At last count I gleaned 72 definitions of "marketing" as shared by experts in the field. In fact, many organizations are rethinking the roles of their chief marketing officers and how they invest in advertising. Why the rethinking and confusion? Marketing is changing dramatically. If you sit down with small business owners and executives of large, successful companies, many will privately admit they have little idea whether marketing is working. Many are not sure what to do. I should know because I've had a number of those conversations myself.
The reason marketing is changing is pretty simple: customers have access to more information outside of brand messages. Increasingly, expert buyers decide what is relevant on their terms. Many industry pundits bemoan the "ignorant consumers" who are ignoring their messages. After all, the old-school marketers used to own the marketing process by messaging prospects and convincing them that they knew best. Those days are gone as we enter the fifth era of the social web with smart phones, social networks and connectivity reaching ubiquity in many developed markets. Consumers are now driving and owning the marketing process because they can.
This is a big mental shift for most business owners, and it means changing the sales and marketing process. In the end, given a value proposition and what is actually delivered for consumers, if the message and service do not align with the promise any business makes, failure is imminent.
Some people may believe that this view is negative or paints a gloomy scenario for health clubs. However, this change creates a great opportunity for people and brands who really care about their customers. Long ago, a large portion of the health club industry was based on selling more than servicing. But a combination of factors (mainly business model innovation for fitness, health and wellness products and services) are going to deliver more creative consumer alternatives, and in the end raise the bar and grow the pie substantially for the industry overall.
What that means is that competitors better get good at consistently doing what customers want. In fact, exceeding expectations is a must. By doing so, you will win the loyalty of customers.
What do you think? Is marketing changing? Should fitness businesses spend more effort evaluating how to best compete and communicate with their members and prospects? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below, and I will respond.