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5 Best Practices to Start Database Marketing for Studios

A studio's collection of client and prospect data is one of its most valuable assets, and knowing these five best practices can lead to smarter marketing and better recruitment and retention.

Database marketing is the new paradigm for how fitness studio marketing is executed today, and it’s one of the most valuable data sets a studio owns. This collection of client and prospect data is analyzed and interpreted to drive brand engagement that is personalized and relevant to current and future clients. It’s an all-encompassing picture of who has connected with and who will connect with your brand.

A database is much more than a list. It’s a treasure trove of useful information that goes far deeper than the traditional elements, such as distance from studio, average age and income. It’s demographics and psychographics, transactional buying habits and online activity that are used to create a customer profile. Prospects who are in similar life stages as current clients are grouped into personas and targeted with the specific messages and offers that will resonate with them, according to database assumptions.

How the information is collected is critical to the reliability of the database. Current and former client records are the starting point in building a marketing database, and these records must be clean and accurate. Lists should be deduped by household with name and address points verified as valid. People move, get married, get divorced, pass away and sometimes go to prison. Studios often use outdated data when reaching out to prospects and alumni, which means the data is flawed. In the context of a marketing database, this inaccurate information results in the dreaded GIGO, or garbage in, garbage out.

Studios typically work with various marketing agencies who collect data on their behalf and make recommendations as to whom to target with a message, via the channel they represent and report back with matches However, this isn’t database marketing. The true effort uses pre-determined data sets that are continuously analyzed for every engagement, campaign and conversion to truly and accurately report on conversion rates and ROI.

With a good, clean marketing database in hand, persona groups and client profiles are applied to the data before transitioning into the statistically rooted process of predictive modeling and scoring. Predictive modeling or machine learning algorithms are integral to database functionality and are powerful tools that respond and adjust to prospect engagement and predict who the next best batch of targets should be.

The process of building, maintaining and growing a robust marketing database is just that—a process. Being a fitness studio owner or operator does not typically align with being a data expert, nor are the necessary resources readily available. The ideal method is to engage data-driven marketing agencies whose practice is rooted in data. Through their expertise, they will be the sole source of managing the data from which all marketing efforts will execute.

Here are a few best practices that you can begin using today.

1. Data entry. Consistency is critical, so set standards for how data is to be entered into the club management software system your studio is using. Properly spelling names and physical addresses is key to using them to keep current clients informed and in marketing to future clients.

2. Complete all points of contact. First/last name, physical address, phone numbers and email addresses are the primary ways businesses engage current, former and future clients. This information is valuable to the studio in many ways. If you can come up with an auditing process that identifies missing contact information and a method of obtaining it, you will find your database to be robust, accurate and beneficial.

3. Systems for changes. These are a must. When working with studios, I often find a lack of methodology relating to how memberships are coded. Singles, couples, families—cancellation reasons, flagging clients who are deceased, and ensuring do not contact/call/email requests are clearly identified and honored must have consistent codes and processes.

4. Database maintenance. Duplicate records are bad. Have clear, easy-to-follow procedures in place to ensure steps are taken to identify if a client is already in the database before entering a new record. Truthful data is a must when it comes to marketing, retention and calculating profitability.

5. Capture data. You should capture data for everyone who crosses the threshold, meaning that tours, guests, be-backs should all leave complete contact information to be used for marketing purposes. These folks should be thought of as low-hanging fruit as they’ve already experienced what you offer and have a higher likelihood of converting than those who haven’t been to the studio.

The answers you seek are only as good as the data it’s pulling from. The benefits of an accurate database extend beyond marketing and, when properly analyzed and interpreted, it is used to positively impact daily operations and future growth plans.


Deneen Laprade is the vice president of business development for Instinctive Insights. Laprade’s fitness industry experience consists of club management and operations, including director of sales and marketing at The Thoreau Club in Concord, Massachusetts. Past roles also include marketing coach with Canadian-based Susan K. Bailey Marketing and Design, and sales director, Northeast with Impact Mailers in Atlanta. Laprade has also worked as an independent club consultant with clients such as Commonwealth Sports Club, HealthQuest Fitness, Spurling Training Systems and Funktional Fitness. Over the years Laprade has also contributed content to a variety of fitness industry-specific publications and organizations such as Club Insider and Association of Fitness Studios. She can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 401-378-4263.

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