An Apple iPod A Day Keeps The Doctor Away

Wait! Come back! This entry has absolutely nothing to do with getting your 5-9 daily servings of fruits & veggies!

Speaking of apples, though…have you looked at Apple Computer lately? This company looked doomed by the late 1990s. Their biggest mistake? Introducing lots of new products — most mediocre and uninspired — just the opposite of what worked so well for them when they first introduced Apple personal computers in the early 80s. By the late 1990s, the question wasn’t IF Apple would crash and burn…just WHEN.

But wait, you say–they’re still here! What’s up with that? (And stay with me…I see lessons here for us in the wellness industry).

First, Apple did something most businesses don’t have the guts to do.

Around 1997, when the situation was truly dire, Apple swung for the fences. It killed off literally dozens of mediocre, loser products. It refocused on only four products.

Imagine how much easier, literally overnight, their business became! Instead of splitting time and money among dozens of projects, they were able to concentrate on just four.

I wish more wellness businesses would do the same thing.

We talked with a fitness center recently whose flat profits are seriously disappointing its owners. This business has great demographics. It should be extremely profitable.

But it was clear to us as we talked with them that they’ve fallen into the trap that Apple fell into. They try everything. They succeed at nothing.

They never met a customer or a product/service idea that they didn’t like. College students on break? Young single professionals? Stay-at-home moms? Seniors? Serious lifters? You get the idea.

Spinning? They’ve got it. Senior programs? Yep. Tanning? Of course. Full-service cafe? Definitely. Don’t forget supplements! Sport courts, wet areas, the list goes on and on. If it’s available, they’ve got it.

Yet, without a focus on the customer they know how to serve best, they serve no one particularly well.

The cafe has cafeteria-style decor — the seniors like it, but the younger customers avoid it. Tanning? Not much family appeal. College kids on break? A definite turn-off for the regulars. Court sports, the pool and sauna? Only a few members use them. Supplements? Not in this upscale community.

Now they think they’ve found a new silver bullet — equipment for body-composition and metabolic rate testing.

Stop the madness!

They need a strong dose of Apple’s medicine: figure out their sweet spot — figure out which customers they can hit home runs with, what programs and services really play to their strengths and capabilities as a business — and ditch the rest of this stuff.

I guarantee you profits will improve and customers will be happier and more loyal.

Apple took another chance a few weeks ago that most businesses won’t take.

Lots of us have seen (and craved!) Apple’s megahit iPod mini music player–often strapped on someone working out in a health club, running, or heaven forbid, driving.

Did you know that less than a month ago, while the iPod mini was still selling like crazy, Apple had the guts to discontinue selling the product? Holy smokes! Believe it or not, good business reasons exist for discontinuing a product while it’s still hot. But hardly anyone has the intestinal fortitude to actually do it.

At the same time, they introduced the even cooler iPod nano. And this week, an iPod video gadget. Think anyone’s crying over the iPod mini? Probably not.

This is a great tactic. They get buzz simply for killing a hot product. They create excitement and interest by reinforcing the idea of “get it while it’s hot…we might take it off the market at any moment” for their other new products. And before their customers get bored, they introduce new stuff…not just any old stuff, but stuff that continues to play to Apple’s strengths and to their customers’ interests.

Why shouldn’t wellness businesses take this approach?

As an industry, we tend to recycle the same stuff over and over again. We turn something that should be fun and exciting and personally satisfying — making the most of your life — into a boring, painfully educational, guilt-ridden, heard-it-all-before, cover-your-ears-so-you-don’t have-to-listen experience.

Instead of institutionalizing the same-old, same-old products and services, retire some of them before customers are sick of them. Then introduce new ones with some fanfare. Don’t drain every ounce of customer interest out of something. Rotate it in and out with other programs or services.

For example, if you’re a nutritional retailer, emphasize different products throughout the year by linking them to health and community observances. On National Osteoporosis Day, feature bone health supplements. During May and June, typical wedding months, bring the anti-stress supplements to the forefront.

In a health club, rotate your programs throughout the year. Spinning for a few months, then kick-boxing for a few months. Indoor programs during winter, outdoor programs when the weather’s better.

Last, Apple excels at turning its product announcements into events.

As a industry, we can learn a lot here. Make a fuss about new products and services. Promoting the anti-stress supplements for brides and grooms? Dress an employee in a rented gown or tux and send them out to the sidewalk to meet and greet. Featuring bone health supplements? What a great opportunity to tie in to Halloween themes!

Bottom line: avoid distraction — focus on what you’re good at — and make it exciting for your customers.

It won’t hurt a bit.

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