June is Gym and Fitness Month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! This means that in addition to our usual posts with tips on connecting with customers, marketing strategy, and growing your business, we’ll be sharing insights specifically for gym owners, trainers, and fitness professionals. If that includes you, it’s time to whip your marketing into shape by getting the most out of these high-ROI techniques. If not, don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing our usual resources that can help you effectively market your local business. And keep your eyes peeled, your industry might be the one we feature next month!

marketing your gym or fitness business

Now that you’ve optimized your business’s online presence to ensure that customers can easily find you, it’s time to work on driving more value from current members or clients. Referrals are the lifeblood of any fitness business, and comprise 65% of all new business, according to the New York Times. With the inherent trust that comes with the recommendation of a friend at a time when consumers are more informed and skeptical of traditional advertising, referrals are invaluable. Stop leaving them to chance, and create a comprehensive plan that will allow you to keep your client pipelines full.

Download The Complete Gym & Fitness Marketing Cheatsheet

Cultivating a Referrals Mindset

It’s important to create a process around your referral marketing efforts so that you can track, evaluate and continue to refine it in order to drive more business. You can even create outlines or scripts to assist you with this flow, until you get more comfortable and it becomes automatic. When it comes to seeking referrals, preparation is the key to success!

The unspoken first step is always to deliver quality results. For trainers, be transparent about your plan and process, and make sure you articulate it clearly to all clients before you begin training. Clients are looking for a trainer that has a good energy, is positive and keeps them motivated. Find a good balance for each client between pushing them to improve without letting them feel as though they’ve failed.

getting more referrals for my gymNext, perhaps the most important and often overlooked step in the process is simply to ask. Despite 83% of customers reporting they’d refer friends and family to a business following a positive experience, only 29% actually do. While there is a myriad of possible reasons for this, it’s important to remember every time you prepare to approach the topic with a current, delighted client. It’s normal to be anxious about it, but helping their friend or family member achieve the same fantastic results that keep them healthy is a win-win for both of you. So, don’t view it as a favor, and don’t forget to ask!

When you’re first getting started with a new client, plant the seeds early. Just as you set expectations by providing them with a fitness plan, so should you discuss where referrals come in. Some trainers like to explain how vital referrals are to their business, and provide more context for the practice. For gyms this can be when they are first signing up. Discuss their goals, timeframe and assess the situation. Explain what they should expect, and ask if he or she is satisfied with the results and your performance that they please refer one or two friends that might be looking to achieve similar fitness goals.

Anytime they express gratitude or excitement over the progress they’re making is a perfect opportunity to remind them to refer your training or gym. Work the topic into discussions like that, because every time you bring it up, you improve the chances of them remembering and following through.

Finally, whenever anyone sends a referral your way, be sure to thank them. Whether it’s with a card, phone call or small gift, be sure to acknowledge the time they took to help you grow your business.

Creative ideas to boost referrals

Turn your happy clients into walking billboards for your gym or training business. In other industries so many free t-shirts are wasted on recipients that are likely to wear them to one of two places: the gym or to sleep. In this instance, it’s actually a good thing! If they’re advertising your training services while at the gym or working out on their own, they’re likely to be surrounded by others who might be interested in personal training. Similarly, they can be promoting your gym all the way there and back.

Give your current members or clients discount cards with your contact info and an expiration date. Encourage them to hand out to friends looking to get similar results. The short term expiration date will motivate them to take advantage of this offer, instead of putting it off and eventually forgetting altogether or losing the card.

Trainers: Create shorter-term programs or bootcamps that can be a good entry point in your funnel to meet new customers that and work on converting to longer-term packages (more to come on this).

Host potluck dinners for your training clients, or gym members. This will allow your clients to meet and bond over their shared passion for fitness. If you’re a trainer, be prepared to field some jokes at your expense, as ganging up against the coach only deepens bonds. You can create themes around this, and is another great way to tie-in nutrition, health and wellness to complement their fitness program. Overall, hosting such dinners, especially if you do so on a regular cadence, will create a sense of community and connection with your business, which will not only help with retention, but also encourage members to get their friends involved.

Present a lunch-and-learns or other informative session at local businesses. Create meaningful content to educate them on either some specific facet of fitness, or on the best way to get started with a fitness program for beginners. Make sure to leave time to answer any questions they have and then give them a soft pitch at the end. Create a pamphlet, magnet or one-pager that summarizes the actionable info you covered in the session, that has your branding and contact information. Include an exclusive new customer offer, with an expiration date set for the end of the month to incite them to take action while the impact of your presentation is still fresh and strong.

Hold a bring-a-friend week and advertise it a few weeks in advance. Encourage your members or each of your clients to bring a friend along on their workout and train them both. Get the friend’s contact info and be sure to chat with him or her on areas they’re most looking to improve on or any specific goals they have. Follow up  with a friendly email about how nice it was to meet them and maybe even provide an outline or plan you’d propose if they were interested in starting training with you. Gyms, give them a one-pager or magnet with an overview of your facilities and maybe even a class schedule. Trainers, do the same but with an overview of your experience and a sample training program, along with any specialties you have. Either way, include an exclusive offer for a week of free training or the first month free to get them started. It’s important to start promoting this a few weeks ahead, to make sure that the maximum number of members or clients are aware and take advantage. You could even experiment with rewarding those who do bring a friend, to get even more prospects.

Partner with other businesses in the community. Identify the people in your region that spend the most face time with other locals or new inhabitants. Real estate agents, coffee shops, repair men, doctors, and salons tend to serve local consumers, and have already won over their trust. Utilizing them to refer your gym or services can go a long way. You can start building relationships with them by either patronizing these establishments yourself (as in the case of coffee shops), or reaching out to learn more about their business so that you can create a plan that is beneficial to both your businesses. Co-marketing in terms of content swaps, event marketing, cross-promotion and lead boxes can be a big needle-mover for your business.

Create a comprehensive email marketing strategy to convert more new, trial members into repeat business. With an ROI as high as 4300%, email marketing is a great way to keep prospects engaged and your business top-of-mind. Stay tuned for a post dedicated to these efforts!