6 Free & Low-Budget Marketing Ideas For Your Gym

 

6 Free & Low-Budget Marketing Ideas For Your Gym

In today’s blog, we will be tackling what independent gym and fitness clubs can do to take their marketing to the next level on a budget. And that budget? As close to 0 as possible! That’s right, we’ve shaped this entire article around what can be done for free or as close as we could find.

But why? Well, the reason is simple and intuitive. Because after talking to countless owners, marketing personnel, and other staff who work in independent gyms and fitness clubs across the country, we’ve realised what appeals. 


We realised that the people marketing independent gyms and fitness clubs are often doing so on a shoestring budget. Often it isn’t even their dedicated job! As such, we thought it best to shift away from more traditional concepts such as ‘budget’. These are things that might just turn away the sort of person we want this article to reach.


Gym and fitness club owners and staff members who want to improve their marketing, social media, and general outreach for as little money as possible. 

More and more, the people responsible for these important tasks are stretched thin. Understandably BAU (business-as-usual) operations are given priority, but given the low cost and high impact of these methods, gyms are ignoring them at their own peril! 

Everything on this list has our own seal of approval and just as importantly, everything on this list is something we’ve seen independent gyms NOT doing when it could make such a difference. 

With an ever-shifting and challenging economy, combined with an ever-increasing focus on online marketing and presentation, we thought now was the idle time to put pen to paper and list our six free or low-budget marketing ideas that can make a powerful impact on the presentation, presence and outreach of independent gyms and fitness clubs! 

We will be starting with basic, free and instantly actionable measures. Just because these are free, doesn’t mean that they aren’t worth doing! Quite the opposite. Several things we are about to recommend are cornerstone marketing methods for many gyms! 


From there we will be ramping it up, taking methods that require a minimal amount of expenditure, while still maximising effect! This will help create a smooth curve from what is immediately actionable and free to what will take a little more effort and a small amount of money.

And so with that out of the way, keep reading to find out what knowledge we have gained between our twenty five years of experience in the fitness industry and our desire to stay on the cutting edge of value creation for independent gyms and fitness clubs!

 Jump ahead to our 6 marketing ideas!

Build an E-Mail List and Increase Email Engagement

Build a Website

Create a Google Business Page

Fill up Your Gyms Social Media

Run Competitions, Events & Giveaways

Work with Local Partners & Community Groups

Build an E-mail List and Increase E-mail Engagement!

So starting at the beginning of that ‘easy and actionable curve’, we have a simple but incredibly powerful opening strategy for independent gyms and fitness facilities to recommend.

That strategy? The humble e-mail list. A bedrock of marketing strategies and engagement initiatives across the world, we have been alarmed by the number of gyms and fitness clubs that have neglected to incorporate e-mail into their business-as-usual engagement operations!

 

The premise (for those not acquainted) is simple. Gather together the e-mail addresses of members and potential members and…Well, get e-mailing! 

 

It really is that simple. For some businesses, gathering e-mail addresses and gauging interest can be hard. Thankfully for the fitness industry, many people harbour a genuine interest and do not mind receiving e-mails about their lifestyle choices and hobbies. This means independent gyms and fitness club management are in a unique position to capitalise on this medium…Making it all the more bizarre some don’t! 

 

The materials required to start this are simple, just a singular website. Not even e-mails initially, they will come later!

There are many websites that provide the service of managing an e-mailing list for a gym or fitness facility. The differences and nuances between them are too varied for the scope of this article, but we will briefly touch upon some of them and list a few names for the interested to explore!

 

Perhaps the website that has made its mark on industries ranging from insurance to influencers and beyond is Mailchimp and it is easy to understand why.


Simple, easy to use and all importantly, free for the needs of the average small business as it tests the water (with options for greater capacity and other features). This has ensured that Mailchimp has become a by-word for the type of e-mail list distribution service we are talking about.

 

We would recommend that all independent gyms and fitness clubs that have not yet set up an e-mail list at least consider and explore the service Mailchimp has to offer. 

https://mailchimp.com/

 

But mailchimp aren’t the only game in town for gyms seeking to increase engagement via an e-mail list.

Services such as the similarly animal themed Moosend, the ominous Omnisend and the high-flying Mailjet have all encroached on a portion of the market share. 


While there are slight variations in service and the post-free premium price points, we would suggest that the choice can be made after browsing a few different options, starting with the most famous and well-reviewed such as Mailchimp. 

 

Now as for e-mails, this part is comparatively simple and just as free. As we stated earlier, the good news is that lots of a gym’s members, and even many of their prospective members are keen to hear from them!

It isn’t like car insurance or town-hall, people are often actively excited to hear from their gym or fitness club. It can help enhance the sense of community and connection, as well as keeping them informed and motivated. 

 

As such, our simple solution for gathering e-mails for the burgeoning e-mail list is…ASK!

Whether it is through sign-up or on the gym floor, we often hear stories of surprise at just how many members were willing to sign-up and what a difference it made to engagement within an independent gym or fitness club! 

 

When it comes to getting potential members on the list, we find social media competitions and an on-website sign-up function are often the best. This allows prospective and potential members to come to the gym! 

 

Build a Website – Wix (free version) https://www.wix.com

Our next action is just as free and just as important. Arguably even more important. Whereas an e-mail list will make a difference in terms of engagement (and that is very important to a gym!) then this makes a difference to not only engagement but appearance!

And that all-important first impression that we’ve seen determines whether a potential member turns up or turns away!

 

What is that you ask? Well it was in the section title, it is a website! 


Now we know (in fact, we hope!) that some independent gym management and owners will just be met with a firm ‘Well, of course, I have a website’. And that is fantastic, but it is not a given… 

 

But from our lengthy experience in the fitness industry, we know that there are still a significant portion of independent gyms and fitness clubs up and down the UK and Ireland (and beyond!) that don’t have websites.

 

The impact on the online footprint of a gym or fitness club that doesn’t have a website is noticeable and immediate. Recent studies across multiple industries have shown that the majority of people under 35 and a good portion of people over 35 use Google as a significant part of their filtering process when it comes to choosing the goods and services they consume.

 

This is no different in the fitness industry. Upon first hearing of a gym from a friend or seeing it advertised, one of the first things most potential members will do is check out the gym’s website. 

 

If the website is nowhere to be found, what does that say about the gym or fitness club? Very little good unfortunately. Reactions can range from assuming that the gym has closed down to just thinking that they are newly established or amateurish.

All that to say: Nothing good!

Reactions fare only a little better if the first hit is a Facebook or Instagram page. While it might reassure them that the gym or club hasn’t shut down entirely, it is still considered largely ‘unprofessional’ and ‘negative’ in the eyes of most potential consumers.

 

As such, you can see why this recommendation made it very near the top of our list! 


First impressions are absolutely vital and for the vast majority of customers, their first impression is going to be digital, not physical!  A Google business profile link that leads through to a Facebook page is not a good first impression. It is difficult to parse information, it shows low commitment to production values and professional aesthetic and it doesn’t instill faith in the potential member. 

 

This is why we recommend any website builder if it helps a gym or fitness club get their online presence off of solely social media and onto a sleek and dedicated space.

 

While websites certainly benefit from a little bit of monetary investment, that can come later. If a gym or fitness club is entirely lacking a website in 2023, it is time to get something simple and effective up quickly!

 

To that end, our first recommendation for a free website creator for independent gyms and fitness clubs is www.wix.com

While it won’t be able to match the standards of professional website builders, it is a fantastic tool for getting a simple and effective website up and running in good time and at a low cost. 

 

The information to focus on will include:

 

  • The services, equipment and machinery that the gym or fitness club provides
  • Value of the gym/club and history
  • How to navigate to the gym or fitness club, including maps.
  • A list of events and classes being held (updated regularly)

 

It needn’t win awards, but as long as it looks coherent, aesthetic, and communicates the necessary information it will provide an infinitely better first impression than the lack of a website. 

 

Once a simple but professional free website has been created, an independent gym can either ask members for feedback or plan what the more complete, consummate version of the website will eventually look like.

 

One thing is for sure, having a website and combining that with our next strategy will result in an uptick of potential members becoming actual members if they value the online presence and presentation of their gym or fitness club! 

 

Create a Google Business Page – Google Shows Your Business For Regional Searches Automatically

This is another simple and effective strategy that we highlight primarily because we find so many independent gyms and fitness clubs neglecting it!


It is safe to say as of 2023, we are firmly in the digital age, and searchability is everything! Searchability not only means that a gym or fitness club should show up if it is googled, but that the way it shows up will reinforce to the searcher that this is a brand and a service that can be trusted. 


It sounds like a weighty task to the uninitiated, but really it is quite simple! Most people have an idea in their mind about what looks ‘right’ and professional’ when they are searching for a business.

 

One large aspect of this is the Google Business Profile. It is an innocuous little piece of information on the side of many Google searches, especially those pertaining to businesses. I’ve put a picture of our most trusted and up-together partner gyms below and their fully fleshed-out Google Business Profile. 

At a single glance, this will tell any savvy searcher (and therefore, potential member!) either what they need to know, or how they can search for it further in a simple and efficient way.

 

It demonstrates that the gym is currently open, when it closes, the reviews it has been given, the general location it is in, the address, and the telephone number.


Within a single click, these same potential members will be able to access a detailed Google Maps layout with the gym location highlighted, pictures of the outside and inside, and a breakdown of the reviews and directions.

 

All that information is either immediately available to a potential customer or a click away! And all of this can be available to a gym or fitness club for free!

So you can see why we find it baffling that so many gyms still do not have this system in place! It is so simple and easy. It instantly communicates all the necessary information, while impressing upon old and new members alike that you are open for business!

 

So the next question becomes, how do independent gyms and fitness clubs create a business profile?

Well, sometimes we are happy to leave it to the experts and thankfully Google has put everything in place necessary for an independent business to set up their own Google Business Profile with minimal fuss. 

 

The link below will be vital for any independent gym or fitness club that wants to increase its online profile with a Google business profile! 

 

Sign up for Business Profile – Google Business Profile Help

 

And it doesn’t take a visionary to imagine how having a simple but professional website in place, backed up by a Google business profile to guide members and potential members where they need to be can drastically improve the online engagement rate for a gym or fitness club!

 

Fill Up Your Gym’s Social Media Pages with High Quality, Bespoke Content

While we are on the subject of making a good first impression, it is time to address another weakness we see when it comes to the marketing and engagement of some independent gyms and fitness clubs. 

 

The good news? Once again, it can be addressed for free! Here at https://www.canva.com/

 

Over our time, we’ve seen some truly awful graphic design come out of the fitness industry. We get it! As we said at the beginning of this article, marketing personnel and departments (And they are rarely departments!) are stretched thin.

But that doesn’t mean we need to immediately lower our standards to Paint and other unmentionable programmes in order to create banners. 

 

Not when Canva exists! 

 

The plucky Australian company that could, Canva now boasts over 100 million users, and for good reason. It is a simple, powerful, and all-importantly free at point of entry piece of software that can be used by anyone to create high-quality, bespoke marketing materials. 

