Here is the third in a series of roundtables we recorded from our recent virtual conference Glofox Connect.
David Steel, Chief Viral Officer of Sneeze.It, Erik Russell, Author of The Art of Selling Memberships, Celia Lopez, CEO of Placemade and Sam Holden, Founder and Owner of Pole Rocks Pole Studios in Surrey UK, know how to get leads in the door and how to convert them. Learn from them how you can kick start growth right way
Kevin: How’s it going everyone, and welcome to the Fitness Founders Podcast. I’m Kevin Mannion, VP Marketing here at Glofox. If you missed our recent virtual conference Glofox Connect we’re replaying some of the best discussions with industry experts here in the podcast.
In this episode, called These Industry Experts Tell You How to Kickstart Your Sales and Marketing Efforts, David Steel, Celia Lopez, Erik Charles Russell, and Sam Holden debate the best way to get leads in the door and convert them now that your business has reopened. Let’s have a listen.
Kevin: I am delighted to welcome my panel for my next session which is called Remember Growth? These Industry Experts Tell You How to Kickstart Your Sales and Marketing Efforts. I’ve got Celia Lopez, David Steel, Erik Charles Russell, and Sam Holden, so I can see Celia and David and fingers crossed. We are looking forward to this. I spoke to David and Erik myself.
Hi guys! Welcome to the panel and maybe let’s start by everyone saying hello and tell us a little bit about yourselves. Let’s start with Celia.
Celia: Hey everyone! My name is Celia Lopez and I’m the Founder of Placemade. Placemade is Canada’s first health and fitness inspired co-working space. We are located in Toronto, Canada. Yeah, I’m super excited to be here.
Kevin: Nice to meet you, Celia.
Celia: Nice to meet you.
Kevin: David, do you want to tell us and say hello.
David: Sure. My name is David Steel. I’m Chief Viral Officer of Sneeze.It. Probably not the best title I have during COVID-19. We are an agency that markets specifically for the fitness industry. We do about 20% of fitness industry in the U.S plus a lot of different clubs throughout the world. With two offices here, one in the U.S., and one in the Middle East. I’m happy to be here.
Kevin: Nice to meet you. Hi, Sam.
Sam: Hi! My name is Sam. I’m the owner of My Body Rocks which is Surrey based pole and aerial studio, so a little bit different. Yeah, just sort of excited to be here.
Kevin: Cool. Looking forward to talking to you about this stuff. Hello, Erik. Good to see you again.
Erik: Hey, good to see you too. I’m the guy with three first names and one book. I’ve been in memberships sales for almost 30 years, started when I was a youngster. It’s been a focused of mine ever since. I’ve nerded out, obsessed over it, and thought about it way too much. But that’s my specialty is – the sales process regarding membership sales.
Kevin: Excellent. We are going to give away a copy of your book for a good question ‘The Art of Selling Memberships’. I think you’ve also given us 4 coaching sessions with your sales team. So that’s 5 prices we have to give out for some good questions so I encourage everyone to keep the questions coming in, those coaching sessions especially. It’s going to be really well worth it.
Some context really what we have here today is a mix of coaches and industry experts and also people running their own businesses. It will be great to get both sides of that, but maybe I’ll start with you, David. You are the expert in all things marketing for gyms, so just tell me a little bit around how marketing for gyms has changed since COVID-19?
David: First off, when the gym is about to open because that’s like the biggest turning point. In the U.S. it is kind of a rolling situations where some are opening and some are closing. We really want to get started out week to two weeks before the club actually opens, the first messaging is cleanliness and safety, which is ultra-important to members coming in. And you are going to see a spike probably in the very beginning when you open your doors to new members coming into the club. We are seeing more so in the line of people that are buying month to month memberships instead long term. Because we kind of categorized people in three different groups, the first is we are ready to go which is 1/3 of the audience. They are ready to jump in the gym and start working out. There is that 1/3 that wants month to month, that is a wait and see approach. They want to see and check it out, check out the club. We find that free passes and just not safe in this environment so how do people come in with an offer that’s non committed is working well. And we know a third is never going to leave their house.
With that said is right after you open the message could start turning from ultra-cleaning and safety, along the lines of what to expect when coming into the club and then ultimately pushing the value proposition by themselves.
