If your club has deep pockets and lots of employees, it’s a lot easier to guarantee warm, fresh towels, sparkling clean and working equipment, and pizza party Fridays. But you don’t have to spend millions to earn the lasting respect of your customers and build sales through referrals.
Here’s why doing just one thing right is critical to help grow your business.
1. It shows you care about basic details
…and by extension, that you care about other things.
The gym I go to (I just switched) ALWAYS has the balance of pool chemical right — something I care about because I’m allergic to bromine. Do I worry about whether the towels are clean? Not as much as I would if I had to keep complaining about the pool chemicals.
I tend to assume that if you’re careful enough to get one thing right, you probably get the other ones right, too.
2. It shows that you’re focused
Some time ago after injuring my shoulder, on the recommendation of a shoulder surgeon, I went to see a therapist who specialized in myofascial release. His sales literature, none that recent, mentioned that he also did acupuncture and a few other things. He’d actually spent good money getting the additional certifications. But, he told me, he seldom saw clients for those services.
I told him about the doctor’s recommendation, and he admitted that mostly, he saw a steady stream of referrals from the shoulder surgeon’s office. He couldn’t remember how that started; only that it was the way it had always been. It was clear to me that in the mind of the shoulder surgeon, this guy was “the myofascial release guy.”
Without spending a lot of advertising, my therapist had cemented his image and authority with the most valuable asset in his referral-based sales chain.
It may seem crazy to a lot of folks in the fitness and wellness business, but if you’re good at something, keep being good at it. Don’t get “bright shiny object syndrome”, or be tempted to chase fitness trend “butterflies” that dart across your path.
3. It costs less to build mastery and reputation
Every time you bring on a black belt karate instructor, USAT certified tri coach, personal trainer, or kids’ swim coach, you have to pay for that training… somehow. You either pay more for the expertise they’ve already got, or you pay for them to get it. And once you’ve got it, how often does it get used? At best, if you’re successful, you’ve had to focus on filling slots in your karate class, tri program, swim program, and keep your trainers busy.
If, on the other hand, your business is focused on helping weight-conscious women balance stress, diet, strength and cardio training, and self-image issues, it may seem like half a dozen things, but in reality, it’s really all one. The same customers will use different aspects of your programs and services at different times.
Building credibility as the “New Me” expert for a very specific clientele may take time, but not nearly as much as accumulating expertise in unrelated fields for no coherent purpose.
4. It’s more sustainable than doing everything
There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with having a karate studio, tri training program, kids’ swim, AND a Tuesday hot yoga class. It’s just that you need to have the resources to fill your sales pipeline for ALL of those separately, unless they magically fill each other.
Keeping the focus on a small cluster of related programs and services helps not only build expertise, but builds your sales pipeline. Clients who finish basic swim class will probably sign up for a second phase of small classes or one-on-one training. It’s probably pretty easy to refer them to your triathlon coach when the time comes. If they’re interested in that, now you can feed the pipeline for your spin class or running club. There’s not nearly as much likelihood that the folks who like your spin class will ALSO like your yoga program, your summer basketball league, AND your weightlifting coach.
5. Word gets around
I asked my myofascial release therapist if all his referrals came from the one shoulder surgeon. Not really, he said — some of them just walked in and said that a friend of a friend had said to go see him after recuperating from a torn rotator cuff, ACL injury, or similar problem. He wasn’t really sure how that started… perhaps some of his previous clients had chatted him up.
If you’re really good at one thing, no matter how good you are at others, you stand a better chance of this kind of spontaneous building of your referral network. You can help the process along by spending time online in social media groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that focus on the kind of work you’re best known for.
The trick is to understand WHAT IS the kind of work you’re best known for.
It’s good to always be building around your existing expertise, but don’t confuse that with being good at everything, and spend your marketing dollars accordingly.
6. To investors, it looks like you have a plan
For every fitness or wellness business, the question eventually arises of when or whether to take on investors to grow your business.
For companies who are still “discovering who they are”, it may be premature to talk about partnering, franchising, selling equity, or taking on debt to grow the business.
Look at it from the other side of the table: whether you’re a bank, a business incubator, an angel fund, a potential partner, or a franchisee, you want to know the focus of the business you’re interested in, what they do and don’t do, and whether they’re capable of controlling their focus and spending in such a way that profits grow along with the number of employees and clients.
If your business can’t decide if its future is in wearables, tai chi, kickboxing, or yoga-with-Fido, neither can your investors. It’s OK to spend money on these things IF you can build them into a consistent story. But if your plan lacks focus, then… it isn’t really a plan, it’s a cafeteria menu.
As business owners, we may not find it sexy to keep an eagle-eye on operations, stick to a single line of business, and constantly check that everything is in working order and meeting the needs of a very focused set of clients. It can be downright tedious, and utterly, unflaggingly predictable.
You know, just what clients want. And to them, it means everything.