The 10 Best Blogs for Fitness Club Owners to Follow

In today’s fast-paced Fitness industry, keeping up with the latest trends can be difficult for club owners whose main focus often lies with their members. Whether it is how to increase gym memberships or taking advantage of new customer engagement strategies like SMS marketing, fitness club owners need a reliable place where they can keep up with the industry and their audience to better serve their community.

With this article, we are going to share of the 10 best blogs online that are trying to help fitness club owners navigate this unique time of competition and digital marketing. Our hope is that with these resources you will be able to create a better customer experience for your community and help them achieve their fitness goals. Let’s get into it.

fitness club owners

Diversifying your expertise

Before we begin our list, we wanted to quickly clarify why we have chosen these blogs for fitness club owners to follow. It comes down to a simple philosophy: diversifying expertise. Each of these blogs and online resources are built around serving the various segments of your customer base. By keeping an open mind and learning about the wide world of fitness, you will be able to reach an even larger base than you may have previously considered.

Once you understand this audience, then you can deliver value to them through mobile marketing efforts and offer an exceptional experience. If you can do this, not only will customer retention be much easier to accomplish, but new customers will want to find out what makes you different. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the list.

1. Mark’s Daily Apple

The first blog that fitness club owners should be following is Mark’s Daily Apple, a nutrition blog with something for everyone. While the main focus of this blog is dieting, Mark has articles on stress management, strength training, family health, and more. We recommend staying up to date on this blog in order to have better, more fruitful conversations with your members about what they are eating and how it translates to achieving their goals.

2. Lift Big Eat Big

As the name states, Lift Big Eat Big is a site dedicated to strength training and body building, something fitness club owners likely have a basic understanding of already. However, the LBEB community is a great place to dive deeper and learn more about nutrition, programming, and tacking on mass. Part of diversifying your expertise means going more in depth in areas like this that may only matter to part of your audience, but that means it should matter to you.

3. The Franchise King

On the other side of the coin, the Franchise King run by Joel Libava is a good starting place for fitness club owners wanting to learn the ropes of gym ownership. Not only that, but Libava has articles with new franchise and investment opportunities, helping owners expand their brand. We recommend following this blog for insights that don’t bog you down with technical language and help you run a better business.

4. Breaking Muscle

Next on our list is Breaking Muscle, a must-read for fitness club owners hoping to help their clients with strength or endurance training. Written by experts from their respective fields, there is something on this site for just about everyone. Whether you are learning yourself or need material for your members, this is a good place to start.

5. ACE Fit

The American Council of Exercise is one of the best places to keep track of the latest trends in the fitness industry. Often your customers will need help understanding these recent trends, so make sure you are staying on top of what gym members are excited about by following ACE. Without the best information, you can be doing both yourself and your members a disservice.

6. Club Industry

For fitness club owners wanting to better understand the fitness industry as a whole, Club industry is a wonderful one-stop shop for everything from tips to news to fads. Additionally, CI does a good job of breaking down the latest gym management technology, allowing owners to find what works best for them and apply it to their own business.

7. New York Times Wellness

Although the NYTimes wellness blog is not specifically for fitness club owners, operating with the resources of one of the world’s best known publications allows writers to provide excellent insight. If you own a gym, this should absolutely be part of your blog list for nothing more than the fact that your customers are likely reading the same articles.

8. IDEA Health and Fitness

One of the largest online fitness professional communities, IDEA health and fitness has something for every fitness club owner. While you will need to create an account in order to participate in the online forums, we recommend it as it will allow you to discuss common issues with other pros. Likely, you will have many of the same issues and hopefully will be able to discover solutions that work across the wide spectrum of fitness offerings clubs provide.

9. Fit-Pro

Need help with personal trainers or looking to grow your business? Fit-Pro is for you. Leaning more to the ‘how to run a fitness business’ side of things, this is a wonderful resource for trainers and club owners alike. You can also meet others and share ideas on different forums like IDEA, but with a more focused approach.

10. Gleantap

Finally, our last blog for you to follow is actually our very own Gleantap blog, specifically our work with fitness clubs. We know that customer retention and SMS marketing can be game-changing for our fitness club owners, which is why we are continuously creating content around these strategies and technologies. Check it out and subscribe to our newsletter to make sure you never miss the latest!

Final thoughts

As we spoke about at the beginning of this article, fitness club owners can benefit greatly from learning more about their customers and diversifying their expertise. Each of the 10 fitness blogs listed above are good starting places for you to take your fitness business to the next level. We hope that you will take advantage of these resources and help create a healthier, fitter future for all!


5 More Tips for Skillfully Collecting Customer Feedback

In 2018, the best way to serve your customer base is to find out what their needs are and do your best to provide a valuable solution to those problems. At its core, this is what customer retention marketing is all about. However, without the right tools and tactics for collecting customer feedback, it can be difficult to know what those needs are and the best way of fulfilling them.

Back in January, we put together a post on customer feedback and how to reach your audience in order to gather insight. With this article, we are going to examine 5 more tips for skillfully collecting customer feedback to further round out this incredible important part of the marketing process. Before we begin, let’s first quickly review why customer feedback is so important in the first place.

If you haven’t already read 7 Best Practices for Collecting Customer Feedback, read it here.

Why customer feedback matters

As we mentioned, collecting customer feedback is one of the best ways to understand your audience, but what you might not realize is that there is more to it than that. For a long time in the world of marketing and advertising, brands have tried to build trust with customers through promotions and other gimmicks. However, what we are realizing now is that customers want to be asked about how their experience can be improved.

By simply asking customers their opinions and collecting customer feedback when they provide it, you are establishing a relationship that is beneficial to both parties. The customers are able to receive a better experience from you, the brand, while you are able to better serve your ideal customers. If you can begin collecting customer feedback with this mindset, you will be putting your best foot forward when it comes to both customer experience and service.

