As a gym owner, you have a million things on your mind: employees, equipment, programming, pricing, budget, bills — and that’s just what you’ve dealt with before 9 a.m.
Of course, there’s one crucial element that makes everything else work: members. Selling gym memberships and making sure your members’ needs are met are top priorities for any successful gym owner.
Competition is fierce, and customer expectations are high. Fortunately, you have more tools at your disposal than ever to make your membership goals a reality.
“Walk into any facility across the country, and everyone can have great equipment and programs and technology to better connect members. The glue that keeps it all together and keeps retention high is the service and experiences,” says Josh Leve, founder and CEO of the Minneapolis-based Fitness Business Association.
Here are six ways you can increase your gym membership sales:
1. Know Your Audience
The most important thing you can do to market your gym to new members is to identify your target audience, says Cindy Perryman, a senior marketing consultant at UpSwell who specializes in fitness marketing.
“You want to target the best prospective members to your club,” she says. “Know your audience, and then you can launch your multi-touchpoint approach.”
When UpSwell is collaborating with a gym to increase membership, they start with data. First, analyze the demographics of your gym: Do members tend to be older or younger? Women? Parents? High-income or middle-class?
Map their addresses and see how far they travel to get to your club. Once you know the neighborhoods that tend to produce your members, you can market to people there who haven’t joined yet, with both direct mail and digital approaches. “Birds of a feather flock together,” Perryman says — and you want them flocking to your gym.
2. Harness the Power of Direct Mail
In a world of digital advertising, direct mail is seeing a comeback, Leve says. “Too often, emails get tossed aside, never being read. But you get a postcard in the mail, and 9 times out of 10 you at least read what it is before deciding whether to toss it or keep it. Plus, you can get quite granular with the target market.”
Direct mail messaging is a great opportunity for offers, such as free trial classes, a free first month, membership discounts, or waived enrollment fees. It’s best to offer more free visits or classes whenever possible, Perryman says.
“If you have a seven-day guest pass rather than a three-day pass, you’re more likely to convert,” she says. “You’ve gotten to know people there, and you’re more comfortable with the classes and layout.”
3. Leverage Paid Search and Email
As effective as a targeted direct mail piece can be, it must be paired with digital marketing. You can use the same list of prospective members from your postcard to serve mobile ads. This layering approach keeps your gym top of mind and increases exposure to your services.
Another important strategy is paid search, Perryman says, “because if someone is Googling ‘fitness center near me,’ you want your name at the top of that list.”
Mobile geotargeting is a helpful tool when you know a physical location where people receptive to your ads might be found. Perryman gives this example: If a gym a few miles away closes, you can geotarget ads for your gym to people in the vicinity of the closed facility. You know there are people nearby who might be looking for a new place to work out.
Email prospecting allows you to target particular types of people, such as fitness enthusiasts, parents of young children, or people age 50 and older. Lead with offers and freebies to incentivize experiencing your gym in person.
4. Use Social Media
Social media outreach, both paid and organic, is critical for any gym’s marketing strategy. But it can be a challenge to stay on top of trends and best practices, especially for a busy gym owner.
“The industry continues to change, and what worked on Facebook and Instagram six or nine months ago has probably changed,” Leve says.
It’s wise to invest in paid social ads so that potential members scrolling their feeds see your messaging over and over, Perryman says. This is another great place to promote special offers such as trial classes and discounted rates.
Social media is also an opportunity to show your gym’s personality and what your members love about it. Highlight testimonials and photos from inside the club. You can ask social media-savvy members to get in on the action with hashtags or check-ins. The gym’s social media accounts can promote fitness challenges that fuel friendly competition, and then congratulate the winners or finishers.
“You need to be authentic in your approach and showcase your members,” Leve says. “Get people to know you, and don’t be shy when showing off your knowledge.”
5. Build Community Partnerships
You want your gym to be considered a valuable contributor in your local community. To achieve this, you need to be seen. You can reserve booths at local events, such as festivals and farmers markets, or mobilize staff members to contribute to a park cleanup or another act of service — in branded shirts, of course.
Leverage local relationships for advertising, too. “Strategic partnerships within the community are key to driving leads,” Leve says. “Partner with your local dry cleaners or running shoe store. Give them advertising space in your gym or newsletter in exchange for cardboard disks around hangers or stickers on boxes of new shoes for a free week at your gym.”
6. Lead with Exceptional Service
When the gym experience is consistently positive, leads are converted to members, and new members become committed members, Perryman says.
“Especially after COVID, it’s important that facilities are clean, updated, and spacious, that the equipment is working, and you don’t have signs that machines are down,” she says. “You want to offer multiple classes and have a staff that’s helpful and competent.”
Leve encourages gym owners and managers to build personal relationships with members. This could mean a handwritten thank-you note or birthday card, or congratulating them for a milestone such as running a 5K or their child’s graduation. Those members are more likely to tell their friends that your gym is a supportive, welcoming place.
“The fitness consumer will never leave if they’ve built a strong relationship with the facility or the trainer, instructor, or coach,” Leve says. “Going above and beyond will win out every time.”
Ready to grow membership sales at your gym? Contact the team at UpSwell for a free marketing assessment.