When COVID-19 lockdowns forced gym users to work out at home, businesses providing digital fitness services thrived. Many enjoyed the convenience of at-home workouts and continued using workout apps even after gyms started opening up again. However, there are signs now that more customers are returning to brick-and-mortar fitness studios. A survey by UpSwell Marketing found that more than 80% of consumers are open to going back to the gym.

Trends like these can make or break a business. To give your gym the best chance of keeping up with ever-changing behavioral shifts, it’s important to make sure your fitness marketing strategy is on point. With this article, we aim to help you with that. We’ll provide all the information you need to pull together a fit-for-purpose gym marketing plan, including gym/fitness marketing ideas that will help you stay one step ahead of the competition.

If you’ve ever wondered, “How do I market my online fitness business?” or wanted to boost your gym members, read on.

Marketing strategies for gyms — why are they important?

The success of any gym depends on many factors. One of them is its ability to attract new members. But fitness centers can’t just open their doors and hope for the best. They need to come up with a game plan for reaching prospective customers and converting them into loyal members.

That’s what a fitness marketing strategy can help with. On top of customer retention and acquisition, it can support your fitness business in building a strong brand identity and taking advantage of any opportunities that come your way.

Here are some other reasons why it’s essential. 

To gain a competitive advantage

The best fitness marketing strategies are based on a lot of research. You need to uncover insights related to your customers, prospects, and competitors. These can help you identify whether there’s demand for a service that other providers don’t yet offer, giving you an advantage. It’s important to note that if you want to stay ahead, keeping track of the latest customer and competitor trends should be an ongoing task.

Gym marketing plans are essential if you want to retain and attract customers

To expand on your customer base

The best marketing strategies for gyms should target both existing and future customers. Your current members are hugely important to your business; after all, retaining customers is cheaper than acquiring new ones.

Read also: How to increase gym revenue in the (post) COVID-19 era?

By motivating them and offering them guidance on their fitness journey — for example, using marketing comms to cross-sell complimentary services such as nutrition plans, personal training sessions, and physiotherapy — you can increase their engagement and lengthen their lifetime value.

A marketing strategy also plans how to generate leads and attract new members. That might be through paid and organic social media posts, SEO, content marketing, email campaigns, starting your own YouTube series or a TikTok channel – the options are numerous and the choice depends on who your target customers are and the goals you want to achieve. 

You’ll know where to spend your money

A marketing strategy gives a clear sense of direction to your gym/fitness marketing ideas. It encourages you to plan ahead, allocate resources, and get buy-in from all areas of your business (including finance, operations, and HR). Because you have a plan, you’re less likely to engage in one-off, reactive campaigns that people often get sucked into because they’re trending. Or simply because they ‘saw someone else doing it.’ These actions come at a high risk of wasted time and money.

A good marketing strategy should also provide a framework for measuring the success of your efforts, so you know how many leads or sales you’ve gained from a particular marketing source.

Strong marketing strategies for gyms also ensure individual campaigns are aligned with overall business objectives.

What you need to consider before creating a fitness marketing strategy

To put together an effective fitness marketing strategy, it helps if you can answer the following questions.

Who is your target audience?

Knowing your existing and potential customers is essential for creating your fitness marketing strategy. When you understand your clientele’s characteristics and interests, you can create marketing campaigns that are more likely to resonate with them.

Your gym management software (GMS) is a good place to start gathering these insights, as it can tell you a lot about your existing members. Among others, you should be able to learn about their average age, the classes they use, how often they visit your gym, how long they’ve been a member, and where they are in their fitness journeys.

With this information, you can start identifying similarities between your customers and group them into segments. You can then tweak your messaging to each segment so it’s more likely to resonate. For example, someone who regularly attends fitness classes might receive a different newsletter than a gymgoer who prefers to train alone in the free weights section.

What are your marketing objectives?

Clearly defined marketing objectives are one of the most important parts of a digital marketing strategy for gym professionals – the foundation for the whole marketing strategy. You should consider short, medium, and long-term objectives. For those that take longer to achieve, plot smaller checkpoints along the way. And by using SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based) you can be confident that they’ll be effective.

build marketing strategies for gyms around your business goals and objectives

Here’s what that means, using the example of a short-term objective:

Specific: state what you’ll do using action words and specific metrics, e.g. “We will increase month-on-month gym membership by 5% in December.”

Measurable: outline how you’ll measure success, stating KPIs and metrics, e.g. “The success of our Instagram campaign promoting a free training plan will be determined using traffic to lead ratio.”

Attainable: make sure your objectives are achievable and outline the steps required to reach that objective.

Relevant: if your objectives aren’t relevant to your overall business positioning, they’re probably not worth pursuing.

Time-based: your objectives should include a reasonable time frame for reaching the specific benchmark.

What makes you unique?

The fitness industry is competitive. To succeed, it’s important to know what sets your business apart from its competitors. What service do you provide that other gyms don’t? What do you do better than your rivals? What unique benefit can you provide to your customers? This information is vital in shaping a digital marketing strategy for gym owners.