Tips and best practices

Now that you have the right mindset for gathering customer insights, let’s go over a few different ways of collecting customer feedback with actionable goals in mind. Although you are attempting to establish a sound relationship, it’s also important to remember why you are requesting feedback in the first place. With this in mind, let’s look at tip #1 that deals with this exact concept.

1. Create surveys with detailed goals in mind

Our first tip for collecting customer feedback is to create your surveys and feedback exercises with specific, detailed goals in mind. Although these are tools that you are using to learn about your audience, you should have a certain level of knowledge going in that can guide your efforts to make sure you are receiving insight that is relevant.

For instance, if your customers are getting stopped up at a particular point in the customer journey, you can tailor the questions around that. This way, instead of being too general or even too specific, you can ask customers how your team is doing on guiding them through the process. This will give far more valuable and actionable items for you to add to your to-do list than a general survey.

2. Make it easy to provide feedback

Another way to collect customer feedback efficiently and with optimal results is to make it easy to provide feedback. While surveys are good, the average response rate for email surveys is roughly 24%, meaning you will need more than just email to get the job done well. Thankfully, there are a few different ways you can do about this.

SMS

While email has a notoriously low engagement rate, SMS Marketing boasts a 98% open rate, leading more marketers than ever to use SMS for customer feedback. In fact, you can use marketing automation to set up short surveys with your customers that feel like a conversation rather than a formal interview. Consider using SMS to make this process simpler and faster for your audience.

Comments and reviews

According to Zendesk, 30% of customers share positive reviews via social media, while 63% of consumers read negative reviews via social media. Not only does this show how important it is to stay on top of the comments and reviews you receive, but that you monitor these comments to make sure potential customers aren’t getting bad information on your brand. Customers will use these avenues whether you monitor them or not, so make sure you are on top of it.

3. Offer incentives

Despite your best efforts to reach your customers through mobile marketing and other feedback avenues, sometimes it can be difficult finding the engagement you are looking for. This is where offering incentives to collect the customer feedback you need can be the difference between good data and great data.

However, keep in mind that you don’t want to skew the information you are collecting, so make sure that you aren’t just paying random people to take your survey. Incentives like reward points toward your customer loyalty program are the best way to ensure you are getting helpful feedback from actual customers.

4. Track all customer interactions

Now, so far we have mainly spoken about collecting customer feedback through traditional means, but there is often an untapped way of gathering data on your customers you may not have tried yet: user engagement metrics. By tracking customer behavior, you can actually learn far more than a survey where someone knows they are being asked about your business. Customers may say one thing, but the data will often tell a different story.

The way to get ahead of this is to begin tracking all customer interactions. Everything from session time on your website to abandon cart rates can have open your eyes to areas of improvement for your customers. Don’t forget about these unique ways of collecting customer feedback when starting your campaign.

5. Ask consistently

Finally, our last piece of advice for collecting customer feedback, especially with surveys, is to ask consistently. We mean this in two ways: first, ask repeatedly for customer feedback. Like we mentioned earlier, surveys often have very low response rates, so it may take multiple asks to even reach your customers. But secondly, keep your questions and tone consistent when collecting feedback to get the best possible results.

Which brings us to our final thoughts: Remember why you are collecting feedback in the first place. As a marketer in 2018, it is your job to understand the needs of customers and then find ways to meet those needs with your product or service. Collecting customer feedback is one of the most effective ways to do this, so remember these tips and you will have a much better experience moving forward!


How to Optimize the Customer Journey at Every Step

In today’s competitive market, customers have more choices than ever before. Due to this, keeping prospects engaged through the customer journey all the way to conversion has become more difficult, which is why more brands are choosing to optimize each step of the process. By acting as a helpful guide along the way, you can engage with customers in meaningful ways and create an exceptional customer experience.

With this article, we are going to break down the customer journey and show you how to optimize each part of the process. Our hope is that you will be able to create a well-oiled customer retention machine that brings in new customers and provides value at every point. That being said, let’s first discuss exactly what we mean when we talk about a ‘customer journey.’

customer journey

What is the customer journey?

Put simply, the customer journey is the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with your company and brand. However, like customer personas and segmentation, this doesn’t need to be a perfect view, but more of a fictional idea that you can then base decisions off of. That being said, both personas and the customer journey should be based on actual data.

Now that you know what the customer journey is, the next step is to begin mapping out each step of the process. As you do this, you will be able to see things from a large perspective and then focus on each area and how you can offer a better customer experience along the way. If it helps to think of the journey as a funnel, that is perfectly fine, as the same rules apply.

With this image in mind, let’s look at the first part of the journey i.e. the top of the funnel.

Establish a robust online presence

The first step in most of your customer’s journeys will be finding your brand through some form of online advertising. In order to cast the widest possible net or have the largest opening to your funnel, establishing a robust online presence will be a necessity. Thankfully, with the wide array of digital marketing channels available, this has never been easier.

Tools such as social media and having a mobile-friendly website will help make sure that you are making yourself easy to find. You can take this a step further by optimizing your branding so that customers know exactly what you provide and don’t have to look far in order to get in touch. Like we mentioned earlier, part of improving the customer journey is being there to guide them through the process.

Use good design to open the door

As you begin to establish yourself online, more customers will begin to interact with your business. This first impression will be vital to earning their interest and keeping them engaged throughout the customer journey, so invest in good design to open this door. According to BCS, a user’s judgement of the credibility of a brand is 75% based upon aesthetic quality, meaning you should be doing everything you can to improve this.

Not only can well-planned design help make the right first impression, but user experience and customer experience are very closely linked. By employing UX design principles across the customer journey, your customers will understand how best to engage with you. This is one of the best assets for you to have when attempting to earn their business.

Plan out touchpoints

So far, we have spoken about ways to bring in more customers through good design and online marketing. However, once they are on the customer journey, you still have work to do in order to move them forward from a prospect into a customer. Along the way, there will be different touchpoints where you can meet and engage your customers. By planning these out early in the process, you can begin to optimize them for the best performance.

