16 Fitness Marketing Tips to Grow Your Gym20 min read
Whether you own a small gym or a large chain of fitness centers, differentiating your business from its competitors is key. This is especially true in Seattle, where some neighborhoods sport multiple gyms on one block.
Luckily, a growing number of tools and trends are making it easier than ever to grow your fitness business through intelligent marketing. Here are 16 tips for fitness marketing to get you started.
1. Know Your Brand
People process brands in the same area of their brain as they do people. Remember — you’re building a relationship with your clients, so you need to have a strong sense of self.
Think of your brand as a person, with a mind, soul, and body. Thousands of gyms, bootcamps, and pilates and yoga studios flood every market. Understanding your brand is the most important first step in connecting with your clients.
Mind: Your People, Process, and Product
Understand the mind of your business:
- People: Your people are not just your trainers and clients, but also your influencers and suppliers. Reframe your understanding of yourself and your staff as being a provider and facilitator of other people’s knowledge and products to serve your unique target client base.
- Process: Don’t get too technical — this is a branding exercise to be kept in the back of your mind for the rest of your marketing efforts. But it’s important to think of the process of how you provide your service in the most basic and fundamental steps. It can be as simple as something such as: “Inspire, assist, measure results, repeat.” Once you have an understanding of what you’re actually doing for people, you can train your entire staff to carry that flag.
- Product: You need to understand what you are really selling. Every business satisfies an emotional need, and that need should serve as the bedrock of everything else you do. In most cases, it’s something very simple for the fitness industry, such as the need to look good or feel powerful, or even to have a better quality of life.
Soul: Your Backstory, Personality, and Repertoire
Just like people, businesses have a story. They have a reason for being and a personality that is influenced by the people with whom they have a relationship. These in turn dictate tone, voice, vibe, and other “bodily” pieces of brand.
The soul of your business is made up of a:
- Backstory: People want to know who you are and where you come from. They want to know why your business exists, why it was founded, and why your trainers and coaches do what they do. This builds a personal connection that results in loyalty when it resonates. Honesty is key.
- Persona: We all wear many faces. Think about your team’s attitude, personality in the community when interacting with non-clients, and customer relations attitude. If it helps, try to frame these in terms of a movie character or famous personality that you feel most represents the different facets of your business’s persona.
- Repertoire: All other steps up to this point give you a catalogue of what you really have the authority to talk about. There are essentially three types of content, including original content based on your expertise, sharing sources (based on your influencers that directly relate to your services), and commentary (where you can elaborate or critique the work of others in your industry).
Body: The Big Picture
Your business’s body is how people perceive you with their senses. It should be educated by a solid understanding of your brand’s mind and soul, and the result should be intelligently thought out, sensory presentations. While these normally fall into branding (including style guides, messaging guidelines, and packaging), you can elaborate to carefully and intentionally choose every element of sight, touch, feel, and smell (only restaurants should worry about taste as part of their brand).
2. Create a Great Website
Think of your website as the central point of your brand’s digital footprint across the web, with all social media, directories, and content pieces pointing back to it. Make sure that your website is a strong and accurate representation of your business. Following a few basic rules of thumb for optimal usability is important:
- Use a reliable content management system (CMS) such as WordPress so you can quickly and easily make updates.
- Make sure your site is mobile-friendly. Google will not display your website in mobile searches if you’re not mobile-friendly, and a site that doesn’t work well on a phone has a much higher bounce rate. You only have a few seconds to make an impression and speak to your potential clients, so you have to make it count.
- Have a clear and simple call to action (take a look at the one at the bottom of this blog post for an example). Identify the primary and secondary goals of your website, such as getting people to sign up for a free class or take a tour. Ask people to test out your website to be sure that they naturally navigate to the right areas of the website and accomplish those goals. (Tip: You can set up these goals in Google Analytics so you can track your conversion rates.)
3. Manage Your Reputation
One of the biggest challenges for gyms and fitness centers is maintaining a good reputation, beginning with Yelp. Yelp, like Google, is a search engine. It operates on an algorithm that rates the profiles of its listings by a combination of average rating, details of the reviews, number of check-ins, strength of the contributing review profiles, completion of your profile, and whether you are paying for ads.
