Whether you own a gym or aspire to one day, one thing you need to know is that marketing never stops. No matter how long you’ve been open, there will always be customer churn. That just comes with doing business. To keep your membership numbers up and your gym profitable, you’ll need an ongoing marketing strategy that delivers results with minimal cost and effort so you can focus on running your business.

Fitness Marketing Strategies for Your Studio or Gym

Effective marketing for the fitness industry requires a two-pronged approach of both community-based and digital marketing: foster trust and excitement within your local community and use the technologies at your disposal to reach your target audience on the web. With these two approaches in mind, we’ve come up with a list of 20 top marketing tactics you can put in place to help your gym achieve and maintain success.

1. Determine Your Unique Selling Proposition and Define Your Message

If you want your business to succeed, you will have to narrow down your unique selling proposition. 

Your unique selling proposition is something that sets your business apart from the competition, something that consumers can’t get elsewhere. If you haven’t figured out EXACTLY what this is, pause and sort that out first. Your unique selling proposition will shape your messaging and add a lot more punch to your marketing efforts. 

You’ll need to have a clear, concrete message that helps customers easily understand precisely what you can do for them and why they should join your gym. 

Your messaging should always be customer-oriented and convey value to the consumer. Keep in mind who your target consumer is, and identify how your business fulfills a need of that demographic. Identify and address pain points and offer solutions that fit into the lives of your potential customers. 

While it’s tempting to want to share your story as a business owner and why you decided to open a gym, talk less about your company’s backstory and more about what you can do for your customers right now. That will capture their interest a lot more than something like, “We’ve been in the fitness business for 20 years.”

For example, the CITYROW Franchise sets itself apart by providing an intense, calorie-blasting, strength-building workout that is low impact and safe for joints at any age thanks to the ergonomic design of the WaterRower. The unique selling proposition tells the customer precisely what CITYROW offers that they can’t get at just any gym. 

There are plenty of resources available online to help you hone in on your specific message. One such resource is My Story Brand, which walks you through the customer journey to develop a relevant and compelling message for your marketing needs and brand experience.

2. Participate in Local and Community Events

Local and community events can include pop-ups, health fairs, conventions, and local markets. As our economy begins to recover from COVID, we will start to see more of our favorite community events come back after the hiatus. 

If you run a specialty gym or boutique fitness center, this is a great way to showcase what sets your business apart. Bring equipment for event attendees to try for themselves or play your signature playlist to give people a taste of what your classes are like.

It might be a good idea to have an instructor or two present to advise people on using any equipment properly and explain how your program will help them achieve their goals. 

CITYROW studio owners have had tremendous success with the pop-up technique. Because our signature rowers are easily portable, we can transport them to shows and events to let community members have a go at rowing for themselves! We’ve seen many cases of love at first row, and people will often sign up for memberships on the spot.

Showcase what sets your business apart at local and community events

3. Special Giveaways

When you are a new business in your community, giveaways help generate awareness and create excitement around your grand opening. 

A giveaway can be something as simple as a free water bottle for the first 100 signed members to something as large-scale as a raffle to win a free membership for a year. You can even choose to think outside of the box. The prize doesn’t have to be fitness-related. What about a cruise for two? A new iPhone? A gift card? The options are endless. 

If your budget doesn’t allow for a worthy prize, consider asking another non-competing local business if they’d like to sponsor your giveaway by donating some merchandise or a gift card. Chances are, they will appreciate the co-marketing opportunity.

People love free things, and they love to win! If you want to grow awareness of your business fast, a giveaway is a great way to start with a bang. Be sure to adequately advertise your giveaway to maximize the benefits of this marketing tactic. 

4. Special Events In-House

In addition to events throughout your community, you’ll want to plan and hold at least an event or two at your gym or fitness center. You can host an open house, a grand opening celebration, an anniversary party, themed events or holiday parties, kid’s camps, and so much more.  

Get creative! You can even offer yoga-themed bridal showers, kick-boxing birthday parties, or team-building boot camps for local businesses. Have a connection to a former athlete or dancer? Hold a master workshop and give your members a chance to learn some more challenging skills!

