Remember the old “shouty” ads for discount appliance stores that said “inconveniently located, but worth the trip!”?
It turns out health and wellness businesses have something to learn from those guys.
A few months ago, what looked like a great little business opened up not far from my house. Their name said “endurance athlete” (almost, anyway), and when I went there on a lark, they had a decent selection of two-piece Desoto wetsuits of higher-than-average quality, plus some ultramarathon hydration vests, serious running shoes, and more.
They were inconveniently located, all right. But were they worth the trip?
Location, location… it’s not location, OK?
Your health and wellness business can be literally in the armpit of a strip mall, miles away from good traffic flow, between a cigar store and an all-night pizza delivery outfit, and still succeed.
But it needs to be a destination. And it won’t be a destination if nobody knows about it.
So why do some business like the little endurance shop fail?
No budget for continued outside marketing
A lot of businesses make the mistake of spending all their marketing money on grand openings, expensive media outlets, or giveaways they can’t sustain. When the ads (and the money for giveaways) disappear, so does the store’s marketing.
By the time people know you even exist, it may be months after your opening.
You have to budget for the long haul. You have to keep advertising.
So maybe that means you need to cut back on the TV ads or the giant inflatable gorilla or the 6-months-no-membership-fees offers.
Instead, turn your limited budget to Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, and promoted social posts. Use geographic radius targeting in your search marketing so you don’t waste your limited budget on telling everyone south of the Red River that you just opened up a shop in Plano, TX 75023 (FYI, Texas is at least 770 miles across). Update your Google MyBusiness listing with accurate hours, and pictures of your business.
All of these cost pennies on the dollar and the return on most of them is disproportionately high.
Meanwhile, develop relationships with industry experts, key personalities, media channels, online fans and locals who will chat up your fitness or wellness business. They may not pay off right away, but the investment is small and the potential, great.
Also, investigate signage — not just in front of your store but nearby. Signage can be expensive, so look over costs and options. You don’t have to have the billboard beside the Interstate — just the one a few blocks away from your store on the higher-traffic road. Ask your landlord if there are options you’re not thinking about for increasing visibility of your business. They may cost extra, but not being visible will cost you even more.
To sum: it’s better to stretch your advertising and marketing dollars over the time it takes prospects to notice you exist. Otherwise, they may never notice you — and meanwhile, you’re paying salaries and carrying inventory.
Don’t count on folks just stumbling across your business. If they do, it may be too late.
No budget for continued operations
Your wellness business needs money to last. While your marketing campaign is slowly taking off, you need to pay salaries, buy equipment, keep the lights on, and possibly stock inventory. If you’re selling product that’s seasonal, has an expiration date, or is otherwise likely to not be sellable in a month, you’ll have to KEEP paying for product that isn’t selling while you’re trying to get the first customers to walk through the door.
Again, start small and ramp up. You don’t need a grand opening. You don’t need crazy sales to attract people. Your store isn’t even visible from the street (remember?)
You need people to know you’re there.
Hordes won’t walk through the door on day 1. You can run a little low on inventory as long as you have enough for the “early” folks who’ve just discovered you. It’s more important that you have good selection, fantastic service, and a flair for problem solving. If your walk-in can’t find what they’re looking for, find out how to get it to them and don’t stop until you do.
If it’s a service you don’t have or haven’t started yet, solicit their feedback and make them one of the charter customers. Their investment in influencing how your business delivers to customers like them will pay off in word-of-mouth, and it’s also a bellwether for the type of customer you’ll continue to attract.
Take it a step at a time, adjust your business to continue serving the customers you actually have, and grow slowly.
That way, you avoid spending money on customers who will never be yours, and the money you do spend will go farther.
No business partnering or community outreach
If your wellness business is in a horrible location, probably the best thing you can do is to get out into the community. Yoga or kickboxing classes in a city park (remember to get a permit if you need one!), volunteering, goodie bag stuffing or sponsoring some runners at a 5K, or helping a charity are all great ways to let the world know your fitness brand is right there in the community. Customers may literally not know you’re a block away, right around the corner, until they see you walking around.
It might not even hurt to get a handful of t-shirts made up with your business’s logo and slogan, wear some and hand out a few to people you think might spread the news. Be selective — wait for engagement from the people you’re talking to, and if it sounds like they might be willing to promote your business in exchange for a free t-shirt, that’s pretty cheap advertising!
Also, think about not just getting out INTO the community, but getting out OF the community. Do events at other more visible places and use an offer (judiciously) that will get people to find you. The more specialized your products and services are, the likelier people are to be willing to travel to get them.
Finally, partner with complementary businesses and co-market with them. Be willing to think outside the wellness box. For instance, that 24-hour pizza joint that’s right next door? What would it be worth to them to create a few of their deep-dish Chicago-style pizzas for your New Members Welcome Party? Selfie Saturday (prizes to one lucky winner who hashtags the pizza joint in the photo)? And so on.
No social presence
Speaking of hashtagging, does your hard-to-find wellness business have a social presence?
Not just a Facebook page with a handful of self-serving posts about your equipment, hours, or staff. What is your fitness business UP TO these days?
That’s one thing you can do with those photos (you did take them, right?) from the 5K, pizza night, the kickboxing class in the city park, or Selfie Saturday. Instagram the heck out of those! Don’t just post to your Facebook page; use Facebook to link your club’s page to groups that share an interest, and when you post, those group will see your posts. Watch engagement on posts. Respond to people who like or reply to your posts. And consider spending a little bit of your limited advertising budget on promoting the most active posts.
Get involved in online communities that would welcome weigh-in from your brand. Set up something outside the store that doesn’t cost the earth to put up for weeks on end. Set up an email sign-up page on your website so you can collect leads from qualified prospects (see our article about Email as “dark social”).
Set up a Yelp Call To Action button. It doesn’t cost extra, and so few businesses remember to do it that you’ll stand out.
Finally, ask happy customers to tell their friends, recommend you on Facebook, Google reviews, and Yelp. Encourage reviews, and when you get them add them as Review Extensions in AdWords, so anyone searching for you can see how great you are.
Shoot Facebook Live video, talk about what’s going on at the store, and even make fun of your location. Be quirky. Be happy. Be excited. It’s contagious. But most of all, be public and visible.
Hapless affinity marketing
Just listing your brands and nothing more, or offering a random assortment of sports, says nothing about who your desired customers are.
Why does this matter? Because if your location is out-of-the-way, it has to be special: some place people would willingly drive to even though it isn’t close.
The store I went to months ago offered something I really cared about: two-piece semi-professional quality wetsuits from a specific manufacturer whose brand I’d become loyal to, AND ultra endurance running gear. At the time, I made a mental note to come back. I gave them my email address. I got the manager’s name and the store’s phone number. But then I never heard from them again, and nobody sent out email to let me know what they were doing to hook into the community of like-minded customers. There was no connection, even though they were RIGHT THERE in my home town, no more than 4 miles away. Sure, the location wasn’t great, but I had a reason for going there.
Until I didn’t. I learned that I could get a quicker response and find things faster if I just contacted the wetsuit manufacturer. I could get other items from that manufacturer’s collection that I liked. And I found a runner’s community online whose members were interested in similar ultra gear and had recommendations for where to get the best gear for long ultras.
After all that, I had more reason to order from across the country and wait 4 days to get something than I had to drive 4 miles (no longer so inconvenient!) to my local specialty store.
By the time I got around to going back, they were out of business.