New Year’s Day is right around the corner, and that means gyms can expect the annual rush of resolution-fueled gym members. Although the short-lived swarm of new clients each January is great, gyms should be doing more to market themselves throughout the year – and doing it in more innovative ways.
People hesitate to join gyms for many reasons: cost, location, fear of commitment (both time and money).
Although there is usually a gym membership for most anyone’s income range – some gyms offer monthly memberships for as low as $10, while memberships to "luxury" gyms can rival the cost of a country club – consumers can often perceive the monthly cost as a barrier to joining. Or, potential clients may be turned off not by the monthly dues but by the sometimes hefty sign-up fees.
Some gyms require new members to sign lengthy contracts to join, which can turn off people who worry they may move or want to cancel before the contract expires.
Another reason some people avoid joining a gym is location, location, location. Customers could fear that signing up at one gym might not work with their daily commutes, or they may fear that they won’t be able to commit to regular gym workouts because of changing work schedules and family obligations.
Gym owners and managers have to do more to attract those people who don’t have gym memberships, and they have to be more inventive in how they market themselves. Here are some ideas about new and innovative ways to market gyms and gym memberships:
Be On Trend
Workout trends change constantly. Heck, they change daily. Today’s latest workout craze needs to be in your gym tomorrow. Many once-trendy workouts are now classroom staples at gyms: yoga, Pilates, Zumba. But gyms miss an important opportunity when they don’t incorporate and introduce the newest workouts and classes as they become popular. For example, ballet barre-inspired workouts are all the rage right now. Did you know that one barre class can cost as much as $25? That’s the monthly cost of a gym membership right there. If your gym were to bring on a barre instructor for a few classes a week, customers would recognize a monthly gym membership is a steal compared to the hefty cost (sometimes $200 a month) of going to a trendy workout studio.
Offer the Latest and Greatest Equipment
One of the best marketing strategies is word-of-mouth. If your current clients are impressed by your new equipment and state-of-the-art machines, chances are they’ll tell their family and friends how much they love their gym. But this isn’t just about treadmills with individual TV screens and built-in iPhone docking stations. This is about incorporating new ways to use the latest equipment to make working out faster and easier for your members. One example is the 30-minute workout station. This is a relatively new concept that’s easy to implement. Set up weight machines in a circuit around a central hub. The hub has a red and green light (much like a traffic signal) that shows people when to start and when to stop. During the red light, everyone moves on to the next weight machine or step box in the circuit, adjusts the weights and seats, and gets settled in. When the light turns green, everyone does one set of 10 reps, for example. When the light turns red again, everyone switches machines again until each individual has done three sets on each machine, all in 30 minutes. That makes the workout fast, easy and thorough.
People today are much more likely – and much more able – to seek support from their family and friends for their weight-loss and fitness goals. A big part of that is social networking; there are countless weight-loss support groups and fitness challenge pages created among friends on Facebook. So why not create that same kind of community and camaraderie in your gym? Gym managers can launch fitness challenges for a set amount of time, say 90 days, and get members to sign up. The fitness challenge could include a schedule of classes or different workouts each day and would offer participants support – both online (through the gym’s social networks) and in-person with other challengers at the gym. The challenge could also offer rewards, such as a free month of membership or promotional items (water bottles, towels, etc.), for those who successfully meet their personal fitness goals. This type of support, structure and social interaction could entice people to join a gym rather than go it alone.
Technology is changing the face of fitness. Today, there are countless apps to help people with their health goals, whether that’s quitting smoking, losing weight or buffing up. There are apps to count calories, track how often you work out and even help you train for marathons. Gyms need to get on board with these game-changing technologies in order to promote their business and bring in new clients. One new program called GymPoints allows users to buy virtual "day passes" to any participating gym. The GymPoints website and mobile app allows users to download the free app to their smartphones, tablets, or other mobile devices then buy "points" that get them in to any participating gym. This allows gyms to tap into the estimated 205 million people who avoid buying gym memberships because they worry about the long-term commitment and monthly dues, or they fear they won’t be able to get to the gym because they have long commutes, changing work schedules, and family obligations. The GymPoints program is one example of how gym owners and managers can use new technologies to attract new clients – and new revenue – to their facilities. To participate in GymPoints, gym owners or managers simply sign up then use their free GymPoints-provided iPad and mobile app to check in GymPoints customers. And that’s that: A new person walked in the door because of an app – and could keep coming back.
Get Out There
Gyms can get their name out in the community by, well, getting out into the community. Consider offering free or special events off-site – away from your gym – and advertising them to targeted groups online. For example, in March, consider offering a weekly "Bridal Boot Camp" in a local park. The event could be free or cost a nominal fee, but your gym could promote it through social media, post it on Craigslist, and even create a Meetup.com group as a way for brides-to-be to get in shape before their big day. (June is the height of wedding season, after all.) The options for themed events are endless: a "Swimsuit Season" community workout in May or a "Post-New Year’s Resolution" group workout in February. Your gym can also do hyper-local events tailored around local happenings, such as offering running groups and training to prepare for an annual race in your city. Hosting off-site, community-focused events will increase your presence in the market and get your gym on people’s minds.
About the Author
Aaron Trockman enjoys snow skiing, hiking, biking and generally being outdoors. A native of the Chicago Suburbs he has since moved to Colorado where he participates in the up and coming technology start-up scene and the thriving music scene. His favorite concert venue is Red Rocks Amphitheater. When not skiing or at a concert, Aaron is often found making occasional trips to the gym or a fitness studio around town. Since May of 2013, Aaron Trockman has led the development and rollout of GymPoints.