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Creative Wizards Need Not Apply: How To Develop Effective Marketing Materials

Leslie Nolen leads The Radial Group, which provides sales, marketing and business planning know-how for health and wellness businesses. Subscribe to free weekly business tips at

Good news: Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to be a creative wizard to develop effective marketing materials for your health club.

Great marketing materials accomplish two objectives:

  1. They show that your club “gets it.”
  2. They prove that your club has a reliable solution.

Prospective members want reassurance that you really understand their goals. Also, they want proof that you can actually help them. Believe it or not, this information is at your fingertips.

Do so by picking the brains of your most loyal customers. Ask them what they value about your business. Why did they choose you? What other options had they considered or tried? What did—and didn’t—work? What outcomes resulted from their experience with your club or fitness center?

Then use these pointers to turn their feedback into your marketing materials:

1. Use their words, not yours. Describe their healthy living problems and goals using their language, not yours. No one wakes up in the morning and thinks, “I want to start living a heart-healthy lifestyle.” But they do wake up thinking, “I’m sick of feeling so dragged out.”

2. Tailor your marketing message to your customer. Check every word and example that you use against the concerns of your target customer. Bikini season won’t click with an overweight professional woman worried about professional image and pay raises. A slightly overweight guy in his 40s who plays soccer on the weekend probably won’t respond to a marketing pitch about regaining control over food.

3. Describe the underlying hot buttons. For example, consumers in their 40s often worry about developing diabetes or other diseases of inactivity that they’ve seen their parents develop. Musicians fear career-limiting surgery.

4. Avoid professional jargon. Skip terms such as “cardio” or “fast-twitch fibers.” Use an equivalent, simpler term. For example, say “healthy eating” instead of “optimal macronutrients.”

5. No happy talk. Don’t stuff your marketing materials with meaningless gobbledy-gook. Potential customers care about how your business can help them. They don’t care that your mission is “helping everyone be healthier” or “creating winning results.” Fluffy statements have nothing to do with their day-to-day lives.

6. Connect the dots for prospects. They may not immediately spot the connection between their problems and your services. Explicitly describe how your products or services will help. For example, say, “We customize your meal plan for your travel schedule to help you stay healthy on the road. You’ll have the energy to enjoy the weekend.”

7. Client successes are powerful. Case studies, success stories and testimonials help demonstrate that your solution really works. Let your customers write their own success stories and testimonials for inclusion in your marketing materials. Your goal is authenticity, so edit only for length. Don’t rewrite it.

8. Facts and figures are persuasive. Objective data, such as total pounds lost, trophies won, customer satisfaction results, number of member renewals and other concrete information, is a great complement to subjective information about client successes.

Be sure to emphasize your business reputation, too:

1. Trumpet key business accomplishments. If you just received a business of the year award in your city, say so. List well-known customers (with their permission) if it will help motivate prospective members. Do you provide workplace wellness services to employers? Include the most well-regarded company names.

2. Mention relevant and impressive credentials. Include degrees, licensure, certification and work experiences at other well-regarded companies. If you think customers may not fully appreciate a credential, add terms such as “nationally-recognized.”

3. Include real-life photos. Successful wellness businesses are built on close customer and client relationships. Photos of real employees and real customers help prospects feel as if they’re starting to know your business before they ever visit. You’ll never get that result from a stock photo.

A few last tips:

1. Focus your message. People skim. They don’t read. Avoid visual clutter. Use lots of white space. Bullet key items. Don’t let decorative elements distract from your key messages. If your business doesn’t use a graphic designer, limit your palette to two colors, plus black and white. Pick one or two fonts. Be sure to also limit clip art and stock graphics. Don’t sprinkle them on your marketing materials like popcorn salt.

2. Great content beats great design. Pictures grab readers’ attention, but if they don’t find the content compelling, your marketing materials have failed. Ask someone who’s not close to your business to look at each marketing piece for 5 to 10 seconds. Then ask them what they remember and what action they would take next as a potential customer. If they primarily remember colors or pictures, your content isn’t compelling. If they can’t accurately describe your service, you’ve probably fallen into the trap of using business gobbledy-gook instead of your customers’ language.

Let your customers guide your marketing, and you’ll find that creative genius isn’t necessary to grow your business.

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