Marketing?! Pfft. Why Even Bother?

Marketing?! Pfft. Why Even Bother?

Stuart Brauer over at WTF Gyms absolutely nails it in his latest screed about Gymshark and after getting fired up myself after reading it this morning, I’m going to pile on. . .because more people need to hear it. Stu isn’t subtle . . . and after 20+ years in this space? Neither am I.

Every single person reading this who is in any way, shape, or form involved in the HALO (Health, Active Lifestyle, Outdoors) section needs to pay attention. . . but ESPECIALLY the gym owners/managers/operators, because the majority of you are most guilty of NOT doing what Gymshark continues to do really, really well.

One of the best people I know in this space–someone I’m proud to call a good friend and mentor–Roger Harvey, literally has a wristband that he gives to many of his clients which says, “He who tells the best story, wins.” (Along with many others that seem to materialize at will for exactly the lesson he’s trying to convey at that exact time, #iykyk, but I digress. . . )

ISQ Founder Pete Moore echoes this sentiment as well when he relays his often-told story of when he was in discussions with a finance guy in our space who blithely remarked, “Oh. . .all they have is a brand. . .” and Pete . . . after a very pregnant pause to confirm what he just heard . . . replied, “RIGHT! Exactly!”

Ah well. Not everyone gets it. Now go back to your Excel model there, Chief, and please continue tell us in your perfect hockey stick projections, how ‘easy’ it is to do 20% YOY WITHOUT a strong brand.

Anywho. . .

It’s easy to NOT tell a story. To NOT work on why your facility is better/different/etc then the one a mile up the road, or literally the next block up (in NYC.) To NOT do the hard ‘deep work’ and take the time that something like this requires, especially when so many other “more important” issues cry for attention . . . end-of-month close out, staffing issue, maintenance, straightening up the gym floor . . . hell. . .literally ANYTHING, god forbid, then actual gasp marketing!

Most independents, whether it’s a ‘big box’ or boutique, wrongly throw up their hands and whine, “I don’t have the dollars that a Crunch, Planet, Gold’s, Lifetime, etc have. I can’t spend ‘all this money’ on marketing.

To which I often think to myself, “Welp. That’s probably one–of many–reasons your business is struggling, will probably continue to struggle, and may even go out of business. . .unless you pull your head out of the sand.”

Pete Moore says it as well . . . in nearly every keynote. . .you must learn to think of marketing as an investment in your business, and not a cost.

You say you have other things to do (that are more important) than marketing and sales?! Cry me a friggin’ river. Learn to delegate better, hire better, and get your priorities straight.

Let’s pretend you’re the owner of a $20 a month box and now a Planet is coming to town. Oh oh, Shaggy! What’cha gonna do now?! Many in this space still–to their own detriment AND to that of the entire industry–immediately (still) default to the 1980’s version of marketing and will say “drop prices.” Can’t drop your prices to negative numbers though. There’s no more race to the bottom. So NOW what?!

In the past, you’ve ignored things (that were “more important”) than marketing. . .things like branding, messaging. . .as Roger and Stu would say, “Telling your story” EXACTLY like Gymshark has done in fashion, an industry far, far more competitive then gyms.

And now Planet is in town.

And you have no story to tell.

I’d argue that because you’re NOT a franchisee. . .you have a ton more freedom. If you own a Crunch, Crunch corporate puts out that message. It’s on them to drive it home. . .and hard. . .so their z’s make more money.

But you? You build your own house. You tell your own story. You have more freedom. There are no guardrails.

Is it more frightening? Sure it is. Is it more work? Hell yeah. But ultimately. . . I’d argue it’s more rewarding when you sit back and realize, years later, that you co-existed with, thrived (and possibly even outperformed) other similar size facilities in your area, franchise or not.

If it’s not abundantly clear by now? Do. This. Work.

Ignore it at your own detriment.

Want a place to start? Read this book: