One thing every gym owner knows (or will soon find out) is that their gym is only as good as their gym marketing plan. Unfortunately, you can have the best gym in the world, but if nobody knows about it then you won’t be around for long.
We’ve created this big list of fitness marketing ideas so that you can pick and choose new gym promotion campaigns and see what works for your facility and market.
Every club is different, and not every idea will work for every gym. But don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. Ditch what’s not working, and scale up the gym promotions that are having a positive impact on your business.
With our Exercise.com software platform, we help gym owners, trainers, coaches, and fitness professionals all over the world manage and grow their fitness businesses, so read on for some lessons learned in the ultimate guide to gym marketing.
Schedule a demo below to brainstorm with the Exercise.com team on how to grow and manage your business better.
The Importance of Marketing
Marketing is important because it helps you establish a relationship with your target audience. It helps you seek them out and, hopefully, turn them into paying customers. Where many fitness businesses get stuck is when they realize marketing should be ongoing. It is not a one-and-done ordeal. That realization can be daunting because it means that you’ll have to consistently spend time tweaking and implementing your marketing plan.
Here are a few gym marketing ideas to help make the process of ever-evolving gym marketing a bit easier:
#1 – Gym Referral Program
The key to a good gym referral program is to incentivize referrals in a way that rewards both the referring client and the newly-referred client. In other words, if you offer a free training session to a current client if they refer a new client to you then be sure to tell them that their friend who they referred will also get a free training session.
This makes your client feel as if they are sharing a special deal with their friend, and holds more prestige and sense of value, of being an “influencer” with “special access”.
Everyone likes to share and recommend things that make them feel important and “in the know”. A side benefit to this is that your referral source tracking will also improve because those who are referred will feel the need to mention who referred them in order to claim the special deal.
#2 – Friend/Partner Pricing
This is a closely related cousin to a referral program. If you approach all of your current training clients and offer them special discounted pricing to bring a friend or a spouse/partner to train with them then many will say yes (this can also be just the excuse some clients have been waiting for to get their spouse/partner into the gym!).
The big bonus for you as the trainer is that typically they will both workout at the same time, so you’ve just increased your hourly rate without having to train any extra hours.
#3 – Gym Rewards Program
A gym rewards program is a great way to incentivize all of the behaviors that you wish your clients would take on your behalf to act as brand ambassadors and market on your behalf.
You can create an elaborate points schedule where clients can earn different levels of points for doing things like sharing your gym page on social media, liking your gym Facebook page or Instagram page, writing a review on Yelp, checking in to the gym, and of course, the highest point value should be for referring a friend to the gym.
However, sometimes a big, over-the-top referral program can actually get too complicated and backfire. Sometimes the simplest way to go is just to offer a direct and immediate swap of one action for one reward.
For example, place a table near your door with gym t-shirts, protein bars, energy drinks, etc. along with a sign that says, “Like and share our Facebook page now on your phone for one free item.” You can even train your front desk staff to make this part of your gym’s onboarding process for new members.
#4 – Gym Co-Marketing
Think of a gym co-marketing campaign as a referral program but between professionals/businesses and bi-directional. For example, think about the businesses closest to your gym. Chances are you have other small businesses in your shopping plaza or within walking distance even who are also interested in ideas to get new customers/clients.
If you have a supplement store close by (if your gym doesn’t sell supplements) then befriend the store owner and ask if you can put up some flyers and “special discount” referral cards in their shop, and offer to do the same in your gym.
Some of the same principles apply here as they do with structuring a good personal trainer/gym referral program: the more you can make the referred person and the referrer feel as if they are sharing insider’s access to a special deal then the more successful your co-marketing campaign will be.
The same applies to you. Ask the shop owner if they can give your members 10 percent off everything in the store and you will feel better about recommending them to your gym clients.
If you really want to take this to the next level then you can hire a dedicated staff member to create, manage, and implement a robust “gym perks” program where you offer your members a large assortment of discounts and savings from many different local businesses, all the while, getting the name of your gym out in the community and increasing the likelihood of other businesses referring new clients to your gym.
If you are desperately wanting to know how to get more referrals for your gym or personal training then this is a great strategy to implement.
A note of caution: This works particularly well if you concentrate on finding other co-marketing partners who offer complementary products/services to your gym members values.
Yes, you can probably strike up relationships with the owner-operators of the local fast-food restaurants and get your members discounts on burgers, fries, and pizza, but a better approach for your gym brand might be to talk to local health food stores, healthy restaurants, chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists, and other businesses with a healthy image.
