Never stop learning. Always stay curious. I was recently in a meeting where I was asked a very specific question that I didn’t know the answer to. In response, I said “That’s a great question and I’ll get back to you on it.” I think it’s important to be honest if you don’t know something and commit yourself to finding the correct answer. That way you learn something new and your colleagues always trust your advice and direction.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle Horowitz, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Blink Fitness.
For the past year, Michelle has been laser-focused on leading the brand and digital evolution at Blink Fitness, a premium and affordable fitness brand that celebrates the positive feelings exercise elicits, along with the physical benefits. Prior to joining Blink, Michelle served as CMO of Ann Taylor LOFT where she oversaw three brands: LOFT, LOFT Outlet and Lou & Grey. Michelle and her team built and launched the lifestyle millennial brand, Lou & Grey which grew from an online concept to 12 brick & mortar stores. She was also EVP of Global Marketing and Communications at Diane von Furstenberg. Prior to working within the apparel and lifestyle space, Michelle was with Thomson Reuters as Chief of Staff, Office of the CMO, where she led a team of 70 people to create the digital and social media practice. Michelle was also VP, Corporate Development, Office of the CEO for PR Newswire, then a subsidiary of United Business Media, where she led the international commercial strategy and successfully led multiple acquisitions in the US, South America and Asia. She is also one of Brand Innovator’s “Top 50 Women in Brand Marketing.”
Michelle holds an MBA in Strategy from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and earned her BA at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. She is currently completing the Harvard Business Analytics Program at Harvard Business School (HBS), the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS).
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I have always had a passion for the health and wellness industry as I am a naturally active person, it’s how I do my best thinking. I am so lucky to be able to bring my experience from retail into an industry that I love. As the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Blink Fitness, a premium but affordable fitness brand, I get to bring my background in brand building and a digital-first approach to help evolve the emotional connection consumers have with Blink. Since being here, I have challenged my team to throw away some of the more conventional fitness stereotypes and assumptions, and celebrate how exercise makes you feel (versus how it makes you look).
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
What unfolded for the fitness industry in the year 2020 was not in our annual game plan, completely changing our strategy and roadmap for the year. However, these changes also afforded us an opportunity to deliver innovative digital solutions that have been critical to Blink’s resiliency this year and will continue to be foundational for years to come . Within a week of closing all of our gyms, we had deployed Get Up and Blink, a live workout on Facebook that was hosted every weekday morning. We opened up unlimited app access to all membership types along with a free 30 day trial for non-members. During the shutdown, we took the opportunity to optimize our website to drive more qualified traffic, launched new gym pages that were more dynamic and user friendly, as well as enhanced our email strategy from batch-and-blast sends to a more customized experience for leads driven by their behaviors with the brand. We also took a step back and focused on what we needed to accomplish in order to win during these unprecedented times. I’m proud of Blink’s sustained ability to pivot and improvise with each changing day.
As gyms started to reopen across the country, Blink continued to look for ways to improve the member experience for those with limited in-person access. Our new virtual training offering allows us to continue to put our community first by providing current and prospective members with a simple way to schedule personalized, one-on-one virtual personal training sessions from anywhere. We launched a reservation system hosted on the Blink app at our busiest gyms as well as a capacity tracker at the gyms where reservations weren’t necessary. For members, who may not yet be comfortable returning to the gym, we focused our efforts on providing support through Get Up and Blink and launching virtual personal training. I am personally very excited about this, as it allows us to support both members and non-members in their fitness journeys wherever they are most comfortable at an affordable cost, which is unique in our competitive set.
Although this year has been highly challenging and constantly changing, my team at Blink prioritized the member experience throughout this ‘new normal’ by continuing to provide innovative digital solutions. We are always looking for ways to improve the Blink experience, and the implementation of these new services elevated our digital offering by streamlining and simplifying each member’s journey. Our goal is to ensure the mood-lifting benefits of exercise are felt by all, especially during this time of heightened stress and uncertainty.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Like everyone, I didn’t get it perfect the first time around and I have made many mistakes along the way, but most importantly I’ve learned a lesson each time! It was also a blessing that one of my first bosses taught me that — mistakes are hard, but they are also growth opportunities.
That mentality has inspired my leadership style — acknowledge and learn from your mistakes, communicate key learnings and move on. It’s through those lessons learned that we can move forward and be better for it. I think I’m still learning from my mistakes — we just have to think of each challenge as an opportunity to learn.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
If you’re lucky, you’ll have different mentors contributing to your journey across both personal and business lives. Having a variety of input allows you to see things differently and shine light on areas where you’re less seasoned or have minimal experience. I have definitely had mentors in each step of my career and also those that have been more constant. I search for people who inspire me as well — across industries and professions — it helps me to expand my thinking, to learn new things and explore alternative solutions for everyday pain points.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
1. Never stop learning. Always stay curious. I was recently in a meeting where I was asked a very specific question that I didn’t know the answer to. In response, I said “That’s a great question and I’ll get back to you on it.” I think it’s important to be honest if you don’t know something and commit yourself to finding the correct answer. That way you learn something new and your colleagues always trust your advice and direction.
2. Trust your gut and intuition. I’ve always had a strong intuition, but it’s taken me a while to fully trust it. Like any skill, it takes practice to truly listen to yourself. It has guided me to make many sound choices and other big life decisions. I am also painfully aware of when I didn’t listen to my gut and regretted it later on.
3. Mastering the right time, right message, right channel. A great example of this is the amazing success we’ve had with Blink’s email program. We’ve honed in on messaging to make sure we talk specifically to how they came into the brand as a lead, monitor what they opened and/or clicked through to, and continue to deliver relevant customized messaging. The traction and progress we’ve seen compared to previous email strategies is really incredible and another testament to our ability to remain nimble and forward-thinking.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
I love Shane Parrish’s The Knowledge Project podcast and his blog Farnam Street. The podcasts help me think, reflect, and better understand the complexities and interconnections in the world in which we live. His mission is to help listeners walk away from episodes with a deeper understanding and a renewed sense of curiosity.
One Knowledge Project podcast in particular, “Less Certainty, More Inquiry”, with Maria Konnikova has set me off into a journey of discovery. It has made me think deeply about making decisions in environments of uncertainty, the importance of reflection and the idea of chance. I just finished Maria’s latest book “The Biggest Bluff” and I still can’t get enough of her previous book, “How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes.” She is an incredible thinker around chance, skill and strategy — not to mention a world class poker player!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Do what you love. I even have a neon sign hanging in my living room saying this. I think people do their best when they’re doing what they love.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!