A recent study from the Leisure Database Company suggested that the % of UK adults exercising has topped 15% for the first time since fitness clubs were invented some 50 years ago.
Managing Director Dave Minton reported that this increase can be attributed to the increased usage in the budget club sector by a lower demographic category of users who are appearing in the sector for the first time.
Membership uptake amongst “baby boomers” has apparently plateaued again. This is somewhat surprising when you consider growing health awareness, rising obesity and the availability of a greater number of fitness facilities than ever before. (Now over 7000 nationwide.)
The behavioural psychologists have conducted years of research into the science of habit changing and the theories are now widely used in the health industry to help people make positive lifestyle changes.
Fitness club marketers need to be abreast of the research because it should shape your thinking of how your club online marketing message is spread, received and what you have to do to get traction from a market with a track record in seeing but not responding to digital fitness club marketing promotions.
It’s a useful starting point to look at the Theory of “Decisional Balance”.
(How people digest your marketing message)
The model is based on 2 variables around personal attitudes to change.
- Either maintaining the status quo (your current lifestyle)
- Being amenable to change
The second variable is your prospects perception of change.
- The benefits of changing their lifestyle
- The downside consequences if you do
When fitness prospects see your message this immediately sets up a journey around the matrix.
The first quadrant that is reached in your prospects internal conversation is on the merits and benefits of current lifestyle habits with specific reference to the opportunity for change offered by your marketing message.
The default position of all individuals is to stay as they are.
The message that you send has to be personally tailored and benefit “rich” if it is to have any impact therefore.
If it’s a sufficiently powerful motivator to get the prospect to review themselves, the next stage on the journey is to quadrant 2: What is the risk to me if I don’t change my lifestyle?
The best advertising designers have known for a long time that people can be influenced by 2 main motivating factors:
- The pursuit of pleasure
- The avoidance of pain
Of these the 2nd option is by far the most powerful and yet, in the fitness sector it is the least used of the 2 motivators.
Why not include alongside your “benefits of exercise” video promote your health warning to non-exercisers and really push the unwanted side effects likely to occur from long term inactivity?
If you can “frighten” your prospects with the “devil” of non- exercise, then you can get them to overcome their natural reluctance to change and put up a strong case why they should consider a positive change in lifestyle.
In quadrant 3: the downside risks to positive change, your prospect will be thinking about their chance of success. Will it work, will they stick with it, will they be embarrassed on the journey, are they too fat, too ill, too old? All these questions need to be overcome to get to the next level.
For fitness clubs the importance here is to make sure that you can “Pre-frame the new member experience.
Embarrassment is the single most avoided emotion and new exercisers feel that his is highly likely. To overcome this, they need to know exactly what process they are going to go through and in what environs BEFORE they do it.
It’s vital then that clubs have a new member on boarding process that is choreographed, established and available to view in a range of media.
If prospects can view the “How we transform you in 42days or Less” video, podcast and blog post, ideally from the comfort of your prospects home or work then you have a much higher chance of getting that prospect to move further along the sales continuum.
The final section of the matrix is the internal debate on the benefits of the change. The “how I will feel when I join your club and start exercising regularly”.
The behavioural psychologists have researched the principles of persuasion and these are widely accepted now.
The tactics that reinforce this aspect best are:
- Authority in the market: Are you the “go to” clubs who have a track record of helping people like me.
- Social Proof: The validation of your marketing claims by members who have gone through it. The power of testimonial.
So that’s the theory. It explains a lot about why certain promotions bomb and why others are highly effective. Hopefully you can now see have a deeper understanding of how your digital marketing strategy need to be much more sophisticated than merely a generalised price discount promotion if you are to engage with the potential of the inactive population.