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Bally Fitness: Are Free MP3’s An Incentive?

Bally Fitness' Website

Bally Fitness' Promotional Page for Free MP3s

Bally Fitness decided to offer a new way to attract new customers: offer them 20 free MP3 songs. Well, since most people listen to music on their earphones while using fitness machines, what a great way to attract new fitness club members.

Well, the insight was there: people listen to music when working out. But on a strategic level, my question is, will this work? Or, are free MP3’s relevant to subscribing to a gym?

The Problems I Found

1. The Relevancy

The importance of downloading MP3s (or paying for it) vs. the importance of committing to go to a fitness club is a totally different story.

Since Bally is using this campaign to attract new customers, perhaps the first insightful question should be: Are these non-members ready to commit to challenge themselves to invest in a valuable workout? Well, if not, then they will not pay a monthly fee to use that service that they know they won’t end up using at all. When deciding to join a gym, it’s a matter of commitment: do I have the time? Do I have the physical ability? How many times will I go in a week? Is that worth the monthly payments? I can exercise for free outdoors can’t I?

To make such a decision, one goes through a lot – about his/her life. If he’s working every day from 8AM – 8PM, I doubt he’ll have the time to join the gym. I mean, he’s got kids to take care of, have dinner, etc. If she’s traveling for work every week, she can use the hotel’s gym on her stay at a remote location. Why pay for this?

So after an evaluation of one’s lives, seeing “20 FREE MP3’s” won’t matter at all. It’s trivial compared to the commitment and effort they must put into deciding whether they should join or not.

2. The Burden

Well, to get the free 20 MP3 songs, the campaign tells one to join the gym online. Then, the user must go onto the Universal Music’s website (since Bally’s is partnering with Universal Music (and paying a hefty fee) for this promotion) and look for their choice of songs. Now, the user should just wait…. for, I don’t know, 10 days? Bally will send a redemption code, together with a link, and then there are further instructions. It doesn’t seem like much a process since the music’s basically free. But when the importance of MP3 downloads are trivial to the decision-making point, having a complex process doesn’t help at all. It’s just too much.

Well Then, What’s the Solution?

First, I would not have done this campaign. Or at least, this campaign should have been targeted at return-customers, or their most loyal customers to extend their subscriptions.

Second, if downloads were to be offered, it should be offered within the website – make the downloading part of the Bally’s Fitness Website experience, not of a totally different entity.

Third, I would suggest, dig deeper into the touchpoints – After What Process Will That Person Click The “Join the Club” Button? Many strategies will follow from here.


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How to Market Your Small Business into a Big Business

I recently became a member at a huge health club complex.
I has 13 indoor tennis courts, an indoor track, 6 squash and racquetball courts, a ping-pong table, an indoor and outdoor pool, and outdoor Tikki bar with many real palm trees (it’s been brought in) and real sand, outdoor tennis courts, and so on. It’s big. But honestly, I still can’t memorize the name of that place.

Well, if you’re reading this, at least you’re somewhere. You at least know what a ‘website’ is. And as you’re looking for ways to market your small business ‘brand,’ you landed up here somehow. And the same goes to your own brand. Someone out there will try and look for your brand via the Internet, in hopes to learn more by landing on your website. For my fitness club, I wasn’t able to find a website. It’s name recently changed too, so I couldn’t find it anywhere – not even a yellow pages directory.

I know budget is always an issue with small businesses. But building a website can be cheap. My blog? I pay $3.99 a month. That’s less than a pack of cigarettes. That’s less than 2 gallons of gas. That’s buying two bottles of Coke from a vending machine. Now, you’re probably worried about actually creating the website. Well – if you don’t have the budget to pay for service, then at least learn – just like you’re reading here – there are millions of places where you can learn basic HTML for free. Or for my case, where I use as my hosting service (@$3.99 per month), they have simple WYSIWYG software – where you can create a website without knowing any HTML. Moreover, my blog – WordPress – is also offered by my hosting service, so you can create a blog if you wanted to really easily.

So once you have your host name – where you can register your company:, you will then also get free e-mail with that domain. Just imagine –
Have that engraved on your new business card, and you’ll not only look professional, but you’ll actually have people contact you.

So you now have your .com address, your .com e-mail, your brand identity (business card). What else? Make your website visible to people who search you.
While many search engines like Google or Bing have different algorithms, there are simple rules for better search (in marketing, we call this Search Engine Optimization).

    1. Blogs can help put your address up there on the search list, because every article you write up updates. So, the more you write, the better it is for SEO
    2. Have meta tags – when you’re creating your website, make sure to include relevant keywords in your TITLE and DESCRIPTION
    3. Submit your website to search engines – your hosting service will provide you with tools to submit your website pages to search engines (all for free!)
    4. List your business on Google Map – with just a Google Gmail account, you can list your business on Google Map – so when people search, they know exactly where you are.

Even with this simple plan, you can actually become a visible company for as low as $3.99 per month. Yes, I understand – running a small business is hard and you don’t have time for it. But just as you’re dedicated to commit to purchasing, selling, transactioning, organizing, reshelving, cleaning, accounting, delivering, etc., learning and marketing should be just as important – or perhaps, more important for the future of your company. Your customers will always be the same if you’re always inside your store. Only when you go out – out into the market – then you will have more foots walking in your store door.

