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ccording to the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM):

“Marketing communications are the tools a company

uses to deliver a range of promotional messages to its target markets.” However, this was in 2009 and things

have moved on a great deal since then. Although marketing communications are still the tools a company uses to deliver its promotional messages, they’re no longer limited to this defi nition. Marketing communications have evolved, and continue to evolve within a revolution of change where traditional boundaries are blurred. Nowadays, in the era of social media, marketing communications – whether you like it or not – also encompass what your customers are saying about you online. Our approach has therefore had to

evolve in terms of the way we listen to staff, customers and potential prospects – the way we must, today, open up a two-way dialogue to make our audience look, listen and react in a positive and mutually benefi cial way. It’s a manager’s responsibility to

understand this evolution and lead this dialogue. Richard Branson is a great example, in that he reaches out to customers on social media for real-time conversations about how to improve his companies. He uses the full range of social media: blogging, asking questions, responding to comments on Facebook and Twitter to hear what people are saying on a daily basis about each of his businesses and each brand – the good, the bad and everything in between. At the time of writing, Branson had

3.97 million followers on Twitter, over 4 million followers on LinkedIn – four times more than Barack Obama and over twice as many as Bill Gates – and over half a million monthly visitors to his blog. Over 6 million people had him in their circles on Google Plus and he had 1,078,865 ‘likes’ on Facebook. By engaging on, say, Facebook or

Twitter, you can position your brand to showcase your values in a subtle but

positive way. A quick look at Branson’s Twitter feed, for example (right), shows how within a window of less than 24 hours, he touches on core subjects that lie at the heart of the Virgin brand and makes you feel good by association. However, although social media is the

dominant force in marketing today, as Gary Vaynerchuk explained in his keynote speech at the IHRSA Annual Convention in March, the fi tness industry is “marketing like it’s 2004”. It’s still using conventional advertising methods like fl iers, newspaper advertising and billboards which, he says, are not the way to reach prospective members in 2014 (see http://lei. sr?a=x6u1r). These media may remain relevant for some audiences – older people, for example – in which case the key is to fully integrate every element of your campaign so the message, benefi t, call to action, tone of voice and brand essence are consistent across the board. However, Vaynerchuk believes large

swathes of the sector are currently using marketing methods that are obsolete when it comes to younger people – who include the gym members of the future – and that clubs need to focus not only on Facebook, but also on up-and-coming social media like Instagram, Vine and Snapchat.

What’s your USP? When it comes to the marketing messages we put out there, the reality is that most things have been said before. The big difference now is that we have a vastly greater range of channels – including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest – that allow for direct communication with staff, members and prospects, giving instant feedback in real time, 24 hours a day. Navigating all the possible channels can be a challenge. But before you even select your

media channels, you must defi ne your message based around your ultimate goal(s). For example, you might want to promote membership benefi ts, specifi c time-scaled events or special offers.


May 2014 © Cybertrek 2014

Entrepreneur Richard Branson uses social media to touch on core subjects that lie at the heart of the Virgin brand

Alternatively, your aim might be a more complex, long-term underpinning of values to support your brand. Crucially, managers must realise

that having excellent marketing communications is not the total answer. Organisations often repackage their brand without depth in an attempt to gain customer loyalty, trying to appear different in some way to stand out in a crowded marketplace. But the changes are often superfi cial – a veneer which does not last. As Albert Einstein observed: “The

defi nition of insanity is to keep doing the same things and expect a different result.” Organisations cannot simply do the same thing, packaged up in a different way with different marketing messages, and expect customers to be won over and see them differently in the long term. Advertising and marketing can’t ultimately disguise an inadequate product. Rather, marketing communications should be based on a genuine USP, so the fi rst step is to identify or create a USP that stands out and stacks up. With this in mind, tempting as it might

be to jump on the bandwagon of social media, it’s important that organisations don’t do this – indeed, don’t embark on any form of marketing communication

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