Yelp also has a pretty strict set of terms and conditions, but like Google, it’s built on the concept of authenticity. Because of this, Yelp does filter reviews from individuals who lack strong profiles. Weak profiles typically have few friends, not many reviews, and little profile information filled out. If you have great reviews that have been filtered, reach out to the authors and explain that they can’t just review you, they have to establish their credibility by reviewing others and interacting in the community.
Because of Yelp’s terms and conditions, you can request that certain bad reviews be taken down. Become familiar with the rules so you know how to flag reviews that are hurting your average rating. However, nothing replaces simply learning from your clients’ feedback, addressing any particular issues they bring up, and always having the humility to grow and change. Customers will always appreciate that.
[Related: How to Deal With Negative Yelp Reviews]
Google Maps reviews and Facebook reviews are becoming increasingly important. Content is indexed in Google Maps reviews, meaning that not only are the amount of stars a client gives you important, but also what they write in the content of their review. The emotional responses will be measured, as well as the services mentioned. The post will train Google Maps to qualify you for more specific keywords with regard to your classes, equipment, facilities, and expertise.
4. Brand Your Trainers
If you have trainers and staff who work with your clients one on one, make them visible and highlight their experience and expertise. You can do this by building out their profiles on your website and assisting them in building their personal brands as well.
Keeping a happy team often means that should they ever leave your employment, they will do so with more expertise and a better reputation than they came in with. This requires training your staff and also promoting their personal Twitter, Google+, and Instagram accounts. This encourages an ongoing relationship with your team that continues after a staff member leaves your gym or studio.
5. Have a Powerful Membership Platform
The biggest key for a strong business is residual income through monthly memberships. Dozens of great platforms are available to help not only with the billing process of managing these memberships but also with maintaining your relationship with your regular customers:
- MindBody is probably the most popular and versatile platform. Their system can integrate directly with your website so members can see class schedules, manage their membership, receive push notifications, and even download an app specifically for your gym right onto their phone.
- Zen Planner offers many of the same services as MindBody, but also includes advanced workout tracking.
- Jonas Fitness is a great solution for simplicity.
- GymMaster is the platform of choice for many big names, including the YMCA, Gold’s Gym, and more. They also offer 24/7 gym access control.
- More membership platforms are listed here.
Make sure that the platform you choose is intuitive for your members and serves their needs. If you’re not sure which to select, pull aside some of your best clients and get them to answer a brief survey of what they would like as far as functionality and user experience. This can be done by going to the main features pages on each of the membership platforms websites and creating a multiple choice survey using a service such as SurveyMonkey or Google Surveys. Remember, it’s not just about usability for you — it’s about usability for your clients.
6. Use Facebook to Boost
You’ve probably noticed that your reach on Facebook is pretty low compared to the actual number of people who like your page. This is due to several factors, the first being that not all of your clients are on Facebook all the time, but the biggest issues is that Facebook curates each person’s news feed based on previous interactions with posts and pages, personal preferences and interests, what’s currently trending, and how that may resonate with that individual.
In the case of business pages, you’re more likely to see an update from a business if:
- You’ve checked in at the business before.
- You’ve liked or commented on one of the business’s posts in the past.
- You have several friends who also like and interact with the page.
Because of this, the average reach of a Facebook post is only 7% (at best) of your existing audience.
The best way to get around Facebook’s limited visibility is through “boosted” posts. The first step should be to create a custom audience based on your ideal client’s age, geography, and interests. The optimal target audience should include around 10,000 people. Anything smaller than that would result in the advertising engine displaying ads outside of your target demographics to meet the spending quote.
A rule of thumb is to spend about $50 per boosted post to ensure that the quality of your post is good enough to garner the results you’re looking for. A good promoted post will have a compelling and relatable image. If you lack Photoshop skills (or an Adobe license), a wonderful free tool called Canva is your best option. However, you’ll have to adhere to Facebook’s ad approval regulations, which require that less than 20% of the image be text. Use this tool to check if your post meets those guidelines.
Here is where Google Analytics goals come in. Within Analytics, you can connect a goal to track the clicks on your ad from Facebook and see how many of them convert. This way, you can track your return on investment from every post. And if you want to get really specific, you can use a heat map tool such as Crazy Egg to track people’s actions on the landing page you link to from Facebook.
