Chantal: Alan, thank you so much for joining me today.
Alan: Thank you Chantal, it’s lovely to be back again.
Chantal: Now this is a bit of a special interview because of course, we are recording live from OSA 2018 and you have literally just stepped off the stage from speaking this afternoon. What topic did you present on today?
Alan: Digital marketing, Chantal, it was all just digital marketing for a full 60 minutes, and then another 25 minutes of questions and answers afterwards.
Chantal: And I’m about to give you another 20 minutes of questions, and hopefully you can share the answers with me. When it comes to tools that fitness business owners and managers need to use for digital marketing, what recommendations would you have for them?
Alan: You know, over the years, digital marketing has kind of changed. One of the things I discussed today was [inaudible 00:00:51] and my attitude has always been is, it needs to be profitable. And it obviously needs for us to get leads, and then you keep it very simple and say it’s the best lead generation tool that you can have. It varies the measure and the impact of your digital marketing and for us it’s about generating leads and we get so many leads, we can’t even deal with them. So, the tools we would tend to use, and I was discussing this at the conference today is, you obviously have Google, and you have Facebook and other social media channels.
I focused today, tended to be on Facebook and Google. Because it was interesting one of the things I shared today is, 1 in every 4 dollars, globally on all advertising, that’s radio advertising, TV advertising, digital advertising. 1 in every 4 dollars today is going to those two companies, and most people are alarmed with that, but, it’s 1 in every 4 dollars. It’s incredible to think that advertising is nearly being taken over by two companies. They’re were the ones I’d tend to use, as far as getting out there to your target market. With Google, it’s very much search engine optimization, a huge import, and huge drive on SEO and it’s tough, and then Google AdWords. I do say to people that one thing about SEO and everything else is you got to have good content, you got to have good websites, and people talk about blogs, and one of these I did [inaudible 00:02:14] when choosing between SEO and AdWords that they have to choose is that when you get involved in SEO, and what people sometimes don’t realise is there’s a huge amount of work and effort that goes into that.
You work with media, Chantal, you would know, when you tell people that if you get into a blog, that the average time to write a blog post can be 3 or 4 hours. And you say you’re running a gym, and you’re putting on classes, and you’re managing staff, and you’re trying to make money, not everybody has that time. And that’s why sometimes it’s tricky. But definitely they can do a lot for SEO, we generated our clubs in total about 1,100 leads every single every single month through SEO. And then we do about another 300 AdWords. So, about 84% of our leads are coming through SEO, so we do put a lot of time and effort into that. Then, we do the AdWords as well, we are about hugely into Facebook and advertising.
I made the prediction, and it’s funny when I spoke today and there was 2 or 3 people there hardly involved in digital marketing and I asked “Who thinks that Facebook advertising is going to bypass Google AdWords?” And people said “yeah, I can see it happening”. I mean, the great thing about Facebook advertising is as a tool, is that nothing allows you to target the market the way Facebook advertising is. Nothing has the targeting capabilities that Facebook has. I don’t even look at any other social media channel, really what my staff do it, we’re not selling a tonne of memberships because someone put a post about a dog that wrecked through the gym and it was funny and let’s make a video. It’s nice and it keeps us engaged with the members, but to me, anyways, it’s not generating any business.
The way I see social media is Facebook has a huge database of people. They have their likes, their dislikes, their age profiles, their demographics. Us as a company, and I will say this to any fitness club, can say “look, if you want to target people within a 10 or 15 minute range, if you want to target women, men, a specific age group, a specific wage category, people with specific likes, you can do that with Facebook advertising.” That’s where I see what it might have been in the past and it’s now going forward, I see that as an amazing tool for fitness clubs.
One thing that I do advise people is that, I said today, was Facebook advertising is certainly not the most expensive. The reason it’s not the most expensive is that Facebook advertising is a self-service advertising model. Try and ring Facebook and tell them you’re going to have to switch something on.
So there, as far as the marketing tools, definitely search engine optimization and all the things that go with it. Content management, obviously inbound marketing, and then actual paid-for advertising and Google. And the same with Facebook, going into Facebook and not so much focusing on the social side of it but looking at Facebook and say “use that to get into people’s feeds”. Because one of the things with Facebook for us is open to LinkedIn started to do the same thing. Facebook were the only company to allow full-screen advertising on their mobile Facebook page. Not even Google could do that. That’s where I see it happening.
Chantal: Okay. And you mention about how specific you can get with the targeting on Facebook advertising, are you talking about utilising things like the Pixel and the black audiences?
