NuStep makes and markets recumbent cross trainers used by rehabilitation patients in physical therapy sites, gyms, spas, on ships and in individuals’ homes around the world. The product evolved from the company founder Dick Sarns’ pioneering work to develop the world’s first heart-lung machine, initially used in Cape Town, South Africa in 1967 at the time of the first human heart transplant. From that time through 1987, when it was sold to 3M, NuStep focused on the heart-lung machine and related medical products.
Sarns noted the alarming increase in the number of open-heart surgeries and observed how lifestyle played a role in heart disease. Following this trend, Sarns and his associates developed the NuStep TRS 3000, the first exercise machine designed for use by individuals in cardiac rehabilitation to promote lifestyle change.
Teaming with exercise physiologists and health experts, NuStep then modified the TRS 3000 into the NuStep 4000 Recumbent Cross Trainer, an ergonomically safe and sound, low-impact aerobic exercise machine.
Eiler needed to precisely target purchasing influencers in order to drive early adoption of the NuStep 4000 Recumbent Cross Trainer.
Eiler targeted physical therapists in hospitals and rehabilitation clinics and physical exercise leaders in gyms, workout centers, aboard ships and other exercise sites. These people were influential in equipment purchasing decisions in their facilities. Eiler also targeted consumers since many would use NuStep equipment in their rehabilitation, and desire to purchase it for use in their home.
Eiler targeted a broad range of trade publications that reached target audiences as well as newspapers and TV stations that featured users of NuStep equipment for weight loss and lifestyle modification through ongoing exercise regiments regardless of age or personal ability.
Eiler provided byline articles about various physical therapists’ uses of NuStep machines and wrote and distributed news releases about new product features, sizeable customer sales and the company’s annual Pinnacle Awards, given annually to recognize excellence in senior wellness programs. Eiler also researched editorial opportunities and obtained interviews for appropriate NuStep spokespersons in targeted media, including local and regional publications and e-news sites covering its industry.
Eiler also produced a periodic print and e-newsletter targeting consumers and physical therapists. The e-version featured a summary paragraph with a link to the full story if a reader wished. Eiler also maintained a printed version, as many physical therapists did not have ready access to e-mail.
Overall, public relations stories and interviews generated a return on investment, based on advertising cost equivalency, of three to one. Media results have a much higher believability rating than advertisements since they have implied third-party endorsement that purchased space does not.
The Pinnacle program was covered in Active Aging, one of the field’s leading magazines. It also had broad coverage across all target media each time winners were announced. Eiler also arranged regional media coverage in the markets of the two winning organizations.
Feature reports on NuStep users were arranged in newspapers in the local markets of users. In one case, a 30-something woman who weighed more than 400 pounds lost 100 pounds over a year and was removed from the heart transplant list because of the health improvement, due to diet and use of the NuStep, her physician said.