For instance, if a customer takes a next step and requests additional information, you can send them a quick SMS message with the exact info they are looking for. This sort of marketing automation can be the difference between a conversion and letting a lead slip through your fingers. Be sure to look into SMS marketing for providing value to your customers efficiently and effectively at every point.

Take advantage of opportunities

Now, once you have begun to plan out these touchpoints and receive interest from your prospects, make sure that you are taking advantage of these opportunities. Marketing, and mobile marketing in particular, is all about providing the right solution to the right people at the right time.

When customers reach out to you, they want you to impress them by meeting their needs in a timely manner. By not pursuing these opportunities, you are shooting yourself in the foot and missing out on potential revenue.

Track everything

Another essential part of optimizing the customer journey is to track everything along the way and then use that data to continuously improve the process. User engagement metrics and analytics will be essential here, as many marketers have to alter their approach once they review how customers actually interact with the brand. This is a perfectly normal part of the journey, so don’t worry, just remember that data-based decisions are always recommended.

Convert and sell

The final step in the process is what the whole customer journey has been building up to: converting and ultimately selling them your product or service. The good part is that if you have already optimized the process, this is simply the next logical step. The problem is that far too often brands fumble the ball right here at the goal line. Our advice is simple: ask them for their business.

Unless you are straightforward in asking that they convert, they likely never will. However, by spending time establishing yourself as a helpful guide, this will come from a place of trust and not appear salesly. Whether you do this through email, over the phone, or through calls-to-action is not necessarily important. You just need to remember to take the chance and ask them to join. If your customer journey is working, they won’t have an issue saying yes.

Final thoughts

As a business owner trying to lay out your customer retention strategy, it can feel as if losing or retaining customers is out of your control. Our hope is that by reading through this guide, you will be able to have a better understanding of both the process and your control over it.

Remember, this is going to be a constant quest to better the experience of your customers, so as long as you are working on it, you are on the right track. Now, what are you waiting for? Start optimizing today!


Fitness Club Spotlight: What Gym Owners Can Learn from Planet Fitness’s Success

As the global fitness industry continues to grow, there is an increasing number of competitors entering the field with various offerings catering to a wide range of customers. Each of these brands must find the right customer retention strategy in order to maintain a solid member base, which will vary depending on their offerings. One brand that has seen continued success in recent years is Planet Fitness, the low-cost franchise that has changed fitness forever.

With our Fitness Club Spotlight series, we take a look at exceptional fitness clubs in order to see what knowledge can be Gleaned from their success. Today, we will take a look at the history of Planet Fitness, what has set them apart, and what gym owners can learn to improve their own offerings from PF’s success. However, before we talk about their strategy, let’s go back to the beginning when Planet Fitness was just a struggling gym in Dover, New Hampshire.

planet fitness

Where it all began

Back in 1992, brothers Michael and Marc Grondahl acquired a fitness club on the edge of collapse. In order to save the gym and compete with better known brands, the pair reduced prices and decided to focus on occasional and first-time gym members, rather than more experienced fitness types. When this began to catch on, the Grondahl brothers and then front-desk worker Chris Rondeau recognized that there was a great opportunity to create a non-intimidating, low-cost model. The rest, as they say, is history.

In the 26 years since its founding, Planet Fitness has grown to 1500+ locations across the U.S. and Canada and changed the fitness industry forever. By focusing on the needs of customers and keeping costs low, PF has become one of the most recognizable names in Fitness and only continues to grow. And Chris Rondeau, the once front-desk worker, can now be found at the position of CEO. All of this began with a simple idea to create a new type of gym.

A new type of gym

Planet Fitness soon realized that there had been a need in the market for a new type of gym. As they began to cultivate a less judgmental company culture, Planet Fitness only continued to grow. There was something about the idea of keeping the gym to just the necessities that resonated with their audience and soon this focus on customer experience would pay off.

As this approach began to gain traction, larger brands would begin to take notice. After all, when Planet Fitness members can get the same workout at a lower cost without the expensive overhead of amenities like pools and basketball courts, you might begin to wonder if those are really necessary.

Low costs

In fact, in order to keep costs low, this was the approach that the Grondahl brothers would take early on. Instead of investing in more gym equipment, that may or may not pay off, they were taking the money that would have been spent and putting it back into growing the business. This is something Chris Rondeau refers to as their ‘marketing machine,’ but more on that later.

Essentially, Planet Fitness has been able to secure themselves in the market as the low cost option by investing their extra cash flow into bringing in new customers. Then, they let their unique culture and fitness offering do the rest when it comes to customer retention marketing.

Meeting the needs of customers

For many gym owners, the question becomes ‘How do I increase gym memberships?’ A lesson that can be learned from Planet Fitness is that the best way to both gain new memberships and increase customer loyalty is by meeting the needs of customers. The original Planet Fitness team understood that there was a need to provide a low-cost, less intense option for fitness and 26 years later this still holds true.

When you are planning out your own marketing campaigns, it is worth remembering this simple lesson. While Planet Fitness has been able to make money off of their model, there may be a different model already out there that is yet to be taken advantage of. The best way to understand these needs is to ask your audience and then make the necessary changes. Sometimes it really is that simple.

Continued success and the ‘marketing machine’

Now, earlier we spoke about how Chris Rondeau refers to Planet Fitness’s approach as a marketing machine, but let’s talk about what that means. According to him, for every new member that joins, 9% of that revenue goes directly to marketing and fueling the next member join. Not only does this cut down on customer acquisition costs, but in an industry with such a high churn rate, bringing in new members is essential to staying relevant.

That being said, there comes a time where you hit the threshold of what you are capable of doing in regards to retention just based on your product or service offering. This is why marketers today, especially those in the fitness industry, are putting their focus into customer engagement and experience.