 

What sets Canva apart from the crowd? Many things. 

 

So many things, in fact, we’ve made a mini-list within a list of reasons why Canva can’t be left on the shelf

 

  1. It is free! And the premium version is fantastic value for money, even for an independent gym or fitness club!

As with many services, Canva has adopted the model of having a free and a premium option. For our needs, this is fantastic as it means that it can be obtained immediately by any member of staff within a gym or fitness club. The free version gives you a large number of options and does not impede your ability to make sleek and bespoke images quickly. 

 

The premium version of the service is something we would recommend if a gym or fitness club comes to rely upon Canva sufficiently enough that they want to improve their options. Starting prices are very reasonable and can easily be utilised by a small gym to great effect if necessary. 

 

     2. The versatility of Canva means it can fulfill a plethora of roles:

The fitness industry is fast-paced and varied. One day a gym might need fliers, another day it might need posters, and during both of those days, it might also need several social media posts.

Luckily Canva is a service that allows gym staff to meet all of these needs and more while doing a good portion of the work itself with the help of thousands of templates to choose from. This allows even a relative newcomer to graphic design to make visually coherent and impactful promotional material quickly.

Combine this with a large library of pre-existing images and a fantastic workspace for editing images and it is clear that the only limit to Canva is the imagination. 

     

      3. You don’t need to be a professional designer:

Due to an easy learning curve and a host of pre-existing and free templates, we are confident that anyone on the staff of a gym or fitness club will be able to pick it up and quickly produce quality material.

As we mentioned earlier, this is perfect for the average independent gym environment where some roles, such as social media and marketing, are not dedicated roles. With only a little training, a member of staff can generate quality content in no time! 

 

       4. Canva makes creating class schedules, promotional material, and customer engagement easy!

Speaking of social media, we thought it deserved its own point on the list.

 

And that is because the effects that Canva can have on a social media page are incredible.

In an age where every major business and corporation is running ultra-sleek, daily social media campaigns. It becomes very noticeable if an independent gym puts something out that isn’t quite as in vogue. 

 

With Canva, that worry can disappear. Anyone within a fitness facility can immediately start creating material with a strong visual style that will catch the eyes and stand out.

With this ability at the fingertips of virtually anyone within the gym or fitness club’s staff, it means that every sale, class or event can have its own bespoke, eye-catching social media post ready to go! Customer engagement will never be higher. 

     

     5. Canva allows multiple employees to collaborate! 

Some design tools, especially traditional, non-web-based ones, only allow one person to edit or create at one time.

With Canva, this issue is a thing of the past.

Once again, we’ve seen this be particularly useful to independent gyms, who often have to start and stop tasks due to the fast-moving nature of this business. The Canva collaboration system means that if one staff member is unable to finish, another can pick it up in their place!

 

Running competitions, events and give-aways- Use incentives that are free or low-cost such as memberships, free day passes or overstocked goods. 

For our last two tips, we are going to move on from ‘free’ to ‘very low cost’. 


While we could’ve ended the article with what can be implemented within a gym or fitness club for free, we thought it was a shame to limit the scope of the article to only that which can be achieved with no budget whatsoever.


This is because we didn’t think it was right to ignore a couple of the great methods of driving membership engagement and marketing that can be achieved for very little.

 

And they fit our theme, what can be achieved by independent gyms and fitness clubs on a super-low budget, so here we go. 

 

Starting with that classic piece of engagement, competitions!

 

Events, competitions, and giveaways are a great method of generating hype, publicity, and engagement within the local community and beyond. With the benefits of social media, these gym competitions and events can far outweigh the reach they generate on the day as well!

(Especially if you have slick Canva images to promote them!) 

 

Gyms and fitness clubs find themselves in a good position when it comes to competitions, there are lots of prizes they can offer, many of which come at a relatively cheap price point. 

 

Memberships are, of course, the go-to prize. It is a valuable commodity to the consumer while costing a gym or fitness club no immediate budget upfront. Not only that but if a free membership is given, there is every chance that the money might be partially or fully recovered by secondary spending. 

 

The same applies to runner-up/secondary prizes such as day passes. They are a perfect sweet spot as they represent both value saved by the consumer/potential member and also a potent and free advertising mechanism for the gym or fitness club. 

 

The publicity generated from these competitions is also an asset that must be considered.

It has become a frequent and effective trend to run a ‘following and retweeting’ (now reposting) competition on Twitter (now X). The entry method for each potential winner is merely retweeting and liking the post. This enables it to be spread far and wide, with the cumulative effect of each participant retweeting it to their own batch of followers while increasing the online following and reach of the gym or fitness club!


As you can imagine, when combined with our earlier steps, especially utilising Canva and providing a good ‘first online impression’, a gym or fitness club can rapidly start to reach a lot of people in a professional, engaging, and largely free way! 

 

Working with local partners and community groups

Our final strategy will require the most time and commitment, and most likely the most resources if it is to be done correctly. But if done correctly, it can significantly increase engagement and membership numbers within an independent gym or fitness club! 

 

And the method you ask? Getting out there into the local community, establishing a presence within the area, and making connections that will give a gym or fitness club the edge in the local community and economy.

 

In this increasingly online, increasingly stratified society it almost feels like the local area sometimes takes a backseat. There has become this trend, even amongst some independent gyms and fitness clubs, to view their business as a detached, aloof brand first. 


But this isn’t the case, and one of the many lessons that the Covid-19 pandemic taught us just how physical and just how local the world truly is. 

 

The local community and economy that an independent gym exists within cannot be overlooked or underestimated. Time and time again we have seen that there are significant gains to be made from reaching out to the broader community, meeting influential individuals in the area and engaging with pre-existing groups and organisations for community and sporting events. 

 

And the fantastic news is the options are as varied as they are effective.

Whether it is approaching the local regional, town, or city council. Whether it is reaching out to charities, sports clubs or local businesses. There are opportunities everywhere when viewed through the appropriate lens.


We have seen independent gyms increase their engagement by reaching out to councillors and council workers involved with the health, sports, and fitness sector. Organisations and organisers responsible for weekly events within the area, and people within the fitness and health sector can be vital. We find that once a gym starts reaching out to these individuals, they can help them get into contact with others within the community.

 

In order to achieve this effectively and meaningfully, this will require going to events, even sponsoring events, and hosting events. It will require networking and it will require a genuine passion for the community that the gym is operating in.

But the rewards in terms of membership uptake and membership engagement are well worth the time, effort, and cost. In an era of corporate, budget gyms attempting to dominate the landscape with cookie-cutter gyms up and down the country, independent gyms and fitness clubs can really play to their strengths and shine by engaging with the community and making their facility more than just a place people can work out. 

 

Conclusion

And really that same mantra applies to all of our tips. In a time of increased competition and challenge, the innovation that can occur on an independent level is vital for not only surviving, but thriving. 


We hope these strategies, methods and ideas have helped show that there is an awful lot that an independent gym or fitness club and their staff can do to improve, even when resources are tight and the budget is tighter!

What can your Gym Do To Reach out to the LGBTQIA+ Community and Reduce Gymtimidation?

 

People and Fitness: What can your Gym Do To Reach out to the LGBTQIA+ Community and Reduce Gymtimidation?

 

In the last few years there have been an increasing number of studies and increased visibility about the fact that young people who identify as belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community are participating in less exercise than their non-LGBTQIA identifying counterparts.

This isn’t due to a lack of desire or a lack of interest in sports or participating in physical activity. Unfortunately, the reason for this imbalance is complex but all too predictable. A lot of members of this community feel unsafe and unsupported in an atmosphere that can be quite intimate and intimidating.

We already know that Gymtimidation is a real and impactful phenomenon. And research has shown this feeling can be compounded when you already associate certain areas with discrimination and harassment. 

The focal point for all this, is, of course, the changing rooms. Many members of the LGBTQIA+ community have said that they do not believe the staff will either be trained well enough or supportive enough. This could lead to situations of intense victimisation or isolation. Given that the changing rooms are a fairly vital area, necessary in order to fully utilise a Gym or Fitness Club, it leads to large levels of avoidance.

While we are obviously focusing on what can be done from a Gym or Fitness Club owning perspective, it is important to remember that this is felt across all echelons of physical activity. Whether it is the desire to attend a swimming pool or a sports club, many members of this community sadly view it as a higher-risk proposition. It is therefore no wonder that these numbers do not match up when comparing physical activity participation.

Both an area where physical activity occurs and the changing rooms are seen as places of vulnerability. When targeted discrimination is an omnipresent threat that an individual is seeking to minimise and where they do not believe they will be supported, they will avoid that place. 

As well as the health implications, this is also unfortunate from a social implication. The LGBTQIA+ community is already more prone to social isolation. Therefore it is reasonable and necessary to look at what we can do to reassure members of the community that they will be supported, that their participation is wanted, and how to communicate that message in an effective and respectful way. 

 

So, What Can The Fitness Industry Do?

Take a look at how Language is used within your Gym or Fitness Club

The concept of serious reflection on our language and how it affects marginalised people within our society is a relatively new one. That means that there are a lot of terms and phrases that we use unthinkingly in everyday life that we should perhaps spend more time thinking about.

There are several areas where immediate and impactful change can be accomplished.

  1. Title: Whether on a paper sign-up form, your gym website or your gym app, putting gender-neutral titles demonstrates a Gym has acted upon inclusive values

2. Gender: Much like title, another criteria on nearly every sign-up sheet is gender. De-emphasising the binary of Male and Female is an easy and effective step to goodwill to the marginalised Trans and non-binary communities.

3. Pronouns: It may be a part of grammar you’ve spent little time considering, but to many people within the LGBTQIA+ community and outside of it, it matters a lot. While it is not necessary to add it to any potential sign-up documents, giving the ability for people to add their pronouns to their account with your Gym or Fitness club is an easy way to demonstrate that your business acknowledges the importance they hold. 

 

Talk with young members of the LGBTQIA+ community, whether individually or on a group basis

It may sound basic, but it is often overlooked. The power of reaching out and asking to talk to people cannot be overstated. These are ultimately the people you are trying to make feel more welcome. Here are some ways to reach out:

 

  1. Approach your own membership via e-mail or social media and say you are keen on reaching out to improve their experience within your Gym or Fitness Club. 
  2. If you receive a positive reception, ask people individually if they’d be interested in attending a group session.
  3. Also consider reaching out to your local council, community centres or LGBTQIA+ organisations. 
  4. No matter what form they end up taking, ask them what your facility can do as an institution to be more inclusive. 
  5. Send a representative to a local LGBTQIA+ organisation to either give a talk on what your Gym is trying to accomplish 

 

Review your business and your facility from a new perspective

As with any attempt to increase inclusivity, the success of this kind of initiative will be about how well a gym or fitness club owner can see their business from a new perspective. We have covered outreach and customer interaction and we will close this off with some questions to be asked and answered.

