How to Market Your Fitness Business When You’re Broke, Part One

How to Market Your Fitness Business When You’re Broke, Part One

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Are you too broke to market your fitness business? In a word—nope! Yes, you can increase your clients and your revenue without sacrificing your bottom line!

The most successful big gyms have major marketing plans, and they also have marketing and advertising companies to help them get there. I did…but I didn’t start that way. Back in the day I was a broke kid printing out flyers on my friend’s home printer and spending days canvasing the neighborhoods where I thought my ideal clients lived or worked. Sounds fun, huh?

I toughed it out for years and then I sucked it up and asked for help (something I’m really not good at). I hired a consultant, and then I hired an incredible manager, and then I hired an ads manager, and then I pretty much stepped away from my fitness business and let it run without me. Score!

But what do you do while you’re waiting to make enough to do all the things you want to do? Luckily, you have me to help you get there faster! Let’s do this!

You can basically break your clients down into three categories:

  1. Current clients
  2. Old clients
  3. New clients

Sounds simple enough.

Current Clients

It should be no surprise that the easiest and cheapest client to maintain is the current one. They are already active in your business and you get the chance every single day to sell your brand to them.

The problem comes when you stop seeing the current clients as potentially new clients, as well. Just because a client is frequenting your business this month doesn’t necessarily mean they will be back next month. This client needs to be constantly convinced, resold, or upgraded. I have found that my very best clients only became better when I actively worked to get them more invested in themselves and my company.

So, what does that look like? That’s referral programs, logo wear, taking more classes or meeting for private sessions, doing progress and goal reviews, workshop add-ons, guest instructors, special and VIP events, and more. Keep your current clients engaged and happy and your bank account will be happy, too.

Old Clients

The next easiest client to obtain is the client you had yesterday—you just need to remind them why they came to you in the first place. They already know you, your fitness business, your brand, and everything that goes with it, now you just need to resell them on your awesomeness.

My first move is always to re-engage them with a text, call, or email (usually email since I can send one to many without it seeming weird). You would be amazed how many clients just need a small reminder.

The easiest way to do this is with a company newsletter—just a little something to keep you in their inbox. Maybe it includes a move of the month, or a smoothie recipe, or a link to an article you read on osteoporosis and fitness, or just the updated class schedule. Whatever it is, this is an email I send out once or twice a month to keep me on their minds. Nothing crazy.

The most important factor in these emails is the re-engagement. Maybe I had an incredible client who likes my services, but they just got bored, or the times stopped working for them, or they had a major life change (like a baby). Sending them a newsletter of what’s going on can reignite their interest or help them find a new one without leaving my facility.

Email marketing is so important and so powerful! You have a list of interested people, now you have the opportunity to turn them all into regular clients! This is one thousand times more valuable than any paid social media campaign you will ever consider. Check out my TOOLS page for a couple of my favorite email providers (and no, gmail won’t work even though I love them).

If you still have people you haven’t seen recently, then I reach out with an individual text or email with the following sentence (feel free to copy it):

Subject (if it’s an email): Quick Question (or Real Quick or One Thing, etc)
Email: Do you still want to… (fill in the blank here with their goal)?

You could be writing something as simple as “Do you still want to improve your fitness this year?” or “Do you still want to land your backflip this year?” or “Do you still want to perform a pull-up this year?” or “Do you still want to nail your splits this year?” or…you get the idea.

Remind them why they came to you. Remind them of their goal. Then leave it for them to ponder. No call to action, no update on current sales, just that one questions and your name (and fitness business footer so they have some more cues).

Put the ball in their court. Ask them to redefine their goals. Maybe they started the year wanting to climb to the top of the aerial silks, but now they might be more interested in lyra, but aren’t sure where to start. Asking them where they are with their goals can start a conversation and get them back in the door.

New Clients

This. This is what every gym, studio, or fitness business owner wants. More NEW clients, who you can turn into current clients, who fuel your future business.

If you could take your favorite clients—the top 10% of sales and the ones you look forward to training—and clone them, this would be your ideal client. This is your target market! These are the people you know will connect with you and your brand and who will tell (and bring) all their friends. Word of mouth is and always will be the best form of advertising.

But word of mouth doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people and your clients, however dedicated and adoring, are not your sales team. You can’t wait around passively for referrals to come in the door. You need referral marketing (sometimes called affinity marketing).

Imagine your fitness business as the center Sun (or maybe just the center of your universe…it seems that way sometimes). If you and your business are the Sun, then Mercury is your ideal client, Venus is the people closest to them (a spouse, a child, a roommate), Earth is the next closest group of people (work colleagues, rock climbing buddies, etc), and so on.