Customer engagement

In today’s market, both current customers and potential prospects can benefit from customer engagement. With so many different digital marketing channels, brands can reach their customers like never before. However, there are countless other companies competing for the same online real estate, meaning that you need to be as engaging as possible to make it worth your while.

This is why Planet Fitness and others have sought out customer engagement platforms in order to better serve their customer base. Tools like SMS marketing can not only help customers remember to keep up with your brand, but can position your brand in their head as a trusted advisor. Like we mentioned earlier, one of the best ways to help customers is by providing them with value that can meet their needs. SMS and other engagement strategies can help here dramatically.

What we can learn from their success

By reviewing the history of Planet Fitness and the success they have had, it’s clear that they are doing something right. In order to better serve your own members, there are a few key takeaways that can be gathered from the success of PF, including:

Listen to your customer’s needs: Planet Fitness understood that customers wanted something different. They have been able to make a name for themselves by providing that exact thing.

Do more with less: There is a time and place for flashy, showy products, but that time is quickly become less often. Customers want a good experience from a brand they trust more than anything, so give it to them.

Invest in your customers: The best way to keep loyal customers around and attract new prospects is by investing in your customers. Don’t forget that they are the ones who got you where you are now.

If you are able to take these lessons from Planet Fitness and apply them to your own industry, brand, or business, you should have less issues with customer churn in the future and a loyal base on which to build your business. And don’t forget the ‘judgement free zone!’


"What is Churn?" and other SMS Marketing FAQs, Answered

For any business owner trying to effectively serve their clients in 2018, digital marketing channels and mobile technology can seem daunting if you aren’t sure where to begin. As an SMS marketing platform, we understand the informational barriers of entry that prevent these owners from getting involved and taking their retention to new levels. Even simple questions like “what is churn?” can be difficult to answer unless you know where to look.

In the interest of helping bring more owners and marketers into the future and help them reduce churn for their own business, we have put together a list of FAQs or frequently asked questions about SMS. Our hope is that with these questions out of the way, you can begin to focus your energy on using these tools to improve your customer journey instead of trying to understand how to use them. Without further ado, let’s look at the first question.

what is churn

1. What is churn?

The first FAQ that we often receive is “What is churn?” Customer churn is when, for a variety of different reasons, a customer stops using your services and buying your products. Although this is a natural part of the business process, many companies are seeing higher churn rates as consumers today have more options and companies are seeing an increase in competition.

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to reduce churn, which is the basis of most customer retention and SMS marketing plans. In the case of text marketing, delivering your customers personalized content that adds value to their experience directly to their phones is the best way to show your customers that you care. If you can consistently do this, you can lower your churn rate and provide better customer engagement for your audience.

For more, check out these 6 powerful strategies for battling churn.  

2. What’s the difference between MMS and SMS marketing?

Another common Q we received along with “What is Churn?” is “What is the difference between MMS and SMS marketing? First, let’s break down MMS, which means Multimedia Messaging Service and SMS, which means Short Messaging Service. While SMS is limited to 160 characters, MMS has no character limit and can include a subject line as well as attached media like images and videos.

However, when it comes to the marketing purposes of MMS vs. SMS, they are often similar, with MMS simply allowing for more customization. That being said, now that big names like Apple are seeing the use cases of marketing through messaging, we may see a revitalization of MMS as it is used to enhance the user experience.

For more, check out this article “What is MMS?”

3. Why is an opt-in required for SMS marketing?

Moving on to slightly more in-depth SMS questions that we receive, often business owners are curious as to why an opt-in is required when launching a text marketing campaign. Simply put, it’s the law, however there are other reasons why you should seek an opt-in from your audience. By asking your customers to confirm that they want to receive messages from you, they are showing you that they are interest in customer engagement.

If you’re wondering why this is so important, consider that loyal customers are 5x as likely to repurchase, 5x as likely to forgive, 7x as likely to try a new offering, and 4x as likely to refer. Although asking for that initial opt-in may seem like a risk, the rewards that come from a dedicated customer base are more than worth it.

For further reading, you may be interested in SMS Best Practices for Optimal Results.

4. Is text marketing as effective as everyone says?

When business owners first hear about mass text marketing, they often believe that it is too good to be true. We can’t blame them. Statistics like SMS’s 98% open rate do sound like they are unrealistic, but as a platform that helps small businesses with SMS, we can confirm that the rumors are true. SMS is far and away the most effective mobile marketing solution out there and brands that aren’t taking advantage of it are missing out.

Want to improve customer retention? See how SMS can help.

5. How can I track conversions with SMS?

As we continue looking at more questions like “What is churn?” and the intricacies of SMS marketing, you may already have a good understanding of these things and be more interested in improving your campaign. “How can I track conversions?” and the following three questions should help you out in this regard.

Now, we can’t speak for all text marketing platforms, but Gleantap allows business owners and marketers to track their conversion rates for every message they send. Along with this, we provide you with various tools like marketing automation and touchpoints to optimize conversion rates for you campaign. If you are working with an SMS platform that doesn’t provide these basic insights, we recommend finding one that does.

For more, check out the Holy Grail of Conversion Rate Optimization.

6. Does SMS marketing allow for one-on-one messaging?

Another FAQ that we receive stems from a common misunderstanding about how SMS marketing works, which asks if SMS allows one-on-one messaging. The simple answer to this question is yes, it does. However, to further clarify, SMS marketing is more than bulk SMS messages sent to your audience.

Mass text marketing campaigns can be customized and personalized down to one-on-one interactions if you find that is the best way to reach your customers. Others will simply use customer segmentation to reach different groups of customers. The most important thing is that you are meeting your customers where they are and providing value to their experience. If you can do this, the rest will fall into place.

7. What is marketing automation?

If you have been trying to get involved in digital marketing over the last few years, you may have heard the term ‘marketing automation’ and wondered what it means. Marketing automation is the process of automating various marketing activities for a more efficient and improved customer experience. Due to the nature of most marketing activities in 2018, you can automate most of a customer’s journey.

