Community first, e-mail marketing later: Why word-of-mouth is the starting point for building a brand
A high five.
A welcoming community.
It’s not about your Instagram ads, your e-mail marketing, or even the flyers you hand out. When you’re in the fitness business, those efforts might bring people in the door, but what keeps them coming back is the community.
To help marketers better understand the strategies and technologies used by Canadian athletic brands, Globe Content Studio hosted a panel of experts on Jan. 9, 2019, at our monthly MarTech Mornings series in Toronto.
The panel included:
Bryan Smith, area manager at Running Room
Gregg Pearce, studio owner at F45
Caleigh Rykiss, founder and CEO of BOLO
Aletta Brandle, the content studio’s social media strategist, moderated the panel. What follows are her top three takeaways.
What channels have been the most successful for reaching new customers?
– All three panelists cited word of mouth as one of the most effective strategies for bringing in new customers. It’s a difficult tactic to implement and directly monitor, but all the panelists stated that if you’re doing something well your members are likely to talk about it.
– Social media still plays a big role for all three brands. It offers a way for fitness companies to connect directly with customers (new and returning) and keep them updated on the product offerings.
– Pearce brought up the success he experienced with digital marketing. When he first started his local Toronto studio, he bombarded the surrounding neighbourhood with digital ads (Facebook, Instagram), spending about $20,000. After opening, he wanted to keep the momentum going and stay top of mind, so he implemented an “always on social-media strategy,” spending around $2,000 a month on ads alone.
What strategies are effective for long-term customer retention? How do you keep people coming back after the one-week trial?
– Rykiss discussed how she set out to create more than a fitness studio. BOLO is a community and a lifestyle. With a variety of fitness programs as well as an onsite café and blow-dry bar, there’s something for members to experience every day of the week. All this has been done in an effort to build community among the members and keep them coming back.
– Smith pointed to the Running Room’s clubs as a great example of long-term customer retention. Running Room offers them to people of all skill sets. Trainers help attendees continuously improve and progress through the running levels.
– For Pearce, the first step is as simple as a follow-up call or an in-person discussion. The F45 team keeps track of who is on one-week free trials so they know who to check in with.
How do fitness brands stand out in the highly competitive Toronto market?
– Community. Community. At BOLO, Running Room and F45 building a community of members and trainers who make one another feel supported and inspired is what ultimately grows membership numbers. No matter how much marketing a company does, if the community is weak (unmotivated trainers, boring classes) the business will not succeed. People want to go back to a place where they have fun. It’s that simple
– Partnerships were cited by both BOLO and F45 as a great strategy when trying to differentiate from other brands. By associating with companies that hold similar values, both Rykiss and Pearce were able to reach new communities and provide special offers to current members that other studios could not.