It helps if you can condense your unique value proposition (UVP) into a statement that clearly expresses your gym’s distinct selling points. Take ClassPass, whose app gives its users pay-as-you-go access to fitness centers all over the world. Their UVP is ‘Every Class With One Fitness Pass‘, giving you a clear idea of what their business is about.

What marketing activities are within your reach?

For a fitness marketing strategy to be successful, it needs to be realistic in terms of available budget and the people involved (for example, you can’t expect a junior member of staff with little marketing experience to manage complex, multi-channel campaigns). It should also have a realistic timeline.

As far as possible, a digital marketing strategy for gym and fitness businesses should be grounded in data. This will help you judge which channels and activities will deliver the greatest ROI so you can focus your efforts on them.

Channels to consider for your marketing activities

The question, “How do you market in the fitness industry?” can seem complicated when you consider the vast number of channels that are available — social media platforms, blogs, email marketing, YouTube videos, and podcasts, to name just a few.

It can be tempting to think your business needs to deliver on each of them. But that’s not the best way to achieve ROI. Instead, use data from your GMS and other sources to build a clear picture of your customer. This will tell you:

  • Which channel will help you reach them most efficiently? For example, if your client base is aged 40-50, high chances are, they’ll respond better to email marketing or Facebook updates than to Reels or TikToks.
  • Where do they look for inspiration? Check out the people who follow you on Instagram. Who do they follow? What posts do they like? Use that information to guide your gym/fitness marketing ideas.

Don’t waste your energy on channels with low potential. For example, if you’ve experimented with Twitter in the past and very few people have engaged with your posts, it’s probably a sign that your resources are better used elsewhere.

On the contrary, don’t be afraid of the new channels. If your analysis showed that your potential customers are active on a platform you’ve never used before, don’t be afraid to give it a try.

The best gym/fitness marketing ideas

So how do you attract people to fitness or drive their gym usage? The first step is analyzing your customer data. Here are a few data-driven ideas for your gym marketing plan — your GMS can help with some of these:

  • Set up a fitness challenge, targeting members who regularly attend your more competitive classes.
  • Email lapsed members offering them free one-on-one personal training sessions.
  • Send exclusive discount offers to members on their birthdays.
  • Update members who’ve declared an interest in weight loss with info about your nutrition packages.
  • Offer a free online class to people who sign up to join your weekly marketing email.

Connect and inspire on social media 

Social media isn’t just a great way to tell customers about what’s going on at your gym. You can use channels to motivate and inspire them in their fitness journeys, adding real value to their membership. Your socials can also build a sense of community amongst members.

make social media part of your fitness marketing strategy

User-generated content, success stories, virtual fitness challenges, and home workout tips are all great examples of engaging content. Live streaming on Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok (depending on your audience) can be another great way of connecting with your audience.

Give your customers what they want

Is one of your classes always busy? Add more to the schedule. Did an Instagram post with bodybuilding tips get a lot of likes? Turn it into a series. By observing your customers’ behavior, you can give them more of what they want. Dive into the data and see what’s working, and seek regular feedback from your clients.

Share reviews and success stories

Feeling inspired by — and slightly envious of — someone else’s success story can be a powerful motivating force, especially when it comes to fitness. It’s why WW (formerly Weight Watchers) regularly post before and after images of their clients, along with stories that tap into their target audience’s emotions. 

Reviews and success stories act as social proof, demonstrating that people benefit from your services. They build credibility and trust with your followers.

Create a referral program 

Word-of-mouth marketing is another form of social proof. When customers like what your business offers, they’ll happily refer you to their family, friends, and even strangers — both online and in real life. It can be a cheap and powerful acquisition tool. 

By creating a referral program, you reward loyal clients for recommending your services. It’s easy to set up and manage using a GMS that’s been custom-built by a fitness app development company. That way you can adjust the functionality to the scale and needs of your business. 

Make data-driven decisions

As we’ve seen, gathering data is essential for making an effective digital marketing strategy for gym or fitness businesses. The best gym management software makes it easy for fitness club managers to dig into their member data and understand who their customers are, how they behave, and which groups have the greatest lifetime value. With this information, gym operators can increase their ROI, uncover new opportunities, and make better marketing decisions.

What’s the best gym management software in 2022?
Check our top 7 list

How to Create a Bulletproof Fitness Marketing Strategy? Key takeaways

A gym marketing strategy is a game plan for reaching new and existing customers. It can give your business a competitive advantage, boosting your customer base and structuring your marketing spend.

In order to create an effective fitness marketing strategy, you have to dig into your audience data, understand your business’s unique value proposition, and define clear marketing objectives.

You should be realistic about the resources you have at your disposal; choose the digital channels that are going to help you reach your audience most efficiently.

Use the power of data! With the help of your GMS, you can analyze member data and come up with gym/fitness marketing ideas that will resonate with your clientele. By using the right digital channels, you can inspire and empower your customers on their fitness journey. Then, incentivize them to share reviews and success stories that will help spread the word about your services, ultimately helping you grow your customer base.