Analyze Your Competition to Find Your Strengths
By Karen Woodard
President, Premium Performance Training
If you’re going to be an expert in your field you need to not only know your business inside out; you also need to know your competition as well. The knowledge of what they do well, don’t do well, what they offer, what is unique, what they charge for fees, etc. is imperative to your success in being able to make an accurate comparison of your facilities. That knowledge will help you address concerns of a prospective member. It is also a key step to developing a strong U.S.P as discussed in a previous article. If you are still not sold on the importance of performing regular competitive analysis, think about this: how often do you make improvements/changes in your facility whether they be new equipment, new services, programs or renovations? If you’re making regular changes, then what makes you think your competition is standing still? That’s why it’s called “competition”- we’re always trying to “best” the others in the market. We want to know when our competitors make those changes and the potential impact the change has on the marketplace as early as possible so we can stay ahead and choose the best position for ourselves.
The optimal time frame for doing regular on-site analysis is every two or three months and phone analysis should be done every month to know what your competitors are doing for promotions. Regarding phone analysis, simply call the clubs and let the receptionist know you’re interested in membership information. When they transfer you to the membership department, you have two choices: either to identify yourself and what you’re doing, or to present yourself as a prospective member. Your choice depends on how good of a relationship you have with your competition and how forthcoming you believe they will be when you identify yourself. If you choose to identify yourself, the following verbiage works well: “Hi Bob, this is Karen at ABC Club. Hey- the reason for my call is that from time to time we get prospective members coming through our doors that we know are better suited for your club than ours so we want to be able to give them a feel for you- what’s going on in membership this month so I know what to tell them?” If you have a good relationship with your competitors, this will work 80% of the time. If you don’t, they may respond with, “Well just tell them to come over here and we’ll tell them what’s going on.”
The other choice is not to identify yourself and simply call and say, “Hi- I’m interested in membership information,” and let them roll. The choice you make on deriving the information is entirely up to you.
On-site analysis is a bit different and still presents the same choice as phone analysis- whether or not to reveal your true identity. The problem with revealing your true identity is that we know that the presentation/tour will immediately change because we are no longer a prospective member for the membership representative. That’s a problem if one of the pieces of information you want involves their sales style. If all your doing is analyzing the facility, services, programs, fees, etc., then there is no reason for you not to identify yourself.
Prior to going on-site, mentally prepare yourself for what you are about to see by being observant of the following details:
- Exterior impression: trash, fresh paint, signage, etc.
- Overall feel and smell of the facility upon entering.
- Greeting/acknowledgement upon entering.
- Cleanliness of organization.
- Level of usage at that time.
- Demographics of the membership.
- Unique programs, services or amenities and how they’re promoted.
- Amount, type, condition, placement of equipment.
- Staff appearance/availability/approachability.
- Listen to how the members and staff interact with each other and about the facility.
These are just a few of the areas you’ll want to be observant of on the tour. You’ll also want to get as much literature as possible on pertinent programs/services/fees. Upon completion of the tour, go to a quiet place offsite where you can document* what you’ve seen. The purpose of documentation is to share it with the other membership representatives at your club to have a stronger position with which to work through the objection of, “I still have other clubs to see.” You’ll now be able to respond with: “Ms. Prospect, I understand how you feel- this is a significant decision and you want to know you’ve made the right one. Maybe I can help- you see our training not only requires us to stay on top of what is happening in the industry from a big picture perspective, but also on a local perspective so that we can continue to provide the best there is to offer. That means we regularly visit the other clubs in town to know what we all have and are doing. Which clubs will you be seeing and what can I tell you about them?”
My experience as a Membership Representative, Sales Director, Club Owner and Consultant tell me that for some people, competition analysis is one of those sticky, uncomfortable duties of selling. If this sounds like you, it may be time for a paradigm shift. There is no successful business alive today that does not know intimately what their competition is doing. By doing a competitive analysis, it not only gives us a more accurate picture of our placement in the market, it also gives us another opportunity to make our clubs that much better and improve our closing skills. When we can speak intelligently and with authority about our competition, we have much more credibility in the buyer’s mind, creating a stronger desire to buy from you.
Karen D. Woodard is President of Premium Performance Training located in Boulder, CO. She has owned and operated fitness facilities in Colorado for over 12 years. If you’d like a free copy of a Premium Performance Training competition analysis form, please send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the following address: Premium Performance Training, 100 Country Rd. 83, Boulder, CO 80302, Ph. & Fax 303-417-0653