For instance, with SMS, marketers can use SMS keywords like STOP, HELP, and INFO with automatic responses to help their customers understand their business processes. Similar to chatbots, these responses can be written in advance and help with everything from support to purchase decisions. In order to keep up with the fast-paced digital world we live in, marketing automation will only continue to be a powerful tactic for many companies in the future.

See why Marketing Automation should be part of your 2018 strategy.

8. How can I improve my campaign?

Finally, the last FAQ we will look at is “How can I improve my campaign?” Although this is fairly open-ended and there is a large amount of tools and tactics that can be used, we will simply recommend that you check out our free eBook with 30 different techniques. Hopefully, this will help you go from “what is churn?” to never having to worry about your churn rate again. With this, we wish you happy hunting and best luck on your own SMS marketing campaign!


Everything You Need to Create Your Customer Engagement Strategy

Over the last few years, brands have begun to realize that customers now have far more power than they used to in regards to the interactions they have with companies. In response to this shift in dynamic, customer retention marketing and customer engagement have become common strategies for battling customer churn. Those who are late to the party will soon realize that without a sound customer engagement strategy will be left behind.

In the interest of helping you better serve your customers and create your own customer engagement strategy, we have put together this article on everything you need to know to get started. Our hope is that by tailoring your strategy with engagement in mind, you can get ahead of the curve and make the most out of your campaign. Let’s get started.

customer engagement strategy

Why customer engagement matters

So, what is customer engagement? According to Aircall, engagement is a mixture of tangible manifestations of customer loyalty and the quality of the customer experience. Without actual metrics and data to back up customer loyalty, it can be difficult to know if your strategy is working. A customer’s experience can show exactly how engaged they really are with your brand.

Now, this may not seem important as long as you are keeping customers. However, as more brands roll out their own customer engagement strategy, you will soon be left behind. When you consider that 80% of consumers indicated they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experience, you begin to understand just how important engagement can be.

Drawing up a plan

As you begin drawing out your plan of attack for your customer engagement strategy, it is worth remembering that a good customer experience is one where the customer feels an emotional attachment to you and your brand. It may help to keep the following ideas in mind as a goal for how you want your customers to feel as they engage with your company.

  1. This brand always delivers on what they promise.
  2. I feel proud to be a customer of this brand.
  3. This brand is the perfect company for people like me.

If you are able to meet these requirements, customers will not only feel loyal to your brand, but they will want to tell others about you as well. The ultimate goal of a customer engagement strategy is to provide value to your customers in such a way that they become advocates for your brand. However, this is easier said than done. Next, let’s take a look at a few ways you can improve your strategy in order to get the most out of customer interactions and engagement.

Stand for something

The first part of doing customer engagement well is to stand for something. Whether this is something like giving a percentage of your revenue to charity or simply volunteering as a team on the weekends, customers want to know that the companies they interact with stand for something more than just money. In fact, two-thirds of consumers think it’s important for brands to take a public stance on social issues.

Now, it should go without saying that standing for something purely to gain customers trust is not advised. Instead, businesses should begin to realize that transparency and honesty are more important to customers than saving money or earning ‘rewards points.’ By actually investing in social issues and trying to make a difference, you will not only earn the trust of your customers, but have an effect on the larger community. This is something that should be a goal for every organization.

Be human

Up next for creating a customer engagement strategy is to be human and remember that your customers are too. This goes back to a previous article discussing how UX and CX work together, but by focusing on the needs of the customer, you are able to offer a better experience. Not only that, but customers will come to see you as a value-add to their lives.

This, simply put, is what customers buy into in today’s market. Beyond a certain point, products and services can only go so far. Customers are more interested in how your brand can help them better their lives and only by remembering the humanity of your customers will your truly be able to do this.

Keep it simple

Although there are plenty of grand ways to improve the customer experience and further your customer engagement strategy, sometimes the best option is to keep it simple. For instance, if a customer makes a purchase, sending a quick email with a thank you and their receipt is all that is necessary to provide a good experience. When brands try to make a big show of everything, they can end up alienating customers instead.

This is an area where recent improvements in marketing automation can come into play. Whenever a customer interacts with your brand, automate messages and chatbots can be used to provide instantaneous responses with required information. Simple things like this can quickly turn a good experience into a great one.

Always provide value

While we have mentioned this early, it is worth repeating: when setting up your customer engagement strategy, try your best to always provide value to your customers. Throughout the customer journey, there will be opportunities for you to guide them along by providing them with tips and tools for success. By investing in customer engagement and ensuring that this guidance is available, you can take your strategy to a whole new level.

Keep in mind, this doesn’t just go for direct interactions, but your entire omnichannel approach. Part of providing a great customer experience is to be consistent across the board so that any interaction your customers have with your brand meets their standards.

Continuously reevaluate and grow

Finally, the last thing you need to know about creating a customer engagement strategy is that this is not a one-time thing, but a continuous part of your marketing campaign. As you start to get the hang of customer engagement, you will need to always be checking and reevaluating your user engagement metrics for ways to grow and improve.

Although this may seem like a daunting task, now that you have a better understanding of both the need for customer engagement and how to go about creating a strategy, you are well on your way already. As long as you stick to it and remember to provide customers value throughout the process, you will be just fine.


open rate

5 Strategies to Improve the Open Rate of Email and SMS Campaigns

For any organization hoping to get involved with customer retention marketing, there are a few different tools that you will need to familiarize yourself with. Two tools that can be incredible powerful when it comes to reducing churn are email and SMS marketing. However, according to Mailchimp, with low open rate statistics and an oversaturation of digital marketing channels, creating a powerful campaign can be difficult.

This is why we have put together 5 strategies designed to help you improve the open rate of both email and SMS campaigns. Although open rates are historically high for SMS, these tactics can still be used to improve both of these tools for greater success. On top of that, when combined, they are far more potent than when they are done separately. Let’s begin by taking a look at the state of email and SMS in 2018.

