Gym Advertising: The Comprehensive Guide
Get the Basics…
Take advantage of your current members by using in-house advertising.
Become social media savvy.
Utilize direct marketing to reach a specific audience.
Revamp your website.
Host an event.
Incorporate challenges, freebies and more!
The fitness industry on its own is exciting, thrilling, and carries with it thoughts of hope and motivation; so, owning a gym, housed with all the latest and most popular equipment, classes and amenities will naturally drum up its own business locally. However, the challenge of maintaining that flow of new members long after your doors have opened can often be a struggle.
As a gym owner or manager, the goal is to keep things innovative at your club. One way to do this is by drawing people in with eye-catching advertising and unique marketing ideas while following through on all promises made.
This article dives into proven and unique gym marketing methods that will help maintain your current membership base while continuing to draw in new members. By pairing the ideas below with Exercise.com’s All-In-One Fitness Business Management Software (request a demo here), you can set your gym up for a regular stream of revenue and consistent clientele.
Utilize Current Members and Word of Mouth
Visual Aids Pack a Big Punch
Take advantage of the wall space in your location. Big, bright and graphic posters highlighting amenities in your club can have an influence on your current members. Some poster and banner ideas could be:
Graphic logos of group fitness classes you offer
Special pricing or deals
Juice bar or spa packages
Pictures of the “Member of the Month”
Front of building banners to draw in drive-by potential members
Pictures of your trainers hard at work
Motivational sayings and graphic fitness images
Many printing companies offer businesses deals on poster printing. Do some research and shop around for a company you can trust and pricing you can count on. This will help keep costs down, your marketing consistently flowing, and your in-house images fresh and relevant.
Implement Referral Marketing
Another way to give back to your current members while utilizing their connections to gain new members is through a referral system. Many of your members have friends or family members that would love to work out at your location.
Incentivize them by offering a free month of membership for any member who refers a person to sign up for a year; or, go one step further and offer a cash bonus if a member reaches a certain number of contracted referrals. The referral system is a fantastic way to give back to your members while offering bonuses for them to spread the word on how great your club is.
Become Tech Savvy Through a Member App
Reaching out to current and prospective members has never been so easy and inexpensive thanks to the internet and technological advances. If you own a gym, you should have an app that is free to download to any current or even prospective members.
What should your gym app have? Your app must meet the needs of all of your members while being appealing to the eye, easy to navigate, and fun to use. Some must-haves for your club app can be:
A matching color scheme – match your app to your club colors
An updated calendar showcasing club opening and closing hours plus holiday time changes
Class descriptions and times with the ability to sign up for an upcoming class via the app
Push alerts for promotional items or special announcements
Login-enabled “Member Portal” to access account information, billing and transaction history
Ability to download transaction and/or visit history to submit for health insurance reimbursement
Contact information for managers, trainers, and fitness consultation staff
Ability to purchase add-ons like training sessions, day passes, book massage appointments and more
Refer-a-friend system to earn a free month or cash bonuses
Employment tab including fields to fill out if interested in working for the club
Pictures of Staff, Trainers, Members and all areas of the entire facility
A fillable field section for tips, complaints, or more
Stay in Touch via SMS Alerts
It’s no secret that most members of our society are constantly attached to their phones and personal devices. Why not utilize the text message system to reach out to your current members? When most people sign a contract as a new member at a particular gym, they also sign up to receive text message and email alerts when applicable. (Ensure such verbiage is on your paper and electronic contracts.)
It’s important not to overdue or abuse this direct contact method, however, with the right causation and wording, text message marketing can be an effective tool. Updates on hours especially during the holidays can be done via text alert as well as via your app push notifications. Facility information like a broken steam room and a relative timeline for the fix is also considered helpful.
Take your text alerts one step further and add text notifications about an upcoming event like a member appreciation week, or a free training session when a friend is referred. These are the types of alerts that are not only appreciated but often stir up buzz around the weight room.
Be sure to include an “opt-out” function at the end of the texts so that those who wish to not receive more messages can unsubscribe.
Spread the Word via Email Marketing
Mass email marketing is a tried-and-true method to reach current and potential audiences that comes with great tracking and reporting abilities. There are many mass email platforms that gym management can choose from. Many have options for free email marketing and paid email marketing with added bells and whistles.
