Planning: the communication strategy

The communication strategy of a fitness centre must take into account many elements being defined and must take into consideration a series of attempts, improvements and interventions during the year. In particular:
- It must first consider the context in which the centre communicates, the predisposition to technology by residents or different age groups, the type of media used by other businesses and competitors, not only to trace but also to assess whether to innovate the way of communicating;

-  the type of reference persons, evaluated by crossing the common parameters that define the targets (gender, age, profession, interests) with those of seasonal fitness and the centre itself (members, former members, friends of members);

- the concrete and measurable objectives to be presented to the organization to measure redemption (number of requests, number of compilations, number of clicks) thanks to the communication plan, on the basis of historical data;

- the creativity that must allow the achievement of these objectives, in terms of style, images and text, identification of the message with the image of the center;

- the means of communication chosen for the various actions over time with a calendar of creation times, not just execution times;

- the budget available and how it will be distributed between the different instruments;

- the system for monitoring activities and reporting, not only with other people involved in marketing and communication but also with the organization's contacts operating in other sectors.

Mistakes not to be made

The biggest mistake that can be made is to approach the communication strategy of the centre in a purist way: to think that the clear boundary between those who communicate and those who organize, deliver and manage the service is what you should aim for. In the specific case of fitness centres, in fact, the strategy to be implemented through communication is marketing and sales, with an approach that sees marketing at the service of a plan of sales objectives and consequently, in which the communication itself must have the need outlined very clearly ensuring the person in question is led to the correct action (appointment, request for further information, booking of an interview, filling in a questionnaire of satisfaction).

Communication strategy and marketing tasks

The communication strategy is closely linked, also in the case of fitness centres, to the Marketing Plan, to the new launches and placements, to the time schedule of events, to the commercial mechanics repeated year after year, to the policies of renewal and management of loyalty, but it has the possibility of radically changing the destiny of an initiative. Today this is due to the decline of a phenomenon in the fitness world, the alignment that since the late 90s has led to standardize the choice of images, iconography and communication messages.
The spread of the web has given easier access to new resources and the birth of a culture of the identifying image and the search for consistency that is not only aesthetic but also messages from users has opened the doors to a new challenge: the search for a new register of representation of the fitness service.

You don't need to communicate anymore, you just need to learn how to communicate WELL, how to make the message more professional, to filter it into social environments where the judgment and where the search for originality are amplified.

Short history of fitness club communication

The fitness service is part of the wellness sector but it also touches on aspects of entertainment, the world of people's free time, those areas in which messages and emotionality have become essential to sell the service much earlier than in others. Not talking about a physical product but about moments, shared time, fatigue mixed with satisfaction, the communication of the fitness centre today plays a key role in the process of warming up and bringing people closer. Let's look at the evolution of time together to understand the change we are witnessing:

1985 - 2000: the start of the season of a fitness centre could normally be communicated with a sign near the structure, an advertisement in the newspaper and leaflets in the city with the image of the room and the inscription "NEW GYM SEASON - INAUGURATION 1st of SEPTEMBER", with a choice of images that enhanced the aesthetic culture of the body;

2000 - 2004: in a context that is becoming competitive and more complex, in which the web is also a new opportunity for the sector, the launch of the activities must be supported by a more identifying poster and the first web windows, with a choice of images of men and women who train, with greater attention to the distribution of the message;

 From 2005 to the present: in a panorama in which communication is made by seeking the collaboration of the user, the message must be differentiated according to the service map, takes into account the different targets, can even provide different visuals for different positions online and offline, often giving up the classic images of trained physicists and spaces and instead introducing emotional subjects or metaphorical images that speak to those who observe in an innovative way.

This is a climate of delayed value compared to other products or areas, but today it is experiencing a huge change: the centre not only have to make active and engaging communication that is inbound and no longer outbound, but it must practice to do the best because the most important interlocutor, the person, in the world of services and wellness is beginning to be involved with increasing standards and expectations. We talk concretely about studies of new visuals, the birth of gamification even in the world of fitness, in favour of a sharing of the message.
The planning of the communication strategy touches on many more variables than years ago, because communication today is also made by new players and because the message is no longer an “umbrella message”, simply prepared and therefore accepted.

Communication passes through smartphones, the reinforcement of vertical visuals, social media, newsletters, information points in the city centre: to arrive at the result of approaching people and informing them about a change, a start to the season, a novelty, it is necessary to think that the number of leads to be involved must be obtained through multiple paths. This is certainly the revolution that affects those who organize the communication of a centre: it therefore means making the moment of planning a fundamental moment, not to give up the diversification and personalization of the message for lack of time in subsequent phases, risking falling into the temptation of the only traditional campaign.

Key factors for defining the strategy

Coming back to the six key factors of the strategic definition introduced at the beginning, it must be considered that:
1. The context is no longer only the geographical one but also the one in which the person geolocates themselves, the boundaries are much wider than before.

2. The type of users who approach fitness today is potentially increased, more variable and more stimulated with specific campaigns. Today we talk about fitness to the very young who might otherwise spend too much time on the sofa, for the over-65s who are still called to be in the workforce or engaged in society with more proactive roles, for women and mothers educated in search of their own dimensions of well-being.

3. Targets need to be cautious because in fitness the new communication era is changing dramatically and some roads have yet to be sufficiently tested.

4. The means of communication used must be innovative but also traditional, respecting some users accustomed to certain practices.

5. The available budget has always been calculated in percentages on the turnover target and can now be further reduced in certain seasonal periods, taking advantage of web accessibility, releasing investment opportunities for specific events or moments.

6. The system of monitoring and coding results or failures, trends, indicators becomes even more important, because the achievement of a level of satisfaction is no longer measured only in terms of new acquisitions but also of improved renewal rates, positive word of mouth and the ability to track involvement of users.

Considering the beauty of the service to tell, it's easy to think that what we experience is only the first phase of a new era of communication that is becoming more authentic, original and close to the tastes of those who observe the world of fitness clubs.

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