 

  1. Does your gym or fitness club have any openly LGBTQIA+ members of staff?
  2. Do the signs and posters within your gym or fitness club use gendered or gender-neutral language?
  3. Does your gym or fitness club have gender-neutral changing rooms and toilet facilities? 

By asking simple questions and taking a step back for honest reflection, hopefully you can determine just how welcoming your gym or fitness club is to the LGBTQIA+ community. If you do not feel able to answer these questions with authority, seek out someone from the LGBTQIA+ community and give them a tour around the gym with the above questions in mind. 

 

What Next?

None of us want to exercise in an environment we don’t feel comfortable in, but unfortunately that is the reality for many people within the LGBTQIA+ community and beyond. As responsible members of the fitness industry, we should always be looking for ways to make everyone feel welcome in our clubs and gyms. As we discussed in the introduction, historically these places have been highly gendered and unwelcoming, and while the reality is shifting, the perception will always move more slowly.

As such, it is important that we signal openly and honestly what we are trying to do to address these issues. If we are silent on these matters, many marginalised communities may assume that the unwelcoming status quo remains in place. 

 

Should You Increase Your Gym Membership Prices?

 

Is It Time To Increase Prices At Your Gym or Fitness Club?

With fluctuating energy prices and supply chain issues from both the Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine, it is time to tackle some of the hardest questions when it comes to running a Gym or fitness club.

We will be looking into the following questions involving price increases in the current climate: 

Is it time to raise the price of your Gym Memberships?  

How much should they increase by?

Should you increase the price for all members or membership bands?

How to communicate to your members the facts and reasons for the price increase

Certain industries and sectors have little to no reservations about putting up their prices. The council is all too happy to dictate when their cut will rise, as are the trains and the petrol stations. But, unfortunately for some in the fitness sector, the rise of national chain budget Gyms has turned the health and fitness industry into an arena of constant price warfare.

As such, we will be taking a look at each of these questions in turn to try and navigate this minefield. A tone-deaf rollout of a price increase could cost your gym or fitness club more than it stands to save. As could a price increase that doesn’t reflect that of your local market and competitors.


 

Is it time to raise the price of your gym memberships?

In times of prosperity, the aforementioned price war is not necessarily a bad thing. It certainly leads to a lower price for the consumer and necessity will always spark innovation while warding off stagnation. But in times of budget squeeze, the ability to remain inorganically competitive will naturally come into conflict with the ever-increasing, real-value cost of running a Gym or fitness establishment.

As such, when it comes to contesting the percentage of the population who will actually purchase a gym or fitness club membership, the subject is best approached with, at the very least, caution.

With increasing property rents, interest rates, and energy prices, the time has come when the industry is wondering if even the budget chains will be able to sustain their rock-bottom price metrics.

And of course, unlike many economic factors that assail the industry, property rents and energy prices are both concerns that impact the spending habits of the consumer. The economic and societal upheaval of the last two years has left many consumers in a very different position when compared to 2019.

It is important that we keep this in mind when both considering and communicating potential price rises. More than ever, consumers will be concerned about the value they are getting for their service.

We will go into more detail when it comes to communicating the price rise but it is important to highlight in this section that your price increase cannot come with no benefits. At the very least be prepared to showcase how your Gym has improved, is improving or will be improved. If you can’t showcase this, a price increase may well result in a net loss of revenue.

To expand, it is important we reinforce that increasing the prices of your Gym or fitness club membership is not a silver bullet solution. It is possible that, if mishandled, your club could end up with less collected membership fees than before.

This is, of course, a worst-case scenario but it is a consideration that should be held at all points of a membership price review. As we previously mentioned, there is an increasingly price-savvy consumer base out there as the public starts to cut unnecessary costs. Many people will be reacting in a knee-jerk fashion. A poorly timed or poorly communicated price increase could be just the thing to causes an exodus of people looking to reduce their monthly expenses. It is also important to consider that the obligatory communication may alert sleeping members to the fact they are still paying for your service. 

If either of these takes place during a price increase, it may be significant enough to reduce or even negate the benefit of a Gym membership price increase.

How much should you increase membership prices by?

While this is possibly the most important question here, it is also, unsurprisingly, the one with the most nuanced and situational answer. This will require not only a comprehensive review of your membership but also of the competition in your local area. 

Before increasing the price, it is vital to research the fitness service market in your area. Understand if any of your competitors have already increased their prices. If you don’t know their price previously, merely understanding the different benchmarks for different Gyms in your area is still valuable information. Even if you feel like an increase of £x is justified, if it prices you out of the current market in your area then it is time to ask some intrinsic questions. 

In regards to your current membership, it is important to understand several different aspects of your current situation. It is vital to understand how satisfied your current membership is with the gym or fitness club.

The two primary methods of achieving this will be social media, reviews, and surveying. Thankfully consumers are very willing to give their feedback in the internet era. Review all outlets of feedback for your Gym, including review sites such as TrustPilot and Google Reviews, as well as your most active social media accounts.

If your clue is not meeting the expectations of your members at the current value, it is very hard to justify a price increase, let alone a significant one. It is important to keep your finger on the pulse of your customer’s opinion. Too often we all complain of businesses being out of touch, but in a value-driven, competitive market, being in touch is paramount.

Only then will you be able to have the necessary confidence in the service you are providing to justify increasing your prices.

 

Should you increase the price for all members or membership bands?

The answer to this question will once again depend on the nature of your Gym or fitness club. From our experience in the fitness industry, we know that Gym membership categories are as varied, if not more varied than the number of clubs. 

The reason we have decided to write this as its own section is to reinforce that you should take into consideration every membership when conducting a price review. 

Even if you are perfectly happy with the price point of certain membership tiers, it is still necessary to communicate effectively across the entire business.

On the other hand, it may be that you wish to increase the price of every membership by a set amount. The difference between say, £1 per member and 3% per member could vary massively. Both are systems that have been implemented in the fitness industry to varying levels of effectiveness.

The economic logic here is simple.

Increasing everyone’s membership by a static amount, for the sake of argument here, £1, will give a sense of uniformity. However, this method will represent a smaller increase in terms of percentage for your higher-paying members.

Increasing the price by a percentage across the board will, conversely, spread the load more equally, but perhaps extracting less from your lower-paying members. 

Another frequently asked question during a price review is whether or not loyal members should get preferential treatment. Or whether the price increase should only apply to new members. While this can be tempting and even effective, it is important to note that an increase only on new members may take months, or even years to have a noticeable impact on the margins. 

How should you communicate to your members the facts and reasons for the price increase?

It is vital that when you start to communicate the price increase to your membership, it is done in a calm, clear, and empathetic manner. The tone and professionalism of the communication will be important to get the point across that you are not:

1. Making this decision quickly or lightly 

2. Making this decision due to panic or in a reactionary manner 

3. Nor that you are making this decision due to greed

4. That you have considered all possible options and avenues before making this price increase.

In order to demonstrate that the price increase is being implemented in a controlled manner, it should be communicated well ahead of time. Preferably this should be done in writing, either via e-mail or letter.

This communication should lead with an acknowledgment of the current situation. The consumer is fully aware that the price of living, energy, and rent has increased and therefore this is a solid justification for any rise.

Focus on the improvements that have been made to the Gym and how the service is different from what was being provided a year prior.

Highlight the strengths of your gym or fitness club compared to other Gyms in the area and show that the price is still competitive.

Highlight other improvements that will be being made in the future and where the additional money will be going.

Make sure to brief all staff, most importantly the managers, about this upcoming change. Make sure everyone appreciates why it is happening so that there is a unified response to any complaints. If the team running your social media is separate from your Gym staff, make sure that they are also fully briefed.

Ask staff to refer any severe complaints to the management team. 

If you have more than one gym or fitness club, make sure that the price increases and the communication is tailored to the area. 

Offer to arrange a face-to-face meeting for members to attend to discuss the price raise. This will give the sense that their voices are being listened to. Set an agenda that involves improvements they’d like to see given the new price. 

 

Should you be wary of increasing your membership prices?

While it is a decision that should be taken with the utmost care, ultimately gyms and fitness clubs should not be scared of increasing their prices. In the current circumstances, it is an understandable and necessary evil. While there will be some inevitable pushback, any gym should be able to effectively articulate that these price increases do not come from a place of greed.

With all the disruption to the economy within the last half-decade, price increases have become an accepted part of life. With that being said, it is important to understand that you still have to be competitive within your local fitness market.

It is important to understand the strengths of your gym or fitness club, and what makes it continue to appeal to your existing members. If it is the advanced equipment, great location, or versatile facility, that is a solid foundation for a small but impactful price increase. If it is purely that you are the cheapest gym or club in the area, then that may make you more vulnerable to the attrition caused by a price increase. 

Further, it is important not to fall into the trap of incremental, yearly rises. This will just result in a yearly exodus of customers. In these exceptional times, better to announce a one-off increase that can be justified and clearly communicated to your membership.

You may want to look into offering members options when you announce the increase. This could include offering them a year of membership at their old rate if they pay the full amount upfront. While this will represent a loss of income over time, it will mean that you collect a full year’s membership whereas otherwise, you might not.

As stated earlier, the confidence in which a price increase can be implemented should be directly linked to the sophistication of the membership monitoring systems you have in place and therefore the knowledge of your members. 


If you are confident you understand which of your members are loyal and active, and which are perhaps inactive, sleepers, or non-committal, then you will understand the full implication of the decisions you take when conducting a price review.

 

Increase Your Memberships: Four streamlining techniques Gyms can use to smash stagnation in a challenging and changeable economy!

 

Increase membership and reduce complexity: Four streamlining techniques  Gyms and Fitness Clubs can use to smash stagnation in a challenging and changeable economy!

This week we are continuing our focus on the fundamentals, this time by exploring the potential for streamlining and optimisation available to independent gym and fitness club owners. All of these techniques can be reviewed and considered with near immediate effect by owners and management, though some may require further commitment after the initial review to be fully effective. 

Our goal here was to create a quick and instructive article that will get gym and fitness club owners thinking about certain BAU (business-as-usual) operations within their fitness facilities that they may have taken for granted or let stagnate accidentally.

It is no secret that the fitness industry has been through a period of intense change over the last four years, and that trend shows no sign of abating. Whether it is a reorganising of power and profitability amongst the big chains, ever-greater technological innovation or the shifting of consumer habits and member priorities, this industry does not stay still and neither should its denizens! 

As such, we are here to find where chaff can be cut, where orthodoxy can be overthrown and ultimately where we can create the most value for members and the most profit for owners!

 

Want to jump straight ahead and see our 4 techniques? We won’t keep you waiting any longer!

Technique 1: Independent gym owners should be questioning the 24-hour opening time doctrine

Technique 2: Effective, Intuitive, Contextual Automation

Technique 3: Demographic Messaging

Technique 4: Systems, Systems, Systems

 

Technique 1: Independent gym owners should be questioning the 24-hour opening time doctrine

 

Is it worth keeping the lights on?

 

With energy costing more and more, it is time to ask whether the 24 hour model is still optimal, aspirational or even viable in the 2023 landscape. 

