Fitness business marketing is crucial to building a strong customer base and continuing to grow your studio. In the increasingly competitive fitness industry it can be challenging to stand out from the crowded marketplace and draw in new members.
By focusing your fitness business’s marketing strategy in a few key areas you can make the most of your time and money and increase the chances of success.
Relying solely on word-of-mouth is not an effective way to build your fitness brand and the community needed to be a profitable fitness studio.
Pros: By now, most users understand social media and it’s fairly simple to get started. You can post every day, for free, and the audience (especially for those seeking health and fitness information) is huge.
Cons: To actually generate business from social media platforms you’ve got to be saavy about what content you post and have strong calls to action and links to online platforms where your audience can quickly click to buy. To get enough views and clicks on platforms like Facebook and Instagram most businesses find they have to pay to advertise.
Pros: Deploying a local SEO (search engine optimization) plan can quickly boost awareness and visits to your fitness business. Features like Google My Business and Map Packs can attract a lot of new business from people in your area actively looking – and matched by search engines – for exactly what your gym or studio offers. You can do it yourself at a relatively low cost.
Cons: There’s a learning curve and if you want to be effective, you’ll need to spend time updating your fitness businesses online profiles, directories and other listings and doing key-word research. You’ll also need to spend time online regularly posting new content and responding to reviews and questions. If you pay for an SEO service, it can be expensive.
Pros: Content marketing is a broad term and can involve multiple marketing channels and tactics, so you can use it with virtually any marketing effort. It’s all about educating your audience and providing highly valuable information and ways to engage with your brand, so it’s less “sales-y” and can be fun to create.
Cons: It takes time and planning to create content like top-10 lists, blogs, how-to guides, video’s, checklists, quizzes and other meaningful content. Such content also needs to be shared regularly – at least once a week – to be effective in driving sales.
Pros: Running online ads tied to specific keywords can bring in a large number of leads to your fitness business in a relatively short period of time. Platforms like Google have user-friendly tools to help small business owners effectively target their ideal audience with headline-builders and copywriting that’s keyword packed.
Cons: PPC advertising can be expensive. Advertisers should also closely track their performance to ensure that they’re getting a good return on investment. To maximize results you may need to invest in building a special web landing page. Requires at least basic knowledge of sales funnels and the buying pathway.
Pros: Retargeting, a form of paid, online advertising, is a fantastic way to keep hitting your target audience with information and an invitation to re-engage. These ads are shown to online users who have visited your fitness business’s website, social media page or opened an email. You can highly target the audience to ensure you’re only spending money to advertise to those who’ve engaged with content that makes them a great sales prospect (for example, women between the ages of 28 and 32 who watched at least 20 seconds of a new video you posted on social media about weight loss).
Cons: Identifying the audience demographics and segments that are most likely to turn into paying customers can take time. Retargeting ads work most optimally with large traffic numbers, which means you’ve got to already have a lot of people engaging with your website, social media accounts and emails to use the more sophisticated features of some retargeting ad platforms. Also, to get results, you’ve got to spend a decent amount of money.
Pros: Keeps your brand front-of-mind for current customers and prospects. Email marketing is a great content marketing strategy because you can give your audience valuable tips and information to help them stay fit and healthy. Most email platforms are free up to a list size of around 2,000. As a fitness business owner you can create your own marketing emails, as many email services provide ready-made templates.
Cons: It can be challenging to get beyond spam filters and create interesting enough headlines and content to get your list to open and click. It takes time to select images and write text for emails. Email automation and list segmentation can be complicated to learn and manage.
Pros: Having a well-known fitness celebrity (even if they’re known just on the local scene) promote your fitness business can give you a huge boost in awareness and social proof. You may be able to trade a year’s membership for the influencer’s promotion.
Cons: It can be challenging to find an influencer who is willing to sample your services and give you shouts outs online. Some may perceive this marketing tactic as inauthentic. The bigger the name, the more it will cost you.
Pros: Special events are a great way to generate awareness of your fitness business in your local community. Events can also draw in potential new customers to your business who may not have considered coming in for regular class or workout. You can co-host events with like-minded brands such as healthy food and beverage companies, local restaurants or spas.