Hosting special events outside of regular classes not only keeps your members engaged but attracts new clients and their families and friends that often stick around as members after they see what a great time you’ve given them. 

These special events usually extend past the traditional one hour class time, meaning you can charge a premium fee (although, you may want to consider rewarding existing members with a discount). So, not only are you providing a greater diversity of services, but you are increasing your profit margin at the same time!

5. Fitness Challenges

Challenge your members to reach a specific goal, such as hitting the gym 20 days out of the month or trying every type of class offered at least once in two months.

With fitness, consistency is vital. Challenges hold us accountable and keep us motivated to reach our goal, and if there’s an incentive at the end of the challenge, even better! Sometimes we need that extra push to keep us on track. 

If you provide the support to help your members through the challenge, you’re proving to them that your fitness program WORKS! What better way to create loyal, lifelong customers that will advocate for your business? It’s truly a win-win situation.

It may also prove beneficial to create some at-home challenges that you share across your social media platforms. This way, you’ll be able to reach a wider audience, grow your brand recognition, and gain some members while you’re at it! If you meet people halfway, you’d be surprised what they will commit to!

6. Co-Marketing and Brand Partnerships

We talked about this a bit earlier in regards to giveaways, but it’s worth its own section. 

Identify non-competing but complementary businesses in your community (think nutrition stores, workout apparel retailers, health-conscious restaurants, outdoor gear stores, coffee shops, etc.). There is a perfect opportunity to form partnerships with these brands that are mutually beneficial.

You’ll help drive traffic to other local businesses with signage, coupons, special programs, giveaways, and more, and in turn, your business will benefit from referrals from all of your strategic co-marketing sponsors at no cost!

Co-marketing is an incredibly cost-effective marketing strategy that also helps you network with like-minded business owners in your area. It’s a no-brainer! If you don’t create these types of partnerships, you are putting yourself at a severe disadvantage.

Co-marketing and brand partnerships

7. Coupons, Promotions, and Special Offers 

Whether it’s a “first class free” offer, a discount for prepayment, or a temporary special offer, discounts have been and continue to be a great way to get people in your door.

While your potential customers might be hesitant to try something new, if they see they’re getting a great deal or, even better, a free trial, they’ve got nothing to lose. If you are confident in your ability to convert new customers into paying members, then the small amount of revenue you are missing out on will be well worth it in the end.

Another great way to get more traffic into your gym is to allow members a guest pass. Like a “first class free” offer, a guest pass allows a new client to try your gym risk-free.

Another way to tackle this strategy is to join a program such as ClassPass or listing discounts on Groupon or similar websites.

The goal here is always to get more people through your door. As long as you maintain strong conversion rates, these strategies will translate into a growing clientele for your business.

8. Referral Programs and Incentives

Offer incentives for clients who refer others to you to promote word-of-mouth advertising. Incentives for referrals are typically in the form of class credit or a discounted membership for the month.

Like the promotions and guest passes mentioned above, this marketing strategy is all about sacrificing a small amount of revenue to gain additional members. In the end, it is well worth the cost.

You will want to consider how you frame this offer. For starters, establish a rule for how long the new customer must keep their membership before the referring member receives the reward.

To revisit co-marketing once again, you can also use other businesses as a referral source for new members.

9. Email Marketing Campaigns

Email marketing is essential but needs to be handled with care. If a potential customer has given you their email address, that is a golden key. Not only do you have a lead, but you have a direct line of access—one that they likely check multiple times per day.

But if not approached carefully, you can quickly turn someone off from your business by filling up their inbox with unprofessional or spammy content.

Keep your emails brief, concise, and visually appealing. Show the customer how they will benefit from your services, and include a straightforward call to action. To keep your emails looking top-notch and professional, you’ll likely want to use an email service such as Constant Contact or Mailchimp.

It may take several attempts before a lead takes action, and many of them won’t. That’s okay. Respect their decision, and don’t bombard them with emails until they join. If your messages are consistently flagged as spam, it could severely affect any future email campaigns and your business’s reputation.

10. Have a Strong Social Media Presence

Go where your potential customers are: social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… These all have strong potential to establish your brand image and provide an easily accessible platform for people to learn more about your business.

