Six Tips for Marketing your Gym or Fitness Club in the Post-Covid 2023 economy…Online and Offline!
Some call it networking, some call it community engagement. Irrespective of what you decide to call it, it is very effective and it is largely free!
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns, we have seen a greater shift towards the local economy and community-driven initiatives. This has only been compounded by the suffering caused by the cost of living crisis. While the tightening of budgets and belts has people looking for value, it also has people looking beyond faceless corporations.
This renewed focus on the local area seems to have only strengthened as we move through 2023 and it made an already unique selling point for independent gyms and fitness clubs even more appealing.
So today we will be focusing on tips that will help maximise this in-built advantage that we’ve seen independent gyms and fitness clubs already capitalise on!
Our Top 6 Marketing Tips are:
Tip #1: Build a Brand Identity that will appeal to your local area, culture and surroundings
The Importance of a Strong Identity for Your Gym Business
Too often when building a brand identity for a gym or fitness club we find that many owners didn’t prioritise consideration of their local area nearly enough.
While connecting with your local community is always somewhere on the list of concerns, it should nearly always be much higher!
It is an understandable trap to fall into. Certain other parts of brand identity are more exciting, more dynamic or more interesting to the people involved.
But ultimately the area that every independent gym and fitness club will find themselves operating in will be their surrounding area. If the brand identity is consistently aimed at attracting locals and mobilising the community, the gym is leaving money on the table. Money that rivals will happily collect!
Tip #2: Thrust your brand into the local area
Goodwill and support for local business is at an all time higher and running an advertising campaign or social media campaign that reflects that could pay dividends.
Focusing on the story behind an independent gym or fitness club. The people who made it possible and their connection to the area, the building, the community events it has hosted.
These are all things that the budget chains will never be able to replicate. What is the story behind its existence? Rigorous data analysis informed a panel that this was the best location for a gym.
Hardly makes for a compelling social media story, does it?
As we are seeing across many sectors, there is a portion of the population which receives this sort of marketing and messaging very positively.
At the same time, pushing the name of your gym or fitness club into the community’s consciousness through hosting events and making deals with local businesses is a great way to generate awareness. After participating and hosting events like these, we have seen time and time again that locals say things such as ‘I didn’t realise it was so nice in here’ or ‘I can’t believe this has been here the whole time!’.
A lot of local engagement is about breaking members of the local community out of an apathetic routine and into your gym or fitness club. Once that barrier for entry, the reluctance to enter the unknown, has disappeared then the sky’s the limits.
By holding event days for the local community such as charity fundraising and sporting activities a gym can not only get free advertising, but start a chain of positive word of mouth. News spreads fast in a community!
In addition, business partnerships with local sports clubs, spas, cafes or even the local council can go a long way. Anything that gets the name of your gym out there and gives you something to post and tweet about!
Attending unrelated community events, genuinely befriending members of the community and making your gym or fitness club a part of the community’s social fabric are all great ways to spread the message of your facility. This will help present a friendly, accessible and non-corporate image to the area.
Tip #3: Foster a community, online and offline!
Work on creating a Community both Online and Offline: Activities, Events and a shared forum as a key pillar of an independent gym or fitness club owners marketing strategy.
It is an arena where we see comparatively little competition from the corporate chains!
It is an authenticity issue! Whenever a large chain attempts to engage in that sort of thing, it has to fight against looking inauthentic.
However independent gyms and fitness clubs do not have this issue within their advertising and marketing strategy, especially when it comes to forming communities.
Gym members are more likely to identify themselves with an independent fitness facility. In turn, they are more likely to want to engage in the community that forms around that facility. People crave authenticity in all things.
And in an era where corporate brands attempt to dominate even our social spaces, belonging to something like an independent gym or fitness club can create a powerful feeling within people. It is up to gyms and fitness clubs to harness that feeling and channel the positive energy into their online and offline communities
By cultivating a dedicated community, it will increase the loyalty of existing members and potentially create new members. By engaging with and dedicating resources to this burgeoning new community, a gym or fitness club can create a real sense of investment.
