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Clever Marketing Ideas for Gyms to Boost Membership


Most gym owners agree: the business of retaining and gaining new members is exhausting, not unlike, say an hour on the treadmill. It takes constant, proactive strategizing to keep interest in your gym beyond New Year’s and “summer bod” goals.

But increased gym membership is crucial to a gym’s financial and commercial success. Members = revenue, something no business can stand to lose.

Below, we tackle three key areas where you should employ a marketing strategy to boost memberships – in-house, within the local community, and online. Choosing the best options for your gym depends on your location, niche, and neighborhood community.

Check out 10 ideas below and consider testing out at least one from each category as you create your marketing strategy to boost gym membership.

On-Site Gym Marketing Ideas

• Host an Event

host a friend at your gymThe whole goal of an on-site marketing strategy is to get people in the door. A fun way to do this is by hosting an event to draw in the crowds. You can do this by relying on current members to bring pals along, via a “Bring a Friend Day” event – a tried and true method.

However, consider going an extra step. After all, what about all those folks out there with no friends at your gym, who still may be interested in checking it out? Host a reoccurring event for free or at a steep discount. For example: Five Dollar Fridays, or free entry at a particular time on the first Saturday of the month. This is a great way to get folks into your gym, test it out, and see why they should join.

Outside an event series, there are plenty of excuses to have one-off events in your space. Perhaps it’s champagne and Pilates for Mother’s Day, a health and wellness fair, or even a full day fitness retreat!

Always make sure you have an added incentive for those event attendees to come back — be it first month free, unlimited classes/entry their first week, or 10% off smoothies/protein bars/merch.

• Create Loyalty Incentives

Design loyalty programs to not only keep members excited about being a part of your gym, but to lure in new ones. This will keep the cash flowing, but also gives your customers more excuses to talk about your business in their daily lives.

What your loyalty program entails depends on what the gym has to offer. Here are a few ideas:

• If you have a smoothie/juice bar, include a loyalty card that entitles members to a free drink each month
• If you have an electric massage bed, offer 10 free minutes every 10th visit
• If you sell merchandise or equipment, have a small birthday gift given to your loyal members each year
• Guest passes and membership referrals are any easy win for any gym!

These little bonuses are an easy way to entice folks to keep coming back.

• Run a Special

It may be trite, but almost no one is more motivated to join a gym quite more than around New Year’s and the few months leading up to summer. Many will already be looking for a gym – don’t let your competition snatch your potential customer. Run a special at these high-volume times of the year.

For instance, X number of free training sessions with new membership, $0 sign-on fee, etc. Much like loyalty incentives, these “add-ons” make customers feel like they’re getting a deal, increasing their likelihood to sign up with you.

• Build a Community

For many folks, getting to the gym – and sticking with it – requires some serious motivation. Accountability partners, gym buddies… all these are great tools many individuals use to keep on track with their gym goals. BUT HEY GYM, why not create them for your members?

Run a special “8-week weight loss crew” or other group that fits your demographic as a way to create meaningful relationships in-store. Have a café on-site? Utilize it for discussions post-workout. Create a program where customers can opt-in to getting paired with an accountability partner or be mentored by someone on staff. By building a community within your business, you’re creating an emotional connection for members, beyond the sweat and tears of the workout.

Local Marketing Ideas for Your Gym

Partner with a Local Business

Sometimes, two heads (or more) really are better than one! Teaming up with a local, compatible, non-competitive business is a great way to spread your target audience reach. This could be a local healthy food café, juice bar, or sporting goods store. Give each other a scratch on the back and help one another to capture your like-minded audiences.
Some examples? Give away vouchers for discounts or a free sample at your gym’s front desk. Bring in a flyer to receive a discount at either location; or even have said local business come in to host their own event! A win-win for everyone.

• Partake in Community Events & Festivals

Gyms can be intimidating for lots of folks, making it difficult to even entertain stepping into one, let alone actually joining. Meet these folks halfway by stepping out into the community. Set up a booth at a local festival that aligns with your company’s values or interests.

Give passersby the opportunity to talk with your owner and staff face-to-face, away from elliptical machines and weights. The more potential members you can meet, the greater number are likely to turn into customers.

• Entice with Giveaways

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Folks love free things – why not use that to your advantage with some customized gym swag? With your logo or messaging on a nice gym or sports bag, water bottle or towel, your name will travel with your customers.

Think about strategic ways gym-goers can earn their own. Maybe all new member signups receive free swag? Or combine our last idea with this one – host mini contests or promotions at community events, where the winner receives a branded gift. How about members who sign-up on the spot receive a free gym bag? Signing-up via email (get those leads!) earns them a free pair of logo socks. This is a double-whammy for marketing your gym. Potential new members will be happy to get something slick, and their toting it around is free advertising for you!

Online Gym Marketing Ideas

• Invest in a Website & Web Presence

If you aren’t online already, get digital now.

Investing in a website and cultivating your Web presence is key. People should be able to find you online – and you ought to look just as good there as you do in-person! Make sure your site is up-to-date, engaging, and inspiring. The possibilities for clever content marketing ideas are endless:

• Spotlight new and/or long-time members
• Post pictures of members and staff’s fitness transformations
• Have trainers share their favorite workout and meal tips
• Promote any special contests, discounts, challenges and events
• Allow users to pay for classes, memberships and products online

Investing in your social media presence can also provide a huge benefit. So long as your accounts are kept up-to-date, minimal work is required to get your brand in front of plenty of eyeballs.

• Create a Referral Program

Word of mouth is hard to beat. After all, a testimonial from a friend or colleague inherently offers a trustworthy perspective. Also, it’s essentially free marketing.

Let your members know how much you appreciate them spreading the love by offering an enticing referral program – whether that’s one month free for each person, two free personal training sessions, or $50 credit towards the café or merchandise.

Create a reward based around what fits your gym’s vibe. This can be handled easily via email – members can request an email be sent to their referrals via your website. This keeps things simple, and lets you get access to leads’ contact information.

• Utilize SEO

Search Engine Optimization is a fantastic marketing strategy for helping potential new members find you. According to a recent Forbes article, 80-90% of consumers check reviews online before making purchases. Thinking about signing up for a gym membership? You better believe your potential customer is checking nearby gyms out online. Ensure your gym rises to the top by showing up as early as possible in that Google search (and then, of course, make sure you have an awesome website to back it up).

We hope our list has gotten those wheels turning. It’ll require some trial and error to land on the best strategies for your specific gym/niche and that’s OK – just don’t get complacent or be afraid to shake it up and try something new! Member sign-ups happen in waves, but it’s best to have a couple of strong strategies in place throughout the year.

We recommend having a strong Web presence to start, and then choosing one strategy from each section to help spread your reach, from in-person to online – the best of both marketing worlds.

Call us, the Promo Know-How People, to get started on your next marketing campaign.


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