Here are the top platforms used:
Each platform has loads of features including email templates, scheduling, list creations, and the tracking of opens and link clicks. Mass emailing is a fantastic way to get detailed with your marketing by pinpointing targeted audiences. Creating list categories like “prospects” (emails you may gather from your website or one-day pass purchasers), “current members,” and “referrals” is a useful way to track members and enables you to be more specific with each targeted email.
Utilize fun homemade graphics in your emails, alert people to upcoming events, and be sure to embed links that can be tracked as well.
You’ll want to send a targeted email at a minimum of once a month that includes all of the fun bonuses, freebies, and latest gym updates. As you get better at email marketing, you’ll be able to track the open ratio and click ratio as well as download reports from each email campaign to ensure future emails are more and more successful.
Watch the video below to learn more about the top 5 key benefits of email marketing:
Become Social Media Savvy
There is no quicker or more effective marketing platform in existence today than social media. The benefits of utilizing your social media platforms to market your gym are profound and the audience you can reach is endless.
Let’s discuss the most popular social media platforms used by gym owners worldwide and the ways you can use them to benefit yourself and your club.
First impressions are everything! It all begins with a great profile.
Start with a detailed blurb including a great profile picture (usually your logo) and a link to your website as well as links to your other social media platforms
Find a style that is classy, professional, and eye-catching.
Stick to a color scheme. Using the colors from your logo is a great place to start. If your account is not “on brand,” you risk turning away potential visitors.
Add (a lot) of high-quality pictures.
People want to see the layout of your gym, equipment, amenities, juice bar, locker rooms, basketball courts, racquetball, stretching areas, group fitness classrooms, and more. It doesn’t hurt to hire a photographer to get quality, postable pictures!
Ask permission and take pictures of valued members and tag their accounts.
Take videos and pictures of your trainers with their clients in action.
Instagram will allow you to search hashtags via the search tab and find out if your idea is already in existence. Choose unique hashtags over ones already in use.
Create and post graphic images of upcoming events such as:
Member appreciation week
Weight loss challenges
Foot races or 5ks that your gym sponsors
And any news you’d like your followers to know!
Post before and after pictures.
If you’re hosting a weight-loss challenge, boot camp, or if you have a client who purchased personal training, be sure to take before and after pictures and post them on your Instagram page (with consent). These types of posts always get the masses motivated!
Don’t forget about nutrition.
Help out your followers by posting a weekly meal idea with a matching beautiful picture.
Don’t give away too much! Tease the option of building a meal plan with a trainer.
Become an Instagram story pro.
Utilize filters, boomerangs, and more to post daily “insta-stories” on your account.
Follow your followers.
Click on those who view your stories and follow them, as well as anyone who liked a picture on your account.
Consider switching to an Instagram Business Profile.
As you get more and more popular via your social media, the option to switch to a pro account is one to consider.
It offers more analytics enabling you to track and monitor all the activity happening on your profile.
Instagram Business Pro will also allow you to see more about your followers such as their demographics and where they’re from so you can get to know more about who they are.
Twitter is considered a “microblog” where users share small bits of information consisting of less than 280 characters. It’s one of the most popular social media platforms in the world and gives you the ability to directly connect with the most members at once. Whether you are new to Twitter, or a seasoned pro, here are a couple of tips on how to utilize it to market your gym:
Follow your followers!
Similar to Instagram, you’ll want to follow anyone back who follows you. This is a well-known Twitter practice, so no permission is needed. It might even help to have any new members list their Twitter and Instagram handle at the time of sign up.
Be okay with repetition.
The Twitter platform is organized chronologically. For example, if you post something at noon, followers who log on at 2 pm will most likely not see it. Twitter users like to follow trending posts and the most recent tweets.
Part of following Twitter culture is to post the same post multiple times a day to maximize views. This eliminates the need to scroll back farther than most users are willing to go.
Similar to Instagram, Twitter supports the use of hashtags and actually encourages it. Be sure to post your unique hashtag and jump on trending hashtags as well. This will draw in more views and more followers to your page.
If you take a look at Twitter’s best practices, it is recommended to only use two hashtags per post. This allows users to click pertinent hashtags without being overwhelmed and confused.
Understand proper period usage.
A little known trick in the Twitter world is the placement of the period.
