The Fitness Marketing Guide for the Modern Fitness Founder

Published on: 
20 March 19
Posted in: 
22 min read

Do you know what the very basic idea behind marketing is?

It’s getting someone’s attention. And then using this short window of time to deliver them a message that will compel them to buy what you are selling. 

Simple, right?

As with most things in life becoming a successful fitness marketing guru is easier said than done.  But don’t think that it’s an impossible hill to climb.

Every day we get a lot of marketing insights from talking to our customers. From this, we have discovered what marketing efforts work and don’t work. So before you sit down to write or update your fitness marketing plan, we want to share with you a range of strategies you can use to acquire new clients and grow your fitness business.

In this article, we want to go through the following:

Proven Fitness Marketing Strategies for Your Studio

You have probably heard the old saying “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and this is the case for some of the bread and butter fitness marketing strategies you should be running as a fitness business owner.

What Are Some of the Main Fitness Marketing Strategies?

Social Media Advertising: Facebook and Instagram Ads are the most popular option for smaller businesses to advertise online. The reason for this is that they are still relatively cheap in comparison to traditional and other digital means of advertising.

These platforms are also where the majority of the world are spending their time. There are currently 2.2 billion active monthly users on Facebook and 800 million on Instagram. The advantage of using these ads is that you can specifically target your ideal customer. Or if you have a couple of different demographics, you would like to target you can run a selection of ads with separate creative and copy that is specific to the person you are targeting. This is a considerable advantage over creating a one size fits all ad.

Keep these top tips in mind when creating ads for Facebook and Instagram:

  • A/B Test your ads until you figure out what combination of copy and creative gets the best results. You can do this with Facebook’s Ad Manager, and they provide an easy to follow guide to help you.
  • Create a promotion for your ad campaign that gives value. An example of this includes Sign Up By 5 pm on Wednesday To Get 2 Free Introductory classes
  • Use good quality images and video. Video is predicted to make up 80% of web traffic by 2021, so it is essential you start implementing it into your ads strategy.
  • And finally, the most crucial part of running social media ads is having somewhere the person can go once they have clicked through the ad. Have a dedicated landing page on your website with a clear Call To Action(CTA) where the person can sign up for the promotion in your ad.

For more information on Facebook Ads, take a look at our Facebook Ads Playbook for Fitness Business Owners.

Email Marketing:  Despite the acceleration of social media advertising and the prominence of other digital marketing platforms, email marketing still should be an important part of your fitness marketing arsenal. According to MailChimp, an email marketing service used by a lot of fitness founders, the open rate for emails in the health and fitness industry is still relatively high. In their most recent email marketing benchmark report, email open rates in the health and fitness industry are at 20.06%, which is close to the average across most industries.

glofox graphic showing email open rates for the health and fitness industry stand at 20.06%

There are a couple of advantages to using email as a marketing strategy:

  • People are more connected to their inbox than ever and get push notifications sent from their email app. In fact, 53% of emails are opened on mobile.
  • You have more control over email. Facebook and Google can change the ads policies overnight which can force you to rethink your entire strategy. With email, it is a list of contacts you have direct access to, and you control the content and the frequency of the message.
  • It is the most easily trackable of all marketing channels. From inbound leads, campaigns, conversions, etc., you can track and measure every step so you can figure out precisely what is or isn’t working.
  • Email is an excellent way of staying in touch with your existing customers or leads with very little money invested.

For a more comprehensive look at how to form an effective gym email marketing strategy take a look our recent blog, The Anatomy of a Gym Email. 

Video Marketing: Think of the last time you scrolled through your Facebook feed or flicked through your Instagram stories. It’s safe to say at least 60% of the content was video. As we discussed The Picture Perfect Guide on How to Make a Fitness Video Strategy, video is one of the most effective ways of communicating with your customers. Looking at these video marketing stats gathered by Smart Insights, not only does having videos embedded in your website leads to an 80% increase in conversions, 83% of video marketers believe they get a good ROI on their video marketing efforts.

Challenges and Trials: Both of these marketing strategies have been around since the early days very simply because they work. And they work because if done correctly they are the perfect way to build up a relationship with a prospective member.  Then you can nurture them along the path to becoming a full paying member.  

You should aim to run at least four challenges a year that are either 4 to 8 weeks long. These challenges are the same in how they are laid out but are branded differently depending on the time of year, i.e., the “Summer Shred” for those looking to be in great shape for holidays or the “Winter Warrior” for those looking to keep in shape during the overindulgence of the winter months.

With trials, there are two types of trial you can go for. You can either do the classic free trial model, or you can try the low-cost free trial model that has become popular with the more boutique fitness studios. The advantage of the inexpensive free trial is that by getting even a small financial commitment up front, you filter out the people who have zero interest The person who is willing to pay for a trial, however small, is more likely to sign up.