#5 – Barter Agreement
An interesting twist on co-marketing is when you partner with other local businesses or service providers to exchange services on a swap/trade basis. For example, you may strike up an agreement with a chiropractor to trade an alignment for a personal training session or a massage therapist to trade a massage for a gym membership.
Don’t be afraid to get creative, and there’s often not a better way of trying out local offerings so you can feel good about what you recommend to your clients, but just be sure to talk to your tax advisor about any applicable tax reporting related to barter agreements.
#6 – Community Events
Now that you’ve hopefully begun to build relationships with other businesses in the community, why not join together and organize a fun event for your community?
A gym has a natural tie-in with any type of community event revolving around the themes of fun, family, health, and fitness. Create a community health fair and family fun event.
Offer free food (talk to local restaurants, vendors, and food trucks), blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol screenings, fun games for the kids, obstacle courses and fitness challenges, boot camp workouts and other fitness competitions, local music, flu shots, giveaways, fundraiser tie-ins with a charity or local cause, and many other ideas are all things that you can feature at your event.
#7 – Professional Referral Network
So, this is a little different than a standard gym client referral program where clients of yours refer new clients to your gym or to your personal training, and it’s also a little different than a co-marketing program where you and other businesses in the area co-promote each other to your members/clients/customers.
But instituting a professional referral network is different enough and important enough that it’s worth singling out. This is one of the best gym membership marketing ideas because if you are intentional about building out this network then you won’t see results overnight, but you will see results for years to come.
A professional referral network is when you actively and intentionally solicit other professionals to refer people to you for personal training. Your goal is to be the first person they think of when one of their clients needs a recommendation for a gym or a personal trainer.
The classic professionals to target include physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, doctors, corporate wellness directors (sometimes companies will even reimburse employees for gym memberships and personal training fees), and other similar professionals who routinely encounter people looking to make a change in their health, fitness, and lifestyle. YOU want to be their go-to recommendation.
So, how do you do this? Well, it’s worth taking a page from the classic pharmaceutical sales rep playbook. You need to:
- Show up in person
- Build the relationship consistently over time
- Demonstrate your value (your certifications, credentials, and experience will be very important here, particularly to Doctors and physical therapists who need to trust that they are referring their clients to a competent professional)
- Make it fun (could you drop off some goodies and gym freebies at a physical therapist’s office just like a pill-pushing pharmaceutical rep and likely get great results? You’ll never know until you try.)
Yes, you can win friends and influence people in medical and other professional offices.
If you are curious to read more about how pharmaceutical reps build those relationships and influence the prescribing habits of physicians over time, here are some eye-opening strategies and statistics in this article: Following the Script: How Drug Reps Make Friends and Influence Doctors.
#8 – Walk the Gym Floor
This might sound low-tech, but speaking of winning friends and influencing people, one of the best marketing ideas for fitness classes is to simply walk around the gym, strike up conversations with regular gym attendees, and then invite them personally to attend one of your fitness classes.
Sure, you can hand out a flyer, or tack up a poster on the wall, but there’s something about a personal invitation that will get results that might surprise you. Be sure to position the ask totally from their perspective:
“YOU would love our Zumba class.”
“YOU would be great in our HIIT class. We need some more people that can do those plyometric workouts you are doing.”
The same strategy holds for getting more personal training clients too, of course. Striking up conversations with people in the gym with the intent of upselling personal training sessions has long been a key tactic for personal trainers.
However, beware that you don’t come across as purely self-serving, mercenary, and transactional.
Truly build up a relationship with people, show them that you care, take an interest in what their workouts and fitness goals are, and then when you provide them a laser-targeted personal invitation… they’ll at least be polite when they shoot you down.
Kidding! You’ll hear some nos, but do this the right way and you will also hear more yeses than you might suspect!
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#9 – Offer New Classes
Speaking of inviting gym members to try a new class or sign up for personal training, when’s the last time you added a new fitness class, boot camp, or challenge to your gym schedule?
One of the best ways to learn how to promote fitness classes in your gym is to talk to members and ask them what new classes they would be interested in attending.
Yes, I know, a revolutionary idea.
Talking to members and asking them what they want. I get it. Sometimes people don’t know what they want. But most of the time, they do. If you want new fitness class ideas then you’ve likely got an entire block of people milling around your gym right now who would be happy to share their opinions.
Everyone likes to be asked their opinion, and when you have a critical mass of people suggesting a similar type of class, then you have a built-in group of people you can sign right up.
