With all the different forms of targeted social media marketing that are available to gym marketers, email may seem archaic and outdated. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unless you are fully utilizing email as the backbone of your internal and external marketing, you’re going to struggle to survive in the gym business. It is that important. Yet, in my experience, most gyms are not benefiting from the power of email marketing. 

In this article, I’ll lay out everything you need to know to put the power of email marketing to use to build your membership and cut your attrition rate. Here’s an overview of what we’ll cover …

  • What is email marketing
  • Inbound vs outbound marketing
  • Why email marketing should set your foundation
  • The importance of email segmentation
  • Email automation
  • Lead magnet best practises
  • Outbound marketing plan
  • Inbound marketing plan
  • Deconstructing an email campaign
  • 5 email marketing mistakes to avoid

What is email marketing

Email marketing is a marketing channel where targeted emails are sent to segmented groups of potential or existing customers. These people have voluntarily provided their email address either when they became members or as a means of receiving some benefit from you in the form of a lead magnet. 

Email marketing can also be done by utilizing purchased email lists. However, the response rate is much lower when the recipient has not opted in.

In the early days of the internet, people were eager to share their email addresses with anybody and everyone. Things are different nowadays. Nobody likes having an overflowing inbox full of messages they don’t intend to read. As a result, today’s population is much more guarded about their email address. To entice them to divulge it to you, you must provide them with something they truly value.

You should consider having to work to win email addresses a positive thing. After all, it serves little purpose to have a sizable email list of subscribers who aren’t really interested in what you have to offer and hence never open your correspondence. By producing something of genuine worth, you will end up with a high quality email list. 

Inbound vs outbound marketing

When it comes to email marketing for gyms, there are two distinct categories:

  • Inbound
  • Outbound

Inbound marketing refers to emails that are sent to your existing members. The purpose of these emails is to nurture the relationship with the members, to provide relevant, useful information they can apply in the gym and at home and to establish yourself as a fitness expert. It also provides opportunities to inform members about what is new and exciting with the gym and to promote new offers.

Outbound marketing refers to emails that are sent to prospective members. The people on this list may have replied to a lead magnet offer, they may have walked in off the street to make an inquiry, entered a competition you’ve held or shown some other interest in what you do. Their email should be channeled into a funnel that sends out a progression of emails with the end goal of getting them to become a member. 

Why gym email marketing should set your foundation

Email marketing is an extremely cost effective form of marketing. Apart from the cost of setting up your lead magnet and email automation system, there are no ongoing costs at all. Yet the potential pay-off is huge. In fact, marketing experts tell us that for every $1 spent on email marketing, you can, so long as it is done right, expect a return of investment (ROI) of $42. It would be hard to find any other form of marketing to match that ratio. 

For gyms, having an effective inbound email marketing campaign can significantly improve your member retention rate. Well crafted, segmented and personalized emails are a wonderful way to cement the relationship between you and your member. By having a special targeted email sequence for members who are potential drop offs, you can prevent a lot of people from canceling their memberships. 

An effective outbound email sequence can also dramatically improve your sales process. It can provide your salespeople with a regular flow of prospects. And, even if a person doesn’t sign up after a sales interview, your follow up campaign can continue to nurture them so that, when they’re ready, they come back to you. 

The importance of email segmentation

When it comes to outbound marketing, we frequently discuss market segmentation, but rarely when it comes to inbound engagement marketing. However, this phase is crucial to ensuring that each of our members continually receives messages that are in line with their circumstances, and objectives.

Your ability to engage your members increases as you segment your database more precisely. 

You’ll be able to deliver messages that take into account each member’s situation and goals once you’ve segmented your membership database according to their requirements, interests, and goals.

If you don’t do this, you can quickly alienate members. Just think of how a member who is wheelchair bound would feel if he received an email all about how to improve his form on squats. But what if you flipped that script and sent him email messages that contained targeted information regarding wheelchair exercise, inspirational stories about wheelchair bound athletes and information about wheelchair accessibility at your facility. 

You can bet that the recipient of the second type of email will feel far more part of the team than the first. The difference between the two is email segmentation. 

Gym email automation

An email automation service allows you to make use of predefined rules to trigger personalized email messages to your subscriber list. Using such a service will save you many hours of time and allow your email campaign to proceed seamlessly. 

