The last few months have been extremely challenging for fitness business owners, and as the world leaves lockdown and gyms reopen, we know that the pandemic has transformed the future of our industry forever.
We’ve spoken a lot in recent weeks about how to prepare your business for reopening, including how to encourage members back into the studio, and ensure that your facility provides a safe experience for both members and staff.
In this article, we’ll be focusing on acquisition. Lockdown has given a lot of people a new appreciation for exercise, those that weren’t invested in a gym membership before now have a new outlook.
We recently had an excellent conversation with David Steel, Chief Viral Office of Sneeze.it. The company is an ad agency focused on the fitness industry, helping health clubs to find and attract the right members. They’re experts in customer acquisition, covering everything from lead generation and prospect emails to turn those people into members.
Check out the full episode above and read on for 7 key takeaways to help you nail down acquisition with your marketing strategy. Skip ahead to:
- Go All in With Your Marketing
- Define Your Perfect Customers
- Get Your Messaging Right
- Choose the Right Channels
- Shop the Competition
- Make Your Process Seamless
- Nail Down Your Follow Up Process
1. Go All in With Your Marketing
It may come as a surprise, but recently David has seen that the fitness businesses that have reopened are experiencing something similar to the January rush. The clubs that are going in hard with their marketing are doing well: they’re getting more leads at a lower price with more conversions than you’d think possible at this time.
There are 3 different views from gym members right now: Some are sticking to their home workouts and waiting to see what happens in the near future, some are starting to visit the gym but proceeding with caution, and some are jumping at the door of their studio the second it reopens.
David notes he’s seeing a similar approach from gym owners at the minute, and that if your business is open and you feel like there’s less competition than usual, it’s not necessarily because others haven’t opened their doors. It’s because some are playing on the side of caution when it comes to marketing spend – and this is understandable.
Many businesses have suffered financially during these unprecedented times, but David says that now is the time to really go in hard with marketing.
Over the last few months, members have been working out online because they’ve had no other option, but now they do. It’s a window of opportunity, and just like January, you should strike while the iron’s hot. Before your leads have a chance to look around for the gym they’re going to join post-lockdown, put yours in front of them.
2. Define Your Perfect Customers
When you first opened your fitness business, you likely wanted to attract as many members as possible. During the podcast, David notes this is common for many of Sneeze.it clients – they want to draw from a large pool to help grow the business.
But over time, there are certain members that make the ‘best’ customer for your studio. They’re the ones that use personal training, buy a shake at the juice bar or pay for additional class packs: there’s a certain group that maximizes your revenue.
These members allow you to give the best experience possible. Knowing exactly who your customer is as you grow your business becomes extremely important to avoid wasting money and make sure you generate as much revenue as possible.
A well-crafted gym persona can help you personalize your marketing efforts and target the right people with the right message. From crafting the right message to targeted social media ads and following up with leads, anything that involves acquisition gets better when you know exactly who you’re trying to attract.
You likely had some member personas outlined before the pandemic, but you’ll want to revisit these now. A lot has changed over the last few months; your target members and their preferences have changed along with it.
Your personas need to be well-defined, but you can have many of them. The aim is to build a well-rounded membership base, you wouldn’t want just members who want a PT, because then the rest of your studio would be empty. You don’t need to limit yourself to just one persona type – as David points out, it’s easier to take them out if they’re not working for your business, as opposed to adding them in when it might be too late.
3. Get Your Messaging Right
When you have a selection of personas, you’ll quickly learn that different messaging works for different people and locations. Sneeze.it uses AI to nail this down for its clients, but David has some great tips if you’re going it alone:
Focus on Your Target Personas
Take yourself out of the equation: as a business owner and fitness expert, you know what you like and what would attract you to a gym right now. But it doesn’t automatically mean this will be the same as what your ideal customers will want. Keep your creative, including messaging and imagery, focused on your post-lockdown personas.
Know That Messaging Will Need to Vary Across Different Locations
If you own a multi-location studio, your messaging may need to change depending on the location. This is all the more crucial as we leave lockdown and restrictions vary from one area to the next.