We have seen significant discomfort being caused to the likes of PureGym and The Gym Group through their insistence, or rather, dependence on the 24 hour model.

Whereas the large, budget chains may have locked themselves into the 24-hour model, independent gyms and fitness clubs have no such obligation.

With technology making the adoption of the 24-hour model increasingly viable, it was gradually becoming seen as the optimal mode of operation. The Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine may have heralded an end of this increase.

Indeed, it now increasingly seems like the 24-hour model could soon be viewed as a luxurious remnant of a more prosperous age. There will still be gyms where it can operate and even thrive of course, such as the eternally busy city centres. But the time where it could be viewed as the norm irrespective of location seems to be quickly fading. 

Is there truly any need for a PureGym or any gym to be opening in some sleepy dormitory town all night, every night. Do the membership fees of the five night owls that come in to work out really justify a full night of operation? It is dubious as to whether they ever really did, but the energy crisis has put the answer into black and white. 

As such, we are seeing many gyms either revert back to, or away from, 24 hour operation. The benefits to this shift can be numerous. Saving electricity, increased security, diminished risk to equipment, dedicated repair times, the list goes on.

 

Technique 2: Effective, Intuitive, Contextual Automation

Perhaps it is fitting that for an article based entirely around streamlining processes for independent gyms and fitness club owners, this next technique is another ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’.

 

This time we are focusing on automation. While there are many, many forms of automation in even the most basic gym or fitness club these days, one area where this is becoming increasingly normalised is the entrance/exit area of any given fitness facility.

The benefits of automation in this area can seem numerous and apparent. There is the potential for decreased staffing costs, increased security and increased flexibility. 

But the wrong system can cause issues. Too often we’ve seen a system get implemented and abused. One of the most common shortfalls that occur is with keypads. While a unique pin that opens a gate or unlocks a turnstile may seem like the sleek image of the future, it is highly susceptible to abuse and exploitation. 

This helps to highlight that it isn’t enough to automate and innovate. It is about doing so with an end goal in mind, and with an output that you wish to see.


If a gym or fitness club is operating in an error that is prone to breaches in security or abuse, the implementation of a full-height turnstile has been proven to reduce the amount of incidents remarkably.

Equally, if there is a large amount of pin code/passcode sharing, a fingerprint system can eliminate nearly completely and instantaneously. 

Only with the specific contextual application of automation with specific goals in mind can automation yield impactful results. Without this vital step, it might create more issues than originally intended!

 

Technique 3: Demographic Messaging

Too often we find that gyms and fitness clubs are not aware of the messaging they are sending out, the brand identity they are cultivating and how it can affect the overall tone and success of a fitness facility! 


This is a trap that is easy to fall into. We have all seen posters, flyers and banners that haven’t been updated since before the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. It is safe to say that the lockdowns, followed by the subsequent energy prices put many businesses into a sort of fight or flight survival mode. The rolling crises that have followed have kept many businesses in that mode of operation until today. 

This can have a knock-on effect in many different aspects of a fitness facility’s daily operations. It can reduce staff morale, damage member retention rates and ultimately start to impact the bottom line. 

However this is only half the issue we wish to raise today. The other half stems from the effect that this trend has on demographic messaging. The time period between 2019 and 2022 saw one of the most rapid societal and economic shifts since the second world war. People moved in unprecedented numbers, routines shifted and priorities changed.

With all of this, gyms and fitness clubs must also change. Take stock of the local area, work out who is there now that wasn’t before. If a gym is located within a suburban town, understand whether more people are working from home and whether the population increased as people fled the city centres. Conversely, if it is in a more central, urban location it is equally as important to understand the new, post-Covid landscape. This information will be available and acting upon the changes in the area could be vital to understanding whether the brand identity and messaging of a gym needs to change.

One thing that has become increasingly clear across all demographics since 2019/20 is the rise in the desire for functional, low-impact workouts that boost long term health. 

 

While we appreciate this will not blend with every gym or fitness club’s chosen aesthetic and brand, it is a remarkably broad and versatile message that is finding more and more purchase out there amongst potential gym and fitness club members. 

It is important to examine the brand identity of a gym. If it has a name that invokes words and concepts such as ‘XTREME’, it will obviously attract a certain type of person and that is fantastic. But it is equally important to think about who is being pushed away. In an increasingly challenging economic environment, the decision to hyper-focus on specific demographics while neglecting others cannot be taken lightly. 

 

Technique 4: Systems, Systems, Systems

Our final technique represents a big change and a big step for many gyms and fitness clubs, but that makes it no less important.

The systems that power a fitness facility are the beating heart of the operation. Without the ability to efficiently organise and track membership, collect payment, pay staff and allow access, the operation essentially ceases to exist. As with any business, it is much more than just a building. It is an organisation trying to create the greatest value and experience for its members, a complete service. 

 

And in the last twenty years, perhaps more so than any other point in human history, the definition of what constitutes a service has changed rapidly. This is especially true in the fitness industry, where an unprecedented application of technology has rendered many gyms nearly unrecognisable from their 1990s counterparts. 

 

With this in mind, our final consideration for independent gyms and fitness club owners is to earnestly review the systems that power and enable their facilities.

  1. Are they allowing your staff to operate as efficiently as possible?
  2. Are they maximising the feedback and data available to the operation?
  3. Are they giving staff and management the control to implement that feedback?
  4. And most importantly, is the system giving your members the best experience possible?


If the answer to any of these is anything less than an emphatic “Yes!” then it is time to at least consider other options. We have seen time and time again independent gym and fitness club owners settling with sub-optimal and sub-par gym membership management systems because they either believe, or can’t conceive of a better system out there.

But gym membership management software is a sector which sees development and innovation year on year. Settling on a system because it is ‘good enough’ could be holding a gym (and by extension their members) from experiencing something truly game changing!

 

Are you interested to see what strategies other independent gym and fitness club owners are using to thrive in 2023?

Then look no further, we have the event recommendation for you! 

Ashbourne Membership Management and many other industry faces will be at the Gym Owner’s Workshop conference for 2023! Given that gym membership management is our specialty, we will be covering streamlining, automation and modernisation techniques across the fitness industry, utilising our expertise from across Ireland and the United Kingdom! 

Hosted this year at the Talbot Hotel, Stillorgan, Dublin, The Gym Owners Workshop is a nexus for fitness industry expertise and knowledge, specialising in innovation, profitability and growth for  independent gym and fitness club owners across Europe and beyond! 

Capitalising on the momentum of the Gym Owners Workshop 2022, the 2023 event is shaping up to be even better, featuring more sponsors, more experts and even more talks and workshops! 

We are pleased to announce that The Fit Club – Redditch will be giving a case study talk on how they were able to increase their membership from 400 to over 2000! This will utilise some of the techniques talked about in this article and many, many more not mentioned here!

It is one not to miss for an independent gym or fitness club owner looking to expand their operations in 2023 and beyond! 

Top 8 Must-Have Pieces of Gym Equipment To Appeal To All Ages!

 

The top 8 must-have pieces of equipment for independent Gyms and Fitness Clubs to appeal to all age ranges, including the increasingly valuable 50+ demographic!

 

Are you a forward-thinking independent gym or fitness club owner? Do you pride yourself in always considering what steps are necessary to ensure the growth of your facility, the happiness of your members, and the future of your business?

Then our blog today is for you! 


Today we will be going over one of the fundamentals of any independent gym or fitness club operation, equipment!

But we will be viewing equipment, something often taken for granted and viewed too simplistically, and examining it through a new lens! 

And that lens is to focus on the demographics that will be using your equipment. Specifically, we will be focusing on what will appeal to the more low-intensity workout-oriented older demographics. 

While there are obviously many factors (some of which we have already explored!) that help determine whether a gym or fitness club will appeal to certain demographics, one that is oft overlooked is the actual equipment within a gym. There is a habit of viewing gym equipment as a relatively static entity within a gym or fitness club. One that requires repair, updating, and occasionally replacing, but rarely anything else.

As such, we’ve put together this list of must-have equipment that favours older potential members, as well as those interested in more Recovery-based or low-intensity workouts. 

 

Just want to see the list of our must-have equipment. We won’t keep you waiting any longer!

Type 1! Step Machine & Pedal Exercisers

Type 2! Stationary Bicycle

Type 3! Rowing Machine

Type 4! Balance Trainer & Resistance Bands

Type 5! Pressurised or Low-Impact Treadmill

Type 6! Appropriate Dumbbell Sets

Type 7! Cross Trainer/Elliptical Machines

Type 8! Training Bench

Type 1! Step Machine & Pedal Exercisers

The key strength of the Step Machine has always been twofold.

First, it is a surprisingly effective, relatively low-impact workout that can be utilised at the pace the user desires. 


The second? Equally as important but just as overlooked. Nearly everyone knows how to take a step and is capable and confident of taking one. It is a satisfying and safe piece of equipment that people can easily operate while listening to whatever they want.

When someone who is interested in low-intensity exercise walks into a gym or fitness club for the first time, this is one of the pieces of equipment they will be looking for.

 

The same is true of pedal exercisers. They are a piece of equipment sometimes more commonly associated with private use than gyms or fitness clubs, but we have found they make a great addition to a low-intensity workout area.

 

 

Type 2! Stationary Bicycle

There is a similar logic that can be applied to our second piece of equipment. The Stationary bicycle!

Low impact, eminently popular, simple and safe to use. 


Cycling is becoming an increasingly popular method of transport for older people the world over, and stationary cycling offers all the benefits with none of the risk (or actually going anywhere!). 

While it is, of course, a staple of gyms and fitness clubs. When it comes to Stationary bicycles it is about asking two key questions.

1. Does a gym or fitness club have enough stationary bicycles?

2. Are they being marketed and associated with low-intensity workouts through social media, classes, and posters?

 

Type 3! Rowing Machine

While more of a surprise hit, you only need to ask a gym regular to get confirmation that the venerable rowing machine is a hit amongst the venerable demographics.

When viewed through our existing criteria though, the appeal is not surprising. Once again it is a relatively simple and safe exercise machine that can be operated at the pace of the user. After an explosion in popularity due to technological advances in the 1980s, it would seem that many from that era are still using the noble rowing machine to this day!

 

 

Type 4! Balance Trainers and Resistance Bands

Our next one is not even traditionally thought of as gym or fitness club equipment, even less so than the pedal exerciser. Some would argue that would mean exclusion from the list. However, we would argue that this makes its inclusion all the more important.

Though not exactly machines, balance trainers and resistance bands have become a hit among beginners and upwards when it comes to low-intensity and recovery workouts.

Resistance bands have many positives. They are simple, portable, and lightweight. Perfect for more senior members. 


They also focus on areas that many older gym members are very interested in. Muscular health, blood flow, and most importantly (and perhaps obviously, given the name) balance! 

Given their relatively inexpensive nature compared to other, heavyweight gym equipment. We think that these should be high on the list of purchases for any low-intensity push a gym or fitness club attempts!