To get started with your email campaign, you will need to use an email marketing software tool to automate the process. The top two on the market are:

  • MailChimp
  • Aweber

To help you which service to use, here are six factors you should consider:

  • Features – it should offer the basics such as handling email lists, segments, and offer template builders.
  • Cost and value – the pricings are based on the size of your list – what may seem cheap if you only have a few hundred subscribers could become expensive as your list grows.
  • Ease-of-use – the software package should come with a free trial or a money back guarantee – try out to see if it is user-friendly, if not try something else.
  • CRM and Marketing Automation – look for software that covers both customer relationship management and marketing automation.
  • Email analytics – the software should provide detailed and relevant statistics and reports.
  • Support – check user reviews to ensure that they offer a high degree of customer support.

Having signed up to your email marketing software provider, your next step is to create your email template. You may want to reproduce the entire look of your website on your email or simply use the. logo. It’s entirely up to you. Just keep in mind that the more businesslike your email looks, the more likely it will be to end up either unopened or in the recipient’s spam mail. People are more likely to open emails that look as if they are coming from people rather than businesses.

Gym lead magnet best practices

The best strategy to grow your email list is to make a lead magnet or gift that requires opt-in. You give something away for nothing in return for someone’s email. Trainers frequently provide free audio recordings, PDF manuals, and videos. Just make sure that it is something that your target audience fervently desires, whatever it may be. For them, it must be a no-brainer free gift.

Once you have created your lead magnet, you then have to distribute it. Offer them across all of your social media platforms. You can run it on Facebook ads, featured in your Facebook groups, featured on your website and put it on the link on your bio section on Instagram.

You will need a landing page for people to go to sign up for the lead magnet. You can create this on WordPress or can actually use landing page software such as LeadPages or Unbounce.

Here are three proven strategies that should guide your choice of lead magnet:

It must solve part of their problem…but not all of it

Your target audience must have a problem that the lead magnet addresses.  But it shouldn’t completely solve their issue. If you take care of everything, they won’t require your services. For instance, if you offer a comprehensive home workout guide for free, you will be encouraging people not to join your gym. In order to help them start fixing their problem, your gift should point them in the direction of the gym, where they complete the process.

It must be unique

Your lead magnet ought to be distinctive enough that a quick Google search won’t turn up anything comparable. It must be more in-depth and focused than the typical YouTube video or article from a fitness website.

It needs to establish you as an expert

Every element of the lead magnet, from the structure and design of your landing page to the content itself, needs to convey that you are an authority on finding a solution to the issue that they are facing, whether it be gaining muscle, breaking through a plateau, or losing body fat.

Once your lead magnet is created, you need to let people know about it. The most obvious place to advertise it is on your website. You should also palace targeted ads on social media platforms. The main platforms you should use are Facebook Ads, Instagram and Snapchat. 

Email follow ups to your lead magnet

You are now ready to set up a drip email campaign. This is where you send a series of emails to your list in order to move them closer and closer to becoming a member.

So, how do you go about creating your drip feed emails?

Here is a proven format that is used successfully by marketers all over the world every day.

Email #1: Introducing Yourself

The first job of any email is to get itself opened. To do that it has to have the right subject line. If you have generated the email address from your lead magnet, your first email should simply have a subject like “Re: Your Free Fat Loss Guide”. Once the email gets opened, the job is then to build trust and develop interest. You want to create a connection with the reader, while also letting them know the value that they are going to receive from being on your list.

Email #2: Tell a Story

In your second email you should relate a story about relating to one of your members, that vividly shows how your service positively impacts the lives of others. Go back to your brand persona and focus on the pain points that your reader is likely to be experiencing. Now tell a story about a client who is facing similar problems and relate how your service has improved their situation dramatically. Ideally, include before and after pictures and a testimonial. Of course, all of this will be done with the full permission and cooperation of the client in question.

Conclude the email with a teaser for the next one, promising to reveal exactly how you helped the client achieve their goals.

​Email #3: Provide Value

This email builds on the last one. Remind the reader of the problem that the client had and then set out in step form how you helped solve that problem. Don’t go into detail on each step – just provide a sentence for each one.

Then invite the reader to find out more how your service could benefit them.

