Sport & Exercise Science, Sports Management
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Gym marketing – 6 affordable, proven tips to stand out

Gym marketing cover

Marketing is evolving and changing fast. As is the fitness industry. Stay on top of your game with these 6 gym marketing tips.

When it comes to gym marketing and managing a fitness centre it is difficult to stand out in a sea of clutter. This is the same in any industry. In January 2017 the New York Times estimated that an individual residing in a city viewed up to 5,000 ad messages per day (Story 2017). This is a big jump from the 2,000 daily ads that an individual encountered 30 years ago, according to the market research firm Yankelovich (Story 2017).

Modernise your business

Traditionally, companies have relied upon the foundation of the four Ps of marketing—product, price, place and promotion—to guide strategic planning. We spoke about the 4 P’s at length in a recent article How to make money and grow your personal trainer business.

However, with the emergence of innovative marketing solutions (e.g., social media, data analytics) to engage and measure activity with the consumer, many in the marketing profession see modern marketing as going beyond the four Ps.

One issue in modern marketing relates to who has true control of the messaging. With consumers publically expressing how they feel about products and services through social media, one has to wonder who is really responsible for today’s marketing strategies—the company or the consumer.

These examples demonstrate just some of the challenges fitness managers face today with the recent shift from traditional marketing to digital marketing. The new digital marketing methods offer the ability to target specific audiences through digital channels such as search engines, websites, social media, email and mobile apps.

Although traditional marketing still has a part to play, gaining an understanding of the real-time dynamics and impact of digital channels is paramount for success in marketing your fitness programmes.

In our new book Health Fitness Management, 3rd Edition authors Mike Bates, Michael Spezzano and Guy Danhoff go into depth about running a gym/fitness centre and have some great gym marketing tips. This article is inspired by that book along with Leisure Services Management, 2nd Edition and offers 6 gym marketing tips that will equip you with the foundation and tools required to grow your business.

1. Develop a strategic marketing plan

“Attraction is the first step in leveraging #DigitalMarketing. Without it, your brand does not exist in the mind of the consumer.” @Guy Danhoff

There are a few key components that maximise the marketing arsenal. The first step is a situational analysis regarding your organisation’s current situation in the marketplace. Your programmes and service offerings must be defined from a competition frame of reference so everyone knows what key differences you offer the market. In other words, it must be crystal clear to you, your competitors, consumers and prospects exactly what you offer that distinguishes the brand. A SWOT analysis is a good starting point.

Secondly you should describe your target markets in detail, in Health Fitness Management, 3rd Edition they use an identification model of primary, secondary and tertiary markets paired with the demographic and psychographic information.

The third step when developing a strategic marketing plan is to establish and refine the marketing goals and objectives. The key here is to ensure every goal is measurable.

The fourth step is the most crucial element of developing the strategic marketing plan according to the authors of Health Fitness Management, 3rd Edition. This is where the marketing communication strategies are identified, as are the tactics to execute the marketing plan. This is where every step of the process is in order to execute a flawless mission.

Data drives decisions

Today, fitness managers and the gym marketing staff have a plethora of tools and platforms at their disposal to plan and execute an effective marketing launch. Furthermore, gym owners, fitness managers and marketers can greatly enhance their ability to make effective changes to the plan based on real-time data from their website, social media channels and other information technology systems. The notion of “data drives decisions” couldn’t be more relevant than in this marketing application.

The key is to invest in marketing activities and tools that generate revenue. Fortunately, most social media channels are free. There are many social media enterprise platforms such as Hootsuite most of these are not free, but they offer features businesses can use to build their brand, grow followers and manage social media.


The riches are in the niches

Developing strategic marketing plans begins with positioning your services competitively and understanding your niche market. Entrepreneurs and marketers have suggested that “the riches are in the niches”—if the organisation develops a strong strategic marketing plan and executes the plan properly.

When it comes to gym marketing there are a lot of niches out there, there is a growing demand for S&C gyms, CrossFit gyms, boutique gyms and many more.

