If you are a fitness business of any size, you’re likely to have seen how digital marketing has changed the way studios compete and attract members. Many of us get overawed by the marketing terminologies and technologies. Yes, we’d like our marketing to be super-effective (whether for our studio or for our own profile as trainers), but all the technicalities seem scary!
This series aims to simplify and bring easy to apply practices for Fitness Professionals and Studios.
You’ve seen and heard examples of how smaller businesses today punch above their weight. Being smart and savvy in their marketing and embracing digitization, these represent the current and continuing trends in succeeding in the Fitness business. Today, marketing is a combination of deep customer insights, specialization, and collaboration. To have a chance of making any sort of impact, partnering up is a way to combine all the above for better results.
Co-marketing is probably one of the easiest to use and most effective and low-cost tactical approaches. It’s something every studio owner should think about incorporating into their overall marketing strategy.
So what is co-marketing?
Co-marketing is a collaborative marketing strategy that involves combining resources with another company that serves the same audience you do. Typically, the marketing partner isn’t a competitor but someone who can deepen market share or refresh brand sentiment by tapping more customers in your space. Co-marketing when done well, has major benefits for both partners When you think about it, co-marketing makes perfect sense – who wouldn’t want to decrease their budge by half while at the same time getting double the leads, double the resources and double the chance with the end consumer.
Heidi Cohen very succinct describes co-marketing partnerships as “Work with peers who target similar audiences but don’t directly compete with your business or your brand”.
Let’s look at a practical example to understand this better – let’s say you are a Fitness Studio looking to expand your member base. Sure, you have taken out ads in the local press, created various social media accounts, shared your blogs about current offers, and linked every post back to your website. These efforts have gained some interest and traction, but your conversion rates are low. What should you do?
After really getting to know your own brand as a Fitness Studio, you found out that you have a lot of the same values as the local Insurance broker. Their team specializes in promoting healthier and fitter lives for their clients, they take great pride in customer service, and their clientele is very similar to your own desired clientele.
After meeting with the team and pitching your idea for a co-marketed open house event, you decide to work as partners. Through this effort, you are able to meet many of their clients and, eventually, became the go-to Fitness Studio for their clients!
This fictional account of the Fitness Studio is just one example of the various ways co-marketing can be utilized to elevate your brand. If you have a Yoga business, why not team up with the local doctors and offer discounts on referrals made by the doctors? If you run a local sports store, you could partner with a sport training institute and distribute each other’s marketing materials either onsite or online.
Co-marketing is a proven way to grow your studio’s audience size by tapping into another brand’s influence and followers.
While big brands team up on co-marketing campaigns all the time, it’s an especially appealing strategy for smaller companies without a lot of money to spend on marketing. Traditionally, small business may not have dedicated marketing departments. More often than not, they’re sharing marketing duties with other functions like sales or accounting. That doesn’t leave much time available for marketing a business, does it?
Here’s some practical advice on how you could build the co-marketing advantage into your business
First be sure that YOU are ready for reciprocity (Be ready to give, in order to receive)
Reciprocity is the byword in the world of co-marketing. Co-marketing only works if you’re willing to offer up something that makes it worth your partner’s time and effort. You need to give before you get, but what you end up getting together is something you likely wouldn’t have gotten alone
The world of business might be competitive by nature, but co-marketing opens new doors through cooperation.
Know yourself, know your ideal client
Knowing your gym audience and what makes your gym special over the competition will help you use the correct verbiage when marketing your gym. You first need to understand what your strengths are, particularly in the context of your main customers. While it is easy to wish that you attract all categories of clients, the fact is that without focus, your results are likely to get diluted. So we begin by imagining a ‘persona’ – a fictional character that’s the personification of your average potential lead or client. Work through and think about why they’re interested in your service and what the reasons they may or may not be convinced to purchase.
In the context of co-marketing, personas are especially important since knowing yours and your partner’s audience is a key part of creating content that ticks both your boxes.
Identify the right partner
Choosing the right partner for your business is perhaps the most crucial part of the whole process. If this goes well, the other parts of your plan would likely slot seamlessly into place. If not, you’ll risk wasting time and money on a project that won’t get off the ground. On a broad basis, here are some criteria on finding the good fit partner:
- What does the other company bring to the table, from a more practical viewpoint. Can they bring skills and expertise that you will benefit from – or are they offering resources you already have in-house?
- They shouldn’t be your competitor—or better yet, they should complement you.
- They have a sizable audience (social following, email list, etc.), and ideally your chosen partner wants to target the exact same audience as your business.