The state of email and SMS in 2018

The first thing that you should know about both email and SMS is that they have been around for a while, both for personal and professional use. This familiarity can be huge when it comes to reach customers, as they already understand the platform and how to communicate. In fact, the 98% open rate of SMS often comes from users always being near their phones. Whereas, the ubiquitous nature of email has led to a steady decline of open rate stats over time.

Now, in 2018, with a variety of new and innovative communication platforms, most customers still prefer the tried and true methods of email and SMS. That being said, customers are also much more interested in receiving a good customer experience when they are interacting with a company. This is why best practices must be put into place in order to get the most out of these tools.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at these 5 strategies to help you increase the open rate of your messages and better serve your audience.

1. Boring subject lines

Yep, that’s right. Our first strategy is going to sound ludicrous, but according to a report based on over 200 million emails, Mailchimp discovered that boring, straight-to-the-point email subject lines are actually better than showy or flashy alternatives. In order for customers to want to click through to read your email (and hopefully convert), they need to know what they are going to be reading.

A good best practice here is to state the title of the article you are sharing or pretend you are writing a title if the email doesn’t include a link. Something that informs users without telling the whole story is the balance you will be looking for.

SMS subject lines

You might be thinking, “Wait, SMS doesn’t have subject lines,” which is accurate. However, with more smartphones on the market than ever before, MMS or Multimedia Messaging is becoming more popular and allows for marketers to include a subject line. Although this may not be necessary for every message, there will be times where an extra flair will go a long way, in which case MMS is recommended.

2. 80/20

The next strategy for optimizing your open rate and getting the most out of your campaign is known as the rule of 80/20. Under this rule, you want to dedicate about 80% or 4 out of 5 messages to being insightful and helpful to your customers, while only actually selling the other 20% of the time. Along with providing a better experience to your customers, it will also make your emails and SMS messages with sales content more powerful.

Now, even though you won’t be selling with each message, another way to increase open rate and conversion rate is by including a call-to-action with each SMS or email. Especially with the immediacy of text marketing, having a clear next step for customers to take will make them look forward to your messaging and help your open rate.

3. Optimize, optimize, optimize

As you start to build out your campaigns, you will start to see areas that can be improved along the way. Our advice is to optimize everywhere you can along the way, whether it is optimizing emails for mobile devices or maximizing your SMS, making these subtle changes will only further improve your open rate.

Although this doesn’t seem that revolutionary of a strategy, as customers begin to become familiar with marketing automation and other techniques for increase customer engagement they will want a better experience. Automating and optimizing wherever possible in the process will help you continuously improve your performance.

4. Understand the delivery method

We mentioned earlier that both SMS and email work best, both in regards to the power of the campaign and open rate, when working together. However, there will be times when you will need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of both avenues along with which is best used to meet your goals.

For example, there are plenty of occasions where an SMS message should be used, due to the speed and ease of use. That being said, the same efficiency can work against you in other scenarios with less timely info, in which case an email will be more appropriate. As you plan out your campaigns, make sure you understand the delivery methods you will be using and that they are the best option for what you hope to accomplish.

5. Track, tweak, repeat.

The last strategy for improving the open rate of your email and SMS campaigns is to track everything, tweak what needs fixing, and do it all over again. Again, this may seem simple, and we recommend doing this with all of your marketing, but it will greatly improve the performance of your campaign if you are always performing maintenance and making sure you are putting your best foot forward.

In the case of email and SMS, this looks like changing subject lines, trying new formats and keywords, as well as asking your audience for feedback on how you can improve. Each time you approach the campaign, you should be considering how it will improve your customer’s experience and do whatever you can to help it. As long as you keep this in mind, you will have nothing to worry about in regard to retention or open rates!


ABC Financial: Streamlined Services for Customer Success

As anyone who has worked in the Fitness industry or simply had a gym membership will tell you, getting members to come back to the gym can be difficult to do. Although America has been set on getting fit for the last few years, unless fitness clubs are focused on customer retention, members will continue to fall through the tracks.

One company that understands this better than anyone is ABC Financial, the Arkansas-based gym management software solution that aims to help gyms and fitness clubs create a better member experience. They do this by providing seamless, streamlined services that allow gyms to focus on helping their members get fit and leave the technicalities to them.

Over the last 30+ years, ABC Financial has been helping fitness businesses to focus on customer experience and are now a leader in the fitness industry. In this article, we will take a look at their history, offerings, and what sets them apart, hoping to unveil tips and best practices we can all use to improve our own systems for success. Let’s take a look.

ABC Financial

History of ABC Financial

Founded in 1981 by Jim Bottin, ABC Financial began simply as a secure payment processing platform for fitness clubs. However, over the course of the last few decades as technology has progressed, so has ABC Financial’s software and services offered. Now, they cover everything from managing gym employees to providing mobile apps to the same thing they were doing in ’81, securing payments.

Now, ABC Financial is working with over 7,000 health clubs in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. By staying on top of the latest cutting edge technology, ABC has been able to stay relevant and at the front of the fitness industry. As they continue to aid these fitness clubs, their software only improves further, setting them up to hold their spot at the top for the foreseeable future.

Streamlined Services

In fact, it is the streamlined nature of ABC Financial’s services that is so important for fitness club owners and what sets them apart. Since these health clubs, like any monthly service, value the knowledge that they will receive payment from their customers each month, it is up to ABC Financial to make sure this happens without issue.

They do this in a few different ways, such as providing a place for members to see their bill, but also through customer retention tactics geared toward keeping them around. As they have grown, ABC has had experience working with clubs small and large, single and multi-location, preparing them to work with any company seeking their services.

Built-in Customer Retention

This focus on automation has obviously served them well. As more companies are beginning to see the value of customer retention and experience-focused initiatives, organizations like ABC Financial are continuing to grow simply by focusing on what customers want. By keeping everything within reach for fitness club owners, they can provide the type of experience members are looking for.