To be specific, we are not talking about paid marketing on social media. We will cover that a bit later. We are merely talking about creating and maintaining a social media page for your business across the most popular platforms.

The key here is concise, targeted messaging tailored for the specific platform. For example, Facebook is an excellent avenue for informational posts, sharing industry news, and reposting articles or stories that have mentioned your business. Instagram is more of a visual platform that doesn’t allow for links but is a great place to establish brand identity, awareness, and trust.

While it may be easier to post the same things across platforms, the best user experience will be when the post’s intention matches the particular audience’s needs.

Update your social media pages regularly, and be sure to respond timely to any messages or comments. Show your potential customer base that your gym is active and that you are there to help.

Update your business social media pages regularly

11. Use Video Content in Your Marketing

Video content is the most highly effective content on the internet today. If you want to convince your customers they need your gym, the best thing you can do is show them.

Show them what a studio looks like. Show them a class in action. Show them the equipment, the instructors, the members. Show them exactly what it’s like to attend your gym and precisely what sets your gym apart from the rest.

High-quality production videos are always great, but if your bandwidth and budget don’t allow for a fully-fledged production, a video taken on a phone still goes a long way. Testimonials and “behind-the-scenes” type footage shot in this way also portray a sense of authenticity that helps foster trust among your audience, which brings us straight into our next point.

12. User-Generated Content for the Win

The marketing world today is all about user-generated content. A prime example of this is with social media influencers. Have you ever seen an ad that is just a home video of someone trying out a product and giving their honest opinion? That’s a perfect example of user-generated content.

How is it better? Consumers have become more and more skeptical over the years and are afraid of being oversold. When they can get external validation on a product or service’s quality and worthiness, it carries a lot more weight than the same messaging coming straight from the seller.

But you don’t have to pay a social media influencer to benefit from user-generated content. Encourage your members to post a photo of their workout on Instagram using your hashtag or check-in to your gym on Facebook. These are the simplest ways to get started building a strong foundation for user-generated content.

13. Content Marketing and SEO

It would be a faux pas not to have a website (better yet, an app) in this day and age. But a website is not a one-and-done deal. You can’t create it and then let it sit to collect digital dust. If you want your website to work for you, you will have to put continued effort into increasing organic traffic through search engine optimization.

Search engine optimization (SEO) uses content marketing to help your website rank higher in google search queries. High-quality content that utilizes selected keywords and a proper linking strategy will help your Google ranking over time. SEO is a long-term strategy that requires talented writers with technical knowledge, but it is well worth the effort.

14. Paid Advertising Campaigns

Paid ads are more costly than an SEO strategy but provide more immediate results. You can choose to display ads on Google, other websites, or social media. Paid ads allow you to target optimal demographics more closely, and trackability will enable you to discern which ads perform best.

If you continue to optimize your paid ad strategy based on performance, you should see a slow but continued improvement in their effectiveness. Better yet, a robust paid advertising campaign will also help boost your brand awareness and increase your organic website traffic as well.

Again, be sure to keep your ads targeted to the specific platform, and make sure they speak to the demographic you seek.

Promote your brand on Google via paid ads

15. Gym Member and Team Spotlights

Did Sue just run her first marathon after training at your gym for months? Did Kurt just set a personal record for meters rowed on the rowing machine? Has Casey been to class every day for a month straight?

Whether it’s on the wall next to the check-in counter, your website, or social media, be sure to recognize your members and celebrate their accomplishments. Don’t limit it to just members, either. Include the staff, trainers, and instructors, as well!

There is no better feeling than to be seen and celebrated. If you can create a welcoming atmosphere in your gym, it won’t go unnoticed. When your gym becomes not only a place to workout but a community of individuals supporting each other, that’s when it truly takes off.

16. Free Offerings for Non-Members

Since COVID-19 hit the fitness industry hard earlier this year, many gyms and fitness centers have begun offering livestream classes for free. But this isn’t what we’re talking about here just now.

Instead, we’re talking about offering simple, complementary value additions to your potential customer base. These might include anything from a healthy meal plan or post-workout meal ideas to a guide on performing specific exercises correctly to avoid injury.

You can choose to distribute this information via a brochure, website, newsletter, blog, or social media. Regardless of how you share it, if you provide something that adds value to someone’s life at no cost, you can establish a trusting relationship with that person.

