Most people have some sort of mobile device connected to an SMS text-messaging network these days. That creates an opportunity for the enterprising fitness center owner to use text messages as another medium in their marketing strategy, with which to engage with gym members. The question is how does that fit into your marketing and how do you get the most out of it?
As I’ve stated before, email marketing is a really powerful tool to increase your fitness center’s profitability. Health and fitness are such an important marketing demographic that, as an owner, it’s the competitive edge on the guys with the gym down the street that aren’t paying quite as close attention. And it works too! Clients that respond to email campaigns have high retention rates and are very receptive to further offers by email.
You can use text message marketing to complement and enhance your email marketing. Your messages are sent directly to the member’s phone as alerts. Texts have a different tone from emails; they are more personal and intimate. This can be great if you use them effectively. Equally, it can be a major annoyance if it’s done clumsily or more often than recipients feel is warranted. So it works really well in conjunction with email campaigns or separately, but it’s not going to replace email marketing any more than cable television is going to replace the Internet.
Your texts to members are more likely to get read than emails. This is the core reason that texting can be either good or bad. When you receive a direct message it has a certain sense of urgency about it. You feel compelled to look at it immediately. Both gratification and disappointment are amplified.
So, assuming that they are okay with getting texts from you in the first place, and you do it well, texts can be employed to do some really useful things. For example renewal and training session reminders, special offer coupons, and announcements. You could even use them to fill classes during quiet times that would otherwise have low attendance. Use them as part of the marketing strategy for your gym, to communicate in a way that creates revenue but try to be discreet about it.
There are some tasks that are better suited to email marketing. Routine information items, like monthly newsletters, and announcements of new blog posts are better suited to that format than to texting. The urgency is less, but members can read them when it’s convenient for them. Text messages have to be much more directly connected to a member’s goals and desires. I can’t stress enough the importance of making that distinction. When you send emails they are assumed to be to the world at large. Text messages, on the other hand, are up close and personal.
The question about text message marketing is: what counts as "doing it well"? First, members have to agree to it. The information they receive has to be relevant to their membership and fitness goals. Someone who spends all of their gym time power-lifting may not be pleased to hear that there are spaces in the next yoga class.
On the other hand they just might be interested, you should be careful to make as few assumptions as possible. Sending an email to solicit text message opt-in notification for availability of specific resources is a great way to make a combined use of email and text messaging. After all, the more marketing information that you can feed into your database the better you will be able to utilize it.
The best way to manage texting to members is to work with them from the start to make it clear as to what you will and will not do by text. And they should always feel that they have some control over the medium, by being able to freely opt-in and opt-out when they choose. The sort of messages to send are those where clients will feel grateful of being asked and that you’ve done them a favor by making sure that they aren’t missing out.
The hectic pace of life for active people means lots of good intentions and far too many distractions. It is so easy to miss classes or forget renewals just because you were focused on something else. Members will appreciate feeling like they have been given opportunities to participate as long as they also feel like they have some power over what they receive. So a gentle approach that is respectful and friendly is the best way to engage with them in this medium.
Texting is a way to reach out to your customers and keep them happy and informed. Use text messages judiciously to give them the opportunity to participate in the activities they most value, without overwhelming or annoying them. This makes for more efficient and effective use of your resources. It’s not going to completely replace other methods of marketing such as email. However, when it’s integrated into your marketing strategy it will help you and your customers get the most out of your gym. That means a leaner, fitter experience for your membership and a fatter bottom line for you.