2017’s five most important online marketing trends center around a single theme: harnessing the thousands of tools, technologies and platforms available to health and wellness businesses to win new members, customers and clients.
1. Experiential marketing
Health and wellness decisions are the most personal buying decisions most individuals will ever make. Yet historically, most wellness marketing has been nothing more than old-school Madison Avenue-style advertising, focused on products, services, programs, prices and “spring into wellness” special offers.
It’s no wonder that so many wellness leaders report direct mail campaigns with a response rate near zero, email campaigns with open rates below 10%, and posts with literally zero likes.
Experiential marketing capitalizes on new health and wellness psychographic segmentation insights (ex: c2b solutions), deep knowledge of your prospective customer’s mindset and decision influencers, and new, increasingly accessible “marketing biometrics” tools to provide rich, multilayered insight into what prospects expect from your business — and when. Experiential marketing considers how all of these affect the timing of buying decisions. Expect to see more of this kind of marketing as fitness businesses fight to provide a club experience online that is as uniquely matched to harder-to-get clients as the in-person experience is.
With experiential marketing, you can seamlessly blend influencer marketing with your own in-house expertise, tailor your message to different buying and change readiness stages, and deliver the most compelling content on the channel that best fits how customers prefer to engage your brand.
Then there’s the experience itself as a marketing opportunity. The whole point of EM is “right moment, right message.” Long-term, watch for augmented reality (think Pokémon Go, where live geography mapping of an actual moving person overlays the location of imaginary, virtual creatures) to supplement the club experience (perhaps through virtual trainers or training buddies located at real physical locations) and provide opportunities to reach purchase-ready audiences through in-app advertising.
2. Cross-platform competency
Some of you may remember the days when you placed your Yellow Pages ad order and then checked “marketing” off your annual to-do list. (That’s back when people chose business names like “AAAA Health Club” so they’d appear at the top of listings in the printed phone book!)
In 2017, it is far from that simple. The truth is that successful wellness businesses have to invest the time and money to market in at least three different online channels:
That’s at a minimum. PLUS local, in-person, face-to-face marketing and in many cases, print media of some kind.
For brick-and-mortar wellness businesses like health clubs, medical practices and healthy lifestyle wellness centers, online visibility simply feeds your in-person marketing, face-to-face local marketing, like free public seminars. It doesn’t in any way replace it. That’s why very few people sign up for your health club simply based on your website and Facebook page.
Case in point: Facebook has made it beautifully easy to stream live video as part of your marketing and member service initiatives….and now we have a profusion of underwhelming live ‘marketing’ videos that do nothing to attract potential members, and sometimes scare them away. Mailchimp’s interface is wonderfully simple – making it all too easy to feel super-productive while churning out completely ineffective emails.
The point is, you still have to capitalize on your local presence to connect with real, live prospective fitness, weight loss and healthy lifestyle clients. This is a serious must-have core competency for health and wellness businesses. Yet it’s the area that is most difficult for them to get their arms around.
2017 will undoubtedly bring even more affordable and user-friendly tools that address the “how” question, making connecting the dots across multiple platforms and media channels look easy.
Use the tools to maximize efficiency — and answer the “who, what, when, why” questions to maximize effectiveness. What content should be delivered to move prospects more quickly through their buying process? That’s the crucially important decision that no tool can make for you, leading us to our next trend.
3. Purpose-driven content marketing
Mobile-first will continue to drive consumer behavior in 2017 as more and more personal computing activity moves off the desktop or laptop.
Every time you hear “mobile,” you ought to think “local.”
Why? People searching for business information on smartphones are just a step or two away from a purchase decision, and most purchases of health and wellness services are…LOCAL.
These folks are this-close to joining a gym or weight loss program, signing up for health coaching, hiring a trainer, buying a class card or making an appointment to see a medical specialty.
Next, ask yourself: “What content can we provide to help our best-fit prospect find and choose our business with as little wasted time and anxiety as possible?”
THAT’s the content you want for your website, social and email presence.
Do you need commissioned-by-the-word blog posts about “Five Easy Ways To Get More Veggies?” Or “Top First-Time Marathon Tips & Tricks”?
No. That kind of generic, superficial content is suitable only for ad-supported content farms. It won’t do the job for real health clubs, fitness centers and wellness programs with real customers, members and clients. That’s why cross-posting memes, articles about how to do sit-ups, and other vanilla content on your Facebook business page attracts so little interest.
What’s worse, it’s tone deaf. It does nothing to move the needle on a purchase.
The best content for local health and wellness businesses happens at the intersection of:
- Your subject-matter expertise in health and wellness,
- Your client/customer/member-specific insights that are unique to your business focus, and
- The right message at the right time on the right channel
Make sure your content follows your customer and is aligned to each stage of their buying process; that it establishes your business as the best choice to bring about specific outcomes for specific types of customers, and you’re good to go.
4. From schedules to self-efficacy
2017’s emphasis on digital care will drive wellness portals and apps to continue their shift from a focus on raw data like heartrate, steps, and grams, decorated with pretty but meaningless graphics, to true data visualization. These instantly meaningful images immediately and intuitively convey not just data, but the implications of that data – for example, positive trends in biomarkers or a wellness index, like this example which uses different circle sizes to show relative performance:
You’ll also see much better integration into end-user tools of the concepts that underlie “want to” healthy behaviors vs old-school “shoulds” – the psychosocial elements we mentioned earlier that drive motivation and self-direction. While Pokemon-Go’s creators eventually annoyed users with slow servers, feature limitations and delayed enhancements, they got the behavior/reward link exactly right!
Lame wellness apps and portals – that offer nothing but gym hours, class schedules, generic fitness trackers and nutrition calculators, etc. – are simply irrelevant to most consumers.
Ditch apps like these, and instead push your web developer to use rich snippets for hours, location, events, reviews and other supported data types. These snippets appear directly in search results. They streamline the buying process by eliminating the typical need for numerous taps and clicks required to activate an app or navigate a traditional website for basic commonly-accessed info.
5. No-excuses marketing ROI
The guy who founded the department store that turned into Macy’s once said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
Here’s how I’d rewrite that sentence today:
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half….because my company doesn’t know how to use the extensive data that’s available to us!”
Once exclusively an art, online and offline marketing is quickly becoming a science, a trend that continues in 2017. Understanding your marketing ROI and how to improve it will be easier than ever in 2017 — from website, social and email initiatives to events and print marketing, too.
Make this the year that your team learns how to capture and analyze the marketing ROI data that’s freely available to you for each of your marketing channels.
The insights they’ll uncover will shape your future marketing decisions far more quickly and strategically than you ever dreamed possible.
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