The Planet Fitness Approach to Community Banking

Recently, an acquaintance told me that he and his significant other had joined Planet Fitness. There is a Planet Fitness near my home, and I had seen their television commercials, but had never visited their location. Curious, I asked him questions about it. Here are a few highlights that piqued my interest.  

Planet Fitness

The: Judgement Free Zone ®

Planet Fitness claims it is not a “gym” and their Judgement Free Zone ® tagline firmly stands behind it. That means, no outside trainers and heavy lifting (i.e. deadlifts and cleans) is highly frowned upon. In fact, “grunting” is prohibited. The Daily Show had a hilarious report on this very subject a few years ago.  

The concept of Planet Fitness it to create a welcoming environment targeted specifically to either:

- People new to working out

- People who just want a causal, laid back gym environment

In other words, “gym rats” and cross-fitters aren’t the target market for Planet Fitness.

How does this apply to banks?

There are two lessons banks can learn from this approach: intimidation and target marketing.


What’s more intimidating than going to a gym? How about asking a complete stranger for money? Isn’t that essentially what a loan is? A person walks into a “Financial Institution” and literally pleads their case to borrow money.

Why not take the Planet Fitness approach to removing the intimidation altogether? There are several ways banks can make banking, particularly lending, a more approachable experience. This could include:

- In-Branch Financial Literacy Classes

- Participating in Get Smart About Credit

- CRA Initiatives

The list can go on and on. But first, there must be a mentality, a company culture that welcomes these approaches. Otherwise, it is just blowing smoke.

Target Marketing

This is a hot, dynamic term in marketing, especially with community banks.  But how targeted is the marketing approach? Let’s consider home equity lines of credit (HELOC):

- Do you expect someone with a $150,000 home to be the same type of person who owns a $500,000?

- Do you think a 50-year-old married couple with three children in their late teens to mid 20s have the same needs/wants as a married couple in their early 30s? If not, why do banks consistently market to those customers the same way?

Banks throw a huge advertising net that includes phrases like, “remodeling, vacation, tuition cost” and the list goes on and on. Instead of trying to jam as much information out there, wouldn’t it be better served to create a message directly targeting a specific market?

Start with your current customer base and/or with the communities you serve. Is there a specific demographic you are trying to reach? Once you answer that question, find out what connects each person in that demographic.

Again, go back to HELOCs. If you already have a customer base, then use a prospecting tool to gather information. In this case, let’s say a prospecting tool is used to find out where this customer base lives in your area. From there, use tools to communicate your message to this audience. Tactics could include:

- Direct mail postcards

- Google Adwords targeted to the Zip Code and street address

- Display advertising that can be targeted via location AND by common interest

If you are interested in learning more about prospecting tools, take a look at our CRS Data Banker Suite program. The Banker Suite contains a prospecting tool that allows banks to search for certain criteria within different counties. Our goal is to connect you with clear, targeted marketing opportunities that can lead to results. 


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