“I promise, we’re not reinventing the wheel, we’re investing in hover boards.”
People hate change, especially when it wasn’t their idea to make the change in the first place.
As a guy who has mashed his career together as an entre/intra-preneur, I don’t personally identify with the above statement, but I can understand why this is. For instance, the position of my sales team at the advent of City Fitness’ transition to an Inbound marketing program was basically as follows:
“I hit my sales goals every month. We close leads that walk into the gym at an extremely high level. Why would we, for the sake of both the business and my paycheck, do ANYTHING to change that?”
I spent some time through this process explaining the bigger picture goals of Inbound marketing – maximize ROI, adaptable campaigning ability, our website looks and operates like someone built it in 1997 – and planned a wildly successful promotion using predominantly Inbound channels (this promotion got its own pushback, but that’s another story) to kick off our website’s relaunch. And after a few months of our company’s sales team making money hand over fist, everyone kind of calmed down a bit.
So all of my lofty promises came true (for a little while – sales teams are, after all, measured on their monthly performance), and everyone assumed that “Inbound,” whatever that was, was basically the marketing equivalent of what ATM machines are to little kids. Find one and get free money from it.
Acceptance is easier than Adoption
You know how people love going to pet stores to hang out with dogs that are up for adoption? They spend some time letting the pup lick their face, look at them with adoring eyes, spend some time commenting on how fitting the name is. They even go so far sometimes as to do really weird stuff like crawl into the cage and roll around with the dog for a while. And then they leave, they order some Thai food and watch NCIS reruns for a couple hours, go to work the next day, and bask in the residual puppy-love without having made any commitment at all to give that dog a better life.
That’s basically what happened with City Fitness’ transition to an Inbound marketing program. We kicked everything off with a bang, and our sales team rode that through the New Year and the “Resolutions” boost in new memberships, and more or less assumed that leads would keep flooding our doors (to the point of unmanageability), without fundamentally changing the way we process and nurture our leads.
As our lead generation levels off after January and the membership side of my marketing strategy enters more of a “passive” phase, the reality is a much larger portion of our leads are coming from fundamentally different sources than they had in the past. A key learning for me is that while our clubs performed extremely well in the fat months, when we’re getting a sustaining amount of leads, our sales teams weren’t equipped with the tools to maximize the leads that dropped into their Inbox from Inbound sources. Relatively quickly – and while we’re still pulling in more leads than we ever have – our Sales Manager started realizing that their monthly goals weren’t happening in their sleep, and that’s when they started to freak out again.
“I used to hit my sales goals every month. We used to close leads that walk into the gym at an extremely high level. Why would we, for the sake of both the business and my paycheck, do ANYTHING to change that? Why should I have to get better at email and position City Fitness as a resource rather than a distraction when everything was working so well before?”
As I said before, our sales team (and probably yours) is measured on their monthly performance – it’s getting towards the end of March, goal is looking like it will be difficult to hit, and everyone looks for something to blame. Inbound is the easy target; it’s easy to forget that our Net New Revenue was close to 150% what it was the year prior.
So, returning to the puppy adoption metaphor, it sort of seems like I adopted a dog, put it in our entire sales department’s house, and after a whole bunch of Instagram posts about loving the new puppy and introductions to the family, he decided to chew up all everybody’s shoes and it’s starting to become sort of a pain to walk him every day.
A truly effective Inbound strategy requires full-scale adoption, a total inbound marketing buy-in, to realize the full benefit; lower lead acquisition costs, more responsive campaigns, and a company that all-in-all is less annoying. I did take some heat initially for moving to Inbound, but our performance early on proved that, okay, there is something to this Inbound marketing thing.
Now that we’re at the phase where we’ve gotten over the initial excitement, it’s my challenge to equip the teams with the tools to maximize the value of this program. The fitness industry has a sales cycle where there are natural crests and lulls in how interested people are in our product, and one of the things that attracted me to Inbound in the first place was the opportunity we’re presented with to NOT beat potential customers over the head with monthly price promotions. As such, it’s my challenge to ensure that, when fewer (relative to months where we can’t keep up) leads are coming in, our teams know what to do with the folks we are lucky enough to be talking to.
For a fitness club just starting an Inbound Marketing program, based on my experience developing in real time:
- Try to get buy-in from sales from day one, but power through objections anyway (classic marketing/sales tension here).
- Ensure that you have at least one other person, preferably a sales manager, that understands Inbound marketing and can help integrate the platform into the sales process.
- Plan a campaign that makes a ton of money as quickly as possible (kick off with a bang).
- Be very thoughtful, specific, and transparent with your sales teams about what processes change with Inbound marketing and why, and empower them with the tools (email templates, workflows, campaign overviews) to be as successful as possible early on.