As a gym owner or fitness manager you must also have a clear grasp of what the competitors are offering and have the ability to demonstrate how the facility’s programmes and services offer a superior value proposition. Because data drives decisions, the starting point, as in any marketing endeavour, is the collection of data.

2. Research and Analyse

Do lots of market research! Remember marketing requires time and energy spent doing research, this is going to be your livelihood, don’t get it wrong.

The data collected can be internal data like information from within the organisation, such as past performance reports on revenue and retention and customer relationship management (CRM) databases. Or the information can be external data such as analytics data generated from specific digital marketing channels, which can be data gathered by other people or organisations.

“The long-term survival of the business depends not only on individual genius but on the collective insights of many geniuses” (Davila, et al, 2015). Data-focused fitness managers and gym marketing staff use collective information on how others in the industry manage the adoption of emerging technologies or launching new programmes; how consumers respond, behave or engage across digital marketing channels; and shifts in industry trends.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Fitness managers need to rely on collective insights when beginning the process of collecting and analysing data in internal and external environments. These data and insights should drive strategic marketing decisions.

When it comes to a fitness centre and gym marketing the manager should also do a needs, trends and competition analysis. More information on these can be found in Health Fitness Management, 3rd edition.

3. Set SMART Goals

It is paramount that goals are SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and with timelines established.

Marketing goals should fit into and reinforce the organisation’s big-picture business goals such as revenue, retention, profitability, growth potential and branding. Objectives are the activities that support the goals.

One of the biggest mistakes in gym marketing is overreaching the target market by spreading the net too wide. Traditional methods of advertising such as direct mail are beginning to be phased out due to the high costs. However, many owners and managers have a mindset of quantity over quality and still believe in the notion of marketing to the masses to increase revenue. This mindset restricts the organisation’s ability to expand its marketing arsenal with modern options such as social media, digital advertising and referrals. Taking a quality-over-quantity approach to marketing, health clubs and gyms can stretch their advertising budget by using technology to reach out to the most likely prospects.

In Health Fitness Management, 3rd edition. the authors go on to explain why data driven marketing is one of the greatest innovations that the marketing industry has ever experienced they also look at the importance of customer relationship marketing.

4. Nail your branding

A simple mistake many fitness managers and marketers make in creating and marketing a new programme/class/products is not effectively branding it. In other words, a fitness manager might communicate that the organisation offers boot camps, but it is marketed generically with only the company’s corporate branding associated. Stronger market positioning results from creating a specific brand that captures the essence of the programme/class/product and ties to the company’s vision, mission and values.

The company name and logo plays a pivotal role in brand planning and gym marketing. This business name will be the company’s first impression on the public and prospects. Therefore, strategically selecting a good name influences the ability to generate revenue. Choosing a good name that represents the brand makes it easier to spend more time on prospective new clients because you won’t waste time and money explaining or justifying your company name.

Company name

Effective company names can be generated from a family name, such as Gold’s Gym (founded by Joe Gold). As a side note, using your name as the company name has one major drawback: If you later sell the business to an outside group, your name will continue to be associated with a brand that someone else controls. Some of the best company names are short and sweet and some even invent their words. Nike, Starbucks and Apple are all great names that meet these criteria.

Logo

According to MIT Sloan Management Review, effective corporate company logos can demonstrate a significant favourable effect on consumer commitment to a brand (Whan Park, Eisingerich, and Pol 2014).

Being able to differentiate your brand from your competition is pivotal to business survival. Furthermore, communicating the values and benefits of your brand is also a key to business growth. Crafting the right look and feel of a logo to convey a certain mantra is one area fitness managers and gym owners cannot neglect if building a brand. An effective company logo makes it easier for the brand to stand out among all the media noise and clutter. There are many considerations when designing a logo such as the connotation of the colours used and how it can be used across all digital networks and printed pieces, to name a few.

gym marketing standard logo Human Kinetics


Here at Human Kinetics, we use a variety of logos depending on the platform. The logo is versatile and represents the brand image well. The Human Kinetics logo features a picture of a man running, it is soft blue as that colour is perceived as dependable, fiscally responsible, secure, serene and trustworthy (entrepreneur.com).

