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Why is our industry just average?

September 20, 2012
Categories: Member Acquisition

Written by: Hossein Noshirvani

The Pareto Principle, aka the 80-20 rule, is perhaps the single greatest example of a cliché in business. If you are not familiar with the 80-20 rule, let me explain. Better yet, let me summarize. Named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, (the most influential Italian since Chef Boyardee!) it basically says everything in business and even life is split 80-20. Whether it’s 80% of the land is owned by 20% of the people, or 80% of the peas come from 20% of the pods.

By the way, about 20% of the US population are gym members. The other 80% are sitting on a couch.

By the way, about 20% of members of a gym, use the gym on a regular basis. The other 80% are sitting on a couch giving you money.

So we, as an industry, are just average. We prove the theory. We are not the exception. We are not special. We are like peas.

So I spent some time over the last few months trying to figure out why (this was not a scientific study). It really makes no sense to me. We sell something that is inherently good and people know it. We provide great service. There is a club to match every price point. And with the recent growth we have experienced, it’s extremely convenient for most people to join. So why can’t we break the 20% mark!!??

Why can’t we become the exception? The answer is actually quite simple. Collectively, our marketing and our message is completely wrong. That’s right. What we sell does not match up with how we sell it, and how we talk about it.

We keep selling the big picture. “Join the gym and you will be healthy! Join the gym and you will lose 30 pounds! Join the gym…” You get the point. We are selling the results. That’s nuts. Loony. Crazy. We should be selling the immediacy of our service. Just like fast food companies and tobacco companies.

So here is what I propose:

1. Join the gym and start having fun today.

When you were a kid, you would play outside, you would run around. You would play capture the flag, or soccer, or do ballet. You would pretend you were the Captain of an Intergalactic Starship and you had to protect your planet (ok maybe that was just me!). You didn’t do this stuff because you were trying to lose weight. You did it because it was fun.

I’ve only really been working out for the last 4 years. Previous to that I used to tell people I hate going to the gym (even though I had literally never been) because running on a treadmill seems boring to me. It wasn’t until I joined AND started going that I realized working out was just adult play.

2. Join the gym and make new friends.
I have friend friends. I have work friends. I have Facebook friends. But now I have gym friends. Why not market that aspect of our business? Why not promote the social benefits? Different strokes. Different folks. Different reasons to join. We all know that to be true. But our collective industry marketing doesn’t seem to really address the entire market.

Think about it for a second. McDonald’s sells their burgers and markets to young people in love. They market to the time-strapped mom. They market to children. And each ad or communication touches a different part of the market. Why are we only interested in talking to people who want to live a healthy lifestyle? Seems to me like we are preaching to the choir. Yelling at the mirror. Herding the lemmings.

I’ve worked in this industry for nearly 10 years. I have seen massive amounts of change, improvements, and gadgets to help people get healthy. And yet we look around and guess what? For all our hard work, effort and ingenuity, we have not been able to significantly move the needle in terms of the population of people who are gym members. Maybe it’s time we talked to a larger audience. As for me, if it doesn’t work here on Earth, maybe I’ll take my message to the Intergalactic aliens as Captain of the Starship Moso!


Has your club tried marketing yourselves this way? We’d like to hear how you went.

The original article can be found here



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