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Marketing Matters

The Men's Market

Go to your local bookstore and peruse the marketing section. Look for books on “gender marketing” and what you will find is quite amazing. There is an entire shelf providing insight and advice on marketing to women but very little regarding marketing to men. Move to the Internet and the results are similar. Perhaps the reason for this void in research is because men were the primary individuals being marketed to for so long that the subject doesn't make for “salable” material. Still, better understanding how to market to men is an important issue for any club operator. On average, 48 percent of all health club members in America are men.

In January's column, we discussed how and why women need to be marketed to and sold differently than men. In this month's column we will explore the same issues as they relate to marketing to men. Of course, being a woman, this poses a certain level of risk because my analysis and suggestions could possibly offend some male readers. Therefore, I wish to present my defense before I build my case. In writing this article I have relied on three things: available research, male input and my personal experience with the male species. If all goes well, I won't receive too many e-mails from opposing opinions.


In his article “Marketing to Men,” Rodman Sims tells advertisers that there are only three things that matter to men. The first is sex, the second is toys, and the third is freedom. Sims goes on to say that when trying to successfully market to men, advertisements should utilize these three themes.

As it relates to men two great examples of sex and marketing Sims gives are shop-tool calendars and beer commercials. Both feature drop-dead gorgeous women wearing sexy outfits, bikinis or less. Of course men logically know there is no real association between either beer or tools and women, but because they like the sexual images, they hang up the calendar and buy the beer.

“Toys” Sims states, rate a close second in terms of a male's primary focus. Simply put, men love gadgets and machinery. Put a monster truck or a Formula One racing car into a parking lot and watch men of all ages flock to it. Give a man a small back yard and he will come up with an excuse for buying the deluxe riding mower. Even their obsession with the remote control is a simple, yet universal, symbol of men's love of gadgets. Noting an old saying, Sims reminds the reader that, “The only difference between a man and a boy is the price of his toys.”

When it comes to freedom, a man's third primary focus, Sims states that, “Inside all of us is the desire to be free from the shackles that keep us who we are as men.” What Sims is referring to here is the fact that today's society still expects a man to do certain things like get a good job and support a family, while a woman has the choice of staying at home without criticism. Although they may not be verbally complaining, it is the “have to” expectations that wear men down. As a result, men are constantly searching or at least dreaming of a “way out” of their day-to-day routine where they can ride into the sunset with the sexy woman at their sides. This is why, Sims says, men often fall for get rich quick schemes but women rarely even look into them.

How do these observations relate to advertising? For one, it certainly helps to understand why this industry, which was predominantly managed by men in the past, has been using advertising images that show women in scant clothing standing next to the shirtless, rippling young man. More importantly, though, it provides insight into creating content for marketing pieces designed to attract men. The moral of Sims' article was, “Market to men but do not try and change them!”

If one applies what Sims advocates, marketing pieces directed toward attracting men should continue to have scantily clad women, show and describe the latest and greatest technology in available equipment and promote the club as the place to go to “get away from it all.” Some of these things, however, are in stark contrast to the key elements in marketing to women. Therefore, the challenge for health club operators is in designing a marketing piece that attracts men but does not offend women. Better yet is one that attracts both men and women.

The article, “Marketing to Men in the Millennium,” published by Research International, provides some insight into how this balance might be accomplished in advertising efforts. They suggest using the following guidelines when creating advertising geared toward men:

  • Use originality, creativity and humor, including ads with unexpected and surprising outcomes. (This element was deemed the most influential across every age group of men.)

  • Use images of fatherhood — especially ones depicting fun and free-time sharing situations with children.

  • Project success and achievement by combining both material and emotional benefits.

  • Capitalize on nostalgia and life changing events.

  • Combine images of sensitivity along with confidence.

  • Avoid any portrayal of men as objects or stereotypical masculine traits in show-off or arrogant ways.

  • Certainly, with effort one can design marketing pieces that can be used in general distribution without offending women. However, care should be taken during the design phase to analyze the elements of both, marketing to women and men. Further, visually testing an ad on 50 or more subjects who will provide honest feedback can go a long way to making a successful ad while ensuring nothing offensive or fatally flawed is in the design.