 

 

Type 5! Pressurised or Low-Impact Treadmill

From one end of the spectrum to the other, this next piece of equipment certainly isn’t inexpensive but it will certainly be impactful! 

Or should that be not impactful? The goal of the Pressurised, anti-gravity, or low-impact treadmill is to reduce the impact that running or walking on a treadmill has on the body. 


While this may seem of trifling concern to some, for those with injuries or impediments such a treadmill can be a massive selling point. 

The quality of life improvement that such a piece of equipment can bring to certain demographics and gym members is so potent. For that reason alone it made it on the list!

 

 

Type 6! Appropriate Dumbbell Sets

Much like the stationary bicycles, this tip isn’t so much about getting dumbbells, or a perceived lack of them. 


Once again the focus is more on their availability within any given gym or fitness club, and how they are being utilised, marketed, and promoted within that fitness environment. 

The availability of lighter weight dumbbells is often not sufficient. Some gyms we’ve worked with have addressed this by having dedicated dumbbell racks within their lower-intensity area with specifically lighter weights. 


This is a fantastic idea! As it helps set the tone for the area as well as providing plenty of additional weights of an appropriate weight. This makes it easier to incorporate them into classes, promotional material, and events.

How the equipment is presented is half the battle!

 

Type 7! Cross Trainer/Elliptical Machines

Another modern classic that needs little introduction. The cross-trainer, also known as an elliptical trainer has the potential to be the poster child for low-impact exercise. Designed and released in the 1990s, it doesn’t have the same pedigree as the rowing machine or the treadmill, but it is ready to be introduced to a new (or rather, old) generation. 

 

Designed to fulfill the role of a treadmill but without the repetitive leg/foot impact or noise, the cross-trainer is a perfect piece of equipment to advertise low-intensity, life-improving exercise regimes and training classes.

While, to the uninitiated, it can initially look like a mass of moving parts, we all know that the cross-trainer is easy to teach and operate.

It is becoming more common that cross-trainers are just purchased and deployed within a gym or fitness club because it is ‘the type of equipment all gyms have’. This is done without reflection on why it should be purchased and how it should be promoted.

If we do actions simply because it is what ‘all gyms do’, we risk missing the reasoning that this equipment caught on in the first place. Perhaps more importantly still, we risk not being able to correctly message and promote that equipment quickly to members.

 

 

Type 8! Training Bench

The last piece of equipment on our list isn’t a new innovation like the pressurised/anti-gravity treadmills, nor is it a classic fitness machine like the stationary bicycle or rowing machine. In fact, it isn’t a machine at all.

You know already because it is the section title, it is the noble training bench. 


If not saving the best until last, what we did was save perhaps the most overlooked until last.

Training benches often get forgotten, they become part of the furniture.


Which is almost forgivable…After all, they are furniture.

But as anyone who has spent time in a gym (or more vexingly, trying to work out at home without one) knows, they are incredibly useful. The Swiss-army knife of gym equipment.

They might not do everything for you, but they provide an incredible amount of versatility and support. With a bit of training or instruction, these can become a staple of low-impact workouts, allowing older members to access and train muscles that would otherwise take significant strain to train. 

 

Interested in how to innovate and grow your independent Gym or Fitness Club?

 

If our article has got you questioning and reflecting on parts of independent gym and fitness club management that sometimes go unchallenged, you are in the right place! 

The latest Gym Owner’s Workshop conference will be covering equipment, where to purchase it, why to purchase it and how we promote it 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 Balance Leisure will be giving an event-leading talk entitled “How to Navigate Suppliers and Contracts To Get The Best Deal On Your Gym Equipment”


If our article has convinced you that a re-examination of how your business approaches gym equipment then don’t delay, tickets are live now!

 

The Best Marketing Tips For Your Gym In 2023

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

Tip #2: Thrust your brand into the local area

Tip #3:  Foster a community, online and offline!

Tip #4: Reward Programmes

Tip #5: Legitimacy, Authority, Reviews

Tip #6: SEO and Metrics: Understanding what success looks like

 

 

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.

As such, reward and referral programmes are a simple scheme with a low setup cost and potentially powerful outcomes if administered correctly.

 

 

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. 

The results will speak for itself as the review score continues to creep up!

 

 

 

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! 

How Gyms Can Naturally Promote Secondary Spend Without Intimidating or Pressuring Members!

Increase your gyms secondary spend… for the benefit of your members and your bottom line!

 

Secondary spend can be a challenging issue for independent gyms and fitness club owners, whether relative newcomers or hardened veterans. 

At the core of the issue is what sells and how to sell it. This is a problem that’s constantly shifting with no single solution that will last the test of time. As tastes change, what sells and how to sell it also changes. As technology improves, it both allows us to sell new products to our members and can render old products obsolete. 

 

As well as that, there is the question of how to sell?

 

If a gym or fitness club is too forceful or inelegant with its sales approach, it risks isolating members, coming across as desperate or just generally taking the sheen off of a carefully maintained brand.

But too little force and your member base may not be engaged with the products, or even aware they exist! Stock goes unsold, taking up space and depreciating in value. 

As such, it is understandable (if incorrect!) that secondary spend is often either overlooked or ignored. At best seen as a side-earner when compared to membership fees. 

But that is shifting. With the rise of app technology on smartphones, lifestyle brands and ethical/sustainable consumerism. The game has changed on secondary spend.

Today we will be taking a look into how independent gym and fitness clubs can elevate their secondary spend operations to the next level with a few easy to implement tips and tricks! Starting with WHY owners should!

 

Feel free to skip ahead to our 5 tips if you’re eager to find out more!

Tip #1: Understand the brand identity of your Gym or Fitness Club and sell products that complement and enhance it!

Tip #2: Sell those products in a way that is natural and consistent with that identity!

Tip #3: Train your Staff in how to sell naturally and encourage them to sell when it will enhance the experience of the member!

Tip #4: Four: Communicate what you are selling honestly and effectively!

Tip #5: Five: Encourage Members to buy and create a culture where they want to buy!

 

 

The Benefits of Secondary Spend for the member and the fitness facility 

At the core of ‘why’ it is important for gyms and fitness clubs are two concerns. The member experience and the profitability of the business

By denying members the ability to buy trusted brands from their gym or fitness club, management is limiting their ability to truly engage with the club and depriving them of a method to reach their goals.



It has been shown in polling that between 30% to 50% of fitness club members would be likely or very likely to buy brands from their gym or fitness club if they stocked them

 

As we will cover, secondary spend is an important step on the path for Gyms and fitness clubs to fully realise their role as health and fitness specialists in the life of their members. That service doesn’t just stop at providing a physical location, it must involve guiding them to and supplying the products necessary for their journey. 

In addition to the generation of significant amounts of revenue, the way a fitness facility engages with secondary spend (if it does at all) will directly affect membership retention and experience. It increases the sense of commitment that a member has in their gym or fitness club, in addition to providing them with the materials necessary for them to succeed in their goals. 

When viewed through this lens, it becomes clear that secondary spending is about more than simple profit (though that is, of course, an important factor!).

Now we’ve piqued your interest! Let’s dive into how to naturalistically implement secondary spending into gyms and fitness clubs in a way that will benefit your members and your bottom line!

 

 

Tip #1: Understand the brand identity of your Gym or Fitness Club and sell products that complement and enhance it!

Our first tip requires nothing more than planning and reflection! 

As stated above, the reason we are selling is to enhance the member experience, to strengthen their commitment to the gym or fitness club and to enhance the identity of the facility’s brand.

With this in mind, the products that you sell are going to be very important.

Firstly, they need to be of suitable quality. If a gym is built around being a premium experience, then it is important that the product reflects those expectations. Your members will trust (or come to trust!) your judgement, make sure you don’t let them down by selling products you wouldn’t buy yourself!

 

Conversely, if a gym is targeted at a more discerning and budget market demographic, it will do little good to furnish your stores with the most expensive products on the market.

 

More than this though, it is important that the products support the aims of membership. If it is a high-intensity gym, sell products that will help their recovery cycle. If it is more about functional fitness and long-term health, sell products that will help them live their best life for longer!

 

 

 

Tip #2: Sell those products in a way that is natural and consistent with that identity! 

Once you have worked out what products will sell well and reinforce the identity of your gym or fitness club. It is time to get selling!

Luckily, by selecting products that the members will want, half the battle is won already. Now it is about marketing these products in a way that will speak to the membership.

 

Luckily, any good independent gym or fitness club will know its members. Run small-scale social media and in-facility marketing campaigns that generate interest in the product. 

 

Introductory sales when you start stocking a product will motivate sales and start spreading word of mouth! It will also help you get some near-immediate feedback from your members. 

React to their feedback, both positive and negative! Most people would rather buy from local businesses than from faceless corporations and websites

 

 

Tip #3: Train your Staff in how to sell naturally and encourage them to sell when it will enhance the experience of the member!

When it comes to training staff in how to sell, there are numerous concerns. While some people within the fitness industry are very accomplished salesmen, you don’t often find them on the gym floor!

And there is nothing worse than someone trying to sell you something tactlessly, or who doesn’t truly believe in the message. It puts off the member, it doesn’t secure the sale and it creates a bad atmosphere.

So that is what we are trying to avoid!

Luckily, that is quite easy! 

As we have based the acquisition of secondary spend products on what will help the membership and what is coherent with the gym’s brand identity. 

 

As such, it should be comparatively simple to teach the staff of a Gym what products are in store, what their intended use is, and case uses within the gym’s classes and culture where they could be recommended. 

 

In addition, giving discount codes that are specific to each member of staff can create an incentive for both sides. On the staff member’s side, it can be used to track sales and commission. On the gym member’s side, it creates a personal bond and recommendation from the staff at the given time. 

Reinforce that staff shouldn’t just give to every member. This will help create a naturalistic and authentic moment of recommendation, as well as secure that all important sale!

 

 

 

Tip #4: Communicate what you are selling honestly and effectively! 

This one should go without saying, but it is important to not get carried away or deceive the membership of a gym or fitness club.

 

Unlike some sales roles, gym members can vote with their feet if they are dissatisfied with a product they’ve received. 

 

This is why it is important that the secondary sell material only ever enhances the experience. Make sure that what is being sold is genuinely valuable and embodies the brand identity of the gym. 

When marketing it through social media, make sure the messaging is consistent and concise. Make sure it is pushed across all relevant social media avenues to give a sense of uniformity. Ensure where to purchase it and for how much is clearly displayed. 

By being upfront and honest, members will come to trust the recommendation of a gym or fitness club and incorporate purchasing products that enhance their life into their routine. 

 

 

Tip #5: Encourage Members to buy and create a culture where they want to buy!

Following on from communication, our final tip is to use secondary spend to make members feel valued.



There is one simple method that can be used to make them want to buy from you…

As we touched upon in tip three, discount codes are a great way to mobilise members into making purchases.

 

But we would recommend gyms and fitness clubs avoid blanket offers on social media. Announce that products are available on social media by all means. But by offering a discount code across the board, that becomes the new price.

