With so many gyms, fitness clubs, personal trainers, and online health resources readily available today, it can be hard to define your business and know how to best set yourself apart from your competition.

At Ashbourne, we think it’s important to test out new strategies with the end goal always being in service of trying to attract more members. Before sharing these ideas, we always ensure to trial these ideas in one of our in-house run gyms so we can confidently share the most innovative approaches that have solid evidence of working to grow your gym.

Explore our most recent 20 new tried and tested ideas below and see which ones pique your interest and start implementing them today!

If you want our advice in getting started, or have some ideas of your own that you’d like to share. Please come and join our free gym owners forum and begin networking with like-minded fitness professionals.


Hold a membership referral drive

Referrals are widely believed to be the most cost-effective method of attracting new members, which is why you can afford to incentivise your existing members for attracting new customers.

Why not supercharge this process with a membership referral drive

Offer a prize each month to the member who refers the most new members who sign up for 12 months. From experience, investing in an attractive prize doubles or triples the impact. A flat-screen TV, a good quality bike or even £100 in cash can generate around 30-40 new members every month, with the winner usually referring to around 3-4 friends.


How To Implement An Effective Referral Campaign

  • Purchase a good-looking prize and display it in your reception with balloons and banners to catch people’s attention.
  • Put up signs around the club explaining the rules and that the member who refers the most new members this month will win this incredible prize.
  • Display a list of the members who have referred people to your club, complete with a running total. You will find that if two of your members have referred the same number they will both try to get more new members in order to win the prize.
  • Present the winning member with their prize on the last day of the month – take a photo and put this on display. Include a list of the other members who referred friends and thank everyone for their efforts. Keep this picture displayed for the whole year and then add each new month’s winning picture.
  • Start the whole process again on the 1st of the following month with a different prize of similar value. How to ensure your referral campaign is effective:
  • Start your campaign on the 1st of every month. If you go about this in an ad hoc manner, it won’t seem professional and your members may be hesitant to recommend your service. 
  • Always present the prize on the final day of the month and display the winner around the club. At the bottom write that next month it could be you walking away with the prize.
  • Keep a running total of who is in the lead – this keeps everybody motivated.
  • Make sure you have a few people signed up before the campaign begins or pad the list out with a few names from the staff. No one likes to be the first one on a list. 
  • Make sure the prizes don’t feel cheap. Personal Training Session might not cut it. 
  • Maintain the display. Nothing looks more tragic than deflated balloons and a chipped sign. Keep it fresh, keep it relevant. 
  • Make the winner the person who refers the most rather than having a prize draw – this rewards hard work.
  • To keep the campaign strong in November and December offer an even greater prize such as a trip to Paris.

Closing consideration: Securing membership referrals has been proven to be one of the most cost-effective forms of growth a Gym or Fitness Club can embark on.

A campaign such as this will cost significantly less than the corresponding Radio or Television campaign and should result in a large membership boost if executed correctly. 


Label and Number Your Equipment

Not everyone knows what the Rear Delt Fly Machine is (which is a shame because it is definitely the best machine mankind has ever invented). 

But they are much more likely to know what Machine 3 is, as indicated by the large number 3 sticker you are going to put on it.

Back when I was a novice Gym-Goer, a system like this saved me so much time and effort.

Include a small sign or label with the officially recognised name of the machine and soon even your newest members will be sounding like veterans.


Display quality motivational banners

Avoid cliche motivational banners and posters.

Do your research and look into messages that will really speak to your members.

Make sure to include signs of moderation as well. Encourage your members to push themselves, not hurt themselves.


Cultivate a collection of fitness resources

Your Gym or Fitness Club should be an institution of knowledge and experience.

With the internet, this is easier than ever. Collect articles, journals, and blogs of interest and put them in a dedicated area on your website. This will allow you to showcase your dedication to fitness as more than just a profitable venture.


Enable your members to give effective and actionable feedback

Most club owners feel that they have the greatest club in town but it’s your members who really have the final say in that respect. If you don’t listen to your members you won’t know if there are areas in need of improvement. Create a lockable feedback box that only the gym owner has access to and allow your members to post their comments anonymously.