Alan: Yes, absolutely. The look at how it is, it is a big thing for us because…well, it’s funny we start with the customise audiences, one of the things that’s happening in Europe is…and this is an interesting one…we have a thing called the GDPR it’s a channel data protection regulation. This is the biggest thing to happen to data protection in Europe for the last 17 years, and it changes everything. An example would be this, Chantal, we’re very much into direct marketing. We do a lot of direct mail, we do a lot of SMS marketing, email marketing, hugely profitable for us. We can do a direct mail campaign that generates 3.2 million in revenue. So we do direct mail, we follow up on SMS marketing, if there was a campaign running over a month. So, we built that database over 250,000 leads. These would be past members, these would be people who were inquired with us. So within our database, and we’re really heavily focused on that database management.
What this GDPR thing does is, and it’s still up in the air at the minute but I’ve written [inaudible 00:06:23] and the legal people will follow with the meaning is, but it changes the landscape terribly because everything is going to be locked in. And there could be a case that those databases now become redundant, that you can no longer target them. So we are looking at the lookalike audience and everything else the same. Either we can now hook those, that list, into Facebook, create a customised audience, target them through Facebook to reel them back in, and then the lookalike audience as well.
The technology now with marketing with Facebook is just unbelievable, I mean, there’s re-targeting, there’s pixels, there’s everything. I kind of make the joke when I ask people “you know, ever see when you went to a website and you looked at something and they chased you for the next 10 years and 4 weeks after you’re dead?” Yes, I just think it’s an incredible tool for fitness club.
The only thing with fitness clubs I do say for them is “If you don’t have some sort of a lead generator or strategy and a lead marketing programme to go with that, well all you’re really doing is getting names into a database”. People will start to look at things like, sale force and hopes to manage that for them.
Chantal: Excellent. I might just take this opportunity to remind everyone that we’re not going to go into detail today about how to create a custom audience or lookalike audience. However, if you refer back to the show that we released back in March of 2018, it featured Amanda Bond. You can go and have a listen to that show because we do dive into detail about using the Pixel and doing Facebook retargeting and lookalike audiences in that show. So check it out and I’ll put the show in today’s show notes.
Now, Alan, you’ve been quoted as saying “Social media is the devil’s playground for amateur marketers”. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Alan: That was a quote I put out at, I think I was speaking at London at the time, and it’s funny because it kind of resonate with a lot of people because it resonate with Justin as well. It kind of summed up the way that people were approaching social media. I have an academic background in market so when I explain to people I say…look, generally in marketing, for many years in marketing departments, the marketing department looked for lots of things. How products will be positioned in the market, what that product should be, whether it should be black or white or in a box, whatever. And what pricing should be put on that product and how that product should be promoted. And of course what has happened is, it went from that instant, it’s particularly in the fitness industry, was a phrase I use marketing it has degenerated it into a 1P function where it’s now just promotion and it’s this confusion. But it’s just advertising, promotion, and sales and so anybody can do it.
What’s happened with social media, is it’s nearly got worse. And then if you think about it, one of the advantages of social media, anybody can use it. One of the disadvantages of social media is that anybody can use it. And if you think about using Facebook, just this one social media channel, all you really need is to be able to put a picture up, add some words, and press an enter key and that goes out. The problem is where’s the strategy, where’s the positioning, where’s the branding, where’s the differentiation. And we know a lot of times it’s handed up to the interns to do.
Even in our company, we’ve had to stop it because with all good intentions, people were putting stuff up but there was no kind of taught was that damage to the brand. An example would be in the time of a brochure. Somebody sat down, they taught you the strategy and the creative side of it and came up with photographs and pictures and everybody looked at it, it was checked over before it went to print.
Now, obviously the great thing about social media, you can get that said a lot quicker. But problem is, who is doing that type of advertising, and people messing with the brands. And really, that’s the whole point, you don’t need to be a professional to do it, you can just turn out what you like and I probably get shocked for this for saying it on a live thing but, they can turn a crap appeal. That’s the problem. Anybody can do it, and a little bit of an example is, I’m a terrible designer, I cannot match two colours. If you give me Photoshop, I’m going to come up with something terrible, I’m no good at it, I’m not an artist and photo graphic designer and I will that I’m no good at it. And the same way is when you give people social media, they can just do what they want.