Kevin: Okay, that makes sense. How have the different channels changed and what at a very basic level should people be investing in? Is it digital marketing now, or is it local marketing, or how are things changing now? What you should be focused on?
David: In the very beginning digital is the quickest to turn on. And what you’re going to find is if you are first to market in your area, the cost per customer acquisition is going to be lower than you have ever seen before. That’s going to last about a week to two weeks until the market opens up and then it kind of skyrockets. New players are coming in. People are spending more money, and then it kind of dives down again as people are not having a return on their investment as significantly as they thought before. We are kind of seeing like a roller coaster effect. We are finding direct mails also starting to work as well, and that’s more of long term play. So what you’re doing is you’re seeding kind of the digital side of it and then maybe overlaying that with some type of direct mail offer as well.
Lastly, retargeting is ultra-important to knowing where people come into your site and what they are doing. We are seeing join onlines to be going up as significantly. We have clubs that pre COVID-19 were doing about 4-10% joining onlines jump up to about 40% joining onlines. Don’t think because your gym is closed you can’t sell memberships because there is a way to sell them particularly when the gym is closed.
Kevin: Particularly when the gym is closed. Okay. While we are talking marketing, has the message changed? Outside of ‘it is safe to come in here’, has the value proposition changed for people that are looking for a gym membership?
David: A lot of gyms that feel that they are the only ones opened in the marketplace are charging full rate. They are not discounting at all. Other big boxes who have to fill their club. At that low price point they have to fill the clubs, they are discounting, because they are at 25% capacity and they want to make sure they maximize that 25% capacity. You just have to find your way in that niche. I don’t recommend discounting right away off the bat. People are willing to pay more. They don’t want to step into the big boxes because it is scary. Those big spaces become very scary to people especially since them closing their house, and then Zoom in one room in their house, so they like a lot more closed space sort of feeling a lot more comfortable. And you want to go to those different points that people are looking for. Talking about classes that exist, people want to be face to face. You want to tell that community, supporting local, getting out of the house and kind of enjoying the place that you go to. You want to actually shoot videos and be very present with cleaning everywhere you are in the club as well, so when they do walk in that it is everywhere.
Signage is also really super important. Not to promote ourselves anyway, but if you go to our website there is actually a free signage package for COVID. You could just download all different, screens or print materials and you can use that all for free for your clubs. There is no registration or anything. It is just a nice way to kind of see what other people are doing for signage and it is just very helpful to people.
Kevin: Okay. That’s very useful. Okay. Erik, we had many conversations around sales and selling memberships. I’m always inspired by the way you think about this stuff. Maybe tell me a little bit around even since we spoke last 8 weeks ago how businesses are doing and how they are approaching their sales right now.
Erik: Sure. In terms of how they are doing, here in the U.S. it is a little crazy because there are certain states that are just completely closed like the state where my gym is located – New York. We haven’t been open for going on five months. North Carolina is the same. Arizona is the same. They have opened and closed. California have opened and closed. When I’m dealing with clients in those states, yeah, that’s a little bit of a challenge because they are literally taking away that aspect of their business. And then there are some that are open a certain capacity. There’s all different levels going on.
The thing is though no matter what level is going on in terms of what’s going on in the marketplace, we know our prospects have certain things that are holding them back from moving forward. This is what sales is about. It is about understanding what those things are and helping them get passed them. So it doesn’t change whether they are afraid of being a beginner or whether they are afraid of showing up and getting COVID. Those are fears that they have that we have to address. And the best way to do it is to do it before they bring it up. So if you are addressing the fact that they are a beginner before they bring it up, now you come across like an expert and not someone who is being defensive about a program or about this COVID thing going on. You get ahead of it. And that’s ultimately what my sales process in a nutshell us getting ahead of the obstacles and the apprehensions that our prospects have.
Like I said earlier, I have been doing this for a long time so I know our prospects, our fitness industry prospects, our membership prospects very, very well. I couldn’t tell you about car sales prospects too much. I don’t know much about them. But I do know our prospects. They are afraid of not fitting in. They are afraid of being a beginner. David mentioned it they are afraid of coming in in this big, huge facility. They are out of place. They don’t fit in. So you have to help them feel comfortable and allay those fears to move them forward. That hasn’t change. It will never change. Fears might change a little bit. We’ve got a new one we are dealing with COVID. Yeah, that is change. You’ve got to address it. Get ahead of it. Don’t let them ask you about it because then you are defensive. You appear to be defensive which is never a good sign with a prospect.
