Every gym needs to be able to keep bringing in new members, while also retaining existing members. These marketing ideas will help your gym to keep attracting new members but also improve retention rates.
If you’re not sure what type of marketing campaigns you should be running, this article should give you some inspiration.
Choosing the right strategies to use in your marketing will depend on the type of gym you run, your location and your target demographic. All good marketing campaigns begin with an understanding of who the target market is.
Before implementing any of these strategies, take some time to consider what type of people you want to attract to your gym and the perception you want to create.
In this article you’re going to learn 11 gym marketing ideas you can start applying today.
- Google My Business
- Facebook Ads
- Online Challenges
- Membership Giveaway
- Google Ads
- Local Influencer Promotions
#1 – Set Up A Google My Business Listing
Google allows you to create a free listing that displays prominently on page 1 when people in your area search for your gym. It’s free to create this listing and all you need is a Google account.
Having this listing ensures your gym is easy to find when people are searching for your gym. If you have a website, hopefully, that will appear at the top of Google when people search for your gym but this can take some time if it’s only a new website. Whereas Google My Business can get your gym to the top of Google near-instantly.
- Appear At The Top of Google – It can sometimes take months or even years to rank your website at the top of Google in the regular search results. Google My Business allows you to get there instantly.
- It’s Free and Easy – Creating a Google My Business listing is completely free and also very easy to set up. It shouldn’t take much longer than 20 minutes to get your listing set up.
- Start Collecting Reviews – Once your Google My Business listing is live, you’ll be able to start collecting reviews from your members. Lots of 5-star reviews is a great way to set yourself apart from other gyms in your area.
- Collect Useful Data – After your listing has been set up, Google will start sending you monthly emails about how many times your listing has been viewed and what people are searching for to find your gym.
- Get More Phone Calls – When mobile users view your Google My Business listing, they will be able to call you with just one click. This is important because you want to make it as easy as possible for prospective members to call your gym.
What To Do:
- Create your Google My Business listing here.
- Be sure to add photos of your gym and add details of your opening hours, website, etc..
# 2 – Reach More People With Facebook Ads
As the world’s largest social media channel, Facebook is one of the best places to reach potential members if you’re willing to pay for ads.
Using the powerful targeting options on Facebook, you can reach people who live nearby your gym and have an interest in fitness. You also have the option to target people based on age, gender or income depending on what your target market is.
With Instagram being part of the Facebook ad network, you can also run your ads on the Instagram feed or stories as well.
Many gyms have success by promoting 30 day challenges, free trials or other special offers through Facebook ads. It’s worth taking some time to see what ads are being run by major chain gyms like Anytime Fitness, LA Fitness, Curves and Goodlife.
- Budget Flexibility– Facebook ads are very flexible in terms of budget. You can start with as little as $2 per day and set it as high as you want. There are no fixed-term contracts and you can stop your ads running at any time.
- Fast Results – While some other marketing campaigns can take a lot of time and effort to start seeing results, a Facebook ads campaign can start bringing in leads for your gym almost immediately.
- Easy To Track Results – One of the biggest benefits of Facebook ads is that you can quickly get lots of data on how well your ads are performing. You will be able to see how many people have viewed, clicked and engaged with your ads. You can drill down even further and find out what demographics are responding best to your ads.
What To Do:
- Search the Facebook ad library and find ads being run by other gyms here. You can also use Visto.li to search for other ads.
- If you’ve never run Facebook ads before, watch this step by step YouTube video from Miles Beckler on how to set up Facebook ads.
- Determine who your target audience is. If your target market is 16-30 year old athletes, there’s no point showing your ads to 50-60 year olds.
- Read this post on marketing psychology. This will teach you how to create compelling ads and landing pages that get you more leads.
- Brainstorm 3-5 offers you can promote through Facebook ads. This could be a free 14 day trial, a free personal training session, a 30 day challenge. A good offer will make your Facebook ads much more effective.
