Guide to Building an Effective Health Club Marketing Strategy
As the marketing director of a health club, you have a million things on your plate – website management, content marketing, paid campaigns, lead generation, marketing ops, member communications – and everything in between.
Handling all this, particularly if you have a small team, can be extremely overwhelming. You are so caught up in the daily grind that sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.
The truth is, you can design a really fancy website for your club, spend a ton of money on ads, show up everyday on Instagram/TikTok or send regular emails to your prospects and members – if you don’t have a cohesive marketing strategy in place, you’ll have a hard time hitting your revenue goals.
Yet, a lot of marketers don’t understand what a marketing strategy truly entails.
If you Google ‘health club marketing strategy’ or ‘How to build a health club marketing strategy’, you will get a ton of articles talking about marketing tactics, but hardly any that tell you how to actually build a strategy from the ground up.
This is why we decided to write this article.
Before we get into how you can build a fitness marketing strategy for your health club, let’s first clear a common misconception.
The difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan
A lot of marketing professionals use the terms strategy and plan interchangeably, when in fact they’re very different. Your marketing strategy is macro in nature. It’s your club’s big picture that aligns your marketing goals with your business goals and explains how you can win in a highly competitive market.
A marketing plan on the other hand outlines the specific activities and tactics you will use to implement your strategy. If your marketing plan lays out what you’ll do, your strategy clarifies the reasoning behind it.
These are some of the questions your health club’s marketing strategy is supposed to answer:
- What are your marketing goals and objectives?
- Who are your ideal customers and what are they like?
- What are your core offerings and the unique value you provide?
- Who are your competitors and how are you different from them?
- What channels should you focus on and why?
- What activities & campaigns should you run across those channels?
- What should be your core messaging?
Each marketing plan should start with an underlying strategy that covers all of this.
With that in mind, let’s look at the importance of crafting a marketing strategy.
Why your health club needs a marketing strategy
Your marketing strategy determines the path you’re going to take in order to meet your business goals. It is based on extensive research, allowing you to make informed decisions, rather than committing random acts of marketing based on assumptions or what other fitness clubs or gyms are doing.
Lack of a well thought-out strategy is one of the top reasons why many health clubs struggle to stand out in the market and end up competing on price.
A marketing strategy helps you define your ideal customers and the unique value you provide to them, rather than going after everybody and attracting the wrong crowd.
Strategy also makes it easier to plan your marketing budget and specific activities/campaigns you will spend it on. Without it, you can end up wasting a lot of money on channels and activities that won’t generate a positive ROI.
Key elements of a health club marketing strategy
You can’t build a marketing strategy overnight. It takes a lot of research and planning. And it’s definitely not something the marketing department should do in isolation. The best health club marketing strategies are planned in collaboration with other departments and they are aligned with the club’s offerings and business goals.
Here are the steps you should follow to create your marketing strategy:
Defining your target audience
What kind of members do you really want in your club? Though you might have the temptation to target everybody to get as many members as possible, the fact is, you can’t be all things to all people.
As a health club, member retention is key and you want your customers to stay with you for as long as possible. This is why you should look to narrow down your audience and identify customer segments that are likely to benefit the most from what you offer and stick around longer.
Let’s look at two brands in the health and fitness industry targeting very different audiences. California-based Claremont Club caters to a high-end clientele looking for a holistic fitness and wellness experience. Their members don’t just want to stay fit. They want to be part of a health-minded community and build meaningful relationships. Gold’s Gym on the other hand targets weightlifters and bodybuilders.
The marketing strategies of both these brands are therefore very different. You’ll see it very clearly in their messaging, creatives, pricing, positioning and even the marketing channels they use.
Here are the steps you can follow to define your target audience and get to know them better:
- Make a list of the core services you offer at your club
- Identify the kind of people that are likely to be interested in those offerings
- Create member personas for those people. Gather as much qualitative data about those personas as possible by interviewing both existing members and prospects. Ask them about their biggest goals & aspirations, their likes/dislikes, their values, what motivates them to join a club like yours, where they hang out online, what kind of content do they like to consume, what keywords they use for their health and fitness needs etc.
A well-defined audience helps you target people with the right offerings, pricing and messaging across their entire lifecycle. That’s how you can not only generate quality leads that become members but also boost retention at your club and turn those members into brand evangelists.
Related article: How to target members with laser-focused marketing messages and campaigns
Analyzing your competition
The goal of your marketing strategy is to create strong market positioning that helps you stand out from the competition and attract your target customers. To do that, you need to be aware of your competitive landscape and identify their strengths and weaknesses.
One important thing to remember here is: Not every health and fitness business is your competitor. When doing competitor analysis, you should focus on businesses that are targeting the same customer segments with a similar set of offerings.
Start with direct competitors. For example, if you are a full-service health club, look at other full-service health clubs in your city:
- What services are they offering?
- How are they positioning themselves?
- What’s their core messaging?
- What marketing channels are they using?
- How are they promoting their brand through those channels?
- What kind of content are they posting?
- What keywords are they targeting on their website and content?
- What are their customers saying about them?
