The pandemic has levelled the industry playing field, making colossal success more possible than it’s ever been.
In one sense, the flooding of the market with unregulated (often poor quality) products is good news for those of us with our ducks in a row.
But in such a crowded space, how can we make real connections with clients that cut through the noise?
Marketing, brand, and messaging will be one of the key differentiators in the shaping of this new era. To rise above our competition, we need to be one step ahead of the curve and place a real emphasis on our client connections in the months to come.
The marketing ‘ecosystem’
Where once upon a time we may have relied on one channel to bring us the majority of our leads, industry instability means that we need to spread our marketing over more channels.
For example: as operators, too many of us rely on Facebook as our primary marketing avenue. Yes, it still “works” and yields results (varying in different locations), but it’s not the marketing Mecca that it used to be. It’s still very volatile – and we can expect it to become increasingly so.
We need to venture into new channels to give us a wider and more secure base. Ask yourself: if your ‘primary’ marketing channel ceased to exist tomorrow, would you have your fingers in enough other pies to keep a stream of leads without too much disruption to the business?
If the answer is no, you’ve got work to do.
You’ll also find that having many channels working simultaneously will create a sum result bigger than its parts: your prospects will see your branding on Facebook, on Google, and when they’re walking down the street, giving them multiple exposures to your messaging that will drive awareness, credibility and trust.
“Facebook isn’t the marketing Mecca it used to be.”
The agile approach
As well as having a wider spread for our marketing efforts, we also need to be more agile in our approach. The ability to respond quickly and decisively to changes in the market environment is crucial if we want to stay a step ahead of the competition and react to new services or products that crop up.
For example, if your local big box decides to go down the SGPT route and hits Facebook Ads hard, what do you have in your strategy toolbox to meet their campaign and differentiate yourself effectively?
You also need to be in a situation where you can turn on (and off) different taps. Facebook not firing? Move budget to Google. Google not yielding results? Try Facebook. Neither working? Leverage the local network that you’ve built. None of the above flying and need a quick bump? Use a tactic like a competition, referral incentive or aggressive lapsed campaign.
Relationship and reputation
If there’s one thing that’s become increasingly important post-pandemic, it’s reputation. Our clients are more discerning then they’ve ever been – more conscious of health risks, infection control, and the overall credibility of their service provider.
We can leverage this by strengthening our relationships in the community, becoming ‘famous’ in the local area.
This often means working hard on your ‘retro’ game – billboards, leaflets, and advertorial. It means making partnerships with local businesses. It means making corporate connections, delivering ‘lunch and learns’, and attending chamber of commerce meetings. It means showing up at events: wellness fares, 10k warm-ups, and hosting on-site events like body composition workshops. It also means having some ‘guerilla’ marketing strategies in your back pocket: how can you create a stir locally? How can you stand out from the crowd and draw the attention of the community?
“We need to go retro…go guerilla.”
Beside these external channels, we also need to be making the most of our existing contacts. Struggling to hit your target for the quarter? Consider an aggressive lapsed campaign where you offer a free trial to everyone that’s ever been a member of the gym (for example). Review your referral system – are you maximising all your opportunities to get your trialists and members to bring a friend or family member aboard? Easy to overlook, these internal channels can represent some of the best ROI.
Awareness vs direct sales
A lot of these awareness and reputation strategies will give you a less straightforward return on your investment than a direct sales approach. Unlike a paid Facebook ad, which gives you a clear cost per conversion, you won’t be able to track the money you put in root to branch. Instead, you may need to take a broader spread of metrics to match the particular channel – and potentially work on a longer cycle, too.
Leaflet drops, for example, aren’t going to give you an immediate and precisely measurable influx of leads. But you may see a gradual increase in walk-ins, or phone-in enquiries, over the course of a leaflet campaign consisting of fortnightly drops for six weeks.
As always, the Cycle of Action (Research, Plan, Implement, Evaluate) will allow you to measure what’s working well and what’s not – and help you optimise your marketing results.