Sometimes you may want to seed your list of potential fitness classes to create with some choices for your members to choose from, but be sure to always leave space for them to suggest their own free-form idea. Here is an example:
We are polling our members for new fitness class ideas to add to our gym schedule. Which of the following would you most be interested in attending? (you may select more than one):
- Martial Arts/Boxing/Kickboxing
- Olympic Weightlifting
- Circuit Training
- Bikram Yoga (Hot Yoga)
- Boot Camp
- Booty Blaster
- Les Mills BODYPUMP
- Les Mills BODYATTACK
- Strength Training
- Active Older Adults
- Family Fun
- Other: __________
But remember, the key is that you actually go out on the floor and TALK to people, face-to-face, and ask them what new fitness class they wish the gym had.
#10 – Staff Your Gym With Great People
Did you know that, on average, 1/3 of the members of a gym will cancel every year? This ~30 percent turnover rate means that there is a huge opportunity for additional revenue if you craft a gym marketing campaign aimed at improving retention. One way to do that is to hire great people.
You can have all of the best fitness center systems and processes, but if the people you hire are grumpy, rude, or unwelcoming to guests then your gym will leak people like a sieve.
Your gym’s marketing funnel can be honed and perfected to the extreme, but it’s good people who will keep your members around and even extract more revenue and more referrals out of your current members.
This is one of the best small gym marketing ideas because when you are a smaller gym then losing even a few members can have an outsized impact on your profitability.
Does that mean that sometimes your personal trainers will serve more like therapists than trainers? Yep.
Hire personal trainers who look and act the part. They should be interested in helping others and be exemplary role models for what a life that prioritizes fitness and health looks like.
No, this does not mean that every trainer must look like a Greek demi-god—in fact, it’s important to have a representation of different body types and different genders—but each trainer should clearly be seen as someone that “walks the walk” and doesn’t just “talk the talk” when it comes to fitness.
#11 – Launch a Summer Gym Marketing Campaign
It’s time that you move beyond just January/New Year’s gym marketing campaigns.
We all know that January is one of the best times of the year to get new member signups, but if you don’t engage members and reach out to new members throughout the year then your success in January can end up being a revolving door problem for your gym.
Summer is a key time to ramp up your gym marketing.
One of the best summer marketing ideas for gyms is to focus on all of the natural reasons why people start getting motivated to get in shape as summer rolls around: spring break, looking good at the beach, warmer weather = fewer clothes, cookouts, swimming, vacations, cruises, weddings, class and family reunions, and other special events.
Every piece of marketing collateral you create should be written with this in mind. Imagine your gym members planning for a special event coming up in the summertime; you want to be their go-to resource to help them accomplish their goals.
Another thing to keep in mind when planning out your summer gym marketing campaigns is that summer is a time where students are out of school, and often in the area just for a limited time period.
You can offer discounted or even free rates for students, as a gesture of goodwill, and also as a way of hopefully earning a client for life. Planet Fitness even went so far as to offer free student gym memberships in the summer.
#12 – Corporate Wellness Challenge
Appeal to business owners and local businesses by helping them motivate their employees to get in shape. All business owners are interested in having healthier, happier, and more productive employees, not to mention the cost-saving on health insurance premiums for a healthier workforce.
This will require buy-in from local business owners and wellness managers, but chances are, you already have people working out in your gym who have influence in their company were you to involve them.
#13 – Offer a Free Training Day
This is one of the best social media marketing ideas for gyms because the offer is so simple: come into the gym on X date and you can work out for free, and train with a trainer for free. Everyone likes free, and everyone understands free.
#14 – Create an Online Workout Group
People are busier and busier. Not everyone that wants to train with a personal trainer has a schedule that will allow them to do so, but launching an online workout is a great way to upsell regular gym members who want more personalized instruction but are unable to work out in person with a trainer consistently.
We have trainers and gym owners on the Exercise.com platform using online workout groups for many different purposes, but this is a great one to consider for your fitness center.
You can create different groups with different goals. Here, trainer and gym owner Paul Fabritz uses his custom-branded iPhone and Android fitness apps and a custom branded web portal with online workout groups that offer vertical jump training.
#15 – Fitness Challenge
There are many different types of fitness challenges you can create to better engage your gym members while also serving as a magnet to attract new members. Choose a channel that you are comfortable with and that you (preferably) already have an audience.
This could be email, social media, your website, in-person, etc. Choose a time frame (8-12 weeks works well) and then choose a goal that is general enough to attract enough people while being specific enough to touch on a real pain point for people (losing weight, summer beach body, etc).
Use an automated software solution like Exercise.com to administer the challenge participants and onboard people to your apps and website or else be prepared to deal with the enormous new headache of manually helping people through the flow one by one.