We call this built-in customer retention, meaning that when you are providing value to your audience, you don’t have to worry about customer churn. As long as customers are interested in your services and excited by the experience you provide, they will continue to work with you. This is something that ABC Financial understands for both themselves and their clients.

DataTrak

Now that you have an idea of how ABC Financial aims to improve the member experience, let’s take a look at their product offerings to see exactly how they accomplish this. Let’s first look at DataTrak, a web-based club management system that helps owners reduce delinquent payments and improve the customer experience. They do this in a few ways, including member check-ins, schedule management, and more!

A lesson that can be learned from DataTrak comes from the name, and that is the value of member data for creating a memorable experience. User engagement metrics and smart analytics now offer companies the ability to guide members through their customer journeys with triggers and touchpoints. Additionally, with DataTrak’s employee portal, owners and operators can make sure their employees are doing their best to serve their members.

MYiCLUBOnline

The next offering provided by ABC Financial that we will review is their product MYiCLUBOnline, which allows members the opportunity to manage their schedules, contact info, and more. MYiCLUBOnline is the bread and butter of what makes ABC Financial work, allowing members to schedule their payments in advance and monitor their payment history in order to avoid complications.

Either by having it built within a site of ABC’s making or through their existing site, fitness clubs can employ the use of MYiCLUBOnline seamlessly, allowing them to incorporate this offering without disruption. Along with that, ABC provides a full team to help you get started, since they understand this can be a stressful time when changing providers for something as crucial as member payments.

Mobile apps with Netpulse

The final product offering from ABC Financial actually comes in collaboration with another fitness company we have talked about before, NetPulse. Knowing that NetPulse is a leader in fitness club mobile apps, ABC has opted to let them handle the mobile app services for their customers. Although this may seem like a potential area for ABC to get into, they understand that NetPulse can do a better job than they can currently.

This unselfish nature is what has made ABC into the company they are today. By focusing on what serves the members instead of their own purposes, they are able to create a product line that speaks for itself in regards to member retention and the customer experience.

Success of ABC Financial

After reviewing the history, offerings, and strategy of ABC Financial, it’s clear that they have an understanding of the fitness industry that has served them well in their 37 years of operation. For others in the fitness world, this should be an indication that processes like tracking member data and focusing on the member experience are what can set you apart when it comes to added value.

We hope to continue seeing success from companies like ABC Financial that choose to focus on customer needs above their own. As we move into a world more technologically advanced than ever before, this aim to be human and appeal to members on a personal level will continue to be even more important. Our advice: follow the fitness leaders like ABC Financial and who knows? The next company we review could be yours.


How User Experience and Customer Experience Go Hand-in-Hand

When you first start to plan any marketing strategy, you often try your best to imagine how your campaign will be received. Questions such as “How will this best reach our target market?” and “What is the best way to get our message across?” will likely be running through your head. Now, in 2018, there are one or two more questions you should be asking, including “What is our user experience like and how can we improve it?”

In this article, we will cover how user experience fits into customer engagement marketing in 2018. Along with that, we will discuss the merits of both UX design and focusing on the customer experience, as well as the differences between these two approaches. By the end, we hope to have guided you through how best to optimize both your user experience as well as the larger customer experience for your audience. This way, you will be well equipped to take on the age of the ‘experience’ that find ourselves in today. Let’s get started.

user experience

The age of the ‘experience’

Over the last few years, companies like Amazon have revolutionize the customer service industry to the point that consumers are now more interested in a positive customer experience with a company than actual products or services. In fact, according to ThinkJar Research, 55% of customers are willing to pay more for a guaranteed good experience, with the operative word here being ‘guaranteed.’

For years, large brands have been able to get away with the promise of a good user and customer experience without the need for follow-through. Now, with social media and online reviews, brands have to invest in the customer experience in order to stay competitive. Otherwise, their lack of follow-through can end up severely damaging their brand reputation. With this in mind, let’s take a further look at how UX and CX fit together to make this possible.

UX vs. CX: What’s the difference?

Now, if you aren’t already familiar with the differences between UX and CX, User Experience is all about the interactions customers have with your product, while Customer Experience encompasses everything about your relationship with the customer. For instance, if a phone has good UX, then it is easy to use, but good CX would mean that when you call customer service to ask about your phone, that is an easy process as well.

While focusing on the user experience is important, whether you are developing a mobile app or creating a physical product, without the larger context of CX you can only go so far. However, if you can approach the user experience design of your product with knowledge of how it will affect the way customers interact with your brand, you have the chance to stand out from the crowd.

User Experience basics

You may still be wondering how user experience and customer experience work together. In order to better understand this, let’s take at some UX design basics and see how they can be applied to improving the customer experience. Two of the main UX principles are to be contextual and be human. This means that whenever you are developing an experience, you want to walk through how it will affect the user within the context of the situation.

The same goes for planning out the customer experience. From the time that they show interest in your product until you hopefully win their business, you should be thinking: how would I want to be treated? This empathy puts you into the place of the end-user and allows you to tap into what your customers want. That being said, user engagement metrics and other analytics should be used, not just your gut feeling.

Empathy and the end-user

It will be this empathy for your customers that sets you apart from your competition. As more companies invest in customer experiences, those who can provide value to their customers through each interaction with a brand are the ones that will be set apart. Organizations need to begin investing in marketing automation and other programs that seek to make customers’ lives painless and efficient.

Not only that, but once you begin to make customer experience a focus, your audience will come to trust your company. As you develop this trusting relationship, customers will be more willing to share their thoughts with you as well as participate in new programs. By putting them first, you are flipping the paradigm, something they will come to appreciate as they see the value you provide.

Customer experience marketing

In the end, this is what you are aiming for with customer experience marketing: to create an environment where customers want to be a part of your brand. For far too long, companies have been focused on products instead of experiences, but as user experience continues to show customers how much better they can have it, this will continue to change.