Kevin: Got it. And not to over simplify, I think what you are saying is that when you are selling a, this is a bit blanche but maybe when you are selling a gym membership there is always a list of reasons or excuses why somebody isn’t going to buy it off on you on the spot. COVID is just another one for the list or a different way of articulating the same fears.
Erik: COVID isn’t the reason why they won’t buy. COVID is the reason why they won’t try. If you got them there and you had a conversation, COVID is not the reason that they are not buying from you. There is something else. Typically, it is either they don’t believe they are going to get the results from your program or they don’t believe they are going to follow through with it. So it is either a reason on your side or a reason on their side, right? And they will give you all kinds of blanket excuses, “I got to check my schedule.” You got to check your schedule at 2020? First of all, if you are still busy that you got to check your schedule it is probably in this thing called the iPhone, right? And if you are not busy and you don’t know, you don’t need to check your schedule. It is the craziest objection and excuse we hear, but we hear it. And it is not the real reason why they are objecting. They don’t want to really tell you they are afraid. Nobody is afraid of anything. Alright. They are all ready to rock. They use it as a screen for the real objection. And if you are not handling that stuff ahead of time it is going to be very difficult to get that and you’ll come across as a pushy salesperson as opposed to somebody who is actually asking and caring about what their issues are.
Kevin: Okay. That’s a really good insight. We’ll move on a little bit. We’ll turn to you, Sam, because you are sitting in the other seat. You are doing the selling and you are in the gym. And I know you are in the UK so you are nearly open. Maybe just tell us about what challenges you are facing in kickstarting your sales and marketing.
Sam: Okay. We are actually just about to open this weekend. We got given the go ahead in like 5 days ago to be able to open. The biggest challenge is going to be the numbers because obviously we have to drop to about 30% capacity. My situation is I’m a small boutique studio. We have aerial equipment so we have to share. We usually have to share like two on each piece of equipment whereas for a class we’ll now have to do individuals on each piece of equipment. And the instructor then also takes their equipment as well. You automatically before you even get in a room, reduced by at least 30-40%. That’s going to be the biggest challenge is how to resolve that.
What we are trying to do is do the online as well as the classes. But also going to try and do online at the same time as in the studio. So you can take that class that’s running in the studio at the same time as at home. The instructor in the studio will be teaching on a piece of equipment where a camera will be pointing to… We need to make sure that it is clear for not just the people in the room who are having a face to face class but those online who are taking the class as well. So then we’ve got a mix of students to be able to increase the capacity of that class.
Kevin: Okay, so you’ve got it. You are limited in size but you have the chance to essentially run more people at the same time.
Sam: Yeah. That’s what we’re going to try to do at the moment. We are doing tests.
Kevin: Yeah, yeah. It’s definitely… it is all very new. And tell me, when you think about getting new customers and generating leads, what have you done or what sort of steps have you taken to start that going again?
Sam: We’re looking obviously the marketing for it because now we’re online. We are able to reach people all over the world. I’ve got people that join me from Germany in my classes, and then I’ve got people who are on the other side of the country. We are trying now to focus on who else we can market not just locally but globally as such. And in the process at the moment we are working on our website to make it more suitable for online because previously it is all just been class in the studio. Now we’ve got to adapt that to make sure that it reads very easily for those who are online and want to stay online.
Currently, what we’ve been doing is focusing on the Instagram. I’ve been really focusing on making it a bit more personable rather than just advert after advert after advert because people don’t really want to see swamps of adverts. They would just look at the profile click passed it. Because Instagram is a place for inspiration, so that’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve been doing like 8 steps where I choose a theme for the week and in that them I might look at what classes I’ve got on. If I’ve got stretch classes, I’ll took out flexibility. The instructors that are involved, if those instructors have a good online presence I can repost what they are doing or I can find some really top tips. And then, it’s the amount of posts that I’m doing I’ll try and get more visibility. I mean, 2 to 3 a week is plenty. But the more you post the more visible you are, so we are really trying to focus on. Because I’ve already got that in studio presence because before lockdown we are almost at full capacity, and so we were expanding. It’s now trying to bring back the students from before lockdown. I don’t think we’ll personally struggle with but… because we’ll have to run more classes and we’ll have to work out this online situation doing things at the same time.