We’ve done launches with thousands and thousands of concurrent users, and so a software solution is a must here.
See for yourself - Meet with the Exercise.com Team today
Grow and manage your fitness business with Exercise.com
#16 – Use Instagram Hashtags
Instagram fitness marketing is worthy of its own in-depth guide. Hashtags can even be used for engagement within stories. One easy strategy any gym can use is to make good use of the most popular Instagram fitness hashtags:
Popular Fitness Hashtags
#GetFit #Cardio #Cycling #FitFam #FitLife #Fitness #FitnessMotivation #FitnessAddict #GetStrong #LiftHeavy #GirlsWhoLift #GymLife #GymTime #NoPainNoGain #PersonalTrainer #Sweat #Weights #WeightLifting #Workout #TransformationTuesday #FitQuote #FitnessMotivation #MotivationMonday #Fitspo #GetFit #Goals #YouCanDoIt #FitnessGoals #TrainHard #GoHardOrGoHome #NoExcuses
And here are some of the most popular nutrition hashtags:
#Health #EatClean #EatLocal #FitFood #GlutenFree #HealthyEating #HealthyRecipes #Nutrition #Paleo #Vegan #GetHealthy #HealthyLife #HealthTalk #HealthyFoodPorn #IQuitSugar #Detox #Nutrition #CleanEating #AvocadoLove #CalorieCounting #MealPrep #MindBodyGram
#RunnersOfInstagram #FurtherFasterStronger #RunningMotivation #Marathon #MarathonTraining #SeenOnMyRun #TrailRunning #InstaRunners #CrossCountry #Instarunners #LoveRunning #RunnerLife #RunningCommunity #RunningShoes #RunItFast
#crossfit, #crossfitgirls, #crossfitlove, #crossfitlife, #crossfitfood, #crossfitcoach, #crossfitmoms, #crossfitters, #crossfitgirl, #crossfitlovers, #crossfitcouple, #crossfitstyle, #crossfitter, #crossfitmen, #crossfitfamily, #crossfitforlife, #crossfitlifestyle, #crossfitstrong, #crossfitathlete, #crossfitwod, #crossfittraining, #crossfitbox, #crossfitopen, #crossfitphotography, #crossfitmotivation, #instacrossfit, #crossfittersdaily, #crossfitmasters, #crossfitcommunity, #crossfitgames, #wod, #crossfitaddiction, #crossfitquotes
Of course, unless you use the Exercise.com software platform to grow your fitness business online and offer online training and online workout groups then many of these general fitness hashtags will be a waste for you if you only offer training to the very narrow slice of the Internet that can meet with you in person.
#17 – Upgrade Your Website
One of the best gym marketing campaigns you can ever launch is to give your gym website a makeover. This is something that will pay off for years to come. People are searching for your gym online and visiting your website every day. Approximately 70% of people will search online for a gym close to them before deciding to go visit in person.
#18 – Optimize Your Local SEO
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is key for gyms when competing for many local keywords (i.e. Austin Gym, CrossFit in San Francisco, Miami kickboxing, etc.) Adding and managing your gym in Google Business is a great place to start so that you can optimize how you show up in the local search results.
Learn more about local SEO in our guide, “Gym SEO: Local SEO Guide for Gyms“
#19 – Retarget Your Website Visitors
When people visit your gym website and then leave without taking action, what happens to them? Do you lose track of them? What if there was a way to continue to market to those people throughout their journeys across the web?
Well, using the Facebook Pixel and other easy-to-implement code snippets on your website, you can do just that with a remarketing campaign. Retargeting marketing campaigns have some impressive statistics and should be at the top of your list for online fitness marketing strategies.
#20 – Post Actively on Your Gym Facebook Page
You do already have a Facebook page for your gym, don’t you? How often do you post? What kind of engagement do your posts get? Post consistently and pay close attention to the types of content that resonate with your target audience.
When someone comments on your posts, do you interact with them? Pay a college intern to run your gym social media accounts, and work with them to create an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) that you can use as a guide.
#21 – Market to Ex-Members Who Have Moved Away
Every gym has ex-members who have left the gym due to logistics, schedule, or some other factor outside of their control. Many of these ex-members still love your gym, receiving training from your personal trainers, and all that you’ve worked so hard to build.
But if you can only ever help the people who are able to walk into your building during a set schedule then you are likely leaving a lot of money on the table. Use a professional software solution to grow and manage your fitness business by selling personal training workout plans online to anyone, anywhere in the world.
