Why Client Acquisition Is Impossible and Other Gym Myths

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  • Why Client Acquisition Is Impossible and Other Gym Myths

Breaching the Barriers of the Fitness Business

Gyms should always be about positivity and overcoming obstacles. So, it’s worth taking a look at a few of the hurdles you’re likely to encounter in fitness entrepreneurship.

I’m not saying you should forge ahead recklessly. You need a plan and contingencies. However, don’t let the inevitable difficulties and the nay-sayers turn you away from your dream of becoming a fitness club owner.

Big Box Brands Take All the Business

False! You don’t have to invest a fortune in a primo location, lease one-hundred tons of the latest Internet-connected equipment, and then compete on price. Multi-national, corporate-name fitness clubs indeed have name recognition, and some of them provide services at competitive prices.

All the same, the fitness industry has plenty of room for all sizes of business, from corporate giants down to independent trainers and peripatetic Pilates instructors. It is one of the most open and healthy consumer marketplaces in America and across the world.

Yes, there are big companies that can undercut you, others that provide luxury facilities, still more that have locations around the world. The response to that is: Do not compete on price; that is not a productive mindset for a small player in this industry. It’s far better to focus on a niche, develop a system that members want and love, and concentrate on making it work in the short and long term.

Compete on service to people and helping members. Your accessibility and personal touch is something that the big gyms can never achieve. Sure, corporations can produce slick marketing and talk the talk. However, there will always be a significant fraction of potential members who despise the big box brands.

If you can reach these prospects on a personal level, and demonstrate value, they will be happy to sign up with you. The lesson is: Be loyal to your customers, and they’ll return the favor. It’s human nature, you’re in a people business, and it works on a human scale better than the corporate.

There Is Only One Kind of Success

Nobody ever says it, but the unspoken assumption by non-gym owners is that success looks like one thing. It’s a subjective judgment that varies in detail from one person to another. However, the broad assumption is that winning looks like growth.

Whether it is growth in membership numbers, how many new clubs you start, or conspicuous wealth. If you don’t drive a Bugatti or open a new branch every month, you’re obviously failing somehow, which is not necessarily valid by any means.

There are as many versions of success as there are fitness clubs on the Main Streets of America. If you put together a plan, do the grunt work and open your doors to the public, you’re a success. Just getting going is more than most people do.

If you do everything right, it is still no guarantee that your club will stay open indefinitely. You may have employees, a committed core of loyal members, and big-time financial backers, that does not mean it’ll work out for you.

You can unwind that business and still be a success. It’s true! There are stacks of ways to exit an unprofitable business. The one key feature to doing so is honesty, with your stakeholders and yourself. Investors appreciate that they took a risk, and customers may be disappointed, but more likely to sign on to your next venture.

Success can be walking away or staying open, launching a new location, or selling your studio to a competitor. Perhaps, you won’t hit the specific goals you started with, but, if you increase your gym management experience, build your cash or credit, and establish a name as a player in the business, you’re winning.

Client Acquisition Is Like Bodybuilding

Of course, there are things to legitimately that should give pause to your ambitions to conquer the fitness world. Can you keep your costs down and live on a shoestring budget? Bodybuilders are notorious for being broke but passionately committed to their goals. You may not want them using your gym, but they deserve respect.

No offense intended if you’re into the sport; I admire you. In fact, if you apply the same disciplined mindset to your gym business, you can get excellent results. If you want to succeed as a bodybuilder, you have to keep your costs down ruthlessly while you invest any cash in nutrition and time in the weight room.

Focus your energy on acquiring each new member like you’re stretching to do that last, exhaustive rep in a set at your favorite station. Don’t allow yourself to be put off by the critics or become overwhelmed by the scale of what you’re attempting.

There is a long list of petty reasons why you cannot sell memberships, according to the doubters. Calculating the sum-total of what it will take to break even makes it look impossible. You build up a gym membership one person at a time. It sounds like hard work, but when you have a reliable process that you and your team follow, success is a matter of time.

Managing Your Gym Is a Nightmare of Complexity

The right gym management software minimizes the complexity of fitness management. Seriously, take a look at Insight. Whether you’re up and running or getting ready to launch, Gym Insight is a gym management software suite that’s got everything you need. It simplifies the process of membership management from onboarding, to subscriptions, payment management, and client retention.

That doesn’t mean that you can just click a link, hit enter, and walk away. It does mean you keep your accounts, records, and reports simplified and organized. Insight gives you leverage to do more. It empowers you to focus on the business of building your gym business.

Client acquisition is a part of building a profitable membership base, but so is client retention. Add new members and implement Gym Insight to take command of every stage of the client lifecycle: Monitor and re-inspire your members who might wander off. Develop processes for selling, onboarding, client programming, and retention, and you will amaze yourself at the levels of client acquisition you can achieve; it’s free to get started, and we’re here to help with your questions.


"3 Myths about Owning a Gym." Equip Your Gym (blog), July 21, 2015. https://equipyourgym.com/3-myths-about-owning-a-gym/.

Allan, TJ. "What i Wish i Knew before Losing $75,000 on My Gym Business." The PTDC, July 27, 2017. https://www.theptdc.com/75000-dollar-mistake.

Cooper, Chris. "Affiliate Gym Business Plan: Steps to Create Your Own." Zen Planner (blog), June 23, 2017. https://zenplanner.com/affiliate-gym-business-plan-part-1/.

Fagan, Lawrence. "11 Tips about Starting Your Own Business in Fitness." Gym Insight Blog, June 22, 2019. https://blog.gyminsight.com/5531-11-tips-about-starting-your-own-business-in-fitness/.