If you don’t have the budget for regular promoted posts on Facebook, a good alternative is to engage with your local community. Partner with local brands that fit with your business by hosting events (health discussions, food tastings, blood drives, and so on), or with a nonprofit organization to raise awareness.
7. Harness the Power of Instagram
While most social media posts can be prescheduled using tools such as Hootsuite or Buffer to ensure everyone is up-to-date on schedules, events, and specials, no amount of planning and strategy can compare to the authenticity that is brought to the table through Instagram, which was probably Facebook’s best investment in 2012.
Instagram is a network that is designed entirely around the idea of “sharing your moment.” Whereas Facebook posts are typically more planned out, Instagram empowers users to share what is happening right now from their phones.
Because modern marketing is all about authenticity and relationships, Instagram can be a powerful tool. Try to always have someone on-site who has your Instagram account on their phone.
8. Set Up Referral Programs
Start with the easiest option: Establish a standing policy of offering kickbacks to your clients for referring a friend.
Next, identify if the majority of your clientele is coming to you directly from work or directly from home. Why? Partnering with businesses that are nearby can yield rewarding results. You can do this by setting up a corporate wellness program, which provides incentives for a company to refer their employees to work out with you. Offer to host boot camps on location or simply provide information that can be kept in lunch and break rooms.
Never neglect apartment complexes or established communities that are paying Homeowners Association (HOA) dues. Many successful fitness clubs work out deals in which membership can be included in the various housing fees people are already paying.
9. Make Videos
Most videos can be made right on your phone using Instagram, Facebook, your phone’s built-in raw editor, or additional programs such as Fly Labs.
Great formats for videos include:
- Instructional videos
- New instructor introductions
- Events or competitions
Make sure that you not only post the videos to Facebook, but also upload the videos to YouTube so they can be referenced later, embedded on your site, or simply available on YouTube, which is the world’s second largest search engine. People all over the world are looking to be entertained or educated, so you never know who you’ll connect with.
A tip for getting better visibility for videos after you’ve uploaded them to YouTube is to make a Creator’s profile. Then write a long description (300 words or more) of what the video is about, include links for more information, and ask people to subscribe to your channel.
10. Incentivize Year-Round
January shouldn’t be the only time people feel that they need to get their workout on. Each season has its own reason for people to care about and work on their physical well-being; the trick is to make it not just top-of-mind but also fun.
Woobox and Rafflecopter are great tools that you can use to create sweepstakes, contests, and incentives to come to the gym. Your clients can also use them to try more classes, share your training studio with their friends, and even compete with some of your other clients.
You can also have some evergreen policies and contests by leveraging apps people already use, such as Foursquare check-ins.
11. Reward Social Newbies
Clients are most likely to leave a review in the first few weeks of their membership, when they’re in the honeymoon phase of their relationship with you. This is the perfect time to ask for a review on platforms such as Yelp, Foursquare, Google, and Facebook.
While most platforms’ terms and conditions restrict businesses from “buying” a good review by providing free services in exchange for a certain number of stars, you can provide instructions to people in the first few weeks about how to give reviews on certain platforms. Whitespark is an SEO tool that helps provide templates of instructions that you can print out and hand to people. Leaving leaflets in lockers, in changing rooms, and at the front desk helps remind people that their feedback is important.
12. Feature Your People
Most people don’t know the owner or managers of their fitness facilities. Instead, they build relationships with the person at the front desk, the spin instructor, or the personal trainer. These are the people who keep your clients coming back, so do your best to show them off and tell their stories.
While people do check out bios on your website, most bios fail to provide a sense of connection because they are carefully contrived and ultimately static. The best way to move past this is to empower your team to tell an ongoing story that can be followed.
Let your staff contribute to the blog on your website, telling stories about success, personal struggles, research, and training they’re doing. When you provide them this very public platform, your team has an even greater investment of personal pride that goes into their contribution. The result is that they end up sharing their written work on their own personal social networks, expanding your reach to their friends and family.
If you create videos, always let the team members say their full name in the introduction. Trainers are building their own brand, and if you allow them to do so through your business, they’re much more likely to stick with you.