Take a look at these 8 Fitness Challenge Ideas to Supercharge Acquisition and Retention to help form your own fitness challenge. 

Referral programs:  As we discussed in A Quick Guide to Creating an Effective Gym Referral Program, a referral program is a common tactic used by any fitness club worth its salt. Generate positive word of mouth for your gym by using this key marketing strategy and add another string to your lead generation bow. There are two key benefits to running a referral program for your gym or studio.

Firstly you reach potential customers who, despite your best efforts, have not seen any of your marketing campaigns to date. On top of that you these prospective clients are more likely to trust a friend over just another campaign by a fitness studio. Secondly, as well as being an effective method of lead generation, referral programs can be a good gym membership retention strategy. If a member is resistant to recommend your services to a friend then there may be an underlying issue with your studio. So use this as an opportunity to intervene early and potentially stop this member from churning.

Events: Recent studies by the Event Marketing Institute show that 74% of event attendees have a more favorable opinion of a brand after attending an event related to it. Events are a great way of introducing your studio to prospective clients who may be apprehensive about attending a fitness class. With an event, you can introduce the instructors and other members in a relaxed environment. This will make their first class a less intimidating experience.

The big advantage of events is that you meet attendees in person. Nothing beats an in-person encounter for building up trust. At times this can more effective than trying to build up trust online. It is no surprise that 79% of US Marketers generate sales using event marketing. For more ideas on how you can use event marketing for your fitness studio, take a look at our article detailing 14 First Class Gym Event Ideas to Boost Your Acquisition and Retention.

The Proven Fitness Marketing Strategies in Action

Let’s take three of these proven strategies and weave them into one overall strategy you can run for your studio. Here we will use Facebook Ads, email marketing and a trial and promotion offer.

  • Create a promotion around a trial period you are running. Run a low-cost two-week trial for $2 and create a sense of urgency by giving it a time limit.
  • Use Facebook Ads to run the promotion. Test different ad copies and creative to target the different target audiences you want to sign up. Canva is a handy tool for designing images
  • Build a dedicated landing page with software like Unbounce or Instapage
  • Once you have captured their email address use a tool like MailChimp to nurture these prospects during their free trial.
  • Use a discounted offer near the end of the trial to incentivize them. For example, Join Now To Get 25% Off Your First 3 Months.

The key thing you should pick up from these strategies is that they are mostly based online. The reason for this is that the place the majority of people are spending their time online. In the next part of this article, we will go through how to grow your overall online following for your fitness business.

How to Grow an Online Following for Your Fitness Studio

The line between what is marketing and what is digital marketing is becoming more and more blurred by the day as digital begins to dominate the marketing channels for most small to medium businesses. And the reasoning for this is obvious.  The internet is readily available to most people now, and it’s super simple to create social media accounts. The hard part is using these platforms effectively to engage your target audience, grow your online following and ultimately grow your actual membership base.  First of all, we should look at the crucial bases you should be covering to increase the online presence of your fitness business.

What Are the Steps You Should Take to Build an Online Following for Your Fitness Studio?

Focus on mobile: For the majority of industries, the way that they communicate with their target audience will be through mobile. A recent study by Smart Insights found that the hours outside a typical working day mobile phone and tablet was the primary device people used and it is during these hours you are more likely to engage them. The study also found that 90% of the time spent on these devices was on apps.

Orange chart showing mobile vs desktop vs tablet usage

Source: Smart Insights

Being present on Facebook and Instagram in particular as they are the most effective for a fitness business and have the additional powerful advertising capabilities that we discussed. Alongside this, talk with your web developer to make sure your website is optimized for mobile.

The final point of discussion is that it is becoming more and more essential for your fitness studio to have your own branded app. Not only can you be discoverable in the App Store and the Google Play Store, but it gives your fitness studio a more professional outward look.

Have a professional and optimized website: Recent extensive consumer research has shown that the majority of consumers search for a local business online regularly with 69% of people searching at least one time per month in 2018. It is so crucial that a person gets a positive first impression of your website. To attract clients online, you should consider the following factors in designing your website:

  • Modern design that is in line with current industry trends
  • Simple to navigate
  • Optimized for mobile
  • Information about club location, hours, facilities and contact numbers.

Here is an excellent example of this type of website from Glofox customer Bells Gym in the UK.

Boxing gym website with woman punching in the background

To find out more take a look at our recent article on creating an effective gym website. 

Create engaging content regularly: Content marketing has gone into overdrive in the past couple of years across all industries and fitness is no different. Just take a look at luxury boutique brand Equinox. They have established a digital magazine quality content hub called Furthermore which is run by former editors of Conde Nast.