If replying to a tweet by a particular user, the tweet will automatically put their username at the beginning of the tweet after the @ sign. For example “@Twitteruser7 thanks for your review of our gym! Looking forward to having you again.”
What few people know is that a reply such as this can only be seen by those who follow the sender and the recipient.
However, if a period is placed before the user name like “.@Twitteruser7” then the message will be seen publically whether they follow the two or not.
This is a great way to ensure you are reaching a larger audience and your messages are not confined by a specific number of followers. A great little trick indeed!
Be mindful of how you engage with followers.
Naturally, Twitter is often a platform for negative press. Followers will take to a tweet to complain at or about your club for various reasons. It’s imperative you respond tactfully and thoughtfully, knowing and understanding that current and potential members will see this transaction.
There is a little known fact that the vast majority of consumers turn to social media to research goods and services before visiting a small business. An even lesser-known fact is that 63% of shoppers claim that Facebook is the most useful social media network for researching small businesses before making a purchase.
The types of tools Facebook offers to businesses (both large and small) to market their companies go above and beyond and are proven to be effective to draw in new customers. The following are some must-haves your page needs to market to your fitness audience.
Don’t forget the basics.
Three key pieces are address, phone number, and website. These will show up on the timeline tab of your business, so be sure they are always up to date.
Short and Long Description
For the short bio, Facebook enables about 255 characters in this first blurb, but will only showcase the first 150. Write something about the type of business you have, the area you are located in, and the type of customers you serve.
The long description area is your spot to talk about how amazing your gym is, why your equipment is top-notch, and more about the facility, classes, and amenities you have. Here you can highlight the types of certifications your trainers have, discuss spa, juice bar, or daycare options, and any upcoming or current promotions. Again, be sure to keep these areas up to date.
Hours, Email, and Travel
Each is a separate section and should be filled out and updated correctly
This doesn’t appear in the “About” tab, yet is still very important as a gym owner. If you look underneath the name of your gym, there’s an option to choose a business category. Be sure to tag your club correctly. Luckily, “Gym” is one of the options!
Post daily content.
As with the other social media platforms, the more you post, the more active your page will be. This is even more so with Facebook business pages.
It may seem like a lot, but posting daily content is a great way to stay relevant online. Some ideas to keep things up to date without being redundant on your Facebook page are:
Member pictures and progress photos and stories
Group fitness pictures
News for any all things happening in your gym
Curated Content: Outside news and stories you think your followers will find useful and pertinent to the fitness world
Your other social media sites
Your gym schedule including classes and hours
Now that you’ve got a solid and established Facebook page, you are ready to start running ads. The best way for small businesses to do this is to use “boosted ads.” Using the “boosted ad” platform is an easy and cost-effective way to get a good sense of Facebook’s advertising platform.
So what is a “boosted ad”? Anytime you add a new post to your gym’s site, you have the option to “boost it.” Boosting a post will simply get your post more exposure by driving more views to it. This is a great way to promote upcoming events, sales promotions, and news within your club.
How do you know if your post is worth boosting? Answer these three questions:
Does your post contain a link? If so, make sure that the link directs that person back to your website.
Who are you targeting? Chances are, you may already be paying for a mass email marketing platform. If this is the case, don’t pay extra to gain new followers or likes on your Facebook page; instead, target users who have not “liked” your page for a more direct approach.
Is your post eye-catching? Every boosted post should contain an image to make it more appealing to the viewer. Beware: any picture that contains more than 20% wording will be denied, so keep the picture simple and keep the written content brief.
Now that you’ve answered those questions and you’re positive your post is worthy of a paid boost, then you are ready to click the boost post button. Immediately, a screen with targeting options will appear:
Audience – As mentioned above, for your gym business, you’ll want to reach out to users who have not yet “liked” your page. For this option, choose the third bubble marked “People you choose through targeting.”
Targeted Location – This is very important because you want to reach out to those who are within range of attending your gym rather than sending it to the entire state or country. Here you’ll be able to type in your city and choose your radius.
Demographics – Choose your desired age range and/or gender. Most gym owners will want to keep this spread open, however, some club owners will want to target a more specific audience such as a women’s only yoga studio.