Obviously, there are a lot more planets, and people, but the further out from the Sun you go, the more money you will have to invest in obtaining them. These are still excellent, viable candidates, but you want to nurture the first few tiers with free marketing and advertising and then work on paid advertising campaigns to capture more people later.

The benefit to this tactic is that not only will you have more money to work on strategies, but you will be more comfortable with your overall sales process as you practice on the people closer to you first.

But let’s start with the freebies. One of the most effective plans includes the “bring a buddy” strategies. For the longest time I used to offer free, community classes, or free beach yoga, or community outdoor social jams, or donation-based blah blah blah. It’s too much! Some people only work out once a week, so if you give them the chance to do that every week, you will only attract the deal-grubbers. Ever host an outdoor pole session only to see the same people every week who then go home and YouTube their lessons and never actually attend a class? Yeah….

I’m not saying you should never do those things—they are great for publicity and a great way to get free press coverage—but these events should be a novelty, not a normalcy. So instead, actively encourage your current clients to bring a friend on a specific day for a specific class.

Choose a class that showcases what you do, but doesn’t require a lot of technical knowledge or extra staffing to accomplish. You want them to get interested and excited without costing you more in the execution. And above all, make sure you get them to sign the waiver, and include their name, email, and phone number for subsequent follow-up endeavors.

Now comes the important part: ASK FOR THE SALE. I am amazed how often this step is skipped! Usually the excuse I hear is “I don’t want to be salesy.” Um…yeah, you do. You want to sell them something, right? You can help them achieve a goal, right? So, what’s wrong with telling them how they can get more of your awesome classes?

This isn’t sleezy used car sales. This is helping your client solve a problem. You know how. Now tell them how they can do it! They are literally waiting for you to ask them. And if they don’t sign up, that’s ok! Keep them on your email list so you can nurture them over the next week, month, year until they are ready.

My next favorite method of gaining new clients is to capitalize on my top five. It sounds horrible when you say it like that, but the truth is, I want people like my top five. They are loyal, they are positive, they spend money and don’t haggle. These are the people you want in your gym and the people you want to keep happy. It’s for these top five (maybe ten depending on my needs) that I reserve the free private training certificates.

I want to stress how much I hate giving away free sessions. Time is money and my time is valuable, so I don’t give out free sessions regularly. And that’s important. If a customer or potential customer sees you handing out freebies like candy at Halloween, they won’t see the value of your service, and will in turn always want something for free. It’s annoying, but it basically comes down to your own misguided efforts.

So, when I give free private sessions, I give them in the form of a certificate handed directly to one of my top clients to give to their friends or family, and they ALWAYS include an expiration date no more than 3 months out.

As a thank you to the top five clients, I then offer a free duet private session to them and a family member—a spouse, a sister, a child, etc—once the gift certificate has been redeemed. So that means for every gift certificate I’m handing out, that’s actually two free sessions…and two potential new clients…and one more way to show value and appreciation to your current client…and it all requires your client to actively give that certificate to someone who will actually come in.

Then we have the special events: Grand Openings, Grand Re-Openings, Brunch and Biceps, Detox Retox, Climb for the Cure, Namaste and Chardonnay, Pole for Puppies, the options are literally endless. Hosting a special event to raise awareness (for a cause of just for your facility) is an excellent way to reach out to everyone and get your fitness business on their minds.

The upside is building community, creating excitement, and yes, obtaining new clients. The downside is having a bunch of schleps show up for free booze and getting no real movement in your fitness business. Booooo! The difference comes in how you setup your event and how you ask for the sale. It’s great to do something for the community and to make some new friends, but those things don’t pay your mortgage, so don’t forget that every event is an opportunity to sell your service.

And make sure free events are no more than once a quarter, maybe even only twice a year. You want to build community, not a halfway house. Paid events can be more frequent (I usually hosted those at least once a month).

We haven’t even scratched the surface! Next week I’ll cover the power of coffee, power team referrals, loving thy neighbor, and larger scale community events. But let’s recap this week’s strategy ideas:

  1. Treat your current clients the way they want to be treated
  2. Upsell and check-in with current clients
  3. Reach out to past and present clients with a newsletter
  4. Begin “bring your buddy” classes
  5. Ask for the sale
  6. Recruit the help of your top five clients
  7. Organize a special event for current clients, as well as Mercury, Venus, and Mars clients

How do you attract new customers? Have you tried any of these methods?

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.

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How to Market Your Fitness Business When You’re Broke, Part Two


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