Business in the fitness industry, “isn’t all kittens and lollipops yet,” said Industry Consultant Therese Iknoian at a panel on grass roots marketing and promotion at the Health and Fitness Business Expo.
Grass roots marketing, Iknoian explained, “is simply effective, inexpensive [promotion] to really grow your own markets in your community.”
Though it’s not kittens and lollipops, there are ways to promote your stores that are easy on the pocketbook. Three retailers gave insight on what their most successful grass roots marketing campaigns are and some of the best ideas include focusing on social media, doing lots of nonprofit work, sponsoring research to offer to media, writing a column for a local paper and offering social and educational events at your stores.
Dave Sheriff of Colorado’s HealthStyles, Kelly Crimmins of Bicycle Garage Indy in Indianapolis, Ind., and Dai Manuel, COO of Fitness Town in Vancouver, Canada, offered up their tips.
Social media maniacs
When Manuel asked the crowd attending the panel who among them used social media and only a few hands went up, he advised everybody quickly go and establish a page on both Facebook and Twitter and find the youngest person in their company to run it and engage with its fans.
Plus, Manuel said, social media is a great way to forge relationships with local media, especially news anchors, who all have personal pages.
“Most news anchors, they’ve got a Facebook presence and they’ve got a Twitter account,” Manuel said. “Just start communicating with them if they’re active on social media you can start to form relationships if they find out what you do and how you do it.”
Sheriff said HealthStyles partners with as many nonprofit initiatives as it can and Manuel said Fitness Town has worked charitable giving into the budget.
“We allocate funds for give aways, gifts and prizes. We have a $300 cap per initiative,” Manuel said. “I know all of us here as retailers will get a lot of high schools and hospitals coming in for charity donations. We like to say yes more than we say no.”
All about media
All three panelists had ideas that had to do with offering something to the local media, both television and print. Sheriff does a segment with the local NBC station in Denver, Colo., and also purchases 15-second commercials at the same station.
Manuel and Fitness Town pay to conduct fitness-based research to make available to media, thus making them the local experts media need to quote.
Crimmins said she constantly pitches story ideas to local newspapers and TV stations to score interviews in order to get their name out there.
Crimmins said one of the ways she brings people into her stores is by hosting social and educational events. One of the most popular is the ladies’ nights, of which the store hosts three a year. Plus the store offers educational clinics and classes.
Crimmins said the key to the success of the events is to listen to both staff and customers to find out what works best for each.
“We’ve got feedback from our customers about how frequently they’d be interested in coming to our stores,” Crimmins said. “We got feedback from employees and found if they are expected to teach a clinic to the end of their shift they may not be as enthusiastic as somebody who is starting a shift. We pay attention to them and we’ve listened to both groups and tweaked our programs significantly based on that.”
Some of the key things to remember when organizing social events and clinics is to have people sign up in advance to know how many people to expect, and utilize Twitter, Facebook and email to remind customers of their upcoming events.