Real Business #8 - Achieve More

  • Real Business is a series of posts that analyses the marketing opportunities and challenges of real businesses in the South East. The articles are also appearing in The Courier.

    Ruth Malone's recreational activities have always revolved around health and fitness, particularly when indulging her passion for climbing. Like many before her, she decided to turn her hobby into a means of earning a living and so started down the road of establishing herself as a mobile personal trainer.

    A few months passed before she was introduced by friends to Howard Spary who had been made redundant from his training and development job with Axa PPP in Tunbridge Wells. They found they had a lot in common and shared similar views and aspirations. A 50:50 partnership was born.

    Six months ago they moved the business to a location in Vale Road, Tunbridge Wells, taking two floors above a café - the middle floor devoted to personal training clients, and the upper floor to treating injured athletes by using chiropractic, massage and other rehabilitation techniques.

    The defining moment came a few months later when, out of the blue, the new business partners were offered the opportunity to acquire the café itself. Given that nutrition and diet play a major role in overall fitness, it was agreed that, although moving into catering had not been part of the original vision, offering healthy food to customers was a logical extension of the physical activities.

    Today the company is a truly one-stop health shop with three distinct elements: personal training, treatments and the café. All three are profitable.

    New clients often become so by walking into the café in the first place simply to buy food. Others tend to come through referral by existing clients, word of mouth, or through social networking sites such as Twitter.

    Forays into advertising have not been a success, but investment in a good website has paid off. There are currently 25-30 active clients and the company is on the verge of signing its 100th customer since opening its doors for business 18 months ago.

    The business challenge is to achieve optimum capacity for all three strands of the business. If the model works, more branches may be opened.

    The main marketing challenge is to bring the three main elements under the umbrella of one brand and make the brand more visible.

    The Marketing Eye says:

    This is a really good example of brand extension expanding your offer, but keeping it closely enough aligned to the original business mission that it adds value and doesn’t become a full diversification.

    Many people wouldn’t have seen the link between a café and a fitness business, but it looks to be a stroke of genius. The café is a great way of pulling people in off the street and creating the opportunity to sell the fitness offering.

    There is little reference to the café on the Achieve More website; instead Ruth and Howard have elected to create two separate websites. They shouldn’t shy from bringing the two together, because it is the combination that makes the brand unique and provides the platform for expansion to other locations in the future.

    The business needs visibility and the alternative to advertising is PR. There is a good story behind the brand and the press will be keen to follow it. Press releases and articles should be distributed to the local media on a regular basis. Advertising, if it is contemplated, is a long term strategy that requires a commitment of anything up to two years.

    Achieve More already has a good presence online through effective use of Facebook and Twitter. Businesses are too often dismissive of social media because they don’t understand it, but Achieve More does and is 'achieving more’ as a result.

    Ruth and Howard are on the right path. They need to maintain what they are doing - perhaps adjusting the volume of their marketing every now and again, but never allowing themselves to turn it off completely.

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