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Recall The Four Golden Opportunities for Gyms
From the previous article I mentioned that there are four market segment opportunities that are unfulfilled and that here is where fitness facility operators should look for incremental revenue. The four target markets are as follows:
Each has its own unique set of circumstances and each is difficult to attract through traditional techniques and approaches. However, the rewards for the bottom-line can be tremendous. In the
previous article, I discussed the diconditioned market in depth, now I'll discuss the remaining three golden opportunities of income.
- Deconditioned Market
- Aging Market
- Youth Market
- Corporate Market
"This is a "wellness" opportunity."
The Aging Market for Health Clubs
This market is also huge and growing larger as the "baby boomers" pass into the aging category. The aging market has been viewed as the 50+ market, but realistically the 50 - 60 year old generally considers themselves as young and a part of the general population. They certainly don't appreciate the implication that they're "old" (not that anybody does, but this group is far from that thought process). While it is true that their mortality and susceptibility to catastrophic illness is becoming obvious through close relationship tragedies, they are still not ready to accept the role of "aging".
The "aging" market really begins with the 60+ market. By this time the realities of poor lifestyle choices is permanently ingrained in their thought process. The reality of what awaits them if they fail to modify their lifestyle is now very real. Most are not looking for a "fitness" facility. They are looking for a "wellness" facility that understands their needs specifically and who will make them feel welcome. This group literally fills "wellness" type facilities. In addition to the fact that they are drawn to a place that makes them feel welcome, they tend to make the facility a large part of their life. They are a very social group. Additionally, their loyalty is unreal. That is why the 80% retention rate is so prevalent with the aging market.
One of the most common tactical blunders that clubs make when considering approaching this market is that their thinking is very limited. The limited thinking usually results in the following:
- Only offer limited programs at limited times
- View the 60+ market as a "turn off" for the general membership
- Don't provide the needed support mechanisms
- Fail to realize the significance of exercise as the 60+ market views it - life enhancing and a necessity
- Fail to capitalize on the 60+ markets social tendencies
- Interact with the 60+ member in a condescending manner or a manner that makes them feel like they are being treated like children, which they naturally find offensive. Fail to follow-up on questions or complaints from this group, which views a response to their question or request as very important
This group has a much higher expectation of performance delivery than the general membership. When dealing with this group, we need to say what we mean and mean what we say. After all, we're in the customer service business. So, let's deliver the customer service! If we work hard to satisfy the 60+ market we will reap terrific
In marketing to the 60+ group, tradition is once again forgotten. It's all about environment, commitment and variety. Referrals is once again the best method to grow the market. Also, we need to reach out for their input. It's important to see and hear what they want. No matter how much we read or study, the voices of the aging will always tell us all that we need to know to be successful with them.
"None of these markets are easy to develop initially, but all 4 offer great futures for us and our industry in general."
The Corporate Market for Health Clubs
This is not a new market, it's just one that has been ignored or approached ineffectively for far too long. This is not a "group discount" opportunity as is so commonly advanced. This is a "wellness" opportunity. Think about all of the information that is presented to corporations as quantification for the "need" for a corporate fitness program. It's all related to how the corporation will benefit. Every bit of the information presented is specifically designed to imply that the corporation's sedentary individuals are the ones that will benefit. For most clubs this is all a slick packaged piece of "bait and switch" marketing hype. The facility tries to tell the corporation what the corporation wants to hear, but is really only thinking about how to get the money. How does the facility go about switching the bait? By offering a group discount.
When this approach is used, the corporations who participate find that really the participants are the motivated individuals who would have probably joined somewhere anyway or already exercise on their own. Where is the big initiative to motivate the ones who the corporation wants and expects to get to get involved as a result of the "corporate membership"?
The truth about corporate sales and the reason that a slick presentation appeals to the right person in a given corporation is that they know that they are "bleeding" through their bottom-line because of their sedentary workforce. The typical corporate presentation in our industry spotlights these individuals but fails miserably to deliver the promise.
As a result of this failure, many corporations have invested millions of dollars in on-site exercise programs. Sadly, most of these corporations experience the same problem mentioned above. The majority of the people who participate regularly would exercise anyway, so the money is not well spent by the corporation.
If we really want to be successful in the corporate marketplace then throw out the old and design the new. The time for change is now. Why are the companies that offer to buy memberships and then resell them to corporations becoming so popular? Because most facilities are tired of the same mistakes followed by the predictably same miserable results. So, because the facility is frustrated, they enter into a discount membership program whereby someone else makes the money, but the illusion is created that the facility is somehow a corporate wellness provider. This is sad. The whole concept is self-deception at it's best (or worst).
If our industry is truly to partner in the benefits of a corporate wellness program with businesses that are serious about strengthening their workforce, then all of these contemporary illusions need to done away with. The corporation wants their sedentary workforce impacted. But, they are aware of the illusions and they are not fooled. They may go along with a "discount" plan so that they can look good to the individuals who do participate and who do save money, but the thought that the club is really helping their bottom-line is non-existent.
This is one the areas that our industry seriously needs to clean up its act and reputation. Corporations, just as individuals are turning their attention to true "wellness" operations. These "wellness" operations are benefiting greatly. Not all that surprising, but most of the successful corporate "wellness" programs involve the above listed interactive fitness technology.
The primary components of a successful corporate program are:
- Establishing a staff person that deals only with our corporate development
- Strong initial training for this individual and strong management follow-up.
- Following through on this business and marketing plan that contains the components that we need to offer the corporations that will help benefit their sedentary workforce.
- Effective use of goal setting.
- Identifying the right person to present our program to the
- Effectively establishing a bond or relationship with that person.
- Discovering what the employer WANTS and not what we think that they want.
- Establishing the importance of the company contributing towards the plan financially to quantify to the employees that this is a serious initiative.
- Utilizing a contractual agreement with the corporation so that
everyone's role and the expectation thereof is clear and without
- Working with the corporation to create a timely powerful plan
designed to motivate as many sedentary individuals to participate as is possible.
- Maintain strong follow-up in order to ensure long term client
retention and satisfaction which leads to strong referrals.
When obstacles are identified and corrected, strong corporate business development becomes possible. Additionally, whenever approaching a business and the person who appears to be the decision maker (often the Director of Human Resources - which sometimes seems like an oxymoron when planning corporate wellness) is a sedentary or antagonistic individual, immediate action must be taken to locate someone higher up the executive ladder that understands the truth about bottom-line loss due to poor employee wellness. If the corporation fits our corporate prospect profile, then we need to persevere and find someone else who will listen to what we have to offer.
The Youth Market for Health Clubs
The youth market in our community is another non-traditional market that desperately needs our help. The state of obesity in the youth of our community is alarming. The educational system needs our help. Unfortunately, many educators are difficult to communicate this important message to. This market requires patience and education. There are three key components in the educational marketplace. The youth is one, but there is also the school system employees and the parents of the children. A multi-level approach is important.
It is important that clubs reach out to groups, associations and programs that target the health and wellbeing of our young people. An important youth initiative to get involved with is called Project ACES (www.projectaces.com ). It's a little late for this year, but as an ongoing project, it is excellent and is newsworthy.
None of these markets are easy to develop initially, but all four offer great futures for us and our industry in general. All four require planning, patience, goal setting and motivated performance. Create the plan and make it happen!
About Geoff Hampton
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