But going back to the Instagram, I’m really focusing on what we’re posting, photos and videos. Making sure that they are good quality as possible, nothing in the background, just clean shots ideally which is like one person, or nice videos, and pictures. For online, it’s really good for them to see the instructors teaching from their homes as well because then they get a more feel for it. Also, any of the videos that you post they need to be cut properly so no going into the shots and setting up and doing things like that. You need to have it off the content. Knock the messy bits beforehand when you’re setting up. Yeah, it’s the content creation that we are looking at. I think I touched it earlier where I said make the most of your instructors who have this good online presence. Try and use their engagement as well. It is really good to try and get this whole community aspect that it’s not just the studio. You’ve got a whole team behind you and supporting you.
Yeah, and if you are going to do adverts do it sparingly. So a max at the moment if you are really focused on adverts and you have something that you really want to tell people you got but I would generally save that for either the stories or your websites so you would have an engagement in Instagram to then be able to get them to click on your links to go unto your website. Maximum for every one… you want like one post for every three which is an advertisement. As long as you’re engaging with them they are going to be interested so they want to click on the website.
Kevin: Okay. So, Celia, maybe tell us a little bit for your business where things are at and how sales and marketing has been so far?
Celia: Yeah. For us we’re a little bit of a different model because we don’t cater to necessarily customers, like, our customers are independent personal trainers and practitioners. Before COVID happened we were actually getting ready to launch and so we are really ramping up our kind of like pre-sale offers and getting people to come and sign up through that as we prepare for opening. But as a result of COVID, we obviously had to push back. And our sales and marketing has changed a little bit obviously because… We are actually little bit in a better position because there are a lot of I’d feel like personal trainers who now are really want to start their own businesses so they are really looking for a space to call home. And so they are really coming to us and telling us what they need and what they want. We’ve had to kind of change our sales and marketing and even our membership options to cater to them in terms of what makes sense right now obviously because their customers. Some of them might have lost clients, some of them might have, so we’ve had to adjust our pricing.
So like David said, our big sales and marketing push right now is making sure that we are saying that we are like a private studio space. It is like clean space. In order for you to come in it is by appointment only. And how you access this space is through a trainer. We have like pods that we’ve set up in the studio to make sure that there’s that 2m distance to make sure everybody is safe and healthy or keeping the distance.
Kevin: Has there been ways that I suppose COVID has benefited you to a certain degree that there’s certain new offerings you can come up with to deal with the challenges that people have?
Celia: Oh yeah, for sure. A big thing that we didn’t think about was actually transitioning to studio and offering as a film and production studio. So anybody that wants to do virtual one-on-one, they can come in here and use the space to conduct their training session but to also use their space for creating their digital media content that they post on social media. COVID didn’t really teach us that. Like if it wasn’t for COVID I would have not known to offer that. That’s something that we were getting request from. And so now as a result of that our studio is now also offering that as an option.
Kevin: Got it. I suppose some people can get away authentically with okay produced content but there must be a lot of people screaming for decent content.
Celia: Oh yeah. A lot of our trainers they want to provide a professional look so they don’t want to do it from their living rooms or their kitchen. They actually want to conduct it from a professional space where it is like good lighting, and actual equipment that they can show, and clean video, right? That’s one big piece of feedback that we’ve been getting and it’s really worked in our favor.
Kevin: Cool. And what’s your stance for given what you do? What is your stance for the numbers of new fit businesses being launched during this period?
Celia: Oh my gosh, stance. I think a lot of the trainers were working at previous studios. Because they lost their income they try to do their own thing either online on their own or they’ve transitioned into outdoor training. For us here in Toronto, we are allowed to train outside. I think because they’ve been picking up that momentum for by themselves on their own they are starting to feel confident and the fact that maybe this is something that I can potentially do on my own long term, right? And so we are getting a lot of trainers who are just making that transition and are actually looking for space for them to conduct their business and co-home.