# 3 – Run An Online Challenge
There are people in your area who want to get fitter but are simply to intimidated to step foot into a gym right now. Or perhaps their financial circumstances don’t allow them to join a gym at the moment. Maybe they just need to lose a little weight before to feel confident enough to go to a gym.
Regardless of their circumstances, any of these people could be wanting to join a gym in 3-6 months from now. When that time comes, you want to be the first and only gym they think of joining.
Running an online challenge (either free or low cost) allows you to start building a relationship with these people who aren’t quite ready to join a gym right now. Completing your online challenge might just give them the confidence they need to come to the gym.
After completing the challenge, offer a free trial or personal training session as a reward. This works well on a psychological level because people are more likely to want to claim a reward they feel they have earned.
The easiest way to run an online challenge is via email. Participants receive daily (or weekly emails) as part of the challenge. You will need to use an email marketing system that allows you to create an email autoresponder, such as Mailchimp or Mailer Lite. Mailer Lite is one of the few email marketing systems that allows you to create an autoresponder on the free plan.
- Build trust and goodwill– People who go through your challenge are likely to develop a very positive perception of your gym.
- Opportunity for social media exposure – These challenges lend themselves very well to social media. Encourage those doing the challenge to share their challenges on social media and tag your gym
- Build a database – An online challenge is a great way to start building a database of names, phone numbers and email addresses. This will allow you to continue promoting your gym to them via email and SMS marketing. Email marketing is one of the most profitable marketing activities for any business.
- Build your personal training business – The people who enter these challenges are great prospects for the personal trainers in your gym. Be sure to offer participants a free personal training session for completing the challenge.
What To Do:
- Begin brainstorming ideas of what your challenge will involve and how long it will be.
- Register for Mailer Lite or another email marketing software that allows you to create an automated email sequence.
- Create daily or weekly emails for your challenge.
- Use social media and Facebook ads to promote the challenge to people in your local area.
# 4 – Run A Membership Giveaway
A giveaway is often the fastest way to collect a lot of email addresses and phone numbers for your marketing database.
Offer a free 6 or 12 month membership to your gym for one winner. To enter, people must provide their name, email and phone number (phone number can be optional but it’s usually worth collecting).
When your giveaway finishes, you can offer a short trial as a runner up prize to the people who didn’t win the major prize. And now that these people are in your database, you can continue to remarket to them via email and SMS.
- Cheap Lead Generation – The cost of acquiring leads through a giveaway like this is extremely low. Even if you promote the giveaway through Facebook ads (which is recommended), your cost per lead will still be very low.
- High Engagement – If you run this giveaway through social media, your posts about it should attract a lot of engagement. This makes your page appear popular and engaging. But it also signals to Facebook (or Insta) that you are posting quality content and they will start showing your posts to more people.
- Develop Brand Awareness – When you promote these giveaways through social media, people love to share them. When lots of people in your area share the giveaway post, it will help to push your branding
- Decide on a prize to offer in your giveaway. Remember, the prize needs to be big enough to grab people’s attention. A one-month free membership probably won’t cut it.
- Familiarize yourself with the rules relating to running competitions on Facebook.
- Promote your giveaway. I strongly recommend using Facebook ads to ensure your giveaway reaches a wider audience. See tip #2.
# 5 – Run Google Ads
If you’re in a large city, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of people searching for gyms in your local area. Your website can be the first result they see if you’re using Google ads.
You can actually see how many people are searching for gyms in your area, using a free tool like Ubersuggest. Just go to Ubersuggest, and type in ‘gyms in (insert your city)’ and it will tell you roughly how many people are searching for that term, as well as related search terms.
Google ads work on a cost per click basis. Meaning you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. In many cities, the competition is very low on Google ads for gym and therefore the cost per click will be relatively low. Maybe $1 – $2.
These are people who most likely want to join a gym within the next week or two. And you can have your gym show up at the top of the page on these searches.
