We always ask fitness, nutrition and wellness clients why their customers buy from them.
The answers usually sound like this:
- “We’ve reinvented the fitness experience.”
- “We’ve got top of the line equipment based on Complicated Only-Partially-Understood Scientific Principle #4 to maximize their performance.”
- “Our program works for everybody.”
- “Our beautiful facility provides an uplifting atmosphere.”
- “We show them how to push their limits.”
- “We challenge employees to improve their health.”
- Or the ever-popular “We provide world-class service.”
What’s wrong with these answers? They’re your words—not your customers’ words.
Customers don’t actually say any of these things, am I right?
Honestly, these reasons are mostly just marketing fluff.
These eight questions help you uncover and act on what really motivated your customer to buy services like yours, and to buy them specifically from you:
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 how exposed they felt by the huge plate glass window in the meeting room that faced right onto the shopping center’s sidewalk.
2. And why did they originally choose the competitor?
The knee-jerk response from business owners 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 violent movies in the CardioTheater—and the CardioTheater had been the single biggest reason by far that I originally joined.
3. Does your business send subtle messages that turn off prospects?
For example, for a few years the Lands End clothing catalog described some garments as having a “relaxed fit” while others had a “feminine fit.” That undoubtedly turned off 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.
When folks have lived with a health concern for years, “educating” them on the basics kills your credibility immediately. Imagine how you’d feel if freshman English your first day at college started with the ABCs.
For example, 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 folks with diabetes 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.
Do some of your staff jump to conclusions about prospects based on how they look? Big mistake. Mirna Valerio is obese—and a serious ultrarunner. Do they assume inactive people are automatically lazy or unmotivated? People with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome (myalgic encephalomyelitis) know more about fatigue and physical activity than you ever will.
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” changed the rules of the game by offering a much lower per-session price in exchange for a predictable level of monthly business that lets businesses optimize staffing levels.
If you’re a mainstream health club and you still only offer annual memberships, ask yourself how much business you’re losing because you refuse to offer a monthly or quarterly membership.
Ask yourself if assumptions about how people think and feel are undermining your business. Sure, some people love messages like “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” But far more are turned off by it, for a variety of reasons. So unless pushing clients to the edge is part of your business strategy, don’t make that part of your message!
5. What are competitors doing especially well?
Then, decide whether you need to adopt some of these practices, or simply do a better job of excelling at your own standout strengths.
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.
It’s smart to adopt some practices. For example, if you’re a mainstream health club and you still only offer annual memberships because that’s how you’ve always done and you like locking customers in for a year, ask yourself how much business you’re losing because you refuse to offer a monthly or quarterly membership.
On the other hand, we had a client who specialized in weight loss for women with a history of weight gain paired with anxiety, depression, panic and other mood disorders. One day we got a call: “The Y is adding a men’s weight loss program, so we want to start marketing our program to guys too.”
Does that sound like a good idea, based on the description of their program?
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. Incorporate this content into your sales and marketing, too.
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 relaxed and casual and cheery. Think “country inn” vs the Four Seasons Hotel. It’s incredibly welcoming, and something that is mentioned in review after review.
7. What are the actual words used by real customers about your features and benefits?
First, go through your online and offline sales and marketing materials, and make a list of the key points and “catchphrases” you always try to use when you’re talking to customers about the features and benefits of our services. Review the talking points your staff uses with prospects and add any additional key phrases you use over and over to the list.
Next, make a list of positive things your customers actually say about your fitness business, or nutritional coaching practice or wellness center. Check Google reviews, Yelp, Facebook and your emails as well as keeping your ears open. If you have a suggestion box, review what’s been submitted, focusing on praise and compliments.
Now, compare these lists. For each word, phrase or concept found in your marketing materials but not on your customer phrase list, 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.
Your customers’ words will market your business far better than your words.
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 services like yours. Don’t list attributes of your business, like “24/7 heated pool” or “board-certified nurse practitioners.”
Focus your list on the benefits they say they hope to experience.
How will their lives be better? Why did doing this make sense for them?
Do they give the same reasons once they’ve been your customer for a year, or do their reasons evolve?
For example, many yoga students initially give fitness-related reasons for starting a yoga practice, yet emphasize intangibles like mindfulness and calm as their practice continues.
Now: Do your marketing materials, including your website, clearly communicate all these benefits?
And do they convey how your services help clients realize these benefits?