On the whole, fitness trends across the world differ, and the images and language you use in your messaging will need to reflect this to best appeal to each country and its unique culture. To help make the process as smooth as possible if you’re a franchise, you’ll need to have new marketing guidelines locked-in to support your various franchisees as they re-open.
Ensuring you approach your marketing with a global mindset gives you an advantage over the businesses that neglect to tailor their messaging in this way.
Make the Most of Your Members
Generally, from David’s experience, ads using members over trainers have a higher conversion rate. There’s no need for elaborate team photoshoots, capture the real moments of members at your gym. You’ll need their permission for this, so make sure you have them sign a release form. The best images you’re going to have that really show what your gym is like are of the members in your studio.
Find What Works Through Trial and Error
David points out that it’s surprising what difference small changes can make, even something as simple as whether the fitness image you choose to use is taken indoors or outside. Don’t underestimate the power of making small tweaks if something isn’t working, you have to keep trying until you find what does.
The key is variety: different people, a different number of people, their surroundings, and any text conveying your message. Take as many different photos as you can, so you always have a pool to experiment with.
4. Choose the Right Channels
There are a few different channels when it comes to your digital marketing, what really matters is how you make the most out of them. In terms of social media, Facebook and Instagram are the primary channels for lead generation. The targeting options cover in-depth-demographics, meaning you can hone right in on your various gym personas.
David points out that social media is a consultative strategy. The prospects seeing these ads are people who are thinking about joining a gym – maybe they’ve been looking around at a few options online. They’re not necessarily ready to join a gym today, but if you convince them, they’ll try you today.
It’s all down to the persuasion of the ad itself. Whether your goal is to get them in for a tour or get them on the phone; you’ll want to refer back to the last section of this article, particularly the part on trial and error. If you’re not working to find out what really brings in conversion with your ads, there’s no point investing your time and money in them in the first place! You have to tweak and experiment to find what works. For more information on getting the most out of your Facebook ads, check out this article.
5. Shop the Competition
David recommends this exercise so you can see first-hand what the market has to offer when it comes to acquisition and what you offer to new members.
So head over to a competitor’s website and sign up. See what they say, see what they’re doing, check out the emails they send you, and ultimately – learn what they’re offering. Go all the way: take the studio tour, see for yourself what their culture, facilities, and staff are like.
Then go ahead and do the same for yourself. Fill out one of your own forms, pay attention to the emails you get, see what actually happens, and test it out so you can compare. There’s no one size fits all, but you can only beat the competition if know you know them. It’s then down to you to figure out how to come up with a better offering.
6. Make Your Process Seamless
Social media aside, leads can fall straight into your lap via a search engine, and this is something David refers to as a transactional approach. When someone in your area googles “gyms near me” they’re looking for a gym now and you want your website to be the first they see. Once they click through, they need to land on a page that directs them to action – whether it’s booking a tour of your studio, signing up for a trial, or whatever the offer may be.
The crucial point here is that the process needs to be effortless for the lead: you want it to be straightforward and use a form that collects the information you need to follow up as soon as possible.
7. Nail Down Your Follow Up Process
Without a follow-up process, all the efforts you’ve put in to get your lead this far are meaningless, those leads will quickly be pounced on by another competitor. David talked us through the ideal follow-up process and it starts the moment a lead has filled out your contact form. From there, you have a 6-minute window of opportunity to pounce on that lead. After that, there’s only a 50% likelihood of getting them on the phone.
Those 6-minutes are make or break. That’s having a conversation with someone while your studio is at the front of their mind, and there’s (hopefully) been no time for another gym to get in touch with them.
David also points out that in his experience, most sales are made around the twelfth call or after, even though most people give up after one or two. The key lesson here is there’s a lot of value in being disciplined and persistent. Don’t give up! For more tips on perfecting the gym sales follow up, check out this blog post.
Now is the time to go all-in with your marketing – but it’s not something to be rushed. Experiment with your messaging, know your customer, and have a seamless sales process ready to go as soon as they are.