So start with a name, a simple logo, or if you have it, make it into a website, then make it visible and contactable by marketing it over the world wide web. Moreover, most of this is free!

Why Some Companies Get Away With Poor Customer Service

Friday 5PM.
While looking over Google Earth, I find a strange but huge complex that I figured out to be a health club/gym.

Saturday 6PM.
I drive and walk into this gym. A receptionist greets me, and tells me it will be closed in an hour.
I ask if I can have a tour of the place. Receptionist tells me to go ahead. I have no clue which way to go, so I ask where to go. She says: “just go through the door”
I take a confusing self-tour, and come back out to the receptionist. I ask, “can I get some information for membership?”
Receptionist answers, “sure,” and hands me over a membership pamphlet.

Monday 6PM
I go to the gym after work. I ask the receptionist where I can sign up for new membership.
Receptionist tells me, “membership is closed.”
I say, “OK. Well, when can I come back?”
She tells me, “it’s open on Monday at 8AM until 5PM”

Wednesday 2PM
I go to the membership office to find a guy helping me out. As I wait on the door, he asks me: “can I help you?”
‘Why on earth would I be here?’ I think, and respond back to him, “I’d like to sign up for a new membership”
He finally smiles a me and sits me down. Tells me about the two plans they have: one that includes playing tennis, and one without the tennis (only the gym).
Then I tell him, “the only reason I came here is to play tennis. Wow, how many indoor courts do you have?”
He tells me, “We have 13. And… will you be using the gym at all?”
I tell him, “a little swimming maybe. And maybe a little bit of the treadmills. But for now, tennis only”
So he offers me the tennis plan – which adds $40 more per month than gym use only.
So I quickly sign up.
Before I leave, I ask, “So how do I use the courts?”
He answers, “Just go in there and play. And you don’t have to reserve. Use whatever’s empty. Nobody cares.”

Friday 5:30PM
I arrive at the gym to play tennis with two friends. I check then in as guests at the reception.
The receptionist asks, “I don’t see you on the court reservation. You have to reserve them in advance.”
I tell her, “well, the membership guy told me not so”
She answers, “normally you have to, but I’ll let you go this time. How many hours are you playing?”
I don’t know what to say… “Uh… 2 hours?
She responds, “That’ll be $26”
‘What!? What on earth is this!!! Kidding me?’
So I answer, “Wait, I’m paying extra for the courts while paying $40 extra every month! I didn’t know about this fee!”
Receptionist says, “Maybe the membership guy forgot to tell you. You have to pay for court fees. What you’re paying extra is for tennis court access. It’s just to get on the courts.”
I ask the receptionist, “when is membership open tomorrow (Saturday)?”
She tells me, “go look at the schedule there.”

I brought my pals from far away, so we decide to play an hour. We were the only people there on the courts. After an hour, we went over the hour mark. So we decide to continue, to pay when done.
Suddenly, this middle-aged man with a moustache walks up to us with a well-built, young apprentice behind him, and shouts, “I don’t see you on the court reservations.”
I tell him, “I know, I don’t. But I paid reception to play here just now.”
He shouts back, “You paid for an hour. You played more now. What are you gonna do about it? You’re gonna pay for it? Huh? What are you gonna do?”

I got my two hours of hard, sweaty tennis to get rid of some stress. But it gave me more.
I felt I was cheated, I felt I was in some kind of a pyramid scheme, or ponzi scheme, and I’ve lost my fortune on investment.
There were national chain health clubs nearby – but I selected this, just because it was so huge, there weren’t millions of people crowded in it, and because it had indoor tennis courts.

So the next day, I did bring the plan back to a basic plan. Tennis wasn’t worth it – there were hundreds of outdoor courts nearby where I could play for free. The only benefit of my club was that it had indoor – so that I could play tennis during winter and rainy days.
But the fascinating thing is that although I really felt like I shouldn’t carry on with this club – as they have been rude, unprofessional, and untruthful – I decided to stay.
Why? Because it was 1. close to my home 2. not well marketed – meaning, there weren’t crowds of people
And more importantly, as long as I didn’t interact with any employee, I could be better served.

Coming to think of it, I think I have been like this in many services I’ve paid for despite poor service. Whether it was a restaurant, an amusement park, a bar, or a customer service call – I’ve been given the impression that the brand was terrible – in fact, I would never recommend them to any of my peers – but as for myself, I wouldn’t change or leave that place. Isn’t that fascinating? I hate it, but I end up using it. I think for every single instance, I’ve been able to find a reason to make it seem like a necessity – shouldn’t leave ’cause I’m already in here and I’m starving, shouldn’t leave because I already paid for parking for 2 hours, shouldn’t leave because there aren’t any other bars nearby, shouldn’t terminate service because doing so would be too complicated.
I think the main reason for this is because of pure laziness – I know how difficult and complex it is to terminate/leave, and just didn’t have the will to move on. In my case with the health club, it’s the same – and this one happens quite often – as long as I get to use their product/service without any of their employees making me mad, I’ll be fine.

It’s very ironic. The People – who are paid employees to better serve customers, actually make it worse – I’d prefer to avoid them than to be satisfied because of their presence.
While I’m still stuck to this poor service, in the end, the will get what they deserve – because I will make sure no one around me sign up for new membership.