Chantal: Yep, absolutely. In there, you mentioned the word “strategy” a couple times. And I honestly think that most of us who own a club or have managed a club at some stage have done the post that you’re talking about where we kind of just randomly post something without too much thought about what the bigger picture is. When it comes to developing a social media strategy, is that something that you recommend that we would have, say, a one year plan for our social media. What’s your approach and recommendation on a social media strategy?
Alan: Absolutely. 100%. And the reason I think it’s more important in social media is because it’s one of those things that goes ahead without a strategy. If it was direct marketing, like a direct mail campaign, it’s simply not going to go ahead without someone, because someone’s got to spend money on it. If it’s hiring a sales team, there’s going to be a talk goes into it. The thing with social media, there should be a strategy. And that strategy should fit in with the business goals of the company.
I think what we need to do with social media is also manage expectations. If the people that are going to be using the channel supposedly saying “look, we’re not looking for you to conquer the world. We’re not looking for a thousand members, we’re going to get it from that postage you put up about the job going true.” But at the same time, we need to say “look, this is the market we go after. This is what we represent in the market, whether it’s the bodybuilding scene or the deconditioning market or a female market or the premium men.” But they understand that, and then they say “well look, this is the market we’re going after, these are the type of visuals we want going on. This is the type of content that we want”. And again, you would need to meet kind of certain guidelines or grammar or whatever.
You don’t want to be over the top, but you’re saying “this is the image we’re trying to portray.” And that [inaudible 00:12:15] I’ll give an example how it can’t be wrong. I’ve seen our own social media channel, because everyone’s doing it. We’re talking about fuzzy photographs that are out of focus going on social media and you’re kind of going, in a nice way you’re saying that “did you even look at the picture on the camera before you posted it? It’s out of focus and…” What we’ve done on our clubs is sit down the staff that were doing the social media and say “look, here’s how to take a photograph. Look, don’t have the roof in, don’t have the ground in, make sure it’s in focus, make sure your people are looking at the camera.”
Another thing is from strategy point of view, and it happens on our social media, is saying to the people the post “it’s not all about you”. I mean, why are we seeing so many posts about instructors on stages, why are we seeing so many of instructors doing this. Where’s the members in all of this? I truly believe, sit down people and say “Look, here’s how we want to be positioned in the market, here’s our goals for the next 12 months” whatever it is. And say “from a global level, here’s what we’re trying to do, we use sales to do this, we use digital marketing to do this, social media will be part of that.” If you are going to give them a time to meet, but at the same time, there should be guidelines about what goes up. You don’t want to instruct them too much, because you want a bit of fun in this. There should be a strategy, absolutely.
Chantal: I don’t even know if there’s an answer to this question but I’m going to ask you anyway, how much should a club owner spend on digital marketing annually?
Alan: Well, that’s a very important question and this might help answer the question. I remember when we made the decision to go with Google AdWords, and there was the decisions, yes [inaudible 00:13:55]. And it came to budgets, and I’ll be perfectly honest with you, I picked that budget out of the sky because I would normally be good at budgeting but you simply don’t know.
My advice to anybody is, I’ll give you some guidelines for a budget, for us, I’ll give you an example. We spend about $90,000 a year on Google AdWords. We’re about to increase that to about $180,000. Now, that’s for six clubs. And because I believe, with those sort of campaigns, you can measure what’s coming in.
The most important things is whatever budget you throw at us, you got to say very specifically, measure the results. And then you can make a decision that is this worth it? Do we do it again? Are we really getting the return out of it? Because if you’re doing AdWords for example, because a lot of people would notice, and you suddenly find that each lead is costing you $80-$90. And you go “But membership is only $200”. You can kind of go…yes, and you can see sometimes that people have spent money at AdWords and they said “well, we’re getting a lead” because people don’t know. And you say, “an average lead is $70”, “it couldn’t be”, I said it is”. That’s just a lead. Now, you got to get them to come to your clinic and turn into a member, that could suck you in to $500-$600 per member.
What I would say to people is, there’s no point in turning around and doing a 40 or a campaign once a month, that’s pointless, that’s just pointless. It’s just like everything else. If you are going to commit to something, commit to it. We’re also going to try and again, if I’m being perfectly honest, the figure’s being picked out of the sky as a way of seeing what happens. We will be trying about 70,000 of Facebook advertising. And we will run them in conjunction, measure the progress, and see which is giving us the best results.
But it is difficult to say to people what you should spend on this. I often say to people, if you’re a budget club, you may be in a position you simply cannot spend in those channels. We’re charging average lifetime valuable members, a cancelled membership is about two and a half thousand dollars. We can say, it’s okay to spend that level of money. But if you’re a budget club at $15 a month, AdWare is simply may not be, even Facebook advertising may not be the channel for you because you could end up paying more than you get for the membership.
