When you embark upon any marketing effort, you must pay careful attention to the manner in which you would like your target audience to perceive the effort. Two marketing methods can be nearly identical in intent, yet the difference in the market “perception” can make very different outcomes.

A “contest” is a common and often successful marketing venture. “Whoever refers the most new members this month will win a trip for two to _________.” Allow a local travel agent to sponsor this trip in exchange for networking abilities in your facility. This way your overhead might be next to nothing in this promotion. What is the intent? To get your members referring new members. What is the perception? Are they going to believe they were referred for their own best interests? An uncertainty may exist which calls up the question, “Was I referred for my benefit, or so my friend can win a trip?”

There may also be a perceived sense of pressure to join. The perception of pressure inevitably causes prospects to raise their level of apprehension. Don’t get me wrong. If this contest is run with a minimal out of pocket expense, it can be an effective promotion. It’s just that the perception of such a contest puts some limitations on the overall result.

Customer Perception

Let’s look at another method of stimulating referrals. Suppose, during a given month, each and every member is awarded access to a handsome gift certificate. The trick is that the club, at the member’s request, will mail it to a designated person, couple or family. It will be presented as a gift from the member. Such a promotion works best in conjunction with a holiday or special event. The certificate can be sent as a gift around Christmas. Or members can register within the period that the promotion is held to have the gift sent on a future commemoration such as a birthday or anniversary.

What is the intent? To get members referring new members. What is the perception? Members will perceive this as a valuable extra since it’s saving them money on purchasing a gift they might have needed for a specific occasion. Or because it is allowing them to extend their enjoyment of your business to someone they care about.

What is the perception among the prospects? They perceive a gift! An opportunity to experience your facility without pressure, without risk. During the time that the certificate allows them, they are treated as a member. As long as you can meet their needs, they get a positive preview of what membership will be like. Offer incentives if they enroll during their “gift period”. You’ll find yourself with a whole lot of new satisfied members.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you think about how each person involved will perceive what you are doing in a positive light.

Ryan Farrell

Ryan Farrell started working with the National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT) in 2012. As NFPT’s Marketing Coordinator, Ryan is responsible for aiding company reputation by building brand awareness and establishing strong working relationships among NFPT, its affiliates and industry partners.