Budget & timeline – Start low in price, a little will go a long way when it comes to boosted posts. Facebook will also recommend a price based on how long you’d like the ad to run which is around 2-3 days.
Lastly, set up your payment information, hit submit, then sit back and watch the followers, likes, and new members roll in!
One last great thing about boosting posts is that once you’ve boosted one post, Facebook will save your parameters for future posts so that you can easily boost on the fly!
Excited about starting your social media marketing? Here’s a short recap video with some extra tips:
Grow and manage your fitness business better with Exercise.com
Take Advantage of Direct Marketing
As mentioned previously, part of marketing and utilizing word of mouth is taking advantage of the space and members you already have.
Direct marketing is when you choose an existing audience and aim your ads at them specifically. For example, utilize your group fitness class members and class space to market a new and upcoming class:
Post your ads in the group fitness classroom about your new class addition, details, and pricing if applicable.
Have a staff member hand out flyers as members exit various fitness classes.
Create a sense of urgency. Put a timeline on registration or a cap on the number of members allowed.
Be smart about in-house direct marketing. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to market your new CrossFit class inside your basketball court like it wouldn’t make a large impact marketing your 5k race by your squat racks. Placement is key, as is knowing your audience.
Snail mail marketing is another proven direct way to reach a potential new audience. One of the best ways to do that outside of your targeted mass emails is through a paper mailing. Here are a few tips to a successful mailer:
Create an eye-catching flyer or letter. Showcase your logo, pictures of your facility and equipment, and be sure to prominently display your address, website, and contact number. Don’t forget to add pricing promotions or upcoming events!
Purchase a mailing list. Numerous companies offer a pay-for-address service such as:
Shop around for pricing. There are dozens of pricing options depending on the filters and saturation you choose. If you wish to keep your range open to zipcodes only, you’ll spend an average of $.04 per mailing. However, if you choose to target more directly utilizing filters such as age range, income, gender, and zip code then you could spend an average of $2.40 per mailer.
Similar to Facebook boosting, you’ll want to be smart and thoughtful when completing a direct mailer campaign. Because campaigns such as these will not occur as often as your weekly emails or daily Facebook posts, it’s important to take your time and be specific about the information you put in your direct mailers. Additionally, because people are not fond of “junk mail,” adding an incentive like a free drop-in or personal training session can help remove the negative stigma that accompanies paper mail advertisements.
Revamp Your Website
There’s nothing more deflating than putting in all the work, effort, and energy into boosting your social media and marketing platforms just to have your potential new members land on a website that is ugly, outdated, and void of updates or information.
Small business websites act as the first impression to potential buyers, and, in the case of a gym, prospective members. There are a few must-haves that your website should absolutely contain in order to meet the standards of the internet elite:
Make sure your gym’s logo is up to date and professional.
Use 2-3 colors max on your site and be sure those colors are complementary.
Try to stay away from true black or neutral gray as these colors are not actual colors, they are void of color and not technically pleasing to the eye.
Pick a premium font. Like colors on your site, you’ll only want to use 2-3 fonts max and be sure they all complement each other. Multiple-use of different fonts causes confusion and gives the impression of disorganization. Your font is a part of your branding.
Get organized with grids and layouts. Rather than throwing words and pictures haphazardly on your site, stick to gridlines and sections so that your visitors’ eyes are drawn to the right places.
Understand white space is like a breath of fresh air. White zones between pictures and words are great because they allow the user to focus more on what’s important.
Balance your visual elements. Pictures and link buttons should be found in similar places all over your site no matter which page or tab your visitors are on. A little trick to use is to blur your eyes on each page, the layout should be similar from page to page and you should be able to track the path of where you want your visitors to go.
Use call-to-action buttons, ensure your links have hover and active states, and make sure the clicked links change color.
Be sure your site is also mobile-optimized! Once you’re done making edits in your site editor, click on mobile site to ensure that view is also visually organized and all headings, links, and pictures align perfectly.
Upgrade your SEO. Choose one keyword or phrase to optimize on each page or tab. This helps guide users to your site more effectively.
Use H1, H2, and H3 headers prospectively so that each section of information on your site is consistent, separate, and organized. Pro tip: don’t go over 2,000 words on each page (this excludes long-form blog content).
Stick to custom and original images over stock images. Your potential members are there to see what you have to offer in your location specifically as they compare and contrast you against other area gyms.