It could be as simple as sporting events or monthly socials. Little things can have a powerful bonding effect.
In turn, this strong sense of community is fantastic marketing potential. The events, in and of themselves, are free advertising. When coupled with the potential tool for retention and further marketing opportunities, it is a hard proposition to pass up!
Tip #4: Create Reward Programmes
Building on the idea of community from the last tip, we now want to focus even further.
Down to the individual relationships that gym members have with other members and other potential members.
A reward/referral scheme is a great way to get people through the door. Much like the community system, it has a double benefit. Positive reinforcement for the referrer and the referred.
It is likely to increase the loyalty of the existing member and the chance to retain the business of the referred member for longer. It has been proven that both collaboration and incentives can help motivate members toward their fitness goals and reduce attrition rates on membership.
Tip #5: Legitimacy, Authority, Reviews
This next tip falls into something we like to call ‘passive-marketing’, similar to a gym’s brand identity, it is the sort of marketing that works when a potential member comes across the gym or fitness club.
There are certain signifiers that each of us look for when deciding whether we are going to invest in a product. Gym and fitness club memberships are no different!
While some are highly specific to the individual, many of these signifiers apply to everyone.
One of the most common, unsurprisingly, is online ratings and reviews. The number of consumers that base their consumption habits mostly or entirely on reviews frequently tops 90% in studies.
As such, when we think of prospective gym or fitness club members discovering a gym online, we must view it through the lens of their first impression from reviews.
The more negative reviews, or the lower review average that potential members see for a gym or fitness club, the less likely they are to sign up!
The slickest marketing campaign in the world could fall flat if a gym or fitness club doesn’t pass the basic checks that a savvy consumer might make.
So mobilise your members! Ask them to leave good reviews. Run promotions that incentivise good (but always honest!) reviews for in-gym incentives.
Tip #6: SEO and Metrics: Understanding what success looks like
Success is a fickle force, especially in the rapidly evolving business landscape within the fitness industry.
As such, it is important that we use the advanced data feedback and sophisticated metrics available to us as an industry to understand what success looks like.
But remember, this will not be a one-time endeavour!
A successful gym or fitness club must be constantly re-evaluating what is working and what isn’t when it comes to online marketing.
Thankfully, with the right digital suite of tools and expertise, it is easier than ever to understand and harness the data that is being generated.
One of these areas of expertise is SEO, otherwise known as search engine optimisation. This can be a powerful tool for independent gyms and fitness club owners
Understanding what keywords work is key for maximising engagement potential for any independent gym or fitness club. And with the proliferation of these services, it is no longer something reserved for only large chains.
With the rise of what has been dubbed ‘Local SEO’, the practical limitations that used to exist have melted away when it comes to accessing your local area online. While we don’t have the time to fully explore it here, Local SEO is becoming a key part in the strategy of many locally oriented independent gyms and fitness clubs.
Interested in expert opinions and cutting-edge industry advice for independent Gyms and Fitness Clubs?
Well look no further!
The latest Gym Owner’s Workshop conference will be covering marketing, generating traffic and much more for independent gym owners across Ireland and the United Kingdom!
Taking place at The Talbot Hotel Stillorgan, Dublin The Gym Owners Workshop is a focal point for fitness industry knowledge, specialising in techniques and knowledge for independent gym and fitness club owners.
Building on the momentum of the Gym Owners Workshop 2022, the 2023 event is promising to be even better, with more talks and more sponsors!
Our partners for the event over at the Fitness Marketing Agency will be giving an event leading talk entitled “What’s Working Now – The Best Way To Generate Traffic, Quality Leads & New Customers (workshop with Fitness Marketing Agency)”.
If our article has convinced you that a re-examination of marketing within the fitness industry is necessary post-Covid-19 then it is a must-attend talk!