Members are the lifeblood of your business. If you’re not getting a constant stream of new bodies on the gym floor, you’re going to be treading water at best and slowly sinking in a sea of debt at worst. But how can you increase your gym membership when you’re already struggling to pay the bills.  In this article, I’ll lay out 9 ways to get new gym members that don’t require a significant marketing budget injection. In fact, most of them don’t cost anything at all. 

Overview

Before we dig into the details of each of our low cost ways to get new gym members, here’s an overview of the 9 strategies …

  1. Ask for Referrals
  2. Networking
  3. Offer Incentives
  4. Re-Contact Old Members
  5. Enhance Your Website
  6. Partner with Complementary Businesses
  7. Promote Your Expertise
  8. Online Reviews
  9. Get Involved in Community Events

Ask for Referrals

Asking for referrals is the cheapest, most effective and yet most underutilized way to increase gym memberships that exist. Quite simply, if your gym is not actively seeking referrals, you are neglecting your largest potential source of new members. 

Asking for the referral should be a standard part of the sales process that is taught to all of your sales people. It should be practiced with role plays in training sessions so that when the referral is asked for, it flows seamlessly and naturally. 

Asking for referrals, though, is not something that should only happen with new members. You should also do so with your existing members. You can do this in your email correspondence, perhaps offering an incentive to introduce a new member, such as getting 3 months added to their membership. 

Encouraging members to find a training partner is another way to get referrals. Maybe you could write an article about the benefits of buddy training and then finish with a call to action to refer a potential workout partner, linked to a discount offer. 

Have all of your staff keyed into the benefits of asking for referrals. If you have developed a culture of inclusiveness and been open and honest with your staff, they will be personally invested in the success of the business. They’ll want to do their part to increase membership sales. Make it easy for them by having attractive referral program flyers on hand that they can use as the basis for a discussion with members. 

Network

Networking begins with your personal power base. That includes everyone on your phone’s database. You don’t want to hardsell to those people to join your gym but they should all know what you do for a living and that you are the ‘go to’ guy for everything to do with weight loss, bodybuilding and strength training. 

Send out a message to all of your contacts that you’re having a membership drive. Rather than targeting them, ask them to share your special offer with people they know who may be wanting to lose 20 pounds over the next 3 months. 

In addition to working your personal network, you should build your professional network. Attend networking events. A handy tool to help you to cue into networking events in your area is meetup.com

Offer Incentives

A key principle of sales technique is to create urgency. Unless you give people a reason to act now, they will revert to their default state; procrastination. A discount incentive that is about to expire provides the urgency for a person to make a decision now. 

When closing the sale, you, or your sales staff, should always offer the potential member a choice between two options. That way, rather than being a choice between joining and not joining, it becomes a choice between joining with this offer or joining with that offer. Have both offers on printed flyers, along with the standard prices. Then, take a marker and cross out the normal price on one of the offers, replacing it with your discounted offer, making the person aware that it will only last for a couple of days. 

As mentioned already, you should also offer incentives for existing members to introduce a friend or family member. Providing an extension on membership for existing members is a proven winner. You should also consider offering a special family discounted rate.

Re-Contact Old Members

After referrals, old members are the largest source of potential new members. They represent a large number of people that you have a lot of information about on your database. Yet, many gyms completely neglect them. Others that do contact former gym members make the mistake of going directly to a request that they rejoin, maybe with a discount offer. 

Offering an incentive to rejoin the gym may work for some lapsed members. But others may have stopped coming to the gym because of some issue that went unresolved. Unless you address that issue, you will not get them back. 

When a member ends their membership, you should ask them to complete an exit survey. In it, ask directly if their leaving is because of some sort of problem. You should do what you can to resolve the issue and save the membership. But, if you can’t, you need to use that issue, recorded on your database, as the building block for reconnecting with that person a few months down the track. Ignoring the issue and simply offering a cheaper price to rejoin isn’t going to work. 

You need to have a regular program where a designated staff member contacts lapsed members. They need to be trained to do this in a smooth, easy, conversational manner that both offers an incentive to rejoin and addresses any specific issues that the former member experienced previously. 