Now you don’t have to be on the level of Equinox, but it should give you an idea of how even seriously big fitness studio brands are taking content marketing. Posting high-quality content regularly can drive more traffic to your website and make you an authority on the topics of health and fitness. In a Hubspot study from 2018, it was found that B2C companies that blogged 11+ times per month had almost three times as much traffic as those who only blogged four to five times per month.

It is also much cheaper to acquire leads with long term investment into content marketing. According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing generates three times as many leads than outbound marketing and costs 63% less.

But this is only if you put the time.

The key is to keep it simple. Before you publish, list out all the topics in fitness and general wellness that you are knowledgeable in. Then create short pieces of content around each topic. A good idea is to get at least ten pieces together before you begin. Then begin posting, so there is no lag in posts and gives you time to write more. 

Once you have pooled together a resource of quality written and visual content you can use, reuse and disperse this across all your platforms. An excellent place to begin is two blog posts a month and then build up from there.  

How Do You Increase User Engagement with Your Studio’s Online Presence?

Be patient and post often: The major hurdle a lot of fitness professionals fall when they first attempt digital marketing is that they give up after a couple of weeks. The reason for this is that they expect results straight away. However, growing your studio’s presence online is a sprint, not a marathon.

Even worse, some people opt to go down the route of buying fake followers, and this never ends well, especially on Instagram.  Not only does it look bad when you have all these followers and none of them engaging with your posts, but Instagram is cracking down on this behavior.

Instead, aim to post three to five times a week on all your different social platforms.

Here is a quick guide to what you should post each week:

  • Share an article of relevance to the fitness industry
  • Post two videos or pictures of your classes
  • Your timetable for that week
  • Post a workout tutorial which can be a video, blog post or image
  • Post nutrition advice which again can be a video, blog post or image

Manage your online community One crucial aspect of growing your presence online is by engaging with your followers online. There is a reason it is called social media! You need to monitor your social media feeds daily to answer any queries related to your studio. A good way to keep on top of this is by using a tool called Hootsuite. The basic plan of this will help you keep all your social feeds in one dashboard. 

While prompt responses to questions are an excellent way to keep your following at a stable level, if you want to grow your presence online, you need to reach out and ask questions of your followers provide your opinion on topics of interest. Encourage feedback and shares on the blogs your post to your social channels. In our recent article on the importance of building a fitness community, we talk about best practice in doing this. 

Register with Google My Business and collect reviews: The advantage of registering with Google My Business is that your key information(address, reviews, hours, phone number)  will appear straight away when someone enters your business name into the search engine. The other key advantage of this that you will get listed in the local pack when someone types in something like “HIIT classes in Vermont.” A pack is the list of local businesses that appear on top of first-page of search results when you enter a query for a local business into the Google search engine. Take a look at Google’s guide to making sure your website is Search Engine Optimizatuion (SEO) friendly so you will rank high in the pack of local businesses.  

Google My Business page showing The Jungle Movement Academy

Example from Glofox Customer Jungle Movement Academy

The next part is to make sure you have several good reviews for your fitness studio. Reviews are so critical as they can influence the perception of your business straight away.  Statistics show that nearly 6 out of 10 customers look to Google My Business for reviews on a local business.

graphic showing nearly 6 out of 10 customers look to Google My Business for reviews on a local business

Let’s now take a look at more creative and unique strategies you can use for growing your fitness business.

Creative and Unique Fitness Marketing Strategies for Your Studio

There are a lot of challenges that arise when trying to create a marketing strategy for your studio. Invest in the basic proven strategies discussed above. However, sometimes you have to think differently to get to your target audience.

Let’s take a look at some of the typical challenges that fitness owners usually face:

What Are the Challenges of Marketing a Boutique Fitness Studio?

From talking to our customers, the main challenges that usually arise when trying to put in place a fitness marketing strategy include:

  • Time management
  • Lack of resources and expertise
  • Budget

These are all common issues that many business owners find themselves facing, especially when taking on the marketing themselves.

But what are some solutions to these problems?

Create large pieces of content: Instead of creating content week to week take some time to create larger pieces of content that you can then break up into smaller pieces of content you can plan to distribute across your various platforms. Here are some examples:

  • Create 12 healthy food recipes in one go. Then post once a week to your blog or social. All you need is a picture of the finished dish and a recipe. You can then reuse these as content at a later date.
  • Do something like a “30 exercises in 30 days” program on Instagram. With this, you post one short exercise tutorial per day. Film all these over a weekend at have them ready to go. Repeat this process if you want to try it again the next month.

Collect testimonials each month:  Testimonials are one of the most powerful marketing tools if done correctly. These success stories show off the real results of your fitness studios efforts. They are a great way of telling a person’s personal journey in case study form. This will always interest an audience.