Logo’s for gym marketing

The logo and tag line must represent what you do. Especially important for new businesses. Here you can see Anytime Fitness, a fitness-focused gym, who have many cardio machines so it makes sense to have a running man as their logo. You can also see Sequence Gymnastics, a small gymnastics club, a gymnast has been drawn and added into the logo. Finally, we have world famous Gold’s Gym this is a weightlifting gym, their logo encompasses this with an image of a weightlifter deadlifting a heavy bar as their logo.

Mantra

The mantra is an essential part of brand planning. A brand mantra usually consists of three to five words that capture the essence of the brand. The brand mantra is considered internal to the organisation because it is not usually used as an advertising slogan.

If you asked the average person what Nike’s mantra is, most would answer “Just do it.” But that’s not their brand mantra! “Just do it” is merely an iconic tagline that works very well in print media, social media and their world-class TV ads. Nike’s actual brand mantra is “Authentic athletic performance.” The purpose of the brand mantra is to assist Nike executives and anyone who works for the brand in the process of guiding future decisions regarding product introductions under the brand and which specific ad campaigns to launch.

Another all-time classic brand mantra is that of Disney: “Fun family entertainment.” A brand mantra is a crucial part of brand planning and takes time to develop. It is imperative that fitness managers today take the necessary steps to develop a strong company and programme mantra and then make sure everyone within the organisation know them—the mantra provides guidance as to where the company should and should not go.

5. Use Social Media Properly

In Leisure Services Management, 2nd Edition, the authors Hurd, Barcelona, Zimmerman and Ready talk about how social media can be used to promote engagement, information and sales/promotion. Social media can be the best form of marketing, it is more cost-effective than any big expensive above the line marketing campaign such as TV, radio and billboards. It is classed as below the line marketing as it is targeted but can hit a wide audience. Best of both worlds!

Top 12 Social Media Marketing Mistakes

According to the authors of Health Fitness Management, 3rd Edition these are the most common social media mistakes.

  1. Not establishing clear and measurable marketing goals and objectives
  2. Blogging on topics beyond the scope of your business
  3. Overusing the technique of newsjacking (aligning your brand with a current event)
  4. Failing to respond to customer concerns
  5. Not adding perceived value to your customer base
  6. Making too many posts related to sales promotion
  7. Not incorporating images and videos
  8. Not creating a social media voice and lacking personality in posts
  9. Not using a social media calendar
  10. Regularly posting poor-quality content
  11. Neglecting to monitor data analytics
  12. Failing to build a marketing funnel

Share and like

Personally, I see a lot of gym images on social media, particularly Instagram. I’d encourage your members to tell their friends they are at your gym, its free publicity. Gym selfies shouldn’t get such a bad rep, not from the gym marketing staff anyway! Possibly they should even be encouraged if they tag your gym’s location in the post. Supplement and clothing companies pay big money for gym influencers to promote their products, gyms could do this for free. Give all images tagged with your gym a ‘like’!

Encourage selfies, especially if you have influences in your gym such as professional athletes. Even better if they add the location of the gym! Here is Human Kinetics author Bret Contreras tagging his gym on Instagram.
View this post on Instagram

Rehab Update ⁣ ⁣ It’s been exactly 40 days since I tore my gluteus maximus and I’m pretty much fully healed. I was planning on requiring 60-90 days but I apparently repair fast AF. There’s no more swelling, hardness, or lumps, and I can do all the lifts pain free. ⁣ ⁣ Here are the top sets from last night’s workout: ⁣ ⁣ High bar full squats 365 x 1⁣ Sumo deadlifts 545 x 1⁣ Smith machine hip thrusts 315 x 30⁣ ⁣ I also did a set of machine seated hip abduction, frog pumps, and extra range side lying hip abduction. Today, there is no soreness or swelling. ⁣ ⁣ I’d like to schedule another MRI just to verify that the massive tear is fully healed but as you can see, my rehabilitation protocol was very effective and I didn’t lose too much strength. I need to reclaim 40 lbs off my high bar deep squat and sumo deadlift and get back into the rhythm of doing hip thrusts and the other lifts but that will come in time. ⁣ ⁣ I’m so happy to be able to train the way I like again. This was just a hiccup. I’m back!⁣ You can’t keep a Glute Guy down. #gluteguy #glutelab

