Growth

How to Create an Effective Fitness Marketing Strategy

Eamonn_Curley
Eamonn Curley
27 November 20
10 min read
man doing a press up in a park

Strategy is a term often used without a real understanding of what it actually means. Many people confuse strategy, planning and tactics or use some version of all three. However, to create an effective strategy to achieve your desired outcome, you need to know exactly what the concept of a strategy is and what elements are essential to its success.

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What Is a Fitness Marketing Strategy?

Two sources that we’ve drawn from I think really explain clearly what a strategy should look like for a business. The first, Hubspot, breaks down the concept of strategy into three simple parts: 

  1. A diagnosis of your challenge 
  2. The guiding policy for dealing with the challenge 
  3. A set of targeted actions that are necessary to accomplish the policy

Before pouring hard-earned cash into a Facebook Ad Campaign, step back and think about exactly what the challenge is that you’re facing. For a marketing strategy, the challenge could be that you don’t have enough awareness in your target market. Or the challenge could be that you have a lot of awareness, but this isn’t converting to leads. When you figure this out, it’s easier than to develop a guide to deal with this challenge and pick specific actions to execute the strategy. 

The other source we’ve looked to is marketing expert Christopher Penn. He uses an excellent analogy that makes the concept of a strategy quite simple and memorable. He compares it to a set menu like at Thanksgiving. For a business, your marketing menu will change little from quarter to quarter. However, the “recipes” for your “dishes,” which are your SEO, social media advertising, referrals, etc – can be changed and improved upon. Your core marketing strategy, like the Thanksgiving menu, stays the same. 

Don’t Confuse Strategy With Planning

For many, strategies and plans are one and the same. The reality is they aren’t. A plan is more of a pattern and step by step guide on how to achieve an end goal. A strategy on the other hand, is a blueprint that lays out why this is the end goal. Plans will revolve more around timeframes, budgets, and steps to accomplish. 

The formation of the strategy takes place before the formation of the plan. Before you lay out the steps, you need to figure out the best steps to take and why you are taking them. Strategy expert Roger L. Martin explains that a mistake a lot of companies make is that they combine strategies and plans into a “strategic plan”. According to him, strategy is an integrated set of choices that collectively positions a company in its industry to create sustainable advantage relative to competition and deliver superior financial returns. 

What this basically means is that your strategy should be about making sure you get to the leads before your competitors – and you have developed an on offering that appeals to the market more than your competitors. As a company, you need to figure out what the value is you bring to the market.

Elements of a Great Fitness Marketing Strategy

Every business will have one singular strategy – not a set of strategies. Within every one of these strategies, there are common elements that are identified. The strategy for F45 might be different than the strategy for another franchise like Golds Gym, but they will still retain similar core elements. Let’s look a bit further into these elements. 

A Defined Challenge 

Creating a strategy starts with identifying a problem that needs solving or, more importantly, a challenge that needs to be overcome. For marketing strategy, the challenge you are trying to take on is that your business doesn’t have enough leads or awareness or some combination of both. 

For example, take a newly launched fitness studio. Their priority, even before the doors open, is to acquire new members. This is the problem their strategy needs to solves. Or maybe they have opened with a bang and have gained loads of awareness through various marketing tactics but aren’t getting many leads. The lack of leads despite lots of awareness is the challenge their strategy needs to overcome. 

A Value Proposition

One of the main reasons you may have started a fitness business is that you have something of value to offer the member. For some fitness businesses, it’s just getting the person the results they want. For others it’s a well-branded boutique experience or providing a unique sense of community. Whatever the value you bring to the market, it needs to be something that brings a competitive advantage over your competitors. 

For Orangetheory, one of the most successful studios in the US, their competitive edge is their scientifically proven afterburn effect that will help members get results. Their marketing strategy is focused on hammering home the message that they can provide a scientifically proven method for getting in shape that no-one else can. 

A Defined Target Market

It’s very rare that your offering will be all things to all people. A major part of developing a fitness marketing strategy is defining what kind of member you want in your gym. This will help you focus on things like your messaging and the channels you can use.  

Going back to the example of Orangetheory, their typical target market is women who are around the age of 35 and have a yearly income of between $80000 and $100000. They have also identified other segments of the market, such as men of the same age and income and a younger market of men and women aged 18 to 25. 