Over time, you will see that a strategy like this will do wonders for your reputation as a brand, and all it costs is a little bit of time. Plus, you are enriching the lives of your audience in the meantime. You’ve got nothing to lose!

17. Every Door Direct Mail

Paper ads may be slowly getting replaced with more advanced, targeted digital marketing strategies, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be useful. No matter how much effort you put into your digital marketing, you will simply never reach everyone. And, depending on the target demographic of your gym, you might reach more potential clients with every door direct mail marketing. 

Did you just open up your gym next to a neighborhood brimming with potential customers? Use every door direct mail to let them know you’ve moved in, and create some buzz around your grand opening.

The great news is that you can still target specific demographics like age or income with every door direct mail, saving you money!

18. Online Scheduling and Payments

Nowadays, gyms are adapting to no-touch or limited-touch operations. If signing up and paying for classes can be done online in advance, that reduces a significant communal touchpoint for all members and staff. 

Not only is it essential for cleanliness, but fitness consumers have become accustomed to being able to pay and book classes online. New and old clients are more likely to attend your gym if they can reserve space in a class or a time slot for an open gym session, especially when many studios enforce strict class capacities due to social distancing guidelines. No one wants to get turned away due to a full class.

While it may not seem like a marketing tactic at face value, online booking is one thing that you just can’t afford not to have. 

19. Claim and Maintain Your “Google My Business” Page

One of the first things a new business owner should do is claim his or her business on Google My Business. Be sure to add as much relevant information to your listing as possible, including address, hours of operation, class offerings, and a link to your website. Include high-quality images and, if possible, a 360° view. 

Your Google business page is another place where that good old user-generated content comes into play. Customers can leave reviews and ratings for your business, which you can bet other customers will read before visiting (so be sure to give all of your customers a great experience unless you want negative Google reviews). 

How you respond to Google reviews will also be necessary for public perception and trust. Be sure to respond to unhappy customers respectfully, and offer to correct any problems or concerns they have, if possible. If a customer makes false claims, provide the correct information without getting into an argument or inflaming the situation. If there’s anything worse than a bad Google review, it’s a poorly executed response. 

Don’t limit yourself just to Google, either. There are plenty of free business listing sites that you can use to your advantage.

Claim and maintain your “Google My Business” page

20. Member Testimonials

You might be sick of hearing the phrase “user-generated content” at this point, but I’m going to say it once more: User-generated content is vital. If you don’t have any customer testimonials, you are doing your business a huge disservice. Put them on your website, include them in your newsletter, post them on the wall next to your customer spotlights. Take advantage of this free resource that will work wonders for your PR. 

Remember, you are nothing without your customers. Their voices speaking praise about your gym and how it has bettered their lives is hands down the best content you could use to promote your business. 

Keep it genuine, authentic, and unscripted. Let your customers speak to their experiences, and people will listen.

Let CITYROW Help!

If you want to own your own fitness business, but all of the above seems overwhelming to you, don’t panic. We know it’s a lot to take in. 

The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. When you franchise with CITYROW, America’s up-and-coming fitness brand that is revolutionizing the industry with its unique high intensity, low impact workout program, you’ll receive the support of business experts every step of the way. 

Marketing can get complicated, and even though we’ve covered a lot in this article, that barely scratches the surface. But even with no marketing experience under your belt, the CITYROW team has put together guides and playbooks to break down everything you need to know. 

Here are just a few of the marketing services that the CITYROW team will provide you:

  • Website and content management 
  • A fully developed app and CRM technology
  • Email marketing and social media content
  • National paid ads
  • Pop-up kits for events
  • Professional videos and graphics

Marketing is not a one-and-done task; it’s ongoing. The CITYROW corporate team will be behind you as long as you choose to be in business.

Want to see what else CITYROW can do for you? Learn more about us and the opportunity to franchise a CITYROW studio in your community. 

Franchise With Us!

Download our Franchise Lookbook for more information on the CITYROW franchise opportunity. Get in touch with us today to discuss the next steps in opening your own CITYROW Studio!

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Photos from the CITYROW Atlanta Grand Opening Ceremony.