For your own company, try to analyze each aspect of your offering and find areas that can be improved. The best time to get started on a strategy like this is right now. Thankfully, there are plenty of tools like SMS marketing now available to you that can be used to optimize the customer experience. Take advantage of these tools whenever you can, that way you can take things into your own hands instead of playing catch-up with your audience.

How to get the most out of both strategies

As we wrap up this article, we wanted to leave you with some final advice on how to get the most out of both user experience and customer experience design. It all begins by taking time to get to know your customer, what they need, what they want, and what the value. Each of these will tell a story, one that you can address on a micro level with UX, and a macro level with CX.

By optimizing, tweaking, and perfecting your customer experience, you are setting out to be the exception. This won’t be easy, but once you start to see how your customer retention efforts are affected, you will see that your investment will be worth it.


Upgrading your Bulk SMS Messaging Campaign in 6 Painless Steps

As the amount of digital marketing channels continues to expand, mobile marketers are trying their best to upgrade their campaigns to ensure an optimized experience at every turn. One way they are doing this is through bulk SMS messaging, an increasingly popular and powerful tool for customer engagement. In fact, according to a recent report, bulk SMS engagement rates are 6-8 times higher than email marketing.

That being said, it’s one thing to set up a bulk SMS campaign, it’s something else entirely to upgrade your campaign and take your customer engagement to an even higher level. With this article, we hope to help you achieve this ascension with 6 painless steps for upgrading your SMS marketing campaign. Once you complete these steps, you will be well on your way to a better process and a more satisfied customer base. Let’s get started.

bulk sms

Bulk SMS Best Practices

Before we get into the actual steps you will need to take to upgrade your campaign, let’s look at a few bulk SMS best practices. Each of these practices should be employed throughout the entirety of your campaign and are what will separate a good campaign from a great one. These best practices include:

Create a sense of urgency: Bulk SMS messages are almost instantaneous, with over 95% of customers receiving them within 2 minutes. Make sure that your messages match this sense of urgency as much as possible.

Find the right frequency: When it comes to mass text marketing, timing is everything. Try your best to keep timing in mind while making decisions about how best to approach your audience.

Provide value at every turn: Due to the intimate nature of SMS, you should always be providing value to your customers. Before each bulk SMS message, think to yourself “Does this provide immediate value to the customer?” If it doesn’t, it’s not worth sending.

As we now take a look at these 6 steps you will need to take to upgrade your campaign, remember each of these best practices. If nothing else, they will put you on the right track and frame of mind for creating an exceptional customer experience.

How to improve your campaign

Now that you have those best practices in mind, let’s take a look at how best to improve your campaign. As with any sound customer retention marketing plan, each of these steps works best in combination with the others, so keep this in mind as we review them. Without further ado, let’s start with step one.

1. Track everything

The first step in improving your bulk SMS campaign is to track everything you do from day one. Typically, analyzing data is seen as something that comes later, but unless you set up the proper mechanisms for capturing user engagement metrics from the beginning you may get to the end of your first campaign and realize the data you need is missing. Instead, set up adequate feedback tools from the start so you can always be tweaking and upgrading your campaign.

2. Plan out the customer journey

The next part of setting up your campaign is to plan out the customer journey. Depending on the marketing automation capabilities of your bulk SMS platform, you should be able to set up just about everything at the beginning in regards to touchpoints and scheduled messaging. Use SMS short codes to allow customers to trigger different optional campaigns and plan out your automated responses to make sure you are ready for everything.  

You may notice that these first 2 steps don’t even involve sending out a bulk SMS message, and for good reason. The planning stage of the campaign needs to address these issues in order to have a more successful campaign. By setting up a flow for your customers will follow as well as metrics to capture their journey, you will continuously improve your performance and the engagement levels of your campaign.

3. Include a call to action, always

Speaking of customer engagement levels, let’s talk about the actual messages of your campaign. Our third step is to include a call to action in every single bulk SMS message you send. Although this might seem excessive, it goes back to our best practices, specifically to provide value at every point. Unless your message can include a clear call to action with a next step customers can take, it probably could work just as well as an email.  

4. Segment your audience

Next up on our list of steps: customer segmentation. While you may be able to have one target audience when you first start off your SMS campaign, once you reach a certain level of subscribers you will need to start dividing them into groups. For instance, if you are a fitness club, you wouldn’t want to send the same message to someone who just joined as someone that hasn’t been to the gym in a few weeks.

By segmenting your audience, you are able to send tailored messages that can truly resonate and provide value to your audience. The better that you can reach them with the right messaging in the right place at the right time, the less you will need to worry about customer churn and satisfaction.

5. Be concise

Along with the high-speed nature of SMS messaging, it is also very concise and you would do well to remember this. First of all, bulk SMS messages are limited to only 160 characters, so you need to stay within this character limit to avoid splitting the message in two.

Additionally, we mentioning thinking about timing earlier, and your customers don’t want to receive a ton of text. They want concise, simple updates and calls-to-action, so do your best to provide this for them.

6. Make your intentions clear

Finally, the last step in our painless 6-step guide is make your intentions clear to your audience throughout the process. Customers now care more about their experience engaging with a company than they do the actual products or services provided, so maintaining an open and honest dialogue is key to showing them you care.

This also refers to opt-in best practices, since this is not only a good practice to have in place, but it is actually required by law. Make sure that you are submitting to the correct rules and regulations while always offering subscribers a way out should they need one. By being open about your intentions, how often they will be receiving messages, and how they can opt-in and out of your messages, they will actually be more inclined to engage with you and your brand.

Final thoughts

As we mentioned at the beginning, the best way to approach improving your bulk SMS campaign is by walking through each of these steps and then using them in collaboration with each other and SMS best practices. Now that you have the tools that you need, now comes the time to put them into place. So what are you waiting for? Upgrade your own SMS campaign today!