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A Key Brand Message

When you have identified the challenge, the value you bring to the market and what section of the market you want to target, you need to create what your messaging is going to be. The message is going to communicate your competitive advantage and be engaging for your target market. 

In recent years, boutique brands have risen quickly in the market because they have built strong brands that resonate with their members. F45’s message of “Team Training, Life-Changing” sums up exactly what they are about. You know straight away that this is a community-based gym that is going to get you results. 

Scalability

The ability to scale your marketing strategy is important. As you grow, you need to be able to scale your marketing strategy. When a strategy has been proven to work, the next step is to make sure that it can be applied across the business, such as a marketing campaign. 

Strategy should stay consistent, with channels and tactics swapped in and out depending on what is needed for a campaign to succeed. This consistency is crucial for fitness studios that open multiple locations. The team at the new facility should be able to pick up and run with the strategy created at HQ. 

Creating a Fitness Marketing Strategy 101

Albert Einstein is often attributed with the quote “In theory, there’s no difference between practice and theory while in practice there is.”  What he really meant by this is that while it’s all good talking about how something works in theory, the reality is much different when you put things into practice in the real world. 

It’s the same for a marketing strategy. We use the example of Ignite Fitness, (a studio we’ve made up) to give you an idea of how to create and implement a fitness marketing strategy for your fitness business. 

Ignite Fitness is a one location group training facility that offers HIIT and functional fitness. It has a hybrid offering, meaning members can work out in the studio or from their home with live-streamed and on-demand classes. Ignite is based in a busy shopping and commercial street in a mid-size American city. 

Here are the steps Ignite Fitness needs to take to create an effective marketing strategy: 

  • Be clear about the desired outcomes 
  • Identify their core target market 
  • Create marketing campaigns 
  • Track results and improve where necessary

Be Clear About Desired Outcomes  

The question you have to ask yourself with every strategy is, what do you want to achieve from it? For most marketing strategies, the desired outcome is lead generation. You should be clear on exactly what this should be. 

For Ignite Fitness, let’s say they are laying out a strategy for the first half of the year. Ideally, they want to aim for a 30% increase in their lead generation by the middle of the year compared to the previous year. With a clear goal in mind it is easier then to put in place steps to achieve that goal. 

Identify the Core Target Market 

In business you can’t be all things to all people. If you spread your net too wide, you may end up catching no one. For a fitness business, it’s important to identify who their ideal customer is and develop messaging that will appeal to that target market. It will also help inform how you should price your offering 

Since Ignite Fitness is based in a busy commercial area, their target market is young professionals, aged 25 to 35 with a good level of income. Their messaging and visuals should reflect this. 

Create Marketing Campaigns

Now that you have identified what you want to achieve with your strategy and who you want to target with it, it’s time to think about the steps to take to achieve the desired outcomes. This is where campaigns come into your strategy. There a couple of different campaigns Ignite Fitness could run. 

  • 28 Day Challenge: Excellent lead driver that can run in January and at the end of Spring. The person can then be sold on a full membership at the conclusion of the challenge. 
  • Referrals: When a person hears about a service from a person they trust, this can be more persuasive than any other form of marketing. Run an email campaign amongst your membership bases and incentivize them to encourage referrals. 
  • Influencers: Recruit social media influencers in your local area to promote your business. Even your members can act as influencers as they will have a following that will be exposed to your services
  • Paid targeting and retargeting: Facebook and Instagram are powerful tools for targeting prospects with ads. Retargeting is an especially powerful tool – you can read our in-depth guide on the topic here.

Track Results and Improve Where Necessary 

A marketing strategy is never one and done. You need to be reviewing the results and outcomes of your campaigns and make improvements where necessary. Another key factor is scalability. If the strategy is working, you need to be able to scale it. For example, if Ignite Fitness is successful with their strategy, they should scale it across to a second location if they open one. 

In Summary 

An effective marketing strategy is crucial to the growth of your fitness business, and by following the steps in this article, you should be able to create a successful fitness marketing strategy for your gym or studio. 

The Top 10 Barriers Slowing Your Fitness Business Growth

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