With Google ads, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. And the price you pay per click will depend on how competitive your local market is.
When people click on your ad. they will be taken to your website so it’s important to have a well designed website.
- Reach the right people – People searching for gyms in your area on Google are generally looking for a gym they can join very soon. This is the perfect audience to get your ads in front of.
- Flexibility and control – Google ads give you plenty of flexibility – you can start and stop them whenever you want, you control the budget and you can tell Google who you want to show your ads to.
- Easy to monitor and measure – Google will give you lots of data on how effective your ads are. You’ll be able to see how many clicks you get, how many people are seeing your ad, what you’re paying per click and much more.
- Outrank your competitors – Google usually shows ads before regular search results. So if you’re competitors aren’t running ads on Google, you can probably instantly outrank them by launching a campaign.
- Increase brand awareness – If a lot of people are searching for gyms in your area and your ads are showing up, it will quickly help to develop brand awareness. You can also run Google display campaigns to get your brand in front of more people at a low cost.
What To Do:
- Create a Google ads account here. It doesn’t cost anything to register an account.
- Watch this YouTube video on how to set up your first Google ads campaign
- Search for gyms in your local area on Google to see what competitors are currently running campaigns
# 6 – Bring Local Influencers Into Your Gym
Social media influencers are people who have developed large followings and engaged audiences on social media. Many of them are looking for businesses like yours to promote to their audience.
Find at least 2-3 influencers in your local area with 5000+ followers and offer them free memberships if they will help promote your gym to their audience. You can reach out to these influencers through direct messages to begin the conversation. I suggest inviting them into your gym for a workout so you can get to know each other before making any formal agreement.
If you want to track the impact of these influencers, you can give them a unique referral code to promote on their social media channels. Their followers can use that referral code to claim a special offer and then you will be able to track how many new leads have come from the influencer.
Before offering these influencers anything, you should check who their followers are. If their target audience is completely different to yours, then it’s probably not going to work.
- Gain trust and credibility – An endorsement from one of these influencers carries a lot of trust with it. People are more inclined to trust the opinion of one of these influencers over a marketing message coming directly from your gym.
- Cost-effective – The return on investment from these influencers can be extremely high.
- Social Media Content – When the influencer comes to your gym for a workout, it’s a great opportunity to get some photos and video to use on your social media and on the influencer’s social media.
What To Do:
- See this list of free tools to find social media influencers.
- Begin a list of social media influencers in your area who could be a good fit.
- Start reaching out to these influencers through direct messages, inviting them to come in for a workout.
# 7 – Host A Seminar
People love learning from experts about how to improve their health and fitness.
Run a seminar at your gym with 1-2 health and fitness experts speaking on specific topics. You could collaborate with another local business (a physio for example) and bring in someone from their business to speak.
You should use your social media channels, email and posters in your gym to promote to your own members. But also look at other promotional methods to attract people who aren’t already members.
You can set up a Facebook ads campaign to promote the event (see tip #2). Or you can create an event listing on Eventbrite.
An event like this can also be a great source of content for social media. Have someone film the event and then post snippets of content from it on your Facebook and Instagram pages over the coming weeks. You can even make the full recording available to people who provide their email and phone number.
Note: If running an in-person event at your gym isn’t possible right now due to Covid restrictions, you could also look at running an online event through Facebook Live or a webinar platform like Webinar Ninja.
- Attract new people – An event can attract people who otherwise may not register for a free trial or special offer at your gym. Once they have been inside your gym for the event, they are likely to be more receptive to coming back for a trial.
- Collaborate with local businesses – By inviting a speaker from another local business, you can start building a valuable relationship with them which can lead to more referrals in future.
- Social media content – One event can be turned into dozens on small pieces of content for social media.
What To Do:
- Find speakers for your event and determine what topics will be covered in the seminar
- Promote the seminar through social media, email, Facebook ads and Eventbrite
- Organise for someone to film the events
# 8 – Create A Member Rewards Program
Your marketing plan shouldn’t be solely focused on acquiring new members. Keeping your existing members coming back to the gym is just as important. If not more important.