But whatever budget they set, the most important thing from day one is having place structures to measure performance, to measure what’s happening, and be perfectly honest with it, because sometimes when you do something for a year then you simply go “that’s not really getting us the return” to let it go. Or you can look at what would make a better website, better course of actions, better conversions. I just try this in for the sake of it, because we’re on it, I regularly get asked “what’s the secret to a profitable digital marketing campaign?” The real secret of making money with digital marketing in the fitness industry: have a sales perks team that can sell memberships to those leads you get with digital marketing because otherwise you’re just getting leads. Particularly in the high ends, if you’re into high end and you can afford to pay for it, but other than that, budgets, that’s a difficult one
One thing I do say, in regards to us is, we have a budget even though we’re in digital marketing and Facebook marketing, we still only spend about $35 to get a member, which is way below the industry. In the U.S., it’s $180, $118 to get a member. We’re still only spending $35, so when we set budgets, we set budgets with how much we prepare to spend to get a member and what percent of turnover do we spend the membership. So, we’re still only about %2.4, so we can play around on that. So, if I was advising clubs out there what I would say, Chantal, is if we torched digital, how much do you want to spend to recruit a member, how much do you think you want to spend as a percentage of turnover, and then make a decision wherever you want to divide those. Because obviously conventional marketing or digital marketing, whatever.
Chantal: I absolutely love that advice, Alan. Thank you so much. Now we obviously touched on quite a lot in a short period of time, and a number of times you’ve mentioned AdWords, Google, Facebook. We mentioned Instagram just very briefly. If you had to give club owners just three key takeaways from everything we’ve discussed today, when it comes to really progressing or moving forward with their digital marketing campaign or digital marketing activity. What would those three key points be?
Alan: Again, if I was to think strategically about three points because, when this is over, they can go home and choose which ones they want to use. My number one would be, if you’re in the mid-price or premium-price, make sure you have a sales team that can sell to those leads that you get. If you’re a club that operates around the 700-800 mark, budget end, that’s simply not possible to have full time sales teams. If you’re in the 4,000-5,000 member range, then you can have a full time sales people. For us, the big thing is it’s sales people that make the money for the digital marketing. The digital marketing, I’ll give a quote by [inaudible 00:18:57] 99% of all advertisement sells nothing to nobody. In digital marketing, it’s probably 99.9% of it sell nothing of it to anybody. But that 1% or half of 1% of those who do react to your leads can be converted to money through sales system.
The second one I would say, is anybody in digital marketing is, leverage the principals of normal marketing. Think about who you’re positioned at, think about how you want to differentiate your product, think about what your goal and objectives are, from a business and say “well can we use the digital marketing tools to help us with that”. Not necessarily get rid of the old one cause some new one comes in.
The third one and most important is have everything directed into your database because there’s three types of traffic you can use to grow your business. There’s the traffic that you don’t own that you can control, which is you can pay Facebook to go to part there, or AdWords to go to this section to market. There’s the traffic you simply don’t control that just happens to come along. And it is the traffic that you own, that’s your traffic, and that’s in your database, and if there was a new database where it’s 10,000 or 100,000, you do not need Google’s permission, or Facebook’s permission, or anybody’s permission to target those people with SMS email marketing.
So the most profitable one is how everything drive into your own database. Just look at these tools, just ways of building the database that you have and turning your company to target in whatever way you want to.
Chantal: Alan, this has been such a valuable 20 minutes that we’ve spent together today. So, just before we finish off, I just want to say, if anyone wants to get in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to contact you?
Alan: I’ll give you my email.
Chantal: Email’s the best way?
Alan: And it’s Alan.firstname.lastname@example.org. So Alan.email@example.com and obviously they can find me on Facebook and LinkedIn and all the other social medias.
Chantal: All those social media sites. And needless to say, I will make sure that we pop your contact details in the show notes. So, thank you so much, I have loved talking to you about this topic and thank you for joining us.
Alan: Thank you, Chantal, I’m a huge fan of your podcast. Huge fan. And you’ve been a huge following in our end as well.
Chantal: [crosstalk 00:21:24] I love hearing that. I love hearing that. Well, let’s hope we can grow that following out even further out with today’s show.
Active Management Members receive monthly tools to make your life as a fitness business owner, manager or team members easier. Become a member today at www.ActiveMgmt.com.a/joinnow