Add all of your social media buttons with working links.
Lastly, keep everything up to date! Links, pictures, news, staff, contact info, and pricing should never be out of date.
Implement Challenges, Bonuses, Freebies, and More
Now that you are a pro at owning your social media platforms, creating eye-catching media, and are email marketing savvy, it’s time to give a purpose to all of those outgoing messages!
Create unique workout and weight loss challenges, utilize referral bonuses, and plan free giveaways that keep your members engaged and feeling appreciated. This will increase the likelihood that they’ll spread the word to their friends and family to help increase the flow of new members in your gym.
Weight Loss Challenges
Some of the most popular marketing campaigns in the fitness world are weight loss challenges. Some ideas of successful and popular weight loss competitions in a gym are:
8 Week Slim Down – Simple as the title says, participants who sign up, get weighed on day one as well as the end of the 8 weeks. The member who loses the most in pounds (or inches – you can decide) wins a prize such as a free month of membership, a free 30-minute massage, free daycare for a week, etc.
Walk, Run, Sprint – Some gyms will focus a challenge on the mile time specifically. Giving members the parameters and weekly tips to help not only get them running but running fast!
Muscle Max Out – A twist on weightlifting that powerlifters around the nation love. The idea for this challenge is to increase a member’s strength and increase their PR or personal record for the amount of weight they can lift during a certain move.
As mentioned above, referral bonuses are a proven way to increase your new membership while giving credit to your current members.
Utilize fun referral campaigns and be sure to train your staff to discuss this with walk-ins at the desk as well as trainers and class instructors mentioning it at specific moments.
Don’t put an end date on the referral program. You can create urgency by twisting your marketing to say “Referral sign-ups completed in the month of March earn DOUBLE the bonuses!” However, your normal everyday bonus should remain in effect at all times during the year.
Freebies and More
Implement an annual “Member Appreciation Week” and market it well. What should your Member Appreciation week contain? Here are some of the most popular ideas gyms all over have had success with:
Bring a friend for free
Any current member can bring one friend or family member in to workout with them each day for free.
Double referral bonus
Offer 2 months free membership for every referral sign up, or double the cash bonus.
Free personal training session
Free fitness consultation
Free 30-minute massage
Raffles for prizes
Free boxing session
Free protein bars, shakes, smoothies and more – limit one per person
Many gym owners feel wary of giving away things for free. However, it has been widely proven that giving samples of the amazing amenities and services a gym offers will end in more sales, more members, and more excitement around the club.
The Bottom Line
Being in charge of marketing for a gym is a full-time job. Hiring a dedicated marketing manager is a great way to ensure all your marketing needs are being met.
It’s important that your club stays up to date with today’s fitness trends and news. Don’t limit yourself to one type of marketing over another. Gyms cater to people of all ages, sizes, incomes, and demographics; so, if you’re not familiar with social media, or purchasing mailing lists for flyers, do your research and become acquainted with these things as soon as possible.
Work hard to keep your campaigns fresh and relevant on all platforms and your hard work will pay off.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Should I set aside a marketing budget?
It doesn’t hurt to research costs and set aside a marketing budget. Make a grid and list each platform, including your website along with the costs and money you’ve spent. As time goes on, you’ll hammer down a workable budget successfully.
How often should I boost a Facebook post or buy a mailing list?
Facebook boosts should happen about once or twice a month, while a direct paper (flyer) mailing should happen no more than once a month if not once every two months. It’s important to find a balance of helpful news delivery while not oversaturating your market.
I have no creative expertise, how can I market my gym?
Ask your staff if they have any computer graphics, drawing, or designing skills. If they do not, outsource, utilize user-friendly platforms like PowerPoint and Adobe to create fun images, and scour the internet for more. There’s always the option to hire a marketing professional to help create and implement your marketing plan.
Won’t people get sick of all the posting, texting, direct mailing, and emailing?
Not if you are keeping track and scheduling all of your outgoing posts and contacts. Make sure to stick to a schedule and don’t veer off of it. If you remain organized about your marketing timelines, your members and even potential customers will come to expect to see news and bulletins from you at the scheduled times.
If you’re ready to start tracking your current and potential members in a more effective way, try Exercise.com’s fitness software for all of your gym software and marketing needs!