By Jay Croft, Special AFS Contributor

The late, great Kenny Rogers used to sing, “You got to know when to hold ‘em… know when to fold ‘em.” He was singing about poker, but his advice applies to fitness marketing, too.

And now, amid the coronavirus crisis, is definitely not the time fold. Smart studio owners know that communicating – including marketing – is essential to make it to the other side of this.

Remember Why You Started

Most of my fitness work is with studios serving the over-50 demographic. While the points about communications are relevant for everyone, I want to focus primarily on this niche, since it’s where I draw on most of my experience.

Try to remember what drew you to helping people over 50 live their best lives in the first place. Was it a sense of economic opportunity? The desire to help people who really need it? A willingness to fill an unmet need?

Those reasons remain.

  • In the US alone, more than 100 million people are over the age of 50. Some 80 million are Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964.
  • They have time and money to spend on fitness. And they have powerful motivations for wanting to get or stay fit.
  • They make better customers, staying with you longer and spending more money.

That all remains true, and their need for you is even greater now. People at this stage of life need fitness to maintain their physical and mental health. They need you to give them confidence against fears of falling, dementia, and social isolation.

With this market, your role is so much more than mere “personal trainer.” You are a lifeline for many, now more than ever.

And the same is true even for those in less urgent need but who still want to stay strong now and when this is over. Countless more people over 50 want to keep moving and need your help to avoid obesity, remain fit for sports and hobbies, and be able to play with their grandkids and travel.

They still need you. Do not fail them now.

 

Marketing: This Is No Time to Stop

You’ve got to keep talking to your current customers, the prospects already in your lead funnel, and the larger audience of potential new leads. They need to know you’re still in business, what you can do for them, and – just as importantly – that you still care about them. If you cut off communications now, you will have an impossible time trying to restart all those conversations when the time comes.

In other words, you can’t “fold ‘em” now and walk away from the table. Shockingly, I’ve heard studio owners tell me they were going to disappear until the coronavirus pandemic is resolved.

That’s an abdication of responsibility and a guarantee of failure.

If you want a shot at staying relevant with your key audience, then you need three channels of communication. You probably use them already. Facebook, email newsletters, and your website and blog.

The content you share falls into two categories: material about your business, clients and services; and material about the broader issues around “fitness over 50.”

Your audience generally falls into two categories, as well:

  • Active agers – people who have always been fit or athletic and want your help to continue
  • Inactive agers – the far larger group of people who spent decades working, raising children, watching TV, and avoiding exercise

Remember that content is not advertising, and it should be useful, engaging, entertaining, and non-salesy. This is about building and maintaining relationships – letting people know, like, and trust you. You need to establish that you care about people who are older since most fitness facilities are so focused on the youth market.

WHAT ABOUT NEW LEADS?

In addition to everything above, you should keep engaging your community to develop new leads.

  1. Keep doing what you were doing before, with appropriate “physical distancing” considerations. For example, stay in touch with your various chambers of commerce, even though monthly meetings are on hold.
  2. Some advertising platforms are lower than ever now. Look for reduced advertising opportunities, primarily on Facebook.
  3. Pursue free local media coverage. Reporters are looking for local, positive angles. Remember they are overworked and understaffed, so do everything you can do to make it easy on them.
  1. Offer referral rewards to current members.
  2. Discuss collaboration with others in your community – houses of worship, bookshops, senior centers, etc. Remember that everyone is looking for something to do, someone to talk with, a chance to get outside and move in a healthy way.

Finally, remember that while this specific challenge is unprecedented, we all have been through trying times and come out of them. Learn from those experiences. Pay attention to what’s going on around you – in your industry and your community. Share as much as possible, and look out for your people.

You know all of this.

So, take this as a reminder: You can’t do any of it if you think this is “when to walk away,” as Kenny Rogers put it in his famous song.


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Jay Croft is a veteran journalist and content creator who leads Prime Fit Content for studios, gyms and trainers trying to engage people over 50.

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