customers in new ways. Given multiple online advertising options what should gym owners do? I recommend trying these new soadvertising options and here are five key things you should keep in mind if you do.

1. Plan For It

While being a different medium, paid advertising on social media platforms like Facebook still requires a plan and must fit inside the context of a business and marketing strategy. If your goal is to build your membership base by 15% and personal training revenues by 20% you need the marketing budget and promotional tactics to get those results. If you are ready to try paid advertising on social media platforms make certain you budget and plan for it. That often means you’ll have to spend less money on other forms of promotion as a result. Make sure you resource the advertising effort appropriately.

2. Know Who You Are Targeting

People who use social networks divulge a lot of personal information in their profiles, which is helpful to advertisers. Social networks like Facebook let you choose which groups you want your ads to reach. Health clubs can target ads based on profile information, like age, gender, location, and interests. You can choose to target people who are fans of your company's Facebook page or friends of your fans. You can avoid your fans altogether, if your goal is to broaden your pool of customers or target fans of competing gyms. You can also advertise only to Facebook users who mention certain words in their profiles or status messages. Knowing who you are targeting is really important so think about it.

3. Test A Lot 

Ad prices on Facebook and most other social networks are set by an auction process, similar to Google AdWords. You can pay based on the number of times people see an ad or how many times the ad is clicked. Most Facebook advertisers choose the click through payment method. However, it's worth testing both payment types to see which is more cost effective. Try spending $20 for a small advertisement using both methods. It's also very inexpensive and easy to test ads on different targeted groups you are trying to reach to discover what the most effective approaches are.

4. Track Campaigns

Services like Facebook track how many times your ads are shown and the number of clicks they receive. It doesn't track what users do after they click. For example, did the prospect join your gym or just visit your website as the result of the ad? This is a big drawback of Facebook's ad service, but there is a solution. While Facebook is working to include more information in its reporting tools its important to do your own tracking. Programs like Google Analytics, which is free, or HitsLink, can help to track which Facebook ads actually create new business. Use these services to track your campaigns.

5. Make Creative Ads

It's tough to get noticed so creating good ads is important. Usually ads from different advertisers run next to one another. Photos and messages from friends also compete for users' attention. You need to stand out and unconventional advertisements often work best.  Being irreverent, different and trying to share unconventional messages and images that connect with prospects is the most effective way to advertise. Be creative and your ads will generate better results.

With over 800 million Facebook users, social media platforms are becoming a viable place for health clubs to advertise because the ads can be highly targeted and cost effective.  As with any marketing medium, social networks require time and effort in order to generate results. Investing in social network advertising without keeping these things in mind can be a waste of your resources. Paid advertising on social networks is only good for health club owners if they take it seriously!

About the author:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, and shareholder and executive in several fitness and health club companies. He serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank and is a partner in The Health Club For Women and Chair of the Medical Fitness Association’s Education Committee. To learn more contact Bryan here today .

The Disruptive Low Cost Health Club - Thoughts On Ray Algar's Global Report

At IHRSA and via Skype calls during the past year or more, I've had the chance to collaborate with colleague Ray Algar , principal of the firm Oxygen Consulting, about the changing health club market. I first mentioned Ray's research in December of 2009 and have subsequently shared my views on the changing marketplace and club business models since. I'm a fan of Ray's work and his report is included above. Many thanks to him for his kind acknowledgements of my contributions throughout. Visit his web site to share your views on the report here.
So what are gym or health club competitors to do as a result of the trends Ray's report and my research have outlined ? While many things can be identified, I am advising operators to focus on two key issues. The first I borrowed from leading marketing expert Denise Lee Yohn who says "Customer Experience Is Marketing". When it comes to how health clubs are going to survive the disruption of Low Cost High Value competitors, operators better get their hands around creating differentiating experiences or as Denise puts it "Operationalizing the Brand." The reason that low cost models are increasingly taking market share is that the general experiences members receive are not special or memorable and therefore price is becoming an overriding driver of choice.
The second thing to focus on is innovation. Health club brands desperately need to innovate by blending the digital and physical customer experience simply and seemlessly. Our culture is becoming digital and members seek experiences digitally and physically 24/7. The era of Digital Darwinism, when evolving consumer behavior resulting from advancing technology and a changing society are moving faster than competitors can adapt to it, is here today. The term was coined by author Brian Solis and is a concept health cub and gym executives should pay close attention to. Competitors that can figure out ways to elegantly blend personal and digital experiences well will create a competitive advantage.
So what do you think about Ray Algar's research report and the disruptive nature of the low cost high value health club and gym market ? Please share your thoughts with me, Bryan O'Rourke. Thanks again Ray for another great piece of research.
About the author Bryan O’Rourke:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, shareholder and executive in several fitness and health club business service companies. He is also a partner in The Health Club For Women and Chairman of the Medical Fitness Association’s Education Committee. To learn more contact Bryan here today .

The 2011 Club Industry Show In Chicago - A Few Highlights

A lot went on at Club industry this year. Perhaps you read my prior post regarding the roundtable conducted by Michael Scott Scudder on what is happening in the fitness industry, if not check it out here. There were other interesting developments at the show so I thought I'd share a few highlights.

First, kudos to my friend and colleague David Wright for his MYZONE concept. MYZONE is a unique solution that I think a lot of club owners should check out. When I talk about the health club business needing to deliver member service both inside and outside the four walls and on a 24/7 basis, solutions like MYZONE represent what I am referring to. I was also glad to see Mike Leveque, who I was able to work with at Star Trac, involved with this company. Learn more about MYZONE here.

Second, it is always a delight to see someone you respect so much at a show like Club Industry and that certainly applies to my colleague Denise Lee Yohn. I follow her writing and views closely. Marketing and branding are changing for a lot of reasons, therefore I enjoyed seeing her presentation on how customer experience is marketing. Check out Denise's videos here to learn more. Operationalizing brands is an important concept more health clubs need to understand and embrace.

Third, Cary Wing's presentation on physician referral programs was a great one (to learn more visit Cary's web site ). Medically integrated fitness centers are an important and interesting trend and so are physician referrals . I also really enjoyed spending time with Star Trac owner Michael Bruno. Star Trac's turnaround is certainly underway and a slew of new customers and new products is moving that company forward ! We had a great dinner and I loved spending time with Michael, my friend Sal Pellegrino and others from the Star Trac team. Many thanks to all of you, including my partner and friend Robert Dyer, for making this years Club Industry a great one.

So tell me Bryan O'Rourke, were you able to attend Club Industry this year ? What do you think about it being relocated to Las Vegas in 2012 ? What things did you discover at Club Industry this year ? I look forward to hearing from you !

About the author Bryan O’Rourke:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, shareholder and executive in several fitness and health club business service companies. He is also a partner in The Health Club For Women and Chairman of the Medical Fitness Association’s Education Committee. To learn more contact Bryan here today .