Uncovering Customer Motivation: Eight Vital Questions

We always ask fitness, nutrition and wellness clients why their customers buy from them. But what do we really know about customer motivation?

The answers usually sound like this:

  • “We’ve reinvented the fitness experience.”
  • “We’ve got top of the line equipment based on Complicated Scientific Principle #4 to maximize their resistance training.”
  • “We challenge employees to improve their health.”
  • “I integrate nutrition and exercise.”
  • Or our all-time favorite, “We provide world-class service.”

What’s wrong with these answers? They’re your words – not your customers. Frankly, they mean very little. And they certainly don’t reflect what really motivates your customer.

Use these eight questions to help you uncover and act on what inspires your customers.

1. Why do customers switch to your wellness business from a competitor?

Think about what you’ve actually heard from them. Don’t rely on your own opinions or those of your staff unless they’re validated by specific comments or feedback you’ve heard from paying customers. It’s also worth asking around among colleagues, family members, neighbors, friends and others who may be willing to share the good and bad of their experiences with competitors.

Maybe they loved their previous weight loss program – but hated the fact that the meeting room had a huge plate glass window that opened onto a busy sidewalk.

2. And why did they originally choose the competitor – rather than your business?

The knee-jerk response is often price – yet few buying decisions in the health and wellness arena are really made strictly based on price. After all, most health and wellness services are discretionary. People will afford your products and services if and when they want to.

I had a great membership rate at Gold’s Gym, but I switched because they kept playing the same violent movies in the CardioTheater. And the CardioTheater was the biggest reason by far that I originally joined.

3. Does your business send subtle messages that turn off prospects?

For example, the Lands End catalog describes some garments as having a “relaxed fit” while others have a “feminine fit.” That will undoubtedly offend more than a few female customers, since it implies that women who prefer a looser fit are less feminine than those who prefer a snugger fit.

Many people with diabetes know a lot about managing their disease–and they resent wellness programs that assume they need to be educated on the most basic facts. I’ve heard people say that if an RD told them one more time that a meat serving was “about the size of a deck of cards” they would scream.

4. What annoys your potential customers most about buying health and wellness services?

Think about the gripes and complaints you’ve heard. Then ask yourself how you can turn these to your advantage. For example, a common complaint from therapeutic massage clients is the cost of massage sessions. “Massage memberships” change the rules of the game by offering a much lower per-session price in exchange for a predictable level of monthly business that lets them optimize staffing levels.

5. What are competitors doing especially well?

Decide whether you need to adopt some of these practices or respond by emphasizing other special attributes of your business. If you decide to emulate some of their practices, pick and choose what you adopt. A common mistake is to try to mimic everything a competitor does. Often that means your business becomes a pale imitation of your competitor…and loses what could have made it distinctive.

One of our yoga studio clients does a great job of building community and connections among their clients. Their teachers tend to stick around for a long time, too, so relationships have more time to develop.

6. Where are your competitors especially vulnerable?

Help prospects focus on these areas while avoiding unattractive criticism of another business. For example, perhaps your staff is exceptionally well-qualified. Consider developing a one-pager that explains the importance of licensure and certification. Include key questions that consumers should ask about staff qualifications before deciding to buy.

One of our wellness center clients has a really cozy facility. It’s very attractive, and definitely not the Zen-like spa atmosphere that a lot of places have – it’s more relaxed and casual and cheery. Think “country inn” vs the Four Seasons Hotel.

7. What are the actual words used by real customers about the features and benefits of your services and programs?

First, make a list of your customers actually say about your fitness business, or nutritional coaching practice or wellness center. Check Yelp, Facebook and your emails as well as keeping your ears open. For each word or phrase, explicitly ask yourself whether this is a word you’ve actually heard from customers – or whether it’s really a word YOU or your staff use. If the latter, strike it off the list.

Then compare this “hot button” list to your sales and marketing materials and the talking points your staff uses with prospects. Make sure you’re using the words that resonate with your customers.

8. How do your customers justify or rationalize the decision to buy services from you?

Most health and wellness services are discretionary. List the top five reasons that customers give for buying your services. Your marketing materials, including your website, should clearly communicate how your services accomplish these objectives.