Shortly after launching my first fitness facility, I wrote an article on marketing for what was then the leading industry magazine.
The question was straight forward…
How do you attract the “deconditioned” market to your club?
This was the holy grail of the fitness industry; getting the people who were unfit, sedentary and largely disinterested in movement to reclaim exercise as an integral part of their lives. The size of the deconditioned market vastly outstripped the the existing member population. Still does.
Despite the fact that the health club industry has thrown hundreds of millions of dollars in marketing at the quest for decades, some 80-85% of U.S. still will not join or stay members of health clubs. If you could connect with and inspire even a sliver of them to exercise, it’d be not just a boon for society, but for the fitness business.
My answer was simple…
Stop calling them the “deconditioned market!!!”
It makes sense to us that the language we use to speak to the people we most want to attract and serve matters. In fact, it matters immensely. It’s the reason I’ve studied the psychology of language, influence, copywriting and behavior change for nearly two decades.
You cannot attract and inspire conversation and trust and, eventually, action if you have no idea how to speak to the people you most want to serve (and who’ll make it easiest for you to build a business serving them).
We get this. Intuitively.
But, somehow we don’t get that the language we use “internally” to speak not to, but “about” them matters just as much, if not more. Because it creates both a dialog and a cultural context within our organizations that lays the foundation for how we identify, connect with, treat and serve these people.
The moment you call the people you want to serve a “market,” you’ve already begun the process of dehumanization and kickstarted your dysfunctional relationship.
In the case of the fitness industry, labeling the people who hold the key to your success the “deconditioned market” was tantamount to calling them slothful marbled meat suits with pulses and purses.
Given that frame, do you really think you’d be able to effectively cultivate the culture, offerings, environment, solutions and messaging capable of serving those unique and beautiful humans on the level that would attract and inspire them?
Not a chance. You’re screwed before you even begin.
My friend, Ryan Lee, commented on this more recently in the context of the name of a marketing technique that’s become very popular in the online world, the “tripwire.” Simply put, a tripwire is a very low-price offer with disproportionately high-value that compels someone to buy, then sets off a sequence of up-sells and cross-sells that very often exponentially outsize the amount of the original sale.
The technique can be incredibly effective, and like most marketing techniques, it can also be executed with an ethos of either respect and grace or disrespect and brute force. What caught Ryan’s attention, though, was how the strategy was being labeled in the industry.
The word itself wreaks of disrespect. Dictionary.com defines it as:
1. a wire used to set off concealed explosives, as one stretched across a footpath to be struck and activated by the foot of an enemy soldier.
2. a wire that activates a trap, camera, or other device when stepped on, tripped on, or otherwise disturbed.
Using the term tripwire immediately frames those we most want to attract and serve as the enemy. Someone to be engaged, as a first line of defense, with trickery, trepidation, surveillance and potentially, violence.
What an absolutely horrendous internal frame.
As an alternative, Lee offers an invitation to business-builders and marketers. Instead of tripwire, start using a different phrase—welcome mat. Even though your customer will never see the term, it creates the internal context for how you view, treat and solve for those who gift you with the opportunity to earn a living.
Not just the words your customers, clients, community see, but those you think, those you craft and share internally, those that never see the light of day yet, nonetheless, make the difference between light and dark, respect and disrespect and, often, failure and success.
My invitation today…
Think about the “inside language” you’re using. Even if the person you most want to serve never sees or hears these words, they will feel them and, inevitably, be either repelled or compelled by their ripple.
And so will you.
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