13. Blog About Common Questions
Google’s goal is to provide the best possible referral to fulfill a searcher’s request. If they’re looking for “gyms near me,” Google wants to provide, in sequential order, the websites of gyms that have the best reviews, reputation, community followers, engagement, and original content. All of these contribute to the notion that the most authoritative source is not only a good business, but also a leader in their industry.
One of the best ways to gain authority is to contribute original, thoughtful work in the form of blog posts.
[Related: Why Blogging Is Essential to Your Business]
An additional benefit of blogging is greater keyword qualification, as each post expands the topics in which search engines recognize your expertise. It also increases traffic for people searching for answers to questions you’re answering. As a side effect, people will naturally link to your blog post as a citation. That link will build your domain authority and generate even more natural traffic. Finally, blogging provides great content to be shared on social media.
So what should you be blogging about? Ask yourself: What are your customers and potential clients wondering about? Answer questions about nutrition and workout regimens, techniques, and myths; and explain not only how certain exercises are done, but why they are done.
Consumers are becoming more intelligent about how they consume because so much more information is available to them than ever before. Because of this, fad diets and exercise trends are being adopted only if they are backed by solid rationality, research, and convincing case studies. After all, exercising is hard, and people want to ensure their time and effort are going to pay off. It’s up to you to provide them that assurance.
14. Stake a Flag in Your Community
The very nature of the fitness industry is rooted in the phsical. In the digital world, physical is rooted in the concept of local: Your business has to be visible in every local directory and well-marked with signage.
Join your local chamber of commerce. Not only is the link on the website beneficial, but showing your face at events for business owners is the fastest way to embed yourself in the local economy. Bring business cards or host an event once in a while if your physical space is conducive.
Participate in neighborhood activities such as street fairs, trick-or-treating, and anything else that is community-oriented.Other organizations that are always good to participate in are BNI and Le Tip, as they carry the expectation of referrals and categorical exclusivity.
15. Provide Meal Plans
Your clients are busy, active people who are trying to balance work, life, and family, so you should make things easier on them by providing ways to streamline their hectic lives.
One of the best ways to do this is to create strategic partnerships with other businesses that relate to physical well-being. While this can include physical therapists, doctors, and nutritionists, you can also suggest meal plans that complement their workouts.These meal plans also serve as great content to be shared on your social media and blog to prove that your business cares about helping clients reach their goals — not just collecting their membership dues.
16. Advertise With Intelligence
Your money is valuable, and with digital marketing tools, you no longer have to wonder whether you’re putting it to good use.
Start by calculating the total value of a client. You can do this by finding the average length of membership and multiplying that by the average membership revenue. Here is where the math gets a little intensive. You’ll want to budget 6% of the value of the customer, and earmark that as your ideal cost per acquisition of a new client. In other words, that number will tell you how much you should be spending to acquire just one new customer. Then multiply that by the number of new members you hope to get each month, and the result will be your advertising budget.
One pitfall most fitness business owners make is blindly spending money in Valpac, local blogs, Google AdWords, or Facebook. Without knowing your ideal cost per acquisition, you’ll have no idea if your advertising dollars are paying off.
When advertising online, you must be aware of what your cost per click is. You have to keep in mind that a click does not equal a new member — it just means that someone visited your site, landing page, or offer. You’ll need to track the percentage of people who visit your site who actually sign up or contact you. The result will be a calculation of your ideal cost per click. This is where the gold is.
Platforms such as Yelp have a flat cost per click rate that is normally between $4 and $10. Sites such as Google AdWords are variable based on the keyword you’re bidding for. Judging your ad methods should always begin with making a decision based on the cost and value of one click. Those numbers will tell you if an ad purchased on any given network is the correct investment for you.
Once you have the clicks, it’s vitally important to monitor the effectiveness on a regular basis. If your conversion rates begin to slip, you should find out why and make the necessary adjustments. The greatest thing about marketing your fitness studio is that all that data is available to you in one form or another if you use the right tools or have the right training.
When understood and utilized intelligently, consumer trends and digital marketing tools can make the fitness industry ripe for growth. All you need as a small business owner is the knowledge and technology to leverage them!
Ready to grow your gym or fitness center?
Schedule a free consultation with a Marketeering Group strategist to discuss the best services to help you achieve your business goals.