Maybe the answer to the question of how to get more members to your gym is more Zen-like than you realized. What if you were to ask a different question: how can I still engage members that can’t make it into my gym anymore because of time or location?
Related: Tony Gentilcore talks with Exercise.com about how to grow a fitness business online by sending PDF workout plans.
#22 – Back to School Gym Campaign
When thinking about ideal times to market to potential new members it’s often helpful to think in terms of major life transitions and new life stages.
Some gyms target direct mail campaigns to new homeowners and other people new their area, so if you have a college or university close to your gym then a naturally related campaign would be to target these students with a back-to-school gym membership campaign.
Just note that you will often be competing against the (often free) campus rec center so hone your pitch accordingly. That being said, students are ideal marketing candidates for being interested in fitness and if you have amenities and marketing copy that appeal to this demographic then this can be a great way to get an influx of memberships every school year.
Of course, the downside to the student market is that this population tends to be a very transient one so your retention/churn metrics will suffer. Many times this is an acceptable tradeoff, but just be clear on what your expectations are for the student marketing before embarking on a back-to-school gym marketing campaign.
See for yourself - Meet with the Exercise.com Team today
Grow and manage your fitness business with Exercise.com
#23 – Christmas Gym Promotion
“Give the gift of fitness this Christmas!” Ever heard that before? Most likely you have because Christmas time is a natural holiday for running a promotion. Don’t forget to target your marketing both at members who may want to sign up friends or family as well as other external potential members.
#24 – Advertise Your Fitness Classes
Do you only think of advertising in terms of advertising your gym brand and standard gym memberships? If you have a robust class schedule then don’t forget that many people join a gym just for a particular class so if you don’t highlight that class then how will other potential class attendees ever find out about it?
Think in terms of types of classes—Cardio, Dance, Martial Arts/Boxing/Kickboxing, Olympic Weightlifting, HIIT, Circuit Training, Pilates, Yoga, Bikram Yoga (Hot Yoga), Zumba, Spinning, etc—as well as individual time slots and specific classes. This is where affiliations and partnerships with other local groups and associations can pay off dividends too.
#25 – New Year’s Personal Training Promotion
New Year, new you. Pretty common marketing angle, huh? It’s common because it works.
Say what you want about the hoards of New Year’s Resolutions members who flood your gym in January and then seem to disappear off the face of the earth in February, this is a key time for people to evaluate their gym options and you want to be front of mind and top of their list. Just make sure you get that recurring billing set up.
#26 – Gym Content Marketing
Can you provide fitness educational resources to your gym members and others in your circle of influence? Whether it’s a gym email newsletter, blog posts, or social media posts, content marketing is a great way to grow your audience. First, demonstrate value, earn their trust, and then recommend helpful ways for your audience to reach their fitness goals.
#27 – November Gym Specials
Snag some new gym members early by launching your gym holiday promo campaign with a November gym marketing blast. Sometimes the key to success is simply timing. Yes, Christmas, New Years’, and other times are classic times for having a gym holiday sale, but give a Thanksgiving-themed gym sale a try and you might just be thankful for the results.
#28 – Gym Flash Sale
Flash sales are great because they incorporate an element of exclusivity and a ticking clock that can compel people to act. Let’s face it, your big, hulking gym isn’t really like a limited edition run of designer clothes or other fashion wear that can legitimately claim to be “sold out”, because today, tomorrow, next week, your gym will still be there.
A fitness studio flash sale is a great way to stir up some excitement and drive new members to your club. Here are some gym flash sale ideas: limit the time frame to 24 hours or 48 hours, offer “buy one, get one free” promotions on sessions, use online billing to promote via social media.
#29 – Gym Brochures & Gym Direct Mail Advertising
In the age of online advertising, a funny thing has happened recently. People are actually paying attention to mail that is sent to them. Gym marketing has truly come full circle.
You might just be surprised at the ROI of printing out some informational gym brochures and launching a gym direct response snail mail marketing campaign.
If you need any additional confidence in direct mail as a channel, then you should know that even Google is a large direct mail customer, marketing their Google AdWords product to local businesses all across the world.
#30 – Funny Gym Ads, Posts, and Commercials
Humor sells. To clarify, humor done right sells. Be careful about coarse, tasteless humor that sacrifices your brand for cheap laughs, but if you can pull it off then humor has the potential to go mega-viral.
The fitness industry is uniquely suited to make this approach work, with the rise of gym prank videos, gym fail videos, and other funny fitness videos.
If you own a gym and are looking for ways to save time, increase revenue, and manage your business better, schedule a demo below.