Marketing Your Fitness Business - Do You Care Enough ?

Thanks to my colleague Eleanor Hisey at Fitsomo who shared a post that I just had to use from Gary Vaynerchuk, and to my partner Robert Dyer who spent so much time with me last week. These two along with my conversation with some of Gold's Gyms leading franchisees at the GGFA roundtable on social media last week led to this post.

By the way it meant a great deal to me to be invited by Ginger Collins and the great bunch of GGFA professionals, who I love, to discuss social media marketing at the Gold's convention. Thanks Ladies :). I was particularly excited that Gordon Johnson, along with several other leading Gold's franchisees, were there and asked so many relevant questions. They wanted to know about using social media, yet the conversation was less about technology and more about being human. I'll explain.

In a world where brands are accustomed to only broadcasting or as Gary Vaynerchuk puts it, presenting their message, now consumers want engagement (see his video below and thanks again Eleanor :)). They want to interact. Consumers want to be relevant. Everything we used to think about marketing has ended because now marketing is the consumer's experience. Its not our message and what we want to tell them; its all about what is important to THEM and our recognizing that fact. The "Connected Consumer" trend has really accelerated this because of technology.

This is a very hard thing for many brands to grasp and execute. In a world where many old school CEO's still worry that having a twitter account opens them up to having to answer to consumers, well what can I say ? Anyone who would have to ask if they should have a twitter account demonstrates they do not understand. You see people who don't understand this, at least 90% of the time, must not really care because if they did they'd want to have customers be able to let them know when they are happy and when they are not. Right ?

This leads to my partner Robert and I having many conversations with customers and industry leaders last week both during the Gold's convention and following it. For those of you who know him, Robert is one of the most sincere and caring people you'd ever meet; he's very human and it shows. It was instructive to hear the comments from a highly respected industry leader who following our meeting asked, "Is this how you conduct all of your meetings?" Well Robert was unclear as to what the person met. They went on, "You see I am so used to getting pressured and sold and you did not even have a presentation." (So I might have paraphrased a bit :)). Get it now ? Its not about us its about them.

The bottom line is this, if health club and fitness brands keep broadcasting content around what they do, what they have, and who they are consumers aren't going to connect. We can't use social media effectively if its not centered around the customer and we must reengineer our businesses accordingly. If the DNA of your organization can't "GET IT" then you've got a real problem on your hands.

Watch the video above from Gary Vaynerchuck and tell me Bryan O'Rourke, what is your marketing strategy with social media ? Do you agree with Gary that you've got to change from presenting to working the room ? Thanks for your thoughts and for reading the post.

About the author:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, shareholder and executive in several fitness companies. He works for Fitmarc, which delivers Les Mills programs to over 700 facilities in the US and heads up the firms Integerus and Fitsomo. He advises successful global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank and is CEO of the Fitness Industry Technology Council (To join FIT-C visit ). Recently Bryan was named to the ACE industry advisory panel.  To learn more contact Bryan here today.


Are Health Clubs & Fitness Brands Paying Attention To The Emerging Connected Consumer ?


The fitness, health club and "wellness" industries are all going through massive change as the result of 3 drivers: advancing technologies, changing consumers and globalism. I've been paying close attention to consumer trends as of late, in case you haven't noticed (see my content on millennials). A recent post by Brian Solis raised a number of startling facts about Generation "C" - The Connected Consumer that brought this issue to the forefront of my mind again. Health Clubs and fitness brands in general better take note. Here is an excerpt from Brian's post :

No longer can we blame it on the youth. We must blame, if anything, the disruption of technology. Nowadays, age ain’t nothing but a number. It is how people embrace technology, from social networks to smartphones to intelligent appliances, that contributes to the digital lifestyle that is now synonymous with Gen-C.

Solis bases much of his post on Neilsen's recent report "Introducting Generation C: Americans 18-34 are the most connected". But as Solis and the Neilsen report show, the rise of the new connectedness is not exclusive to this age group, its impacting every generation and as a result every industry (like health clubs).

IBM's Report, The Connected Consumer Challenge, also speaks to these massive consumer shifts. As the introduction states, "Today’s electronics consumers expect much more than quality devices – they demand a quality experience. Their interest has shifted from the device itself to what they can do with the device." You can get the white paper here . Yet despite all of these reports I do not think a significant number of fitness facility or fitness brand players in general get it. Based on my first hand experience, many brands are still marketing like its 1990 or earlier. By the way its 2012....

Why ? I think a combination of factors answer this question. Owners and managers whose experiences are based on old modalities like membership sales being THE emphasis is one. Sorry, its a word of mouth world and if your fitness brand or club isn't delivering outstanding over the top experiences or worse bad experiences you are going to SUFFER. You can't sell your way out of bad programming or poor service. Another reason I think health clubs are failing to excel in this arena is the lack of cross polination from other industries who have done a better job adapting to this new paradigm. Regardless I have a message for leaders of health clubs and fitness brands in general. Here is the bottom line (consistent with my recent quotes on twitter from @Garyvee about business and advertising in general) :

"If you do not care about your end user immensely, especially in the next few years, your brand will die." (BTW these consumers are increasingly connected consumers)

"I'm very passionate about traditional media. I don't think it's dead. I just think it's overpriced." (Perhaps you should stop doing so much direct mail and try something different)

And for those of you who don't believe the Connected Consumer should be a major part of your business thinking I have this last quote just for you from @Garyvee:

"There were people walking around saying the internet was a fad, and weren't joking. They won't admit it now."  (Don't be one of those people who did not see it coming).

So tell me, Bryan O'Rourke, what do you about Generation "C", the "Connecter Consumer" ? Am I wrong ? Do you think Health Clubs and fitness brands have changed there marketing in response to this expanding consumer group ? I don't think that's happened enough and it worries me. What do you think ?

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 global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank is Chair of the Medical Fitness Association’s Education Committee, is President of the Fitness Industry Technology Council and a partner in Fitmarc, Integerus, Fitsomo and the Flywheel Group. To learn more contact Bryan here today .