There is no exclusivity and it loses the bespoke nature of the personally bestowed discount code.

Not only is it an invitation to buy the product, it is an empowerment. By wielding discounts as a nuanced tool rather than a catch-all net, a gym is almost guaranteed to mobilise specific parts of their member base. By placing it in the hands of employees, the people actually on the gym floor, it will ensure that the secondary spend reaches who it needs to. 

 

 

Want To Learn More About Growing Your Club?

All of this will help reinforce a fitness facility’s reputation and brand identity as one that cares about their members. This positive business model of creating additional value for the member and additional profit for the gym is powerful if implemented correctly. 

And if you are eager for a deeper look into how this nuanced but powerful form of business can work for independent gym’s and business owners, look no further!

 

 

The Gym Owners Workshop at the Talbot Hotel Stillorgan, is a nexus for fitness industry knowledge directed specifically at independent gym and fitness club owners and one of the talks relates to secondary spend! 

 

After the success of the Gym Owners Workshop 2022, the 2023 event is promising to be bigger and better! 

 

Our partners for the event over at Glanbia will be giving a talk called ‘Nutrition for Success – Driving Growth and Performance in Secondary Spend’. It promises to be a deep dive by industry experts into how to maximise the benefit for your members and your profits through meaningful and impactful secondary spend! 

But don’t just talk our word for it! Register your interest to the free event here and look into how to take your secondary spend approach to the next level!

Independent Gyms Need To Improve Their Members’ Long Term Health (and here’s 5 ways to fix it!)

It’s Time To Change Your Club’s Focus To Long Term Health Over Short Term Fitness

 

What if we told you there is a sector for growth that large portions of the Fitness Industry is completely under-utilising? 

One that is near essential for futureproofing the industry? 

One that has only become more pertinent in the wake of the Covid-19 Pandemic and lockdowns?

One that independent gym and fitness club owners are in a unique position to take advantage of?

 

Well look no further, because there is!

 

From simple implementations to far-sweeping changes, the contribution of private and independent gyms and fitness clubs to long term, public and medical health is as critical as it is undervalued. 


We will be taking a look at a few of the causes, how to address them and how they can increase the profitability, effectiveness and attractiveness of independent gyms and fitness clubs

 

The main 5 factors we’ll discuss in this article are: (click to jump ahead)

Factor 1: Complacency

Factor 2: Underutilised Technologies

Factor 3: Lack of Recognition/Funding/Integration

Factor 4: Lack of Recovery Classes

Factor 5: Further Low Intensity and 50+ Quality of Life Classes

 

 

 

Factor 1: Healthy Lifestyle Complacency 

It can be tempting to feel there is complacency among many governments when it comes to recognising the role that Gyms and Fitness Clubs have to play in societal health. 

 

Outside of scattered examples such as Queensland, where Australia granted Gyms and Fitness Clubs ‘essential’ status, there is a prevalent apathy to treat fitness facilities as no more a benefit to society than the cinema or the bowling alley.

This became especially clear during the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns. 

 

While there are, of course, publicly funded fitness facilities, swimming pools and health campaigns that receive government funding, it can feel like these exist in a vacuum from the private and especially independent gyms and fitness clubs.

It seems that governments are very content to keep these on two distinct sides, denying the boons and benefits that a supported, guided, and encouraged private fitness sector could contribute to societal help.

In this article we will be looking at not just the means to achieve this practically, but what needs to change in terms of perception. 

 

 

Factor 2: Underutilised Technologies 

One of the most underutilised tools of value generation for independent gyms and fitness club owners are in our pockets right now!

The rise of the portable computer we now call a smartphone, the implementation of free and fast WiFi in most public spaces, as well as the emergence of new health and fitness technologies mean that a perfect storm of factors are forming to allow for a health and fitness integration revolution in the next decade. 

We are already seeing the smartphone application offering from gyms and fitness clubs increase in sophistication rapidly, as well as the ability of gym equipment to synchronise with external aspects of a gym member’s life.

As we said before, this process has been long in the making. Ever since the longevity movements of the 1970s combined with the technological revolution of the 80s and 90s, there have been trailblazers willing to push Gyms and the fitness industry at large forward. 

By researching the ways that portable technology can be synced up with a gym or fitness club, owners are ensuring their club remains futureproof and at the cutting edge! 

 

 

The Fit Club Redditch Members App Provided By Ashbourne

 

 

Factor 3: Lack of Recognition/Funding/Integration

The fitness industry of the 2020s might be remembered as being in a vicious cycle. One where a lack of recognition fed into stagnation and vice versa.

 

But it is up to us to break that cycle!

A large problem facing the fitness industry is a lack of recognition for the immense service it already provides and the massive role it will play in the years to come.

By reorienting our collective perspective, we can start to advocate for greater recognition and support when it comes to improving public and societal health.

 

By lending their voice to organisations like UKActive and reaching out to local councils, independent gym and fitness club owners can spearhead the charge towards greater recognition, support, funding and integration for the service and value they add to public health. 


A change of rhetoric is required to bridge the gap. One that will be explored at the coming Gym Owners Workshop! If you are interested to learn more, scroll to the bottom of this article for further information and links! 

 

 

Factor 4: Lack of Recovery Classes!

While it has risen in prominence, it is essential we do not take this rise for granted and continue to capitalise on it. Independent gyms and fitness clubs are eager to provide recovery programmes and as public perception increases, gym members are becoming interested. 

 

So what are we talking about when we say ‘recovery’? 

 

Recovery serves as a shorthand for both physical and psychological well-being. It takes the form of a workout of lower intensity than the member is used to partaking in. It is based on the philosophy that low to moderate-intensity routines on rest days can help the body to recover more effectively from working out, as well as reduce stress and improve mental well-being.

It has become so effective that people are even utilising the classes and routines outside of their usual training regime. Dedicated recovery-focused classes have become increasingly popular and are a good example of a class and routine that is designed for pure health and not aesthetics. 

For independent gym and fitness club owners, this rising format carries an opportunity to provide service and support to a variety of different members. The great thing about these recovery-focused classes is that they can target everyone from the supremely dedicated, 5+ session a week member, or someone who is simply looking to steadily improve their baseline health and way of life. 

Classes such as this are a great way to connect with members and reinforce why they go to fitness facilities. By shifting the focus to a less intense style of exercise, it will recentre the focus to a broader audience.

 

Comparatively few over 50s want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but they do want to maintain their quality of life for longer! 

 

 

 

Factor 5: Further Low Intensity and 50+ Quality of Life Classes

And this desire for low-intensity and recovery workouts is not happening in a microcosm. It is part of a push towards more practical, longevity-focused workouts.

It is certainly not just for people under 40 to recover from their exercise regime!

Previously we have written about how an ageing population presents opportunities and the chance for a realignment. 

Part of this will be for independent gym and fitness club owners to allocate resources to low-intensity and health-based recovery classes and facilities.



By specifying the low intensity, health based nature of the workout you increase the potential for a broader demographic uptake dramatically! 

 

The great news is that this is something that can (and should!) be utilised by younger members as well, hence the drive for both routine recovery on rest days and broader healthy living.

The potential benefits associated with running these sorts of longevity, general health, and recovery classes are numerous. Some members will be more willing to come in for a session they know will benefit them but not push them to the limit. This can increase engagement with the existing members, as well as draw in new membership. In addition, it can help members who would otherwise spend their rest day resting to come in more often, thus creating a retention cycle. 

 

In addition, it will have the benefit of increasing the health of the member base and lowering injury time. It will be an additional service to advertise and it has often been seen as one of the most community-focused class genres. While it will require some initial training and space to do correctly, the benefits that this approach can have on independent gyms and fitness clubs and their membership cannot be overstated.

 

 

Want To Learn More About Growing Your Club?

Hopefully, we’ve piqued your interest now in the potential that a greater focus on health has to transform the industry!

If so, look no further! The Gym Owners Workshop at the Talbot Hotel Stillorgan, Dublin will be exploring this and many more issues pertinent to Irish and British gym and fitness club owners.

 

 

 

After the success of the Gym Owners Workshop 2022, the 2023 event is promising to be bigger and better! 

 

One of the title talks will be particularly relevant to today’s topic. It is called ‘Health Over Aesthetics – How Rethinking The Industry Message Future Proofs Its Status, Drives Membership Growth & Increases Revenue’ and provides a deep dive into how a great focus on health will help future-proof businesses in the long run and ramp up profits in the short!

 

As we’ve explored today, health is going to be an ever more pressing issue for the fitness industry so do not miss the chance to hear industry experts talk about this and much more!

Gym Membership Price Increases: Is the race to the bottom over?

piggy bank sinking in sea

Gym Membership Prices race to the bottom ashbourne blog

 

“Is It Time To Increase My Gym Membership Prices?”

We realise you’re busy, so there’s 2 parts to this blog.

If you want to read the full context behind why raising prices is a good idea, then just keep reading.

But if you want to skip ahead to our 12 tips to increasing your gym membership prices, then click here to skip ahead!

 

 

For the last decade, the fitness industry has been a battle between the independent gyms and the large chain giants with their budget pricing doctrines in what seemed like an ever-deepening race to the bottom.

It is a story we have seen time and time again in the fitness industry. The arrival of this type of a huge chain Gym in a city or town indicated a significant shift and for the greater part of ten years these huge companies have dictated the pace of the industry.

But this was never a system that could last forever. Only a monopoly is able to put up their prices with anything resembling confidence.

And a business strategy based around ever-lowering prices will only ever work when times are good.

Part 1: The State Of The Market (or why times aren’t so good for the big guys)

Between the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, increasing energy costs and property rent spikes, it is safe to say that at the very least, the good times are on hold.

This represents a chance for a correction within the fitness industry for gym and club owners.

The cost of living is undeniably rising and rising at an alarming rate. Not only that, but rising energy prices are presenting a very real squeeze to the margins of Gyms and fitness clubs alike, regardless of size.

And yet due to the increasingly competitive nature of the sector, the question is still only tentatively asked… Should we be raising prices?

 

The answer is, of course, yes!

 

The price war that has come to define the industry can only abate in these trying times. While it is a model that allowed for rapid growth, it was one driven by very specific economic and technological factors. 

This shift prompted positive and negative change within the industry. The increased focus on automation is just one example of a development that was hypercharged by the rise of the budget chains for both better and worse in different areas.

But now that period of growth has subsided and both the chains and independent Gym owners are left with a quandary. There are relatively few gains to make through automation now. The Covid-19 pandemic and resultant lockdowns caused unprecedented disruption. 

 

 

Stock Market Increase

Pictured: The large gym chain business strategy

 

 

The model that previously seemed unassailable has reached the end of its artificial boom and now we have to ask the hard questions about where the industry goes from here and the culture shift that will have to occur when it comes to pricing. 

As hinted at the beginning of the article, it is actually telling that the industry is even approaching this debate so tentatively, when before so few gyms would even be considering a price rise, at the risk of turning members away.

