The building blocks of a good Fitness Marketing Plan

091019_r18925_p233Fitness Centers are tightening their budgets and many of them are cutting their marketing budget. I understand that these times are tough and I know that many Health Clubs are even laying off employees, but it is important to understand that cutting your marketing budget can often cause more harm to the growth of your Health Club than you realize.
Studies have shown that Fitness Centers that continue to market during tough economic times often see growth during those times, where businesses that cut their marketing budget will often see a decrease in sales.
It’s not time to cut the marketing budget, it’s time to re-evaluate your marketing and analyze what is working and what’s not. Take time to explore new options of marketing that cost less, but can still deliver the results you are looking for.
We cannot ignore these financial difficulties that our country is facing, but today I want to help you understand the importance of marketing during the recession. Learn how to set a marketing budget that you can work with, and explore popular no cost to low-cost marketing tips that you can begin implementing today.
Every health club owner should develop a written guideline that sets forth the club’s marketing strategy. This document is used to judge the appropriateness of each action that the business takes. If a fitness center has to take an action that is off-strategy, it may indicate a temporary emergency action prompted by competition or other factors beyond normal management control. Or it may indicate the need to change or revise the club’s marketing strategy.

A good marketing strategy provides specific goals and can include:
o a description of the key target buyer/end user
o competitive market segments the fitness center will compete in
o distribution channels
o the unique positioning of the club and its products versus the competition
o the reasons why it is unique or compelling to buyers
o price strategy versus competition
o marketing spending strategy with advertising and promotion
o possible research and development
o market research expenditure strategies.

An overall fitness marketing strategy should also:
o define the fitness center
o position the club as a leader, challenger, follower, or niche player in the category
o define the brand or club personality or image that is desired in the minds of buyers and end users
o define life cycle influences, if applicable

Strategy statement tests. If the statements in your strategy are measurable and actionable and work to differentiate your company and products apart from the competition, congratulations! If they are not measurable and actionable and do not differentiate your company from the competition, revise them until they are.

A good working marketing strategy should not be changed every year. It should not be revised until company objectives (financial, marketing, and overall company goals) have been achieved or the competitive situation has changed significantly, e.g., a new competitor comes into the category or significantly different or new products emerge from existing competitors.
While a comprehensive marketing plan can be a vital component to any business plan, it’s often neglected by small business owners, online business owners and webmasters, and independent or creative professionals, for a few reasons:

o They simply don’t want to put the effort into writing a full marketing plan.
o They’re too short on time to write a comprehensive marketing plan.
o They don’t know how to write a marketing plan, and are flustered by the process.

A one page marketing plan can, in these cases, be a viable alternative to a full marketing plan, while still touching on important marketing strategy areas. This sample includes a variety of marketing areas that should be addressed.

A one page marketing plan can, in these cases, be a viable alternative to a full marketing plan, while still touching on important marketing strategy areas. This sample includes a variety of marketing areas that should be addressed. Use the following guide to help you fill out your one page marketing plan:

Marketing strategy checklist
o define what your company is
o identify the products or services that your company provides
o identify your target buyers/end users
o establish the marketing category (e.g., fast food purveyor, high-end audio equipment sales, etc.)
o determine whether your company will be a market category leader, follower, challenger, or niche player
o describe the unique characteristics of your products or services that distinguish them from the competition.
o define whether your pricing will be above, below, or at parity with your competitors and establish whether you will lead, follow, or ignore changes in competitors’ pricing
o identify the distribution channels through which your products/services will be made available to the target market/end users
o describe how advertising and promotions will convey the unique characteristics of your products or services
o describe any research and development activities or market research plans that are unique to your business
o describe the image or personality of your company and its products or services

Target Market - Briefly mention your target market for your company, website, product, etc., including any important demographics.
o Industry Trends - Are there any industry trends that would affect your marketing strategy (such as major growth or decline in your specific industry within certain markets)?
o Goal(s) – What is the goal of your marketing efforts? What do you want to accomplish? Make your goals specific and measureable.
o Strategies - In a general sense, how do you plan to reach your goals? These shouldn’t be specific tactics (like send a weekly newsletter), but should be broad in nature (such as increasing repeat visitor traffic, if your goal were to grow to 100,000 page views per day while marketing your website).
o Yearly Marketing Budget – Simply include your predetermined marketing budget, so you know what you have to work with when planning out your marketing tactics.
o Marketing Mix – Here’s where you’ll tackle the 4 Ps of Marketing.
o Product (or service) – Simply mention what your product / service is. What is it that you’re marketing? A tool? A professional service? Information?
o Price – How will the pricing model of your products/services factor into your marketing? Will you sell with a low price on a value principle? A high price to target a luxury market?
o Placement (also referred to as distribution) – Placement means where you will physically or figuratively “place” your products or services, to make them visible to your target market. Will you sell through special in-store displays? What kind of stores? Will you sell through a catalog? Your own website? Online through affiliates? etc.
o Promotion – Give a very general overview of how you intend to promote your products or services. How will you build your brand?
o Top 3 Competitors – Who are the top three competitors that you need to position yourself against? For example, if you’re an online book seller focusing on a niche of selling mysteries, Amazon.com won’t be one of your top three competitors. You’ll need to position yourself against other online booksellers in your specific niche before trying to go after the “big guys”. Keep things as realistic as possible. Who’s competing against you in the most direct sense?
o Your Strengths – What are your particular strengths which might help you position yourself against your competitors?
o Your Weaknesses – What are your weaknesses, or potential barriers to positioning yourself against your competitors? (Everyone has them.) For example, are you new to the industry? Do you have a smaller product line? etc.

Monthly Tactics – Using the rest of your one page marketing plan as a guide, determine where your chosen marketing tactics should fit into your yearly plan. For example, using the book-selling scenario again, if there were a specific week or month focused nationally or internationally on reading or your specific niche, you might want to focus certain marketing efforts around that time (like a sale, having online chat sessions set up with select authors, etc.).

So I hope this article helps you understand the importance of developing a marketing strategy for 2010.  If you would like your free copy of the one page business plan mentioned in this article, please send your request to info@fitness360online.com.  Please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 888-434-8360 for any other questions you may have.  I hope you have a great new year.  God bless!

Joshua Fleming

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Joshua Fleming - Founder & CEO

Founder & CEO at Fitness360 Marketing
I'm a Dad, Marine & Serial Entrepreneur. I also have 20+ years of extensive experience as Marketing Professional, Gym Owner, Manager, Personal Trainer, Sales Coach, and Onsite Closer.
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