Email Closeup: Gainesville Health and Fitness

Setting the bar high during the toughest year ever

Gainesville health and fitness is a strong brand. It's a popular gym in the area that they serve in Gainesville, Florida. It's quite competitive amongst other gyms. It's no surprise to see that they remain standing amidst what is probably one of the most difficult years I have to confess.

There's a lot I like about Gainesville's email strategy.

What we're going to do is what I like to call a closeup. The traditional name for this is an audit or a tear down. I just don't like the sound of those words.

We'll look at at least one email, maybe a couple and some broader views of what they're doing.

If every gym or studio was doing what Gainesville's doing, the bar for email marketing in the fitness industry would be higher. To that point, I've had to get a little bit picky to find opportunities with their efforts. 

Here are the three things that Gainesville is doing off the bat that I really like: 

1) They start early. They're asking new visitors. If they are a member, or if they're not a member from the moment they reach their site, this gets the ball rolling and starts the email marketing process early.

2) They don't over-ship. They send the appropriate amount of emails. My estimation sent at the appropriate times to the right people for the right reasons. It's great.

3) Their messages attempt to connect the pain points of their members or their prospects with Gainesville health and fitness (and the team members) as a solution. 

Opportunities for their email program are mostly tactical. For one, I have some concerns with a few design choices, usually ones centered on mimicking what's sort of status quo and email marketing. I'll get into the details here in a minute. And number two is with subject lines, which are tough.

There's no two ways about it. Subject lines and preview text are tough.

Before we dive into the actual email, I want to address the first talking point I mentioned, and that was the fact that Gainesville health and fitness gets the ball rolling right away. The moment you land on their website, there's a little screen pop or overlay that pops up and asks, “Hey, are you a member or are you not a member?”

Once you select one or the other, you're entering either your login information or you're signing up to get on Gainesville’s list. The reason I like this is prospectively at some point I'm going to become a member. Until that point, I am a prospect or a lead.

Most studios and micro gyms that I look at have high barrier to entry. They've created a setup where in order to even get on the field as a prospect, you're going to have to cross some sort of barrier that a lot of people are not interested in crossing. You might need to put down a credit card upfront, there might be no trial period, you you have to come take a class or you need to get into an appointment with a trainer or the owner of the gym.

All of these are really great for distilling your funnel down to a really slim group of leads so that by the time they're sitting in front of you, your closing percentage goes way up. What you lose with that high barrier to entry is you lose all the people that were on the fence. Maybe they would have done it, but you scared them away.

You can keep high barrier to entry with people that are interested and still open a channel of communication with people that are on the fence. By collecting that lead right away, getting them into a lead nurture sequence, shipping some emails, starting to talk about the gym and things that might happen when they first arrive.

These are the things that are done in online businesses like software as a service and in e-commerce. These are standards of email marketing that for some reason, don't get picked up with studios and with micro gyms. To be fair, not all of them, but most of them. I believe it's a mistake. I believe there's a missed opportunity there that Gainesville is not missing.

Let's take a look from inbox view of what the experience is receiving emails from Gainesville health fitness. You can see from February 20th when I received my thank you up until recent history. That’s about three dozen emails, which to me seems about right.

The first thing I'm gonna do it was, I want to actually look at this part right here, which is the from. Almost consistently, these emails are from the same sender, which is great. It sets up a standard. I know who these are from when we deviate from that, I might wonder who GHF personal training is (referring to one email with this as the sender). What works well is to establish a single sender, and then stick to that as much as you can.

It's not the end of the world if you break from that. (Think carefully and measure your results if you change the sender). If we look over at the subject lines and the preview text for Gainesville, one thing that I noticed right away is that we've got some fun subject lines, working in some emojis. But, after the subject line in this example here, three member options while we were closed, the preview text is missing.

It goes straight into what appears to be their footer information. And that's consistent across all of these emails.

Now, I could be having an issue with the way these are rendering in my inbox. I did open this up in a couple of browsers to double check. I'm pretty confident that what we have here is an opportunity with our preview text.

That is just a snapshot view of what I see when I look at this right away.

Like I said, subject lines are tough. You're trying to do a lot with a subject line. You're trying to connect with the pain point of the recipient. You're trying to connect that pain point with the business as a solution in some short or longterm fashion. You're trying to reveal what the email that we're about to open is about. And ultimately that all needs to connect to a call to action in a lot of cases, not a hundred percent of cases.

Adding to that. There are these rules about subject lines. And in this case, it's worth mentioning that all of the subject lines that I've received from Gainesville, health and fitness are in a title format — like the headline of a news article — where the first letter of every word is capitalized.

It reads like you don't understand the rules of email. 

I'm okay with the use of emojis here. I think ultimately it comes down to what tests, well, I have a personal preferencenot to use exclamation points. It's definitely not a huge problem with Gainesville's emails; nothing that I would say, “Holy cow, guys, you've got to stop it with the exclamation points.” 