Ultimately this approach is out of touch with economic reality. As inflation continues to bite, energy costs rise and rents increase, it is only natural that some of this should be passed onto the customer. As stated previously, the idea of ever-reducing prices is a mantra that can only exist in times of sustained prosperity. In a contracting or disrupted economy, it is neither prudent nor good business. 

Consumer Perceptions Have Changed!

While every price increase must be communicated effectively so your Gym patrons understand the reason for the decision, your members do not exist in a vacuum. Everyone is aware of the current situation to a lesser or greater extent. Consumers are seeing prices rise in different parts of their life, they are reading about it in the news and dealing with it in their own careers.

Context is king and in many ways the current context has the consumer prepared for a price increase in a way they haven’t been since 2008.

We must reinforce that it is still necessary to control and communicate the narrative for any price increase measures, but the position of increasing prices will be easier to justify.

And Sorry, But We Have To Mention Covid Again…

It is safe to say that Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our economic reality and we’d be remiss to not talk about it in the context of price increases in 2022. Quite simply, we don’t believe there has been an event in recent memory that has changed consumer habits so profoundly.

As such, the picture that is starting to emerge in our research is one of a post-Pandemic landscape that is focused on the creation of value, collaboration and community that will really make the difference.

The lockdowns showed us the value of socialisation that we had understandably taken for granted previously. (A complete lockdown of society having seemed previously unthinkable).

Now that the world has opened up and would appear to be staying open, we are seeing consumers that care more for interacting with friends and engaging with their community. We believe that these Independent Gyms, more likely to be locally focused and independent, will flourish during the post-Lockdown era. And the evidence is on our side.

As such, this makes for a greater justification for raising prices. The value of the product these Gyms provide will be more valuable. The operational costs are increasing. Consumers are looking for brands that they can rely on for more than just a service now. Frequenting an establishment now also carries the implication of protecting health.

 

Who is a consumer more likely to trust in that task? A soulless automated chain or a trusted, local Gym at the heart of the community?

 

It is these factors that we believe will effect the dynamic of price increases in the fitness industry in 2022 and beyond. As we hinted at earlier in the introduction, we believe this is one of the key factors that has taken the tempo of control in determining prices away from the rock-bottom chains.

 

 

Nutrition Plan

 

There’s A Greater Focus On Health In The Gym Now

And finally on this checklist, there is just a greater focus on health in 2022 than there has ever been. The Covid-19 Pandemic kicked the desire for fitness into overdrive. No longer was it just a goal to strive for, it became linked to survival.

While it might all start to feel surreal now we are out of lockdown, for 18 months everyone from the government and NHS to the supermarkets were telling the public to stay fit and healthy.

This really supercharged an existing trend for health and fitness that we have not seen abate.

Not only that, but we have no reason to assume that this new furore will disappear anytime soon. The historic survey data has only ever shown an increase in the importance of health and fitness within the public consciousness over the last twenty years. No data has shown thus far that the lockdown focus on fitness is receding.

In terms of raising prices, this means that gym and fitness club owners now hold a commodity with increased social and societal stock than ever before.

The Philosophy Behind Raising Your Gym Prices

So why have we spoken at length about the reasons that justify raising your prices?

Because the reasons that a gym or fitness club is able to identify for a price rise will be a cornerstone of how they communicate this to their members.

The crux of the matter is, if a Gym does not believe that the service it is providing isn’t worth it, it’ll be very hard for the leadership to justify a price increase.

So now we have discussed the state of the market, the increasing hardships facing all businesses, the Covid-19 pandemic and the role of the price wars in recent years.

With all that taken into account, it should now be easy to see whether or not the justification for a price increase exists within any given gym or fitness establishment.

 

 

Raising Living Cost Prices

 

Part 2: How Should A Price Increase Be Implemented At Your Gym?

So now we are going to focus on how to implement that price increase.

The methodology behind both the increase itself and how it should be communicated out.

Price Rise Tip 1: The Hard Maths Behind Your Health Club’s Price Rise

In this section we will be looking at the different methods that can be used to increase prices. Between different tiers of members, off-peak and on-peak, OAP and Students, premium members and concessions, there exists a multitude of different price points. 

Even without all of that, there are still hundreds of permutations possible when it comes to a price increase.

We are going to look at some of the most obvious and intuitive and work out their viability in the current market. We will make reference to what was covered in part one to justify or dismiss certain decisions. 

It is important to remember that just because a price increase method seems logical or has been used in other industries, does not mean it is necessarily a fit for the fitness industry. Increasing prices by 33%, 50% or 100% is a surefire route to disaster unless you have been seriously undercharging for a long time. 

Let us examine some potential methods of raising prices that mix in a little communication/spin.

Price Rise Tip 2: Pay Up-Front For A ‘Fixed Rate’

One way we have seen be quite effective is something derived from ‘price-locking’ seen in the energy industry, but with a fitness spin.

Communicate to your members the reasons we have discussed for the price rise regarding rising energy, rents and increased market instability. State the necessity of a price increase but state that this will not be implemented for one month.

If, within that month, a member is willing to commit to another 12 months, they will effectively be able to keep the old price for the whole year. Once the year has elapsed, they will be charged the new price. This will demonstrate that you are being proactive and rewarding loyalty and commitment to your Gym. Furthermore, if the offer is picked-up, it will result in a significant amount of revenue early on within this price increase initiative.

Price Rise Tip 3: Communicate With Your Members & Give Them Plenty of Time

On the subject of communicating a month ahead of time. We want to reinforce that in order to appear professional and in control of this price increase, we would recommend that a month is the minimum amount of forewarning a gym should give their membership of a price increase.

Ideally, this should be a two month timespan. An increased timespan works well with the above strategy as well, as the longer a member has to mull over their financial situation, the more appealing locking in a year of ‘cheaper’ membership will seem. 

 

 

Email Marketing and Customer Communication

 

Price Rise Tip 4: Provide Members With A Fixed Rate Follow-up

As a final word on the subject of the fixed rate up-front price increase, a Gym shouldn’t be afraid of utilising their list of former members.

It is an ideal time to contact lapsed or cancelled memberships. As we stated earlier, a lot has changed and members who cancelled before or during the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown may feel differently now. Additionally, it will make them feel part of the loop and connected to the news cycle of the Gym.

It will also be a communication that isn’t overtly about trying to sell.

It will be about the price increase, with the option to secure 12 months membership for cheaper than it would otherwise be available.

Whilst a small difference, psychologically it can make all the difference. 

Additionally, do not be afraid to communicate the 12-month offer several times. If a gym has communicated the raise and the offer two months ahead of time, we would say it is reasonable to remind members at least two additional times before the deal expires.

Price Rise Tip 5: Build Inflation Into Your Price Increases Today

We would recommend that essentially any price increase initiated by gyms and fitness clubs at the moment should cite inflation as a primary reason.

With that in mind, why not go one step further. Reinforce the causal link of this price increase to inflation by benchmarking it against inflation. If you raise prices by 33% or 50% of the total current inflation, say, 6% for example, you are effectively communicating that while you are increasing prices, relative to the market, you are still absorbing some of the costs.

This way the gym gains additional revenue, and your customers understand that you have protected them from part of the inflationary costs.

By crafting your increase around inflation, you are putting your money where your mouth is. This should leave little doubt in the mind of your customers that your motivations are in reaction to the increased cost of living. To any reasonable consumer, this will be taken as a positive on an unavoidable economic reality.

Price Rise Tip 6: And Think About Your Next Price Increase

If a Gym elects to go for this route, it might be worth considering raising the price of all services in line with this figure. Any additional workout supplements, drinks or associated accessories that you sell and have control over the price point of. 

By taking this approach, it is akin to ripping the band-aid off all at once and it is an action that is legitimated by your reasoning.

Conversely, if a fitness club does not wish to or need to increase the price of these additional services, it would be prudent to highlight this. It can be stated that due to the increase in membership prices, all associated prices will stay the same despite the new economic reality. This is once again a way to put a positive spin on a price raise outcome.

 

 

Planning Ahead In Your Gym Business

 

Price Rise Tip 7: Know Your (Local) Market

While this was touched on in the introductory section, it bears repeating here.

Context is king and no context is more important than the local market landscape that a Gym or fitness club is competing in.

Just prior to a price raise is the exact time for a gym to refresh its local market research.

A gym should strive to understand not only what the current membership price is for all Gyms and across all price points, but also how that contrasts with their historical pricing.

This will be a clear way to tell whether all Gyms that are considered to be competitors are also raising their prices and by what margin. It is important to understand the level of drop-off that can be expected and where they might go.

It will also help legitimise the price increase actions undertaken by a Gym.

Price Rise Tip 8: Make Sure Your Staff Are On The Same Page

No-one likes talking about price rises. The silent resignation that we have when the electric or council tax…So…

 

Train your staff on how to handle the price conversation!

 

No-one feels natural or comfortable while fielding questions regarding a price increase, especially during circumstances like the ones we find ourselves in. Spend time with your staff briefing them on the main reasons.

As these will have all been laid out in your e-mail and social media communication, it should not take too much work to collate these into material for your staff to learn from. If your staff are not briefed regarding this, bad interactions with customers who have taken the price rise poorly could work their way onto social media.

Price Rise Tip 9: Spread The Costs OR Add Value

When it comes to additional options and bolt-on amendments to Gym membership, there is room to manoeuvre in the realm of price increases. The inclusion of additional bolt-on options to a Gym membership can also be used to work around to give the impression of added value or a fair trade-off.

In one scenario, if you include a set number of sessions with a personal trainer as part of your membership with the increase, this helps give the impression of compensation for the service being provided. In turn, this will make members not only more likely to stay than if nothing is offered, but also more likely to engage with the gym or fitness club.

Conversely, by removing certain benefits to new members, you will be able to minimise the price  increase for newer members due to value saved. However, this should be implemented carefully, and rarely, if ever, on existing members. 

 

 

Personal trainers at your gym extra service

 

Price Rise Tip 10: Keep Your Price Increases Steady

Do not announce that the price increase is only temporary. No-one can predict what the future may bring and any goodwill gained from stating this will not equal the risk of being unable to fulfil this pledge.

While there are scant few reasons to reduce your price, unless your price increase has significantly priced you out of the market, it should never be pledged ahead of time. Instead, it should be communicated as a pleasant bonus. 

In practicality though, if a Gym did their market research correctly, it would take an immense reason to reduce prices after they have recently been raised.

Price Rise Tip 11: Prepare For Members To Abandon Ship

It is inevitable that some members will leave during a price increase. But if communicated effectively this number should not matter. The price increase should be structured in such a way that the increase is able to mitigate any potential dropoff.

 

As the old adage goes, you can’t please everyone, and some members will take any reason to quit.

 

Others will have been scaling back their expenditure irrespective. It is important to deal with these customers fairly and politely.

 

If a gym doesn’t already have a ‘lapsed/previous’ members mailing list, this is the ideal time to create one.

 

A gym should monitor the numbers that leave through their CRM system as that will be a key indicator as to whether they have done their market research and communication correctly.

