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I recently joined Pure Gym. On my first visit I asked one of the trainers if they offered a free induction as I was a new member. A valid question I thought, especially as I have been a fitness instructor myself and spent most of my days doing just that. However, the answer I got was a big fat NO. On further questioning, it transpired that the reason was “I’m self employed”. He then proceeded to sit down and look at his laptop.

For me it shows why the fitness industry is not in a good place. Okay, businesses such as Pure Gym are I’m sure doing well. They’ve gone down the no frills route which the likes of easyJet paved the way for in 1995 and people will sign up for that, but for me, they’re missing a trick.

Missing a trick

Also missing a trick are the likes of Virgin Active who although innovative, from my experience have crappy customer service. According to Fitness First CEO Andy Cosslett, (in the June edition of the Marketing Society’s Market Leader magazine) it’s one of the first things he addressed when he joined, commenting that “I changed 75% of staff and trained all our people in hospitality”. I hope it works.

With much in the news lately about the disconnect between clients and agencies, perhaps the we in agencyland should follow suit.

In the same edition of Market Leader Rory Sutherland speaks of how “a good relationship balances the balance sheet” whilst Vincent Rousselet argues that “markets are where marketing started”.

Although different in content they share the same ideology, one which was drummed in to me as a trainee fitness instructor, where if I did not know the name of every member working out in the gym at any given time, it had serious consequences (luckily I did).

Learning from market traders

Great (client) service is key to business success. In Rousselet’s article, based on his research amongst 8,000 consumers; he suggests people are typically looking for personalisation, contextualisation, dynamism and excitement; all of which I am in agreement with.

Sutherland argues that those of us in marketing are in danger of losing the relationship (it may have already been lost) saying “Many people in business especially the closer they are affiliated to the finance function view relationships as “inherently insufficient’: something to be weeded out where possible”.

He recites a story from the Marseilles fish markets on how the fish merchants realised quickly that loyalty paid and helped grow their business; “A good fish merchant (or agency) can add value to the buyer in all manner of unchangeable ways – pointing out that ‘the loup is particularly good this week’, say he will not be paid for this advice, but it is implicitly understood that his reward will come in the continuation of regular custom”. I expect referrals would follow too.

How we agencies can and must add value for our clients is an area of passion for me. From how we can help you with big juicy challenges, to connecting you to others that may be able to help, to sharing information. Even when it comes to challenging your assumptions and not taking things on face value; we have a very important role to play in our clients lives. A bit of free thinking now and again does not hurt anyone, right?

My advice to that personal trainer is that if you think business is going to come your way just because you’ve got PT on your back then good luck. If you really want to attract a personal training client, then how about getting off your chair and showing your worth before expecting payment?

So... How can we help your business?


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