I've had those conversations. There are a lot of you out there that are you using exclamation points like we're going to run out of them at some point, and you gotta get ‘em all used up before they're gone. If they don't add something to the subject line, if you can say the same thing — whether it's subject line or body copy — without an exclamation point? Just drop it.

All right. Preview text. So none of these emails appear to have a preview text. The preview text is the one-two punch of your subject line. So your subject line will often set up the initial concept of what the email's going to be about or what I'm trying to talk to you about. The preview text comes in with the combo. It might close out the idea or it might expand the idea of the subject line.

It's hard to get detailed here as far as every single example, but you want to think of it as your second chance to get the open. If you don't use your preview text, you're simply giving up that second chance to get them to open your email. In order for them to take any action on your email, in order for them to read it or click on it or make a purchase, they have to start by opening it.

So why would you cut your chances in half?

Some ESPs don't make it easy to put in a preview text. In fact, some make it damn hard to do it. I don't know what ESP they're using here, but. I would suggest getting a hold of the people that run that ESP and ask them, Hey, how do I do preview text? And then start leveraging that aspect of the program.

Note: the rest of this transcription follows better with the audio and visual portion. Wherever I can, I’ve attempted to optomise this transcript for the hearing or vision impaired, but it’s far from perfect. 

Let's take a look at an email. Let's take a look at the second email that I received from Gainesville. Now I need to say something first disclosure's sake. I did not go to design school as long as I've been a digital marketer. I've I've had it street experience with design. I also steal everything valuable that I say from really good emails.

They do a weekly tear down on their YouTube channel, and I strongly suggest anyone who wants to get better email marketing, that you subscribe to that channel and watch everything they create. They know what the heck they're doing.

What we're looking at here is your basic newsletter. I love it. If every gym was sending out newsletters, how much heavy lifting would be done with the value building aspect of your business.

Let's take a look at three different views of this email. So this is how this email looks in my inbox. No big surprises guys there. And then if we go to, uh, uh, Mobile view. You can see that it doesn't really change much between the two views. And so w what Gainesville has done for the most part is they've created very mobile centric view of their emails.

It looks like just at a glance, the only big thing that changes that header gets a lot bigger.

(Opening text-only version of the email) Here's an interesting thing to look at, take a look at this email for those people that are denying images in their inbox view. So a certain percentage of people, and the number usually hovers somewhere around 30%, whether it's 20% or 50%, it's probably not 50%, but let's just assume it's only 20%.

That's one out of five people that are going to look at this email in this format. And this isn't terrible. I've seen a lot worse. Uh, we've got a lot of information to take a look at here. I think what's missing from this is we're not seeing image descriptions. Where we have images within the email, they don't have accompanying image descriptions in the ESP that show up as part of the text.

If I don't have the ability to see the images, I have no idea what the images displayed. That minor fix could improve that user experience for that, whatever percentage of people that are seeing these.

Here's an opportunity actually, as we go through this that I think is worth mentioning. (Referring to the top of the email) Upfront, we already have three or four different fonts at the top of this email. In fact, we've got the brand font, the sub the health and fitness, which is different. Then we've got this subsection or H1 and we've got another H1, which changes it (the font) again. And then we get into the body text.

Something that would help clean these up a lot is to pick one or maybe two fonts and then try to stick to those two fonts.

(Referring to block of text) This is not a picture of text. This is actual text and it's designed to adjust the size of the fonts and the way the text is organized when it gets into the mobile view.

The one thing that I would say about this text here is there's really no reason for it to be center justified. From a design standpoint center, justification looks really neat and clean, but when you're trying to actually read it, it makes it hard.

Generally, I try to make any body copy left, justified, unless it's just like a couple of lines of text. What you have to consider is that this short bit of text, in a mobile view, which is where most people are going to be reading it, ends up being a lot longer. That is a lot of back and forth for your eyes.

As you're trying to read this, we've got a nice clean line here after the image (the bottom of the image itself functions as a line, so you could) left justify all that text. And then there's actually another line element here. So there’s no reason that couldn't have been left justified for this email.

What's interesting is as we continue down through the newsletter, we then end up in a left justified section. Now, this is getting really picky, but I would even actually push these bullet points over to the left so that we've got a nice clean line along here. But I actually like this part of... you can see this just much easier on the eyes and easier to read than that first section where everything's center justified.

This newsletter uses a lot of blue. It uses many types of blue, and I wonder if we couldn't reduce it to one color of blue, and then differentiate our buttons by going with something that’s not blue. It's okay that they’re blue, and ultimately you want to use whatever tests the best so maybe you send out half the people that get your newsletter with the blue button, and half get it with an orange... or a green... or whatever color you want. You can even do a white button that just has an outline, but that it stands out.