Cons: Event planning and production takes a lot of time, planning and effort and there might be fees associated with event venues and costs for providing food and drinks. Be sure to price your events accordingly and give enough time – at least 3-4 weeks – to promote the event to ensure you sell enough registrations to make a profit. (In other words, you’ve got to market the event to have the event market your business).
Pros: Fitness businesses can directly target potential new customers who live in specific zip codes near their studio. There are many online graphic design and print services that you can use and you don’t have to hire a graphic designer. Can be a great way to promote special discounts or seasonal promotions.
Cons: It’s harder to target demographics (other than location) with direct mail and you might end up spending a lot of time and money on a lot of people who live nearby but are not viable prospects for your fitness business.
Now that we’ve reviewed many of the top marketing strategies for fitness businesses, let's’ talk about how you can get started with making the best marketing plan for your gym.
Marketing can be overwhelming, so review your priorities and start with two to three areas where you can really focus and make a measurable impact.
For example, if your top two priorities as a fitness business owner are to increase new customer traffic and better retain current membership, a great marketing combination is:
First, let’s define success. Typically for fitness studio owners effective marketing means bringing in enough new business to offset inevitable attrition, plus an increase in retention of existing customers. Marketing success can also mean that the time and money you invest generates enough new business to not only cover the cost of your efforts but increases sales.
When marketers talk about sales funnels they are referring to the journey each customer takes from first contact with your fitness business’s brand to the day they buy. Generally, this involves four steps:
One huge mistake many fitness business owners make when investing in marketing is that they work really hard on creating beautiful, meaningful content that gets lots of engagement but they fail to include a strong call-to-action and a way to make a purchase. These days especially, consumers expect to be able to click and buy in an instant.
For your marketing to be successful you must ensure that when your prospects are in the mood to buy an introductory offer, a class pass or a membership, you are right there – online and in-person for them to make their purchase.
Reminding your target audience that you exist is essential to being there when they feel ready to work out. In marketing this is all about consistently posting content and messages. Create and stick to a schedule of social media posts, emails, and website content upgrades so that every time your prospect opens their smartphone or laptop, there’s a reminder that you’re out there ready to help them on their health and fitness journey.
It’s been proven that consumers are more likely to buy when they see non-paid testimonials from others who’ve bought the product or service they are considering. Consider that 87% of buying decisions begin with research conducted online before the purchase is made.
92% of consumers are more likely to trust non-paid recommendations than any other type of advertising.
By providing social proof in the form of reviews and testimonial quotes on your website and online business listings, you:
Keeping the customers you have is way more cost effective than constantly investing to replace them. In the fitness industry annual turn-over can be 50 to 70 percent. When you consider that your cost to acquire each new member may be hundreds or even thousands of dollars, the case for retention is clear.
Existing, loyal customers also present an opportunity for generating additional revenue through add-on products and services.
Upselling, as it’s known, has a two-fold benefit: When existing customers buy private training sessions, special events, retreats, retail items and other “add-on’s” it increases their participation and potentially satisfaction and loyalty to your fitness business, plus you gain exponentially more revenue from sales to “warm” leads who are happy to buy from you with little marketing expenditure needed.
You’ve just spent all this time and money using SEO, email and social media to drive a ton of new students to your gym website. Congratulations! Now, how are you going to retain them and convert them into long-time, loyal, paying customers?
The #1 way fitness studios do this is by offering an attractive introductory offer. Successful intro offers:
Marketing involves a lot of experimentation. Even the best thought out plans can require adjustment over time. As you gain information about what works and what doesn’t you’ll constantly be adjusting your strategy, and possibly even your pricing, products and services to ensure that your fitness business is responsive to the needs and desires of your target audience.
Much has changed over the past few years. Many health conscious consumers got used to working out at home and using online classes and other fitness tools to reach their goals. Successful gym operators have added small group and private VIP training opportunities, moved some workouts and classes outdoors to fun venues and continued to grow their online class video options, creating hybrid memberships.
Savvy fitness studio owners know that keeping in touch with fitness consumer trends is key to evolving their offerings over time. A marketer’s best tools for this are online surveys. You can poll your followers online with quick and easy social media Q&As. It’s also wise to send out periodic surveys to your contact list – email is a great way – with 5 – 10 questions. Give a special reward like a free class or a branded water bottle to those who complete your survey.