Rewarding your members is a great way to make them feel appreciated and boost member retention. Look at creating a rewards program that rewards members for coming to the gym, completing group classes, referring friends to the gym, etc..
A referral to join your gym from a friend is much more powerful than any advertising campaign you could run so be sure to rewards your members for these referrals.
- Increased customer loyalty – Members are more likely to keep coming back if they are rewarded.
- Gain more referrals – Member referrals are one of the best ways to attract new members into your gym.
What To Do:
- Decide what actions you want to reward – this could include gym visits, referrals, group classes, testimonials, even sharing content on social media.
- Research different software available for creating customer loyalty programs like Loyalty Gator.
- Promote your refer a friend program and rewards through email and social media.
#9 – Do Regular Social Media Video Tips
Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram love video content. By posting video on these platforms, you will be able to reach more people than you would with regular text and image posts.
If you enjoy creating video content, you should also consider using TikTok. The social media platform has over 689 million monthly users in 2021.
Try posting daily or weekly short video tips to these platforms. You could cover topics like ‘how to reduce lower back pain,’ ‘5 tips for improving lower body strength,’ ‘best foods to eat after a workout.’
To get more ideas, ask members at your gym what topics they would like to see you address in these videos. Then be sure to let them know when you do post a video on that topic. You can also search YouTube for health and fitness videos to get an idea of what topics get the most views.
Encourage members at your gym to share these videos with their friends. This is a great way to get in front of more people in your local area, without needing to spend any money.
- Demonstrate Your Expertise – This is an excellent way to position yourself and an expert, which will help to attract more personal training clients to your gym. It’s a great way to activate a psychological principle known as authority bias, which I explain in this post on fitness advertising psychology.
- Reach More People – Facebook tends to favour video content over other types of content in the newsfeed. If you’re comfortable doing live video, you can boost that reach even further. The reach of live video posts can be 92% higher than regular video.
What To Do:
- Decide on a schedule – how often will you do these video posts and when?
- Start asking members for fitness related questions they would like you to answer.
- Begin filming – even if you don’t have a proper video camera, a smartphone camera will be fine.
#10. Hire A Persuasive Copywriter
A good copywriter can persuade potential clients to join your gym through written words. The world’s top fitness brands like Beach Body and Kayla Itsines know the power of persuasive copy and use it to their advantage.
But rarely do local gyms take advantage of this powerful weapon.
Persuasive copy can used on your website, in Facebook ads or even traditional mailbox flyers. If you consider yourself a decent writer, it is possible to learn copywriting yourself. Books like Cashvertising can help you learn the fundamentals.
But it’s often worth hiring a professional copywriter, who will understand exactly how to tap into a reader’s emotions and write highly persuasive messages.
- Copy can be re-used on your website, social media, emails and in other content
- Well written copy can have a very quick impact on sales
What To Do
- Spend an hour or two researching copywriting. Study some of the copywriting greats like Eugene Schwartz, Joseph Sugarman and David Ogilvy.
- If you would like to have a crack at writing your own copy, read Cashvertising by Drew Eric Whitman.
- Read these posts on the Custom Keto Diet and Leptitox where I analyse copywriting techniques used to sell both products.
- Search for professional copywriting services. Be sure to ask for samples of their work before hiring them. You can place an ad on a freelancing website like Upwork and specify exactly what you’re looking for.
11. Create A Unique Offering
Humans are naturally drawn to that which is unique. This is especially true in the fitness industry, where people are looking for the magic pill to help them lose weight.
I discuss the psychology of unique offerings in various other posts on this website and why it’s so powerful. Unfortunately, this concept is often abused in the fitness industry because it can work so well.
There are many different approaches you could take to creating a unique offering. It could be a special class you have designed that is only offered at your gym. It could be a 6 week program, that is different to any other programs available. If you’re starting from scratch, it could be the design of your gym that is completely different to others in the area.