Email #4: Facts

Now that you’ve built up a personal and emotional bond, you need to cement it with facts. In essence you connect with their heart first and then with their head. This is where you can provide some statistics and figures about the problem that they are facing. There could be obesity, cardiovascular health problems for anything that you have identified as being their pain point. This is another great opportunity to include testimonials from your members about how you have helped them come half the risk radar for these health conditions.

Email #5: Scarcity

Over the last four emails you have built up the interest level of the reader. What they need now is a push to act immediately rather than procrastinating. To do this you need to provide a time sensitive offer. This could be a discount, a free trial or an upgraded service. Whatever it is, it needs to force them out of complacency so that they make a decision now.

Make it clear that you are not forcing them to take action. If it is simply not the right time for them, tell them that you understand and would still love to continue providing them with unique and actionable information to help them solve their problem.

How to reduce unsubscribes

Keeping your leads from unsubscribing is essential for effective email marketing. People stop subscribing because they don’t think the message is worthwhile. It’s your responsibility to communicate with that person in a way that helps them value what you have to say.

Make your emails as interesting and engaging as possible. That means going beyond text only.

Include videos of your coaches offering practical advice on diet and exercise that can be used right away. These ought to highlight the trainer’s personality while using the gym’s energetic vibe as a backdrop.

Provide specific, detailed and relevant information that can’t be found with a simple Google search. Your goal should be to teach the recipient something new in every email they receive. At the end of it, you want them to be impressed that you’ve shared such quality information with them, especially if they are not even a member of your gym. 

Outbound marketing plan

Contact information from folks who have shown some interest in your company is included on your outbound email list. These are potential members. They might not be prepared to enroll right now, but if you continue to nurture them, they might be in the future.

A person typically needs between seven and ten contacts before they are prepared to come in for an appointment. It’s possible that not all of those contacts are via email. The individual may have received a direct mail piece, observed your cross-promotion with a related company, and then received three emails from you. The different layers of your advertising interact with one another to affect the perspective of your potential new member.

Through lead campaigns, digital marketing, and the additional layers of promotion you employ, you can increase the size of your email list. Additionally, you ought to gather emails from casual visitors, members and walk-ins. Create a sign-in sheet for these individuals. Since most visitors will base their decisions on what else they see on the page, it’s a good idea to put a “dummy” contact at the top of the page with a phone number and email.

You should be able to convert between 15 and 20 percent of all the leads you are gathering from mail drops, additional company promotions, and digital marketing initiatives. The remaining 80 to 85 percent do not instantly become dead leads. They need to be fed into your outbound email marketing channel. 

You need to be constantly working to build your outbound email list. Set the goal of having a list that is at least ten times as large as your gym membership. So if you’ve got 1000 members, you want to get to 10,000 email subscribers. If you work off a 1% response to an email campaign, that will generate 100 new members.

The final thing we need to talk about with regard to email marketing to prospective members is the timing of your emails. You need to get the right balance between keeping your business fresh in the mind of the reader and annoying them with overkill. You’ve properly heard the saying ‘timing is everything’ and it certainly is when it comes to an email drip campaign.

Here are a couple of best practices that we have gathered across the fitness industry . . .

  • Send out emails approximately bi-weekly. 67% of fitness businesses send 5 to 7 emails out per month, which averages out to around one and ½ to 2 per week.
  • Keep your emails brief and the reader wanting more. At the end of each email provide some sort of cliff-hanger so that they are eager to receive the next message.

Inbound marketing plan

You need to run a membership retention-focused email marketing campaign. This is a crucial strategy to maintain membership while encouraging an inclusive environment. Your members are more likely to stick with you if you can communicate with them effectively.

Your email list should be segmented. New members will receive a series of target messages to meet them at where they are. I have successfully utilized the following email schedule for new members of my gym for many years:

  • On Day 1, they should get a welcome message that spells out what their next steps are. 
  • On Day 7, they should get a congratulatory message that reaffirms their decision, and reinforces the benefits of it.
  • On Day 12, they receive a message that provides tips regarding training, nutrition, and recovery that is appropriate to their training level.
  • On Day 14, they receive another message with specific content that is at their level and usable.
  • On Day 30, they have been entered onto your monthly email list hearing all.

In the initial communication I send to new members, I  add an FAQ section. You might use language such as…

I’m sure you have many questions as a new member. The top ten inquiries from new members are included here, along with our responses.