Price Rise Tip 12: Remember That It All Adds Up

Earlier we covered the idea of increasing prices just for new members, or increasing the price and offering the old membership rate to all members.

These are tried and tested methods that we have seen in the fitness industry. However, we’d like to end our article on this practical piece detailing one of the many methods that can be used to implement a price increase.

 

Instead of using percentages, or only charging new members, one method involves a price increase of £1 per month for each member.

The thinking here is that this sum won’t seem a lot to each customer and isn’t represented as a percentage on purpose.

If you take a club with exactly 750 members, this little £1 increase transforms into £9000 a year prior to tax.

 

Naturally this can vary depending on the number of members and the average price paid at a club. As another example, we shall say a club has an average Gym membership of £40. Certain tiers come in on either side of that total, of course. Now we say that this club increases each membership, irrespective of tier, by £2.

A club where someone is already paying £40, providing it meets the criteria laid above, should not see significant dropoff from this.

But in turn, they will receive a windfall of over £1.5k a month, or nearly 20k prior to tax in a given year. 

As such, you can understand why this method can quickly cope with any small amounts of dropoff that may occur if implemented, communicated and handled correctly. 

Using direct debits, it becomes easy to arrange a price increase across your entire customer base as we’ve just described.

Interested in this method? Then you might be interested in Ashbourne Membership Management. Here at Ashbourne, we have twenty five years of experience in the industry, getting our partners the money they deserve, each month, every month.

Interested in finding out more? Then arrange a demo and gym consultation with us today.

 

In Conclusion…You Can Do This!

 

While we understand the aversion that many Gym and Fitness Club owners have to raising their prices, it is a decision that, given the state of the economy, they should be considering.

No business can maintain the same price points for their entire operational lifespan, that sort of inflexible doctrine will only result in damaging the long term viability of the gym.

 

Maintaining prices only damages your business and your profits.  

 

By failing to react to the increase in the value of the commodity that is fitness, a Gym is passing up profit at a time where it can scarcely be afforded. 

If a Gym truly believes itself to be an institution that adds value to the community and its membership, there is no reason they shouldn’t have the confidence to ask for a little more. 

As we stated at the beginning, the era of the budget club dictating the pace is over. It is a system that cannot survive contact with market contractions. Now the market must seek value generation, and to ensure that the proper price is being paid for that value generation. 

Uncovering The Best Location For Your New Gym (or your next franchise)

Empty Warehouse Gym Location

Finding New Gym Location Help

 

“Where Should I Set Up My Next Gym?”

 

If you are a long time reader of our articles, you will know how much we value market research before undertaking a significant business decision…

…And we are also going to go out on a limb and call starting a new gym or fitness club ‘a significant business decision’.

And so, if you are ready to set up a new independent gym or fitness club, then it is time to hit the research. In this article, we will be focusing on, to borrow the title of a popular show, location location location. Unlike many aspects of setting up a new gym or fitness club, location is one that a gym owner cannot easily change once it has been established. (Though, of course, it is not impossible).

As such, we’ve put together the following checklist of criteria that you should keep in mind when looking for a location for your new gym. And just for good measure, we’ve loaded it up with tips from our 25 years within the fitness industry and our very own plans to expand our ‘The Fit Club’ franchise of gyms.

 

TIP 1

Consider a location based on your customer’s demographic

 

The kind of customers you’re going after will massively determine your location, or can even be a chicken and egg scenario, shaping what your gym becomes.

If you already have an idea of what you want your gym or fitness club to be, then your location is effectively chosen for you.

An MMA fitness club is probably not going to do well in a village of 100 people in the middle of Yorkshire with an elderly trending demographic.

Every area has a character, and one that can be understood with just a little research. Some, of course, are characterised by a fairly even balance, giving you access to lots of demographics in a single area. Others will be heavily skewed, for example, here are a few locations that come to mind in our experience, complete with their strengths and weaknesses to a new gym or fitness club owner.

 

Student Areas

While the usually dense population, significant free time and active nature of a student population are huge positives, these areas are also highly transitory, with many students only going to university for three year terms and putting down no significant routes.

The explosion in dedicated student housing has compounded this trend. They can feel like a great place to target active gym goers, but you’re also going to massively cut your retention as your members may be active, but eventually they will have to leave for reasons out of their control, no matter how many benefits you offer.

 

Dormitory Towns

Otherwise known as suburbia, the pros to these areas include relative prosperity and normally a much more firmly rooted population than in cities.

A common downside we have seen is that a lot of workers will favour Gyms within the city that the dormitory town allows an easy commute to. This dynamic of being split between two areas has, however, been diminished by the work from home revolution in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, so you might find more workers are spending more time, and money, on the services in their local area.

 

Town and City Centres

Normally highly competitive and expensive to set up within these areas, but always providing a vast influx of people relative to the surroundings. Certain types of Gym will not be viable here, while other, more niche clubs will flourish in a way that they wouldn’t in more out of the way places.

We’ve seen a lot of gym owners who instinctively try to set up shop in these populated areas. After all, more people, more customers.

But that thinking can come back to bite many-an-aspiring gym owner down the line, when high maintenance costs put you on a business treadmill to always keep your club filled to max capacity.

Sometimes looking for a quieter area and providing a unique club experience can be far more profitable in the long run, as your club can easily become a discount one size fits all gym when upkeep costs become a major driving factor.

 

Every area, even if it falls into an archetype, will have its quirks and foibles. Don’t make business decisions based on stereotypes and assumptions.

 

Demographics

 

Thankfully, the internet has made researching an area easier than ever. From forums and social media to simply using google maps, it has never been easier to grasp an area. With that being said, most prospective gym owners in our experience are looking to set up in an area well known to them. While this has considerable and obvious advantages, do not be afraid to throw the net out slightly wider than usual.

Sometimes taking the road less travelled really does make all the difference. 

So once you’ve determined who you want to attract, now you need to work out where they live, and more importantly, where they are willing to drive to.

Unless it is in a town centre, city centre or business park, the assumption should be that people are not willing to drive more than 20 minutes.

Again, this will vary depending on roads, infrastructure, public transport and other interesting locations at the destination of a prospective gym. As such, ease of accessibility should be the top priority for the demographic you have in mind.

 

TIP 2

Look at the type of buildings available

 

The Covid-19 pandemic shook up nearly every market, and the business rental market is no different. Many businesses either shifted location or shut down entirely. This means that the pool of rentals post-2021 is significantly different.

The safest bet, predictably, will be a site that used to host a gym or fitness club. These come with several built in advantages, such as a pre-existing reputation within the local area and facilities that proved suitable for a gym in the past.

However you needn’t be limited by this. We have seen plenty of unorthodox venues transform from other areas of the economy into successful gyms and fitness clubs. Whether it is a former supermarket, restaurant or part of a school, with enough effort put into the conversion, we have seen prosperous gyms setup in all sorts of former venues. 

Don’t limit your imagination based on what’s available, but as always, be realistic in your budgeting about how much it’ll cost to convert that abandoned shoe store into a Kickboxing Gym.

 

Renovated Gym

 

TIP 3

BE SEEN! Don’t hide your Gym or Fitness Club away

 

This might sound silly at first. Surely it is what on the inside that counts?

Alas, there is a reason we tell people to not judge books by their cover, and that is because they do, CONSTANTLY!

 

A story we’ve heard repeated a hundred times from as many gym owners is the following:

‘They got inside our gym and they said they had no idea it was this good’.

Sometimes it is even worse and the visitor said:

‘They had no idea this was here’. 

 

More often than not, these gyms are hidden away on cheap industrial estates, down country roads, or only have a slither of a facade facing the street. 

While we fully understand the temptation to secure a bargain on an industrial complex or in a village barely anyone even knows exists, for most gym owners it is a false economy. Out of sight is, unfortunately, out of mind. The amount that will need to be spent on promotion and advertising to get people aware that your gym or fitness club exists, let alone get them into it, will be sky high. 

And even once the prospective customers to your new gym are aware, what is going to draw them far off of their beaten track? The unfortunate truth is that unless the area has an extreme level of car-reliance or fantastic public transport infrastructure, it will be hard to draw people away from the main streets. This is why certain chains, that shall go unnamed here, are always positioned in highly visible areas with large glass windows letting you see everything inside.

It is a tactic that works, and while you may find the premise will be more expensive than an out-of-the-way industrial estate, the benefits it brings can be measurable and powerful. A chalkboard out the front of your gym can get more eyes than a few hundred pounds of Facebook ads may ever do.

 

TIP 4

Take stock of what else is close to your Gym or Fitness Club

 

This is really a continuation of the last point, with a more specific focus.

Once you have an idea of the area, take a deep look at what is there.

Imagine you are a prospective customer, what would draw you to the gym?

Maybe there is a cinema along the street? Maybe it is next to a city’s business sector. Start to understand how people would weave your new gym or fitness club into their lifestyle.

 

High Street Shoppers

 

TIP 5

Collaboration & Competition

 

Now you have an idea of the area and what else might draw your potential customers to it, work out if any of these are ripe for collaborations.

A new gym requires a lot of promotion (which we have loads of helpful e-books on), and local partners are the ideal way to spread the good word about your new gym or fitness club. Think about what businesses would make for natural partners, both in the short term and the long term.

In turn, think about the competition that could arise in the future:

Don’t just look to see if an area is already overpopulated with gyms and fitness clubs, but also whether there are empty units or locations that could one day be turned into competition.

 

TIP 6

What is your Gym or Fitness Clubs Unique Selling Point (USP)?

 

As we hinted at in the point on demographics, if you are setting up a gym or fitness club, you want it to do something better than any other gym in the area. Whether that is a certain type of equipment or training, a type of class (the aforementioned MMA in Yorkshire), or the infrastructure, location or facilities that the Gym has, it should be planned in advance.

Once again, market research comes into play. Look at the prospective competition in the area you’ve selected.

Are there no gyms with a significant amount of parking?

Are there no gyms that offer competition level body-building equipment?

Does nowhere have an Octagon? 

It may sound like one upmanship and that is because it is. These are the sort of questions that the prospective customers your gym will be vying for will be asking themselves. Make sure your gym has enough of a USP that the answer frequently goes in your favour. 

 

Now, maybe it’s time to get back on Google maps…

 

To close off this article, we think it is important to reiterate what we said at the beginning.

Setting up a gym or fitness club is no small feat, but more importantly it is a task that rewards thorough market research beforehand.

We hope this article can serve as a checklist of criteria to look for when scouting for a location for your new gym or fitness club.

 

And if you are looking to start a gym or fitness club…

…And need help with running your business…

Then it might be time to drop us a line!

Ashbourne Membership Management has been working with partners in the fitness industry for over 25 years and we’ve been with gyms and fitness clubs at every stage of the journey, including setup.

So if you are interested in having your membership management locked in place before your doors even open, come and book a gym consultation today. We can show you round our system and give you tips for how to grow your club and collect your payments.

All our sales team own gyms or work within the industry, so a quick chat is well worth your time!