Kevin: Awesome. Okay, so one topic I think is very interesting from a sales and marketing perspective is pricing. And I might turn to you, David, around what you see changing in the different, like, at a highest level do people have more money now because they are going less places and spending less? Or they have less money because their incomes are down? How do you adjust your pricing model?
David: That’s a phenomenal question. I’m going to answer this way is you really need a pricing ladder. It’s an older concept that’s been used for quite a bit which is you have an entry point that can get you in the door and then you can build from that entry point. I think what happens a lot of time is… I saw some questions that were coming about which is how do you discount without devaluing the brand and all these other things. And that’s very common we hear is like I’m a better gym than the big box and I don’t want to devalue my brand, but meanwhile, people are joining that other gym for that lower price.
In the U.S., we are seeing that there is unemployment. People are nervous especially now they are debating whether the benefits are going to come up and stuff like that. You want to target your marketing to be in line with what’s happening politically at the very same time. So once the [unclear – 24:25] you dump a lot of money in. As it gets towards the end you start slowing down. That’s the first thing. So a low price entry point is important but you don’t want to devalue the brand by giving everything at that low price, so very minimal.
The second thing is that right now a lot of video content is all free. Nobody is charging for the video content. I think once that changes the market is going to change significantly and so you really want to have an arsenal of content ready to go for that and maybe include that in part of your offering as a virtual gym offering. And I guess lastly is, one of the things that we talk about all the time is for years is clubs are always talking about getting outside of their four walls. I think they have no choice now obviously but they are starting to think that way. But I think there is also limiting factors. They are not really… The clubs that are leveraging their brand are doing a really good job, and the ones that are just throwing content out there just to keep their members happy until they get to be opened. I think they are going to end up being big losers in the long run.
Kevin: There is obviously some pitfalls there. Let’s dig a bit deeper, what should you be doing and what should we doing and even at a very basic level should you have the free classes on Instagram, should you not? What do you think is the playbook?
David: I do think you need those free classes, but you need to keep them sparingly. It is not all free. It is just maybe a free class or a donation class a lot of people are doing at certain times in a day, right. It is one in the morning maybe and one in the evening. And then if you have classes throughout the day, you might charge for some of those classes. A hybrid model is definitely needed. I think that people are willing to pay for a good content and they are willing to support local businesses. All the studios are on this call that are locally owned franchises should really promote the fact that they are local and they are part of the community because that’s a big selling point. People want to support local these days. I think that that’s an advantage they have over some other brands.
As far as what you should go to market with. You wanted them to discover pricing, so you want them to… You don’t want to come out and say this is the price. You want to have value first, have them come to your website, and then a name capture or retargeting of some sort to bring them back over and over again until they join. I don’t know if Erik remembers this kind of verbiage… “Either buy or die.” Either come back and you buy now or die and come back at other time and buy that. You really want to promote that idea that people need to… You have the ability to bring them back over and over and over again until they buy, and that’s what you really want to do.
Kevin: Got it. Okay. Now maybe move on to Erik, move back to Erik then, I’m sure Erik there is a lot of people on the call here who are starting to get their sales going but a little intimidated because they see that customers have doubts and worries. We’ve been to it at a high level but maybe talk to me about in a bit more detail the mindset people should be in as they are starting to try and get a few class passes here and there and starting to build like high value memberships.
Erik: First thing is people are buying. Don’t let the fact that there is a population of people who aren’t buying hold you back from understanding that people are buying. And you know who is buying? The ones who are raising their hand and saying, “I want to be a member. I’m interested in your offer.” They are ready to buy or they are not raising their hands. They are not calling you to have a conversation with an old friend just going selling Louis Vuitton on sale or something. They are for membership, man. Understand that they are ready to buy. Don’t let this idea that, well, people are losing jobs, this is going on or the economy is doing this, hold you back from staying focus on what you offer and what you can for that prospect. Because that prospect wants a solution and when you provide it they will pay you for it. Period.