If the goal is to get me to take an action with that button, then it should really jump off the page at me. Some of these elements like here (referring to a subheading), I wasn't sure if that was just a full, like a button that went all the way across or if it was a header.

And a lot of that, again, comes to creating a consistent look throughout the newsletter — Ie. a similar font, if we're going to use an H1 header or an H2 header at the top of better resection, then make sure it's at the top of every section — so you teach me to look for that as I'm going through it.

(Referring to social media icons) The use of these icons in the bottom isn't necessarily adding anything to this newsletter. What I think would make more sense here is to actually include some of their social media content in this newsletter. So if we're doing a lot of cool stuff on Facebook or most likely on Instagram, then put some of those actual posts on this newsletter, so I can see what you're doing on there. And if that interests me, then I can jump on that.

There's no reason you can't have that in a newsletter: Check out what we're doing on social media. It’s far more engaging. Then I can decide from that very engaging image based content, whether or not it's something I want to follow.

Almost everybody does this. Everybody, not just gyms, every business smacks those (social media) icons at the bottom because it's what everybody else is doing. But, if you stop and you look at it and you think about, does this add something to my newsletter or does it just add noise?

I think it's more, unfortunately, on the noise side of it.

By and large. I like this email. I like the fact, I just liked the fact that it's a newsletter. I like the fact that it, it communicates a number of different aspects of what Gainesville, health and fitness is doing about the facility upgrades.

It talks about nutrition. It talks about some of the services that they offer. I wish everybody was doing this well.

Okay. I want to take a look at two more emails and we're going to get through these all a lot more quickly than the first one. This first one is a message from Joe Cirulli. Uh, he is the founder and CEO of Gainesville, health and fitness, and it's a direct message about the issue wearing masks.

This to me is just a perfect example of why you want to have a culture of email marketing. You can put these types of messages on your social media account, but you cannot guarantee that members, especially the ones that would otherwise complain about it, are going to receive it.

When you send this message to somebody inbox, and it has a message about wearing masks in the subject line, and that's a concern of mine as a member, I'm going to open this. Whether I like the message or not, I'm gonna get it. This is just better communication in my opinion. And the fact that it comes from Joe is great. This kind of candor, and just straight talk, and transparency is gold.

To me, this is the center of the bullseye when it comes to the rationale for why gyms should be using email marketing above and beyond sales and retention. Of course, those are our primary concerns, right? But these opportunities, when you don't we'll have this culture in place are completely lost.

This email, as an email, compared to the first one that we looked at has a different look. It's branded with the same logo. We know it's from Gainesville, health and fitness, but you see the color scheme is totally different, which is actually totally fine.

If this is going to stand apart as, Well... when we send newsletter emails that are this kind of bluish cast. And then when we send direct messages are going to have this teal and golden thing going on... That's fine.

Again, we have these social media icons at the bottom, which I think just don't really add anything to this message. Um, but there's a nice call to action here. (referring to button) Want to know what our reopening guidelines are? Right there, click on this button. So I love that. Yeah. Um, actually even like that it's left justified.

They tend to end up being in the middle, but all of this copy is left justified. So that makes sense to me. I think it's a great message.

Another email that I want to look at is this one, which is about the personal training program. This is the one that I mentioned had a different sender: GHF personal training.

And this is again, it's different look than newsletter, but it's got a little bit of that blue thing going on. But, I'm not exactly sure I know who it's from until I get to the footer. I might have suggested putting that up at the top along side, the personal training, because I might not know... especially if I'm not a member... I might not know that GHF stands for Gainesville health fitness. I might not know that they have this PT program that's branded in this way.

I like that this (body) copy is look at that boom, like a ruler it's right there on the left. I think it could have been stronger if the message was, to a person and from a person.

That's a bias that I carry. You will talk to many email marketers who completely disagree with that take. That is my personal bias. That's how I like to do emails. If it's going to have a message, I feel like it should be from somebody to somebody.

And then we've got a call to action on a deal for some personal training click on that: Five sessions for you.

I think the CTA itself could have been, um, a little bit more inviting. It's definitely clear to me what, what I'm going for when I'm going to click on this. It's about me getting five sessions. Maybe something that's inviting me to you check it out. Like, am I going to buy this as soon as I click this? Or, or am I just gonna look at more information on it? Do I get to try it on for size?

So a little bit more clarity about what's going to happen when I click that button. Great work to the Gainesville health and fitness team. Congratulations to Joe. It's great to see that they're making their way through this pandemic, to the best of their ability.

I am definitely curious to know what's going on with their efforts to refresh their building, and I'm excited for what's going to happen with them going forward. I hope that more gyms, more studios, more mini gyms can take a look at this work and see where there's an opportunity that maybe they missed; that they could pick up in their own email marketing efforts going forward.

Thank you so much for watching.

Take care. 



 Damon Re Mitchell © 2021