Make it a key task to collect at least 1 to 2 testimonials a month.

Turn on Google Alerts: Are you struggling for interesting health and fitness content to share? A simple hack is to turn on Google Alerts and enter in some of the key health and fitness topics that would interest your customers. These news articles are then delivered to your inbox, giving you easy content to share and give your opinion on. This is also great for giving your ideas for topics you can write blogs on.

Use these content creation tools:  We recommend using these tools for creating content:

  • Canva: A simple graphics editor that you can use to make simple infographics and put text on images
  • Adobe Spark Video: This an easy to use online video editor that allows you to edit a video to a good standard. There is a free version but comes with a watermark. The premium package is relatively cheap at around $14 per month.
  • Canon PowerShot G7 X:  This is a camera that is used by a lot of Youtube vloggers and the reason is that it’s easy to use and takes great picture and video. Combine this with your camera phone to start making great visual content.

What Are Some Unique and Creative Ideas to Market Your Fitness Studio?

Think outside the box to cut through the noise and reach your target audience with these ideas:

Retargeting: When you use Facebook Ads you can set up a Custom Audience that is made up of all the people who have taken an action on your website. And how does it know this? By using something called the Facebook Pixel. It’s simply a piece of code that is installed into the code of your website. It then tracks the actions of the person visiting your site. You can then target that person with an ad after they leave the site.  

There are loads of possibilities with this such as creating lookalike audiences of people with similar behaviors to generate new leads. Create audiences that exclude people who have taken the action you already want. This means you are targeting the right people and not wasting money on those who have taken action already. For more information on how to use retargeting take a look at Facebook’s guide and this excellent overview.

Instagram Stories:  As we wrote in 9 Steps to Creating a Killer Instagram Strategy for Your Fitness Business, Instagram has alot of advantages when it comes to marketing a fitness business. One of these is Instagram Stories. Since it was launched in 2016 and has taken over Snapchat as the dominant temporary content sharing platform. Every major influencer and brand is sharing an extensive Instagram story nearly every day.  At least 2 million brands are using Stories and a third of Stories viewed are from businesses.

Its because they have a story to tell. And so should you. You should be posting a story every day.

A simple strategy for Stories is to post some of the following:

  • Pictures and videos of your classes in action
  • Any news from your fitness studio
  • Ask your audience for input into studio decisions by using the poll function
  • Share simple nutrition and workout advice
  • Link back to any blogs you have recently posted

Stories are the first things people see when they open up Instagram. Aim to be present in persons viewing schedule every day.

Strategic partnerships:  If you are running events and want them to have a higher impact and way more reach, consider talking to other local business owners about partnering up to run larger scale events. This type of partnership benefits both sides as they can reach your audience and more importantly you can reach theirs. One great idea we discussed already is partnering with a health food company to do jointly branded tasting sessions. Consider sponsoring a set menu of branded recipes to promote in a local health food restaurant.

The last creative strategy we want to talk about is using fitness influencers to market your fitness business.

Using Fitness Influencers to Market Your Fitness Studio

No matter what marketers do, there is still something to be said for good word of mouth marketing. This is where influencers come in. Influencers are people who have significant social media followings, particularly on Instagram. They are seen as authority figures within the lives of their fans. Influencer marketing is has become so big that big brands have dedicated budgets and agencies have sprung to represent them. The world of health and fitness has especially been impacted by this marketing trend, as we explored in our previous blog on fitness influencers.

But how do you get in on this action?

You don’t necessarily need someone of Shona Vertues or Kayla Itsines level of fame. You should look to target people with at least 1000-2000 followers who are posting daily about health and fitness. There are thousands of PTs and fitness addicts who are building personal brands online. Their goal is to cash in on the social media gold rush at the moment. So there is more than likely someone in your local area that suits,

Here are some quick influencer marketing tips to help put an influencer strategy into action and help you get new members.

  • Find an influencer in your local area with 1000+ followers
  • Direct message them with a pitch about marketing your studio
  • Offer them a couple of free classes and training sessions
  • In exchange get them to post an agreed number of posts about each and the benefits of the fitness program
  • If they have any content – youtube videos, e-books or a blog, promote this through your social media
  • Have them guest post on your blog or even better guest post on their blog. This will give you a precious backlink to your site. Backlinks help improve your site’s authority and give you larger brand awareness

You should aim to try different influencers and see what the results are. If you find that this is successful possibly hire the person as a trainer(if they have the qualifications).

Conclusion

Acquiring customers is the most important part of running a fitness business. To grow you need to make sure your message is getting out to potential clients. This means you can then convert them into paying members. In this article, we believe we have provided you with some excellent strategies and ideas for fitness marketing campaigns to take your fitness studio to the level of growth you need to get to.