The important thing is that it’s something that people in your local area can’t get anywhere else. And you need to clearly communicate why this unique offering benefits your members.
- Having a unique offering makes your advertising far more effective. You can promote it through social media, your website, email newsletters..
- It sets you apart from local competitors, giving people a compelling reason to join your gym instead of the competition
- It taps into human psychology. People want things that are unique.
What To Do
- Read this post on marketing psychology and particularly the section titled “Position Yourself As The One”
- Brainstorm possible unique offerings you could develop
- Once you have developed your unique offering, consider how you can best communicate the value of this offer
#12. Create Local Based Health & Fitness Articles
Take the city your gym is in and write some articles about health and fitness in this city. For example…
- Best places to exercise in Los Angeles
- Healthiest cafes in Sydney
- Free exercise classes in Boston
- How to get fit in Vancouver
Just replace the above cities with the name of your city.
These articles should be published on your gym website, in the blog section if you have one. You can then share the articles to your Facebook page and other social media channels.
Ideally, you want these articles to show up in Google search results and other search engines as well. For example, if someone searches for best places to exercise in your city on Google. You want your article at the top of the results.
To give yourself the best chance of ranking in Google for these articles, try searching for the article you want to write in Google now. For example, if you want to write an article on free exercise classes in Brisbane, you would do the following search…
Now look at the top 5 results…. What information do they include, how detailed are they, do they include many pictures or videos. This will tell you what Google is looking for.
Then (and most importantly) ask yourself, how can you make a better article?
At the end of your article, you can include a call to action. This call to action could be prompting people to call your gym, try a free session, book a personal training session, etc…
Adding local health and fitness articles to your website is one part of my SEO strategy for gyms. I explain what else you need to do in order to get free traffic to your website from Google in my guide to SEO for gyms.
- Social media content – once you have written these posts, you can post about them on your social media channels
- Attract local search engine traffic – if written well, your articles can potentially attract a lot of free visitors from search engines, who are interested in health and fitness
- Builds trust – because you’re giving away free advice and content to your local community, it helps to build trust in your brand
What To Do
- Brainstorm a list of 3-5 health and fitness related articles specific to your city
- Search on Google for each idea on your list and look at the top 5 results for each
- Make notes of what each article you find includes, how long it is, etc..
- Based on this research, create outlines for your own articles
- Write the articles or if you’re not a good writer, you can outsource to another writer using a service like Copify or Upwork
- Publish the articles on your website and then post links to these articles from your social media and email newsletter if you have one
What To Do Next
You don’t need to start using all of these ideas to bring in new members. Start by picking 2-3 that you will focus on over the next few months.
Most of these gym marketing ideas require some time and effort before you start seeing results from them. Try to allocate some time each week to working on these ideas and determine who will be responsible for carrying them out.
Understanding what’s working is also an essential part of your marketing. Whatever you use to promote your gym, make sure you have a way to track it’s success. At the end of the day, the number of members and your profit is your main measurement of success. But it’s also important to track lead numbers, how many people are clicking on your ads, cost per lead, etc..
Even if you don’t own a gym, remember that most of these ideas could be applied to any fitness business, including personal training businesses, health clubs or yoga studios.
For more marketing ideas, take a look at some of the other posts on this blog. Other sites like Hubspot, Neil Patel and SEM Rush blog also offer a lot of good marketing ideas.
You should test various marketing strategies including online advertising, social media, coupons and referral programs. By testing, you will be able to see what works best for your gym to attract new members.
You need to become visible in your local market. Most gyms just rely on referrals and foot traffic. If you take the time to actively promote your gym online and offline, you will quickly stand out in your local market.
Google ads and Facebook ads are likely going to be your best options for online advertising. Both give you a lot of control and can be very cost-effective. Offline, you can look at advertising in a local newspaper or on radio.