Elise Zealand | Crain's Connecticut

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Elise Zealand

Background:  

Located in Fairfield, CoreMotion Studios is an exercise training facility that utilizes Megaformer M3S machines for a 50-minute workout designed to build and enhance strength, flexibility and agility.

The Mistake:

Marketing is my No. 1 challenge and I cannot believe how hard it is.

In my last job, I was a lawyer for a media company. At the time, we were moving from the print platform to the digital platform, so I had some sense of the importance of social media.

When I started this business, I was not social media savvy in a marketing sense at all. I really didn’t understand the outlets and what would reach what.

I stopped practicing law when my son was about a year old. I took a long break, wrote a couple of books and then fell in love with this workout – it is a complement to any other sport or athletic activity. It builds your endurance, your strength, your balance, improves your posture and helps with your breathing. I fell in love with this workout and wanted to become an evangelist for it.

This workout has become quite popular in New York – there are 10 or 12 studios in New York offering it – and I wanted to bring it into Fairfield, where it was new.

But getting the word on the new business and this type of workout was a lot more difficult than I anticipated. It was very hard to get the local media outlets interested in this. I thought that it would sound interesting – this new workout that was featured in big-name magazines – but it was frustrating. I tried a couple of different PR people, but they kept hitting walls.

In New York, it would be easy. This is the workout that many lingerie models do – who wouldn’t want to go videotape them? But I have beautiful people in here working their tails off all the time, and I thought it would look great to see them on TV.

When we opened, we put out a press release and a couple of people came. But I don’t think the media outlets in this area are very supportive of small businesses. They should be, because we’re the people that risk everything – the kids’ college funds and our savings – to create something new and cool and different for this area.

There were also hiccups at first with social media. Somebody told me your brand should have a personality on social media, and they asked me, “What is your brand’s personality?” I guess I sort of thought the answer was “funny,” which may not be the right personality for fitness.

But marketing has been the head-banging problem for the past six months.

The Lesson:

We got lots of attention for humorous posts online, but that did not bring feet in the door. I couldn’t believe the numbers of people that looked at our postings on Facebook and Instagram, but then moved on. Finally, I spoke with someone who said, “You are not a comedy club – you are here to train people. That might work in the city, but people here have really busy lives and want to go in here to get a great workout and then move on with their day.”

We are still using Facebook and Instagram, and we are trying to find creative ways to reach audiences. We’ve printed up hundreds of fliers and left them in banks. I even went out to the train station at 5 a.m. one morning in the rain and handed out fliers to commuters that looked at me like I was crazy. As a new business owner, you really have to try everything.

I have also been trying to reach influencers. If it is a mom who is a mover and shaker at a pre-school, then I try to bring her in and 14 other moms in for a class. Or the head of operations for a minor league team or the athletic director for a school – I try to bring them in to show them what this workout is about and let them decide if it is appropriate for their teams. We’re looking at corporate wellness programs, too.

We’re a young, flexible company and we can be anything. But marketing has been the head-banging problem for the past six months.

I realize, however, that it might take a long time for that brush fire to spread. There would be days when we’d have no one here at all and I would sit in the back office and cry, but the other day we had to turn away a few people from a class. We’re seeing a change in attendance and sales. But it takes all-day, all-the-time effort.

Photo courtesy of Elise Zealand.

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