For years, Baby Boomers were the go-to target demographic for the fitness industry. Even today, the average age of a health club member is just north of 40. But, maybe it’s time to pay attention to their younger siblings and kids. Millennials—those born between 1982 and 2004—now make up the largest generational block in the U.S. at 80 million strong and hold about $1.3 trillion in annual buying power, according to the Advertising Specialty Institute. More importantly, according to AC Nielsen research, 81% of millennials exercise or would like to versus only 61% of Boomers.
While that kind of buying power is attractive, selling to this dynamic and diverse group takes a bit of a different approach than many health clubs are used to. It might take some unique messaging to get their attention and their dollars, but if you do it right, there is a great opportunity to build a loyal and long-lasting membership base.
Here are 5 key things to keep in mind when selling to Gen Y:
1. Get to the Point
The under 35 crowd have short—really short—attention spans. They have grown up in an instant-gratification, Google-powered world. If you want to sell health club memberships to this group you had better figure out to get your sales process and pitch tightened up. Taking a tour then listening to a laundry list of offerings and equipment, followed by a lengthy and detailed price and contract presentation will probably result in glazed over eyes and quick glances at their iPhone—subtle hints that you’ve lost their interest.
2. Get Tech-Savvy
Calling them millennials may make them unhappy, but technology has the opposite effect. This generation is more comfortable with receiving emails, filling out online forms and getting a text or Tweet than others. In fact, this tech-savvy group does the bulk of its web-surfing on a smartphone. Make sure your health club is well represented online and is optimized for mobile. Use emails, texts, and social media to interact with this group—odds are your phone calls will go straight to voicemail without a return call. You can even use your website to help shorten the sales process by offering a virtual tour online and allowing them to join online.
3. Get Flexible
While this group is fairly active, they are also price and commitment phobic. Notice how many cell phone carriers have gone to no-commitment plans. Locking them into a long-term health club contract will make them seem like Julia Roberts in The Runaway Bride. Millennials want you to earn their loyalty by providing great service, cutting-edge tools and in many cases intangibles such as giving back to the community. In fact, a Mintel survey shows most Millennials (72 percent) think gym memberships are too expensive. Think of offering flexible pricing options. Allow members to try more of your club. Make sure they know that you are involved in your community and are socially responsible to help Millennials feel good about joining your health club.
4. Be Authentic and Transparent
This generation more than any other doesn’t want pleasantries and fake interest. Don’t ask how they are unless you really want to know. They don’t want to be sold; they want to be convinced, and they want to establish relationships. Used car [and often health club] sales tactics of “the sale ends tomorrow” and “I’ll check with my manager” just don’t fly. List your pricing online, so they will consider you when shopping. Send them emails and other content to help them be healthier, so they come to trust you and know you care. Let them know your cancellation policy (and it better be an easy one) up front so they know you are being honest with them from the beginning. Remember if you stretch the truth or are loose with your facts they will know in the push of a couple of buttons.
5. Be a Good Citizen
Millennials are motivated to buy from and belong to companies that they believe are in-line with their core beliefs. This doesn’t mean you and your health club should support a cause just to please them (see authenticity above), but if you are passionate about something that will connect with this group don’t be afraid to let it be known on your Facebook page or Twitter.
While it isn’t impossible, resonating with and selling health club memberships to millennials takes looking at the way you do business and the ways you communicate that to the masses and perhaps tweaking them to appeal to this passionate, yet hard-to-woo group.
What are you doing to bring in the younger crowd?