National fitness clubs fight member churn, but better marketing integration is needed

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National fitness clubs fight member churn, but better marketing integration is needed
National fitness clubs fight member churn, but better marketing integration is needed
Ryan Deutsch, VP of strategic services at e-mail service provider Strongmail, was not impressed with either brands' e-mail marketing, but he gave Town Sports a higher score for its "cleaner" design, its use of referral marketing and its better focus on the existing customer. He docked both brands for a lack of e-mail integration with their social channels."Considering recipients are customers in a membership based business, there's no personalization in any e-mails," he says. "In the case of 24 Hour Fitness, I couldn't even tell if it was an e-mail sent to a customer. It could just as well have been from an external list being used as an acquisition tool."


Town Sports and 24 Hour Fitness representatives declined to 
comment for this feature.


Given the sector's growth, combined with a mounting national emphasis on health education, fitness clubs' marketing efforts are often peppered with informational content. Both fitness clubs offer website visitors content, but neither prioritizes informational offerings above promotional materials. Town Sports dedicates just a few pages to education on equipment use and the instructional pages are 
difficult to find. 


24 Hour's brand content offerings are more robust and more 
easily found on the site. The company's magazine, 24 Hour Fitness The Magazine, has a home on the primary navigation bar on both the member and non-member site. The interactive digital magazine provides links to member profiles; allows readers to provide feedback on the company's services; and the purchase of fitness tracking equipment, such as Web- and mobile-enabled devices made by Bodybugg, a calorie-management system.


On-floor innovation is an important retention tool for both brands, and 24 Hour's integration of technology, such as Bodybugg, is indicative of the deeper level of engagement it has reached with its base. 


"Fitness brands can use incentives to drive retention, and they can be material benefits like financial compensation or they can be based in healthy living," explains Bram Hechtkopf, VP of marketing and business development at loyalty agency Kobie Marketing. 


In terms of social media marketing, 24 Hour appears to have a more integrated strategy. Its Facebook page has 136,000 fans and displays the offers currently running on its site, plus a more prominent calendar with upcoming weekly promotions. It also periodically runs promotions through Foursquare, offering merchandise discounts for check-ins. Town Sports' Facebook page maintains its national brand, rather than its city-specific names, which perhaps is the reason behind its fewer than 2,000 fans. Its city dedicated Facebook pages, such as New York Sports Clubs, have fewer than 200 fans each. Despite its limited fans, Town Sports, regularly responds to questions and comments, leveraging the social network as a customer service tool. Unfortunately, it is missing an opportunity to reward members through Foursquare where its mostly urban membership is checking in with regularity.

Brand Champion

24 Hour Fitness takes the prize for best direct marketing strategy, including its richer online presence and deeper content strategy. Town Sports' goal is to be the most recognizable 
fitness club brand in its selected cities and that has impacted its marketing prowess in other 
areas, such as on its website and social media. 
It's smaller than 24 Hour Fitness, but that's 
no reason it can't put up more of a fight. 


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