- They are as hungry for business as you are, and are willing to put in the work needed for a successful collaboration.
- They have a great brand reputation
- Accessibility. If the partners are locked away in an ivory tower or behind “gatekeepers”, they’re likely not worth the energy and resources needed to engage them. They should have hunger and willingness to share with experts from other fields.
- Relevance. Some professionals tend to specialize in one industry making them more relevant than non-specialists. For instance, if you are in the food industry, you may find specialists who specialize in sweet treats, pastries and the like. This relevance could work significantly in your favor if they were to get behind our new gluten-free prepackaged brownies, for instance.
- Their offering and yours does not have any direct conflict of interests
Tonality What is the tone of the partner’s online and offline presence? Do they embrace or are they at lest open to brands new ideas, and other opinions? or are they clearly opinionated or critical in a way that could be damaging to your brand
OPPORTUNITIES to connect
Greater choices gives you the ability to select the best fit for both your needs. Additionally, first impressions can sometimes be misleading. However big and attractive a potential partner may seem, some alignments may just not work out equitably. In such instances, there is no bigger confidence booster than knowing that if the alignment with one partner is not working out, there are always other partners whom you can tie-up with.
Look for opportunities to connect with as wide a set of potential partners as is practical. fiftyfiveandfive.com give some great ideas on potential opportunities avenues to connect, including social media sites like LinkedIn, networking in person, attending conferences and networking events among others. You also have custom built co-marketing solutions such as Aseema, which help connect with local Health and Fitness partners, as well as with client groups such as large corporates and insurers.
Define roles and expectations
Once you’ve found a company to partner up with, you need to define clear roles and expectations for what you aim to achieve. It is important to lay out the groundwork before anything else. By working out the details in advance there will be no confusion about what you expect out of one another. The last thing you want to have to do is have an argument halfway through the project.
Key discussions that you need to include; timeframes, costs and responsibilities. It’s important to clearly define early on who’s responsible for what aspects of the project, to reduce any risk of complication further down the line.
Trial and review
Hopefully, your new partnership will bring great business to both parties for years to come. However, life isn’t always perfect. For that reason, it’s perfectly acceptable to trail a relationship for a few weeks or months and call it quits if things aren’t working out.
Sometimes, the relationship may be great, but the offer that you combined together isn’t attractive to clients. If you go with the trail mind-set, it is much easier to go back to the drawing board and re-look at how you could improvise or change.
Having put the initial considerations aside, now let’s look at specific aspects that you could co-market with
Partner up to target similar clients on co-branded events. A co-branded product release can be a massive benefit to both partners. Talking about how McDonald’s Happy Meals Toy and movies such as Peanuts or Minions benefit each other through co-marketing, Entrepreneur.com observes that “Kids get the characters in their Happy Meals and beg their parents to see the movie. McDonald’s benefits from additional Happy Meal sales, and the film companies benefit from additional tickets sold to their movies.”
You get all of the benefits of co-marketing, including reaching your mutual audience as well as your separate audiences plus the added benefit of revenue from your new product Co-marketing can be especially important during key events such as product launches and opening of facilities. That’s why it helps to have a partner to pull it all off. You can use these events to sell products or to strengthen your brand image.
Couple your content
If you are putting efforts on content marketing, co-marketing may be a great idea is for you. You can trade blog posts, videos, infographics, etc. or you can team up to make something together.
Trail session coupons
Trial sessions to your yoga session do not only have to be placed on your studio. Explore co-marketing opportunities with others such as your local organic store. Both partners benefit and there’s no beating the fresh positive buzz.
These could be done on-site and through your online and social media presence.
Exchange social posts
All you need to pull off some co-branded social posts is a little bit of time and some creative resources. To identify the right partners, think about someone who has some expertise or a product that complements what you have.
As with everything else in life, Digitization has made online marketing and co-marketing much simpler. It is not uncommon to find smaller companies punching higher than their weight and achieving remarkable market results thanks to the numerous online tools that are currently available.
Some of the most useful tools currently available include HubSpot, WordPress, Mail Chimp, Aseema, BuzzSumo, Google Ads and HootSuite among others.
Co-marketing offers a myriad of benefits for companies of all sizes, whether you’re a fledgling startup or a global enterprise – which is why all the best brands are doing it! It’s true what they say that two heads are better than one.
Hopefully by now you’ve been persuaded that co-marketing is an effective strategy for your business, and you’re feeling confident in how to run a successful campaign. Have you tried co-marketing before and if yes, what has been your experience – where did things go wow, and what did not work well. I’d love to know. Let me know in the comments.