This box should be positioned in an area away from reception so that members can post comments without the glare from staff (who they might be commenting about). If the member has left their contact details, follow up immediately by thanking them for their feedback and stating that you will give the matter your immediate attention. And then ensure that you do!

Provide your members with free Wi-Fi within the club. Keep the publicly offered Wi-Fi and your club’s own Wi-Fi separate to protect your PCs and data. Provide the Wi-Fi code when members purchase drinks etc. from you and change the code regularly. You can even give the code when members check into your club on Facebook!!


Provide free Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi isn’t as expensive as it used to be, and members will really appreciate it.

As we mentioned in point 45, it also allows you to offer more data-intensive feedback systems without the presumption and burden of draining your customer’s data allowance.


Display the History of Your Club

Like any business, your fitness club or gym has had a journey. No matter how big or small, it is a personal story that will endear your members and prospective members to it.

History can help make a fitness club or a gym feel less like a building and more like a living institution that they can contribute to.

As we mentioned earlier, the inclusion of success stories from your club’s past can help feed into this legacy. Make your members feel proud to be a part of your success!


Be generous with exercise programmes. Don’t unnecessarily gate resources off.

Many club owners have the desire to gate off as much content as possible, to incentivise your members to pay that little extra. This is not always prudent.

Attending a gym can be a very personal experience, and exercise programmes being made readily available can have a vast impact on the individual member. 

Offering these programmes can effectively make the difference between a prospective member choosing your club or a competitor.

Take this as an example of a thought process that might secure you a membership: 

“So Mary, as you can see, we provide you with a complete personal training programme for you to follow, so you know exactly what you’re supposed to be doing to get results every time you come to the club. Then in 6 weeks’ time, we will have a re-assessment of your programme to ensure your time with us is even more beneficial”.

The last thing you want is for a member to be left to wander aimlessly around the club guessing at the best exercises they are supposed to be doing.

Especially not when you have perfectly good exercise programmes ready to go! 


Make sure your staff and personal trainers have their names displayed

It is daunting to walk into a new gym and not know anyone, and while your staff will hopefully be friendly enough to introduce themselves. Monogrammed or name-tagged clothing can really help break down the barriers for new members and members on trials.

I first learned the name of my adored and feared Trainer of choice Marcel by his name tag. A handy and timeless ice-breaker.


Let the t-shirt do the talking for your fitness club or gym

A free t-shirt, especially a good quality one that you’ll actually want to wear out or to the gym, can make all the difference.

Give it to members when they cross a certain membership threshold, say 3 months. Or as a sign-up incentive during certain campaigns and pushes. 


Discount on your first visit

Create a culture among your staff and PTs of offering a discount on the first visit of someone. This can be particularly effective during referral drives or on ‘Bring a Friend Friday’.

This once again helps trigger that primal desire known as ‘Fear of Missing Out’.


Offer to refund a joining fee on the spot. Short term gain for a long term commitment

If you have a guest in your club who has decided to pay for one session or if they are there on Bring a Friend Friday, then now is the time to put them on the spot and offer an incentive.

Whatever incentive you decide, ensure that the guest knows that this option is available to them and that they will need to make a decision at the end of their session. Only offering a limited number of membership options might be a reason some prospects leave your club without joining. Create several tiers of membership so you and your staff are more likely to find a membership package that will make them buy on the spot.

Not everyone is confident to sign up for a year on the spot. 

Here are some membership options to consider:

  • A short-term deal such as 1 month cash paid in full (highest price)
  • A one month rolling direct debit membership (slightly lower price)
  • 12 month direct debit contract memberships (lowest price).

By creating tiered options in this manner, you are more likely to find the sweet spot that the prospective member is happy to sign on at. 

A cash-only option should be available but only as a last resort. Direct Debit is always preferable.


Offer membership alternatives

As previously inferred. One-day passes, week-long passes and other modular alternatives can be a great way to get prospective members in the door.

This can allow friends of your existing members to work out with them for a week and get a taste for it.

Alternatively, a prospective member who isn’t aware of the myriad free trial schemes we’ve suggested will be able to buy in for a set amount and if your service/business pulls them in, they will hopefully be inclined to stay. 


