Get Precise: Strategic Marketing for Health Clubs

Commercial Fitness

Get Precise: Strategic Marketing for Health Clubs

A good marketing strategy is vital in developing any lucrative business, but even more so in a hypercompetitive market, such as the fitness industry.

Marketing may seem straightforward on the surface: you merely need to pay for an advertisement in a newspaper, magazine, or online, and you’ve carried out your marketing strategy. However, more effective approaches require precision.

The following is a summarization of an education session from the 2015 IHRSA Convention, produced with full permission from IHRSA. The full-length video is available for purchase at

About the Speaker

Kilian Fisher is an expert in digital marketing and business consultancy solutions. He is the former CEO of the Institute of Leisure and Amenity Management (ILAM) in Ireland and has worked with the MD Consultancy Services Company. He led and managed more than fifty projects including feasibility studies, business plans, marketing strategies, and Human Resource training plans. He is a former IRHSA Board Director, and is a part of the IRHSA Europe Council. This vast industry experience, coupled with his academic achievements in strategic and digital marketing, affords him unique expertise in applying the latest trends in digital marketing to the fitness industry.

 Strategic Marketing for Health Clubs

What Is Precision Marketing?

Precision marketing relates to selling techniques that are targeted to a specific consumer base. By taking a precise approach, you're able to pinpoint relevance between your product or service as specific and relevant to the needs and preferences of your target consumer base. Precision marketing relies on gathering copious amounts of data directly from a target audience, analyzing the data, and using the results to modify existing strategies.

"Big data" is fundamental to precision marketing. Voluminous amounts of raw data are analyzed to find trends resulting in valuable information about a target consumer base. Gather as much data as possible about your target market. Data and analytics technology can be useful in the fitness business because it will let you assess the existing needs, skills, and resources of your club.

A good starting point is to gather data from visitors to your website by using online surveys. Keep the surveys short and engaging, and compose questions that serve a particular goal. Online applications or booking services can support data collection by gathering feedback and evaluations from your members. This data can be used to build detailed profiles of club members. In order to use your website as a data collector, invest in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology. Ensure that your landing page, or “lead capture page,” contains mechanisms for collecting data through short forms. Use this page to promote special offers or to simply advertise your business.

Landing page forms should be concise; no one enjoys filling in pages of information. You should collect names and email addresses, which can be used for automatic follow-up emails. These automated emails should be instantaneous and contain information relating to the customer's unique interests, which you can determine by checking where they have clicked on your website. Systems should be in place to monitor the number of emails sent, the open rate, and which links were clicked. Smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous, so it is vital that your website is mobile-optimized, responsive, and easily readable.

External websites, Facebook, Twitter, and other social channels offer platforms for advertising and gathering information about your target customer base. Provide members and prospects with valuable content in exchange for their names and email addresses. This type of promotion can be done for free to some extent, or you can pay to promote your business pages and website on social media platforms. Word-of-mouth promotion has also become relevant to marketing and is a good way to gain prospects.

Precision marketing is effective for improving retention because it communicates to members that you care about their interests. When targeting a specific audience, have programs and offers relevant to that demographic on your landing page and market directly to them.

Profiling Your Customer Base

Your club’s CRM is the central hub of all your vital data. It logs and tracks your leads and your existing members. It also ensures timely lead follow up. All staff should be trained on your CRM system to provide better service to customers.

Profiling is essential in precision marketing. Be precise in pinpointing the interests and preferences of your existing and prospective customer base. The collected data can be used to better profile existing and prospective customers, which allows you to provide more targeted and valuable products and services to them. Identify and categorize the age and gender of your customer base as well as their preferences and exercise habits. This information is invaluable when developing a precise marketing strategy.

The SOSTAC Model

  • Situation: Where are you now? Assess the current overall state of your club. Start with the number of members, the number of classes or programs you offer; whether these are being fully utilized and by how many people. Also take into consideration your finances and overall budget.
  • Objectives: Where do you want to be? What are your goals and what would you like to achieve going forward. Do you want to develop a bigger club with more members? Do you want to charge more for your services? Do you want to be a high-end premium, mid-priced, or budget club?
  • Strategy: How to get there. A workable strategy begins with a critical analysis of your current position. Formulate an action plan, including the tools required to ensure success.
  • Tactics. Delegate tasks to staff members. Utilize digital, in-person, and social media marketing. Revisit your past marketing techniques and refine them in line with your current strategies.
  • Action. Carry out your action plan. Offer innovative programs and classes targeting your customer base. Develop online and offline promotions to attract prospective customers and retain current ones.
  • Control. Measure and monitor your marketing efforts. Ensure they are followed and review any feedback received.

Once you have your marketing plan established, be sure to fully engage with prospects and existing customers. Always listen to and monitor their preferences and activities, professionally react to good (or bad) feedback received, and amplify your successful programs and offers. A precise and strategic approach to marketing requires some up-front work, but it pays off in higher membership rates and increased retention.