Enhance Your Website

Most gyms have attractive looking websites, with action images and all the relevant information that a visitor needs to know about the gym. In other words, the website serves as an online brochure. But, your website needs to be more than an online brochure. For it to have an impact on sales, it needs to serve as a lead generator. 

If your website is not generating leads then you need to make the changes so that it serves that purpose. The website should drive people to a sign up page. It should also provide a way that you can collect contact details from the visitor. So, how can you do that?

People visit gym websites because they want to make some physical changes, such as losing weight or gaining muscle. Making use of a lead generation giveaway that addresses that need will put your website to work, providing a database of email addresses that you can market to. 

Offer separate lead generation tools for both fat loss and muscle gain. Employ a skilled freelancer to create  compelling document with information that is unique and that they can’t get with a simple Google search.

Having added a lead generation offer to your website, you need to work on getting the website in front of more eyes. That means Search Engine Optimization. There is a lot of good information available on this topic but the bottom line is that you need to create top quality content that is engaging and relevant. That means having a blog section on your website that features fitness related content that does more than regurgitate the thousands of ‘How to Get a Six Pack for Summer’ articles that proliferate the web. 

Partner with Complementary Businesses

By reaching out to local businesses that offer a service that complements yours, you will be able to achieve a win-win that benefits the bottom line of both businesses. Obvious examples of complementary businesses are the local hair and beauty salon, the tanning salon, the cryotherapy clinic, the health food store and the sports clothing retailer. 

The common thread between all of these businesses is that their customers want to look and feel better about themselves. When looking for businesses to partner with, keep the following 3 objectives in mindL

  • Building the equity of your brand
  • Widening your exposure
  • Reaching new audiences

When you are considering a business to partner with, make sure that their vision and objectives align with yours. Offer special deals between the two businesses, share blog content and email lists. Yet, the most direct form of cross business marketing is simply to talk about the other business to your members. Provide a free membership to the business owner that you’re partnering with and make sure that they receive top notch service. That way they will be speaking from personal experience when they recommend your gym to their clients. 

Get Involved in Community Events

Take every opportunity to participate in community events. Doing so will ingrain your business as part of the fabric of the local community. It will also get you in front of more people. Hold a community event in the gym itself and you’ll be driving a lot more people through the front door. And the more people that come through the door, the more sales conversions you will get. 

When you are holding a community event in the gym, or even when you are participating in an event off-site, I recommend holding some sort of competition where you can collect email addresses or phone numbers. An effective way to do this is to give away a 12-month membership with a lucky draw. 

Promote Your Expertize

As a gym owner, you already have a special status in the local community. You can capitalize on the fact that people see you as a fitness guy by specializing in one aspect of fitness and promoting yourself in that light. 

Let’s say that you focus on weight loss as your specialty. Promote that expertize in the community as actively as you can. Hold free weight loss seminars, write guest blog posts for your complimentary businesses and talk to people about the myths of weight loss and what they can do to find success.

By promoting your expertize, you will be establishing your gym as the local destination for achieving weight loss success. 

Online Reviews

The majority of people go online to check user reviews before making any purchasing decision. That is especially true of service businesses like gyms. You need to actively work to make sure that when people go online to check your reviews they are going to read things that enhance their likelihood of becoming a member. 

Yelp, Facebook and Google are where most people go to find gym reviews. You should ask your new and existing members for a review. Hone in on those members who you are confident are going to say glowing things about the gym. Then don’t just leave it to them to follow through – send them a link to the review site. And rather than leaving what they say to chance, provide them with suggested talking points, such as why they chose the gym, what the service has been like and what results they have achieved. 

When you have built up a good number of reviews, you should make use of them in your marketing. Feature them in your emails, and social media posts.

Summary

Effective gym marketing doesn’t require a sizable marketing budget. In this article, I’ve presented 9 time tested strategies that cost next to nothing to implement. Here’s a recap of the 9 strategies …

  1. Ask for Referrals
  2. Networking
  3. Offer Incentives
  4. Re-Contact Old Members
  5. Enhance Your Website
  6. Partner with Complementary Businesses
  7. Promote Your Expertize
  8. Online Reviews
  9. Get Involved in Community Events

What these strategies do demand is consistency and passion. If you, and your staff members, can bring those two elements to the table, then you will have an ongoing stream of new members signing up, keeping your gym both healthy and wealthy.

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