    Just as there are differences in the advertising focus of men and women, adjustments in the selling approach need to be taken as well. When noting how men and women behave so differently in their thought patterns and focus, many authors (and comedians) go back to caveman days when a man's responsibility was hunting, which is one-dimensional, while a woman's responsibility was gathering, requiring multi-tasking. It is often suggested that these vastly different roles have influenced the shopping patterns and experiences for men and women. Where women enjoy the process of gathering, which may require hours of collecting and evaluating, a man only goes out to hunt when he “needs” an item.


    Once a member, men can be low maintenance to integrate into the facility. Whereas women will take longer to become loyal to a brand, men aren't usually skeptical with a product until something goes wrong. Even after a poor customer service moment, men are more apt to forgive and forget than are women. Of course, men are more apt to express their unhappiness and, as a result, vent and get resolution. Inviting all new members to a club orientation is important; just remember that the women usually far outnumber the men at these events.

    Perhaps the most important integration tool for men is the standard practice of offering them fitness workouts to learn how to use the equipment properly. Remember that men gravitate toward “toys” and mechanical things. They, as a whole, appreciate machinery and will be more interested in how the equipment works rather than the personal instruction on their form.

    Another aspect of the new member integration that men enjoy is fitness testing. Where women usually don't want to know their weight and body fat when they begin, men are more curious as well as interested in the testing technology. Men don't mind knowing where they are starting from and they enjoy a goal to work toward.


    Although the comment doesn't bode well for the women, as a general rule male members are easier to keep happy than female members. For one, men are not as particular as the décor and overall attractiveness of a club than women. This isn't to say that a man doesn't like a well decorated attractive facility, they do, but they are much more forgiving about the locker room that needs updating, the gym bag scrapes on the walls of the entry and the outdated colors of the fitness or cardop rooms.

    There are things, however, that are more important to men than simply having a clean, updated structural facility, such as convenience items. Men are much more apt than women are to shower at a club after their workout. Therefore, having soap, shampoo and toiletry items available to them is a big plus. More important is offering a towel service — even if there is a small charge for it. Along the same convenience lines, offering men permanent locker rentals not only will make them happy but will also generate extra revenue for the club.

    Contrary to popular belief, in addition to convenience items, men enjoy a clean and organized locker room that offers enough dressing benches and keeps the traffic flowing. Designers often forget that during peak times there will be a lot of traffic in the men's locker rooms, many of which will be taking showers. A well thought out locker room can make for a more comfortable environment in busy times.


    Men have been members of fitness facilities for centuries. Because of this and the constant focus on bringing “special populations” into a club, often the subject of marketing to and catering to male members is forgotten. Taking some extra time to focus on new marketing and advertising campaigns, specific sales skills and creative member integration and service issues specifically designed for male members that will help you add new memberships — and keep existing ones — to your clubs' roster.

    Male Sale

    Because men are outcome focused — not process oriented — club salespeople need to use a number of sales strategies when selling to men.

  • A no-nonsense approach to selling must be taken. This means that upon meeting the client salespeople need to let them know, “I'm going to find out what you are looking for, then I'll show you the club and finally, if you like it, we'll go over memberships. If not, you can be on your way.”
  • In addition to a no-nonsense approach, salespeople need to maintain open and direct lines of communication with male prospects. If a question is asked, answer it succinctly. When desiring feedback from the male prospect, ask it directly. Men typically appreciate brevity, honesty and directness (if it is done professionally).
  • During the needs analysis, instead of spending a lot of time on discussing the past, salespeople should focus the male prospect to talk about goals, which are outcomes.
  • During the tour, salespeople should spend time with the male prospect talking about the club's equipment and showing them how things work. Be certain to bring attention to any new equipment technology and allow male prospects to try them out. (These are the toys!)
  • Finally, as it relates to closing skills, although no one likes the “hard-sell,” men are more tolerant of sales skills because they understand and appreciate that the salesperson is working toward an outcome.
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