- What are they doing well? What are they not doing so well?
Use this analysis not to emulate what other brands in your space are doing but to uncover gaps that you can exploit to set your brand apart.
Identifying your unique value proposition
There are several health and fitness service providers in and around your location(s), offering a similar set of services. Why should your target customers join your health/fitness club, instead of the budget gym or studio down the road?
Saying that you have the best equipment or personal trainers isn’t going to cut it. Nor will differentiating on price – that’s usually a race to the bottom!
You need to go deeper. Maybe you:
- Have a powerful wellness program that goes beyond fitness and helps members improve the quality of their life
- Offer a highly personalized experience to your members based on data analytics
- Have invested in multiple Les Mills programs that provide an immersive experience to members at the club or even their homes
- Have a strong member community that helps members build strong personal relationships with like-minded people
- Provide members a powerful and cohesive online experience with easy access to all your services through a branded mobile app
Lean into your customer interviews and competitor analysis. It will help you identify the unique value you provide to your members that they can’t get elsewhere.
Once you nail this down, you can leverage it across all your marketing channels to – be it your website, your content, social media, emails or ad campaigns.
Related article: Branding for Health Clubs
Defining your marketing goals and objectives
While building your marketing strategy, it’s vital to have clear goals and objectives in mind. Start with your club’s biggest problems/challenges. Maybe you have low brand awareness. Or maybe you have awareness, but you’re not generating enough sales leads. Maybe you’re struggling to retain members.
Whatever your goals or challenges may be, documenting them not only helps you plan what you need to do in order to tackle them, but also makes it easier to track your performance.
While defining your marketing goals, make sure:
- They are aligned with your club’s overall business goals
Let’s say your club wants to achieve a 20% YOY revenue growth in 2022. Based on this business goal, here are some of the questions you may want to ask yourself:
- How many new members would you need to hit that goal?
- How many qualified leads would you need to acquire those new members?
- How many of those leads can you expect to come from organic channels?
- How much would you need to spend on paid campaigns to get the rest?
- What’s the additional budget you would need this year to achieve that?
As a marketing director, you’ll find it much easier to get management sign-off on your marketing budget if you demonstrate that what you’ll do will drive tangible business results, not just get more social media followers and likes.
- They are SMART
Which of these goals do you think will be easier to measure?
- Generate more leads, or
- Generate 400 qualified leads in 2022 compared to previous year to achieve a 20% revenue increase this year.
The first goal is extremely vague. The second one is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound).
Just like the fitness goals you set for your members, your marketing goals are easier to plan for and track when they are SMART.
Identifying relevant marketing channels and activities
Once you have defined your target audience, analyzed the competition, nailed down your value proposition and established your marketing goals, you can plan your club’s marketing activities and tactics with a laser-like focus.
There may be some things that are already working well for you. Equipped with a better understanding of your club’s unique value and your external environment, you can refine and optimize your marketing efforts to generate better results. No more throwing spaghetti on the wall and hoping it sticks!
Your strategy will provide clarity on the following areas:
- Channels: As a marketer, it’s tempting to be on every channel. You can reach more people if you’re everywhere, right? Here’s the thing though: You don’t need to be everywhere, just where your ideal customers are most active. Your strategy will guide you on the channels you should focus on
- Activities: Once you have defined your marketing channels, you can build a plan outlining the activities you’ll be performing across those channels, such as:
- Updating your website copy and design to make sure it clearly communicates your value
- Creating targeted content for various stages of the funnel
- Running laser-focused paid campaigns on the right channels
- Optimizing your website and blog for SEO
- Using email marketing to convert leads into customers and keeping them engaged with targeted content & offers post-acquisition
- Running challenges and contests
- Using fitness and wellness influencers to promote your brand
- Building an online community
- Metrics: Every channel and activity comes with a ton of metrics, but you don’t need to track all of them. Having a strategy helps you focus on the metrics that matter for your club based on your marketing goals and objectives. As they say – What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get managed! Regardless of your strategy, here are some key metrics you should track at your health club:
- Social media: Followers, Engagement Rate, Follower Growth %
- Website: Unique Monthly Visitors, Bounce Rate, Website Conversions/Sign-ups
- Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)
- Lead to Member Conversion Rate
- Paid campaigns: Cost Per Click (CPC), Clickthrough Rate (CTR) and Cost Per Lead (CPL)
- Email Marketing: Open Rate, Click Rate
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
- Member Lifetime Value
- Retention Rate
- Member Growth
- MarTech stack: Your strategy will also guide you on the right marketing tools/platforms you need to invest in to improve operations and member experience. Without it, you could be wasting your budget on tools that either don’t fit your needs or probably aren’t necessary at all. Check out this article on our blog where Dylan Bennett, Regional Marketing Director at Mesa Fitness provides insight on how to select and use software to transform your club’s communication strategy.
We hope this guide provided you with more clarity on the importance of a marketing strategy and how you need to approach it to drive more revenue for your health club.
One last thing: No marketing strategy is set in stone. You need to review your performance periodically and make adjustments to stay on course. Double down on what’s working and cut back on activities that aren’t.
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