Your health and wellness business, fitness center, or health club has seen many holiday seasons come and go, and with them, opportunities to capitalize on the season of fall, family and friends, gift-giving, and hopeful resolutions for the year to come. Why do some holiday marketing strategies just not work, and more specifically, what core principles should be in all of your seasonal marketing efforts?
Way before people buy holiday gift memberships or enroll in a “New Year, New Me!” program, they’re thinking about it. But it’s early in the process and their mental model for making a purchase is ill-defined.
If you wait until Christmas eve to offer discounts and freebies to potential customers, there’s a very good chance you’ve lost them for the year. They’ve already bought what they’re going to buy, and whatever you’re promoting now is probably not going to be their Big Gift For That Special Someone.
You need to engage prospective customers as soon as the holidays are a fleeting thought, tap that early thought process, and help make it real.
That doesn’t mean you should starting pushing Christmas specials in your email newsletter on October 1st. But it does mean spending time thinking about the buying process and how you can move it along bit by bit. Write a blog post about winter exercise myths that gets prospects clicking on your site, start doing open houses and “sampler” classes (public locations work nicely for these, but check first on usage fees and permits).
If nothing else, get out and talk to members and prospective members one-on-one, to start getting an idea of what they want and where they are in the process.
2. Create a sense of urgency
The nice thing about the holidays is that they approach with the relentless certainty of a runaway train. Take advantage of this! Messages like “only six days left until prices go up on our January kickboxing classes” nudge the process along by timeboxing the decision process for prospective members who are on the fence.
If you can’t do that–let’s say you’ve deliberately simplified your pricing model or are unwilling to offer promotions and discounts–create urgency around some holiday event. For instance, in the Southern US, a lot of marathons are held in the winter, and offering a program or plan that’s only good until the event has passed creates its own sense of urgency.
But if you do decide to offer promotional holiday pricing, remember that the deal has to go away at some point. Special offers and sales that are up for three months aren’t offers; they’re your regular winter pricing.
2. Remove obstacles to buying
By the time December comes, the only questions left should be about preferences. Do you want the custom training experience, or the monthly package that includes spin classes and outdoor rides with your tri club on the weekend? Do you want the Master’s swim class at 5 AM or the one at 7 AM?
Typically, obstacles to buying have to do with lingering doubt about an impending purchase or enrollment. What if I get injured during training season? What if I get the flu? (as I write this, I am pretty sure I have it…). Let prospective members know you’ve thought about these things, your program is flexible, and you’ve got things covered. If you actually CAN’T deliver the program to your prospective member on his terms, say so… but give them another option that lets them move forward with a purchase in the near future.
3. Tie your services to the season
It doesn’t need to be anything more sophisticated than tapping the general mood in the air — whether that’s an outdoor cycling group ride to check out the turning leaves, a “Healthy, Hearty Thanksgiving” promotion, or something that taps into the need to relieve stress from too much family in one place. The more you can make your programs or services relevant, the greater the sense in prospective customers’ minds that your program won’t be around for ever–at least not in THIS form, and that they should take action.
4. Reward taking action NOW
Ideally, there should be something members get for signing up now as opposed to a month from now. It doesn’t have to be expensive… if you’ve got vintage mugs or hoodies with your club’s logo, promotional inventory from vendors, supplements that are still good but getting close their expiration date, or something else you find difficult to unload, use it as a reward for action. It takes surprisingly little in the way of swag to close such a deal.
5. Create “wish lists”
Your fitness club knows better than anyone (at least it should) what your customers want. But some things are not the kind that you buy year round. Wish lists are a great way to suggest to a potential buyer what the gift recipient might want. The chances are good that if your list is large enough, one of the items on the list is just perfect for the holidays.
6. Take advantage of the gift-giving mood
Around the holidays, gift purchasers can get “deal fever.” If they’ve decided to buy something, they are more inclined at this time of year than any other to “buy the house.”
Bundled pricing can be a nice way of including something the buyer wants but can’t afford individually, while gently raising the revenue from program enrollments or product sales. The guy who just bought a wetsuit for his first open water triathlon surely needs goggles, a cap, and Body Glide. Maybe that slightly-higher-priced suit offers some competitive advantage that says, about the buyer, “I am someone who listens to your needs and wants the best for you. It’s expensive, but you’re worth it and moreover, I got a great deal.”
7. Extend the deal
If Bob’s been a good customer and has taken advantage of your seasonal promotion, suggest that if after the holidays are over and there was something he forgot to get, you’ll honor your holiday pricing within 30 days of the purchase. It doesn’t cost that much, it rewards buying behavior, and it leaves the new customer or member feeling like they caught the one that got away.
8. Address potential buyer’s remorse
Let’s say Jeff is thinking about signing up for your Krav Maga class, but he’s distracted by the fact that his father’s had a series of falls and is being moved to an assisted living facility. It’s possible his head isn’t in the game, and though he really WANTS to sign up for the class, he doesn’t want to be out $400 and flying to Michigan the day the class starts. If your classes are on a regular rotation, let Jeff know that the deal is good for any of the classes in the next 6 months. That way he can buy now and still be certain of taking the class later.
For more of our ideas on holiday marketing for fitness clubs, click here.