// Perspective - Xen Angelides

'Perspective' features the opinions of prominent figures in the fitness industry. Here, Xen Angelides, marketing expert and industry veteran, advocates monitoring trends in order to position your fitness business ahead of the competition.

The most successful fitness businesses are those which monitor and respond to industry trends, as well as wider societal ones, both in Australia and internationally. And by trends, I’m referring to notable movements, rather than flash in the pan ‘fads’. For example, one of the major trends identified in the 2010 Australian Fitness Industry Survey (AFIS) was the growth of small group personal training. Smart clubs and trainers will have taken this on board to offer – and publicise – this service, enabling them to stay one step ahead of their competition.

The 2010 AFIS and a recent ACSM survey of predicted trends for 2011 highlighted some of the current and upcoming ‘buzz’ areas in our industry. For example, in the club sector the growth of smaller low-service model clubs and no-contract clubs were high on the list. In the area of personal training, functional fitness and training children and obese populations rated up there with small group training. The group exercise arena, meanwhile, has been witnessing significant growth in dance-oriented workouts, such as the Zumba Latino dance fitness and the upcoming Les Mills SH’BAM™ program.

In addition to surveys and fitness media, industry events such as FILEX offer a great way of keeping abreast of the latest trends and developments. The sheer variety of topics and range of national and international presenters creates a melting pot of ideas and options. It’s always interesting to note, however, that a few hot topics rise to the top, and by the end of the weekend everyone returns to their clubs and studios with heads full of ideas, and with two or three major trends at front of mind.

When you know what trends are emerging, you can create a strategy enabling you to be the early bird that gets the worm, by offering the services that your members or clients aren’t even aware they want yet. But they will want them, and when the trend fully emerges you’ll be ahead of your competitors by having been an ‘early adopter’, establishing your credentials in the field and building your reputation for being at the cutting edge.

Of course, when you are launching a new program or service, marketing and strategy are critical for spreading the word. If you want to establish a clear image of your new offering in the mind of your members and clients, you first need a clear image in your own mind. Strategy is your road map. By approaching it in a systematic and logical way, by collecting and analysing data and monitoring trends, you can establish a strategy for launching a new offering. Once you have determined your strategy, everyone in your business needs to know what that it is.

Twelve years ago, every social demographic report you picked up spoke of the importance of the ageing market. How many clubs and trainers positioned themselves to take advantage of it? If you did, kudos to you! Over the past decade, club memberships have grown 86 per cent in the under 55 age group, but by a massive 249 per cent in the 55 plus age group. Collecting data and analysing trends would have given innovative marketers the ability to position their clubs accordingly.

To maximise the benefit of your position as an early adopter, you should market yourself using differentiation as your selling point. If you are the first club in your area to offer no-contract memberships, you should publicise this unique status. If you’re a trainer who offers small group training, don’t wait to be approached by members; many people wouldn’t assume you offer it, so be proactive and market yourself as offering the latest training trend.

Marketing is about convincing people they should buy your product. For fitness facilities it is about selling and retaining memberships. Many businesses make the mistake of cutting back on their marketing to ‘save’ money when sales are slow. If you run a progressive fitness business that adopts the latest programs and techniques, it is a false economy not to market your unique selling point. Marketing is about giving consumers more reasons to buy more of your product, more often. It is an investment. If you want to grow, you have to market.

Of course – not every trend will be for you and your business. Experience will have taught you what does and doesn’t tend to work in your business; you should already have a picture of trends within your own club’s demographic. What goes down a storm in an inner city Melbourne club might leave members scratching their heads in the back o’ Bourke. By using your own sound judgement, monitoring trends and placing yourself strategically ahead of the curve, your business will prosper.


Xen Angelides
The business development manager with Blue Fitness Australia, Xen has 30 years of experience in club operations, personal training, programming and membership sales. During the last 10 years he has worked with some of the major fitness equipment manufacturing companies. To contact Xen, email xen.angelides@bluefitness.com.au

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