A post shared by Bret "Glute Guy" Contreras PhD (@bretcontreras1) on

6. Get Familiar With Online Analytics

Club owners, managers and the gym marketing staff need to use the data generated in real time from social media analytics as a way to increase social media marketing power to increase profitability. Social media engagement has been associated with a plethora of positive outcomes, including increased sales (eMarketer 2015; Lake 2011) and increased brand loyalty (Powers et al. 2012).

There has been a remarkable shift in analytics technology over the past decade. But due to the complexity of the data, expertise is required for optimising these analytical tools, creating a need for organisations to develop specialists in data analytics and business intelligence. The advancements in analytics can greatly affect organisational success; however, to take advantage of the accessibility of the data, the organisation’s leaders must become more responsive and willing to change culture and strategy.

Social Media Analytics

The best way to know and understand each social media channel’s analytics is to go to the channel’s website, where there is a wealth of information about the functional capability of each tool. Analytical data is easy to access and can be used even on the first day on the job. One of the best starting points in using social media analytics is to create a baseline for future comparisons.

Facebook offers Facebook Insights, which provides a report on page likes, post reach and engagement for the last 7 days of your page’s performance. Twitter offers Twitter Analytics, which provides a snapshot of the past 28 days of your page’s performance in the areas of tweet impressions, profile visits, mentions and followers in addition to individual tweet impressions and engagement rates. Instagram for Business has lots of great free analytics too. Get to grips with this data and start using analytics to drive future marketing decisions by analysing the data reports.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free service that offers club operators the ability to track their website traffic and conversions. You will be set up with a tracking code upon sign-up.

The Google Analytics tracking code shows the number of users visiting the site, the quality of users visiting the site based on variable parameters and most important, intelligence on how those users are attracted to and interacting with the site.

Google Analytics provides a plethora of reports to meet your business goals and expectations. One report, the convenient audience overview, is a quick way to access and view the most information. There are many online tools to help you get the most out of the audience overview report. So take some time to familiarise yourself with this powerful tool, to review the capabilities of the various reports and integrate them into your marketing goals and your strategic planning. In conclusion, using Google Analytics will greatly help you understand the activities that generate increases in traffic.

How to make the most of your marketing efforts and how to make your gym marketing stand out

  1. Develop a strategic marketing plan

    Start with a SWOT analysis, understand your demographics and psychographic information. Refine the marketing goals and objectives. Then execute your plans.

  2. Research and analyse

    Do a needs analysis, trends analysis and competition analysis. Collect data from internal and external environments.

  3. Set SMART goals

    Ensure that your goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and with timelines established.

  4. Nail your branding

    Choose a name, logo, mantra that represents the brand and helps you stay focused and consistent. Differentiate your brand from your competition.

  5. Use Social Media Properly

    Be engaging, motivational and informative. Encourage others to promote your brand too.

  6. Get familiar with online analytics

    Use Social Media Analytics and Google Analytics. Take the time to learn and understand the data and let that drive your future marketing efforts.

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Hi, I'm Ryan, the Marketing Manager and chief blogger here at Human Kinetics Europe Ltd. As somewhat of a washed-up athlete I've always had a passion for health, fitness and sport science. I now find myself working at the world’s biggest independent publisher of sport, health, dance and fitness resources. This means I get unrestricted access to all the best, most interesting, scientifically-proven writing on sports science. Of course I'm going to share this with you!

1 Comment

  1. Hi Ryan – I really enjoyed reading your blog as it sounds so 2019 with the challenges and opportunities marketing a gym today. I would love to have you as a guest on my weekly #FutureFitMarketing Live Show sometime soon.

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