Trend Based Fitness Marketing: Lessons from "Runcations"

Runcations. Go to a foreign country, do some sightseeing, run a marathon. Lather, rinse, and repeat on all seven continents. It’s a very successful little industry.

Not coaching runners, and you don’t want to be in the travel business? There’s still something any fitness or wellness outfit can learn from this business model.

Running tours aren’t new (one of the tour/running businesses, Marathon Tours & Travel, was founded in 1979), but they’re gaining in popularity and business is booming. Here’s an excellent overview of the races, the tour businesses and how the packages work.

And — a couple of lessons for fitness and wellness businesses.

Riding the Wave

If your customers find something particularly interesting, tap into that natural enthusiasm and capitalize on it. After all, they’re already your customers.

Here are some ideas.

  • Run a trend-watching story in your newsletter about the increasing popularity of (whatever it is) among your customers. This acknowledges interest that’s already there and lets customers know you’re on top of things.
  • Ask for feedback from the folks who seem most interested. What could you do to help them? For instance, if your business is focused on body weight exercises and you find yourself awash in swimmers, tailor your program a bit to make it more useful to swimmers.
  • Make yourself a knowledgeable resource by providing information about upcoming events related to the trend. This puts you in the driver’s seat for helping your customers focus their workouts to get ready for the event.
  • If you have enough dedicated aficionados, help organize and send a team to one of the events. (NOTE: You may need to check into liability insurance.)
  • Not enough folks for a road trip? Scale it back and do a virtual version of the event open to all your members.

People Like To Push Their Limits

Perhaps you’ve seen interest in your Brazilian jiu-jitsu program taper off. After all, if there aren’t that many people standing around waiting to get flipped on their backs, THEN what? The truth is, no matter what you do, customers will always be in search of something new.

The trick is to make sure your business is where they look for it.

Consider this: since the 1970s, running has evolved into more than just a popular fitness mode of exercise. For many people, it’s a lifestyle. And while running may not be your thing, chances are that whatever your customers’ favorite sport, there’s a dedicated cadre of people in it who strive to push their limits. We’ve noticed in some of the newsletters we get that marathoning is leveling out in terms of registrations, while ultramarathons and 50- and 100-mile trail runs are absolutely bulging with registrations.

This says something about the aspirational nature of fitness. Competition, milestones and “doing things big” take the boredom out of a ho-hum workout. It turns an ordinary run into Week 7 of My Plan. It turns swim drills into Ironman training.

Ask yourself how you can use that kernel of excitement simmering inside your clients to make your programming more interesting.

A Word of Warning…

Just because something is a fitness trend doesn’t mean you should throw money at it. Trends come and go, and not all of them are worth following (by the way, a great book on this topic is Charles MacKay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds). Remember those long bands and rollers that attached to the uprights of a treadmill like device and were supposed to “shake, roll, or melt off the fat” while you just stood there and let the motorized vibrations do the work for you? They’re gone now, and so are the profits to be made from them… if there ever were any. By the way, you really should watch the “fitness” (and I use the term loosely) video in the link above. It’s REALLY bad.

So… when you see a fitness trend, ask yourself:

  • Is there anything meaningful or strategic that connects my fitness business to this trend?
  • What will following the trend do to existing business? For instance, if you’re about healthy eating, does riding the raw food or paleo bandwagon help or hurt? Are customers drawn to you as a go-to source or do they back away and view your business as “a little too into it”?
  • Does my fitness business have the resources to nourish this trend among existing customers until it’s come and gone?
  • At that point, where will revenue from those programs be vs. spending?
  • Could the money for trend based fitness marketing have been spent more profitably on improving operations, building out a new location, or something similar?

Part of the secret to hitching your business’s marketing to trends is understanding when the trend is taking you where you already wanted to go, and knowing when to “get off the bus.”