(and what it means for the leisure sector)

With nearly half of the year gone, Easter is already a distant memory and we’ve got the summer to look forward to so our thoughts turn to what the rest of 2016 holds for us.  Here are just a few thoughts that should steer your marketing plans over the coming months.

Marketing Automation
Whether its scheduling email campaigns with auto-responders that reply to specific interaction behaviour, or automated social media responses, marketing automation has been around for years.  In the leisure industry where marketing budgets are often small and human resources lacking, there has to be a shift to automate more manual marketing processes.  This Google Trends graph shows the growing popularity of marketing automation.

Marketing Automation Trend

However, don’t let this be an excuse for not assessing whether your activity is working.   There is a danger to setting a process up, automating it and then assuming it’s serving its purpose.  Automation does not equal laziness – don’t automate unless you can still invest the time to monitor and evaluate.  Have you got an automation strategy?

Multi-Platform Social Media Presence
I used to recommend leisure operators ensure they had Facebook up and running effectively before looking at other social media platforms.  But as Facebook makes it more challenging for businesses to appear on personal news feeds and other channels continue to grow (think Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest) then marketers have to extend their presence to these platforms.  Exploring these channels reveals different user groups and one example of this is with the popularity of Instagram amongst younger age groups – more than 50% of users are under 30 years old.  An opportunity to promote your student memberships?
Also, whilst Facebook and Google have dominated the pay-per-click advertising space 2016 will see more opportunities on other social media channels and for this you’ll need profiles across these platforms.  Go claim those usernames now!

FitbitGrowth in Wearable Tech
I love this area of marketing, not just because I’m a gadget-geek, but because I work in the leisure industry which is what most wearable tech is aimed at.  Fitbit, Nike+, Adidas MiCoach, Smartwatches, Garmins, HR sensors, and the list goes on.  So how do you capiltise on these devices, or are they competition for the traditional bricks and mortar leisure club?  Leisure staff need to become experts at recommending and incorporating these devices into your club’s processes and the members’ workouts.  Consider developing your own App which incorporates these devices in one place, controlled by you the operator of your club, thus allowing greater communication, monitoring and interaction with your members.

Advertising Online via YouTubeEye-Catching Advertising
We’ve seen social media channels develop over the last 10 years from simple text-based updates to picture and video messaging and now live-streaming is on us.  This need for greater visual stimulus should steer your advertising campaigns in 2016.  Many online advertising channels offer a greater range of marketing mediums, including carousels for multiple images and interactive video.  No longer will a static image stand out in a crowded market place – creative geniuses will flourish in 2016.

Search is Changing
Google’s share of organic search traffic is around 65% (down slightly over the past 2 years) with Microsoft and Yahoo making up the rest.  But consider how we are all changing our search habits.  Need a recipe?  YouTube it.  Need a review?  Straight to TripAdvisor.  Need to look up a business?  Facebook search.  Facebook is currently developing its search capabilities and aims to enhance the user experience of its own search bar, i.e. keeping people on the Facebook platform for longer.  Understanding how your customers find your products and services will help shape your marketing plans over the next 12 months.

SMS BroadcastsMobile Dominance
Where would we be without our smartphones?  And when will we stop referring to them as “smart” phones and just phones again!  In the second quarter of 2015 Google announced that more searches had taken place on mobile than on desktop.  Every online advertising opportunity including YouTube, Google Adwords, Facebook, Twitter, all allow a marketer to customise their adverts for mobile.  This has to be an essential part of any 2016 marketing strategy.  Knowing your existing and prospective customers have access to their phones 24/7 means you can send broadcasts and adverts and get instant analysis.  Emails, SMS, PPC campaigns and search advertising all need a mobile strategy.  Consider screen sizes and orientation, resolution and size of videos, click-through destinations, mobile-friendly landing pages, timing of broadcasts – all will play an important role in the success or failure of your marketing campaigns.

Increasing Complexity of Buying Decisions
1. Have a problem
2. Identify a product/solution
3. Seek Recommendation
4. Visit a Store
5. Buy the Product.    It used to be simple.

A savvier, time-poor, information-rich, more experienced customer now demands more from leisure clubs to gain their business.  Our model below shows how this buying decision has evolved and the steps customers may take to make the final decision to choose your facility.

membership buying process 2016

Click to Enlarge

To summarise, create a marketing strategy that includes eye-catching, mobile-friendly automated campaigns that work across multiple social media platforms and advertising channels.

John Leaver Head of Alliance Digital As Head of Alliance Digital, John is the go-to expert for all things digital and marketing.  With a passion for technology, gadgets and marketing John delivers exceptional insight into a quickly-changing and often confusing world of digital media channels. @JohnLeaver M: 07909988532