Online sign-ups are a must

If we could put this point twice and still be satisfied that we’ve maintained our principles, we would.

Make sure your website has online sign-ups. The year is 2020, there is no excuse. Ideally, you should be signing up members inside your gym on your online system for ease of use.


Make time work for you by introducing off-peak and peak membership times

As we indicated earlier, Off-Peak and Peak membership is a good way to offer your prospective members a gateway package that they might eventually wish to upgrade.

The other big, tangible benefit to this is maximising the number of members you can have. Using some fairly basic data-mapping and projections you can work out how many members you can accommodate during a normal peak and off-peak.

If your peak membership capacity is full, it is the perfect excuse to push off-peak.


Boost your profits by introducing additional products

Maximise the amount of cash flowing through you by selling supplements, clothing and accessories in your club. Make sure any clothing with your brand on it is actually comfortable to wear and well priced.

Now is not the time to be making a large profit by selling an overpriced, generic t-shirt. The clothing will be a reflection of your brand and will impact how often the buyer wears it. 

You want to create one of their go-to items of clothing, not something they buy, regret, and throw to the back of a cupboard. 

Keep track of your stock levels using a digital EPoS (Electronic Point of Sale) system. This can also be used to track which member of staff sells the most clothing with a little bit of setup. This can be a vital reward metric for incentivising your staff.


The first 45 days are crucial for member retention

As we touched upon in our section on Fitness Programmes, the first few weeks are vital for determining if a member will stick with your Gym or Fitness Club.

Just as we detailed in that section how it is important not to withhold resources from new members. It is also important to encourage them and focus on their process in the first 45 days.

This is a key time period as it’ll determine whether they fall off their latest health kick or grow disillusioned with your gym. 

Get your Personal Trainer or staff to check that the new members are happy with their programme. Incentivise them to contact them via their preferred contact method to find out how things are going and when they will next be in the club.

Highlight to them how much they have improved or how much time they have spent in your gym or fitness club. Motive and encourage them.

Again, this approach will depend on the size of your gym or fitness club. This approach can be resource-intensive but intensely rewarding.


Member testimonials on online and onscreen

Use a high-quality smartphone or a video camera to record short snippets of your members explaining how they have improved by attending your club. Low-quality footage will reflect poorly on your Gym or Fitness Club so make sure it is up to a certain standard of audio and visual. 

Get the member to explain how they felt before they joined, what they feel now that they have achieved their goals, and what a prospect will find if they join.

Record their testimonial and post it onto social media. Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are all great places to share and spread this message. This is the sort of message that will really resonate with a certain type of prospective member.

Alternatively, email a link to your prospective members and add it to your Gym or Fitness Club’s website. Video testimonials are extremely simple and powerful methods of engaging new members. 


Hone the brand identity of your club

As with any institution or business that wants to succeed and make a name for itself, branding should be one of your main priorities.

Branding for your Gym or Fitness Club doesn’t end at a logo above the entrance door.

Your logo should be on every letterhead and email signature, as well as featuring prominently on your social media feeds. It should be displayed as your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter profile picture, unifying the brand identity of your social media presence

Your branding should become synonymous with your club so that whenever people see your two colours together they think of your club. For example, the colours red and yellow together make you think of McDonalds, so think of your own branding in this way.


Show off your gym or fitness clubs qualifications and accreditations

Joining relevant trade associations and professional accreditation bodies gives your club credibility and reassures prospective members that you have achieved a certain standard.

Encourage or even sponsor your PTs to achieve the highest levels of professional qualification that they can and then promote their achievements on social media as well. 

If someone leaves you to go to another gym, give them some really good reasons to come back to you. If you’re running a good gym or fitness club, chances are they will be regretting their decision. Figure out what the deterrents might be keeping them from coming back and address them.

It might cost money, it might not. Figure out what makes good business sense for you and do it.


And if you thought 20 ideas to get you started on attracting more members to your club was enough, then you’ll be delighted to hear that it really is just the start. Our team have collated an astounding 100 tried and tested strategies for you to experiment with. You can find all 100 ways to attract more members in bitesize chunks in our blog posts, or in our completely free downloadable PDF.


So what are you waiting for? Get started today!

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