For the past 12 years Mel Spooner has worked with the biggest fitness brands in the industry, including TRX, TriggerPoint, PTA Global as well as the top 100 health clubs. In a career which has encompassed domestic roles, EMEA and global responsibilities, Mel is rightly regarded as one of the very best marketing and BD experts in the industry.
We met with Mel to learn more about her latest venture The Project Network & Co and it quickly became obvious that the heart of her success is her unparalleled network of relationships. We spoke to Mel to learn how she’d built this network and how digital media is changing the nature of business networking within the fitness industry.
You’ve worked with more or less all of the major brands in the fitness sector. What proportion of your sales, be it for yourself or on behalf of clients, is achieved through face to face networking and relationships?
“In the domestic market, initially, up to 90%. It is important for clients to get a sense of your ethics and your personality and you can only get that with face-to-face time. 80% of my business operates online after that; Skype, email, social media and a great deal via whatsapp believe it or not! As a testament to the ability to operate much of your business online, much of my brand client relationships are all headquartered overseas.
Nothing beats face-to-face time where travel and time allows, and the fitness industry is gregarious like no other – that’s what makes industry landmark events like IHRSA, FIBO and LIW so prevalent in our global industry.
The beauty of the online tools available today means that we can complement the relationships we build when we are together, when we’re not together. The prevalence of sharing best practice, news stories and key business messages online 24/7 is more captivating in a global market space. Either ad hoc, or when it’s done systematically as part of a structured communications plan.”
So what are your three best tips for networking in the fitness industry?
“1. Be yourself and concentrate on your product rather than selling a product. In reality, “sales” in its crudest form no longer exists and has evolved to become about co-creating mutually beneficial, informed solutions.
2. Build a reputation for delivery. By its very nature our industry is extremely results orientated and therefore so must your approach be to business. It’s a cliché but you should still never over-promise or under-deliver.
3. Own what it is that you do. Continually discover and admit to what you don’t know. And if you can’t learn it, work with the expert and authority to create something unique together.”
What’s the most frequent mistake you see people making?
“Expecting results too quickly without having earned credibility. It’s long term strategic thinking, not a short term “sales pitch”.”
How do you anticipate digital media changing the way that networking in the fitness industry works?
“I think it already has changed it. For a start it’s made your time far more scalable and all but eliminated geographical barriers. Before social networking I was only as loud as one person can be – which in my case is pretty loud! – but now my digital version of me allows me to share across infinitely larger audiences. Every day I’m chatting to my contacts from all over the world. It’s taking the role of networking to a whole new level.
From a brand and operator point of view, there is certainly a thirst to become better versed in digital media to support business strategy- how best to utilise media and tactics to help to drive business performance which historically our industry hasn’t been inherently expert at. So we’re on an upward learning curve and it’s something which interests us all, I myself am keen to learn how I can evolve my understanding of digital media strategy to share best practice with my clients to support their own business objectives.
There is still a long way to go. As a logical step in the right direction – right now, nowhere exists for everyone to come together as one community. Most people are on Facebook, others on Twitter, Instagram and of course there’s LinkedIn. What’s missing is one central online platform for all the individuals within our sector to network and collaborate in a more formalised and organised fashion. That would be awesome and very welcome I should think!”