My first gym I opened at 2005. In the U.S. if you know anything about that… I’ve been in the business longer. But my own personal gym that I opened, 2005. Okay. The start of a recession. The economy is started taken a hit. We saw a little pick up, then 2008 came, boom, bang, and I opened two more in that time. I don’t focus on the people who can’t buy. You shouldn’t either. You should understand that the ones who are raising their hand, the ones who are saying, “Hey, I’m interested”, whatever it might be, you free session, your free week, whatever offer it is. They know it is not free forever. They know at some point they are going to have to buy and they are still raising their hands saying that I want to do that. So you just got to continue to move them forward. It is mindset and understanding that. Mindset is sales too. I mean it is everything like how you look at it. Are you pushy or are you helpful? If you are helpful in our business you are going to win more sales.
Kevin: I just want to put it back to you, Sam. You’ve got a successful business there. Obviously we are at hard times now but where did you learn how to market and sell, and how was it having those first sales conversations for you when you started getting going?
Sam: Well, I actually did my degree in graphic design and then actually I saw my degree was completely not what I’m doing now. So, yeah, I did my degree in graphics design and I actually worked in quite a lot of marketing places before doing Pole full time. I actually had a lot of people not to help me but to inspire me. As long as I found the design looked good. I have this natural sort of idea of where I wanted to go with my brand. I think that’s really important is having that brand image so it can be recognized definitely.
Kevin: Okay, that’s a really good tip. We are almost out of time here but I’m seeing some questions coming in so I want to address them as well. One is for David. There has been a couple of questions about it and it’s also been in the back of my mind. As people are starting to build more online content now they can maybe be tempted go farther out of their local area and build more of an online brand. I suppose, David, I’d like to know. Is that possible for bricks and mortar business or is that a distraction?
David: It is absolutely possible but extremely difficult. We get what we call a halo effect. We think we get very successful in one market and that we had a couple of people here and there coming from other areas, and we figure like, “Oh, everybody wants my content.” But truth be told is unless you are truly unique or you have a great process which I’m sure a lot of people do. You open up the market and you start competing with everybody.
The first place to start I think, and I see this a lot with our customers is start putting translation on your websites like do it in multiple languages first and see what you attract in those markets locally with those other languages. And then, start building out into those countries that speak those languages. So be it Spanish, obviously there is Mexico. If you are in Canada, be it French and English and maybe you go over to France. You start there first. But definitely concentric circles don’t say to yourself, “I’m going to build this. I’m going to send this everywhere.” It is just too costly, and there is not enough traction for you to just plop into a market just like you would just put a brick and mortar in some place and say, “Hey, I’m here. Ready to go.” It takes a lot more than just that.
Kevin: Now, way over time so I just want to finish with Celia. Obviously getting your business off the ground, how are you finding it marketing and selling to actual fitness professionals?
Celia: It is not too bad right now. Like I have mentioned before we had to change our membership options to make it fit to what they can like how they can come and train right now. Ideally we had monthly memberships packages for these trainers to come and access the space but given the times right now we’ve had to adjust it a little bit in terms of selling credits. That seems to be a better fit for now. And I like that we have the ability to transition with the market and just be able to see what works. So far it’s been so good.
Kevin: What are you seeing about, like, you are seeing lots of new businesses, what are you seeing about ones that are more exciting and more successful than others? What it is about them that you are seeing?
Celia: They are just super excited about transitioning into starting their own business, right, and taking this opportunity to move away from whatever they were doing before and build the company or brand that they want to do right now and train the way that makes sense for them and their customer.
Kevin: Yeah. I know probably most people on the line here are probably trying to hold on to their trainers and their staff. But for somebody who is thinking about starting their own business and getting into all the stuff we’ve learned about today. What advice would you have for them?
Celia: Oh my gosh. Just take the leap. I mean, I was once there. My background as a personal trainer which is how I came up with the concept of Placemade. You know I’ve been through a lot of struggles and in terms of understanding how to create a successful business model. But, ask questions, talk it. People like Erik and David, take their courses. Just keep learning and just keep trying. If it something that you are truly passionate about, things will work out the way that they’ll work out in your favor.
Kevin: Got it. Okay. Well, I think we’ll finish there because I think those are inspirational words for us to take a break on. I want to say a massive thank you to Sam, Celia, Erik, and David consider all they’re talking. But we’ll let you guys go for now.
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