A monthly email newsletter should also be sent to your members. You ought to include a few high-caliber articles that offer members useful advice they can put to use. This could be advice on a particular Olympic lift or suggestions for eating well or recovering. Try to provide something that makes your members say, “Aha, I can use that.”

Deconstructing an email marketing campaign

Before you get started on an email campaign, you need to think about the following:

  • What is the audience – is the email going to your whole database or to a specific  segment where you can target the message to them?
  • What is the one thing you want people to take away from your email?
  • What is the goal of the message  – to create brand awareness, build rapport, position yourself as an expert, sell, request feedback or impart information. If you try to combine everything all at once, you may give people too many choices so they end up choosing nothing.
  • Branding – you need to maintain a consistent brand theme throughout everything you do, including your email content.

Your subject line and preheader are the first things your audience will read, so they play a pivotal role in getting people to open your emails.

The subject line needs to be enticing and clear. The preheader is a valuable piece of content that is often overlooked. Use this content to build on the subject line. In Gmail, Outlook and on iPhone this text displays under the subject line as preview text, and is usually about a hundred characters long.

Here are some tips from marketing professionals that will help your content be more successful. 

  1. Clearly state what you want the customer to do in your call to action. Make it clear if they need to take action by including instructions like “Click Here!” ’
  2. Use concise words and paragraphs if you want your reader to continue reading and not nod off.
  3. Use white space; it’s easier to read and draws attention to distinct information this way.
  4. Add hyperlinks to your email to direct readers to your website for further details.
  5. Separate text areas using space and horizontal lines.
  6. Use only web-safe fonts.
  7. Use ‘Forward to a Friend’ links and social sharing to boost open rates and expand your audience.

When it comes to what you will include in the content of your email, here are some suggestions that have worked well for my gym  . . .

  • Training Tips and Advice
  • Fitness Myth Busting
  • Fat Loss advice
  • Nutritional Tips
  • Motivational Content all
  • Testimonials
  • Fitness Industry News
  • Fitness research

The content of your emails is, obviously, critical to the success of your campaign. This can be quite labor intensive. Many gym owners, along with the members of their marketing team, are not especially skilled when it comes to creating powerful, actionable content. Outsourcing your email newsletter to a professional fitness content creator can solve you a lot of headaches. 

5 email marketing mistakes to avoid

  1. Using BBC

BBC stands for blind blind copy. It’s used to send out bulk messages that are lacking in any type or personalization. Email recipients will see it straight away for what it is. When they feel that you’re just sending out bulk messaging, they will not be drawn to you and you will fail to build a relationship with them. 

  1. Not using a personalized greeting

If you start the email with ‘hi’, ‘hello’, or ‘hey’ without using the person’s name you immediately create an atmosphere of impersonalization. It becomes just another random email and will likely be considered by the recipient to be spam. Email automation systems make it easy to add the person’s name to the greeting – be sure to make use of that feature.

  1. No clear call to action

With every interaction, you need to let the recipient know exactly what you want them to do. You can do this by ending with a clear call to action, such as ‘click on the link below to get more information.’ Don’t ever think that the customer knows what the desired outcome is supposed to be – you need to spell it out.

  1. Not providing incremental value

You need to make sure that every interaction you have with your members or prospective members adds value. If all you’re telling them is ‘Hi, buy this from me’, you will quickly turn them off. 

  1. Writing a text heavy email

People are not going to read an email that goes from one paragraph to the next seemingly forever. You want the reading experience to be friendly, quick and easy. Long drawn out emails are not going to get you the response that you’re looking for. 

Email marketing best practises

  1. Include a question for your subscribers at the end of the email. For instance, if you just gave a nutrition recommendation, ask them what they are having for supper tonight. Members will feel more a part of your gym’s community, the more they interact with you via email.
  2. Build email marketing campaigns around the season or a significant event that is occuring. For example, promote a Combine challenge in ther lead-up to the NFL combine, where members compete in the six events, each email can provide training tips on a specific event, such as the 40-yard dash or 225 pound bench press. This campaign would be targeted toward your football loving members aged 18-35. 
  3. Your blog should be a key avenue for email subscribers. Provide awesome content in your blog posts and then invite the reader to subscribe to your list to get the very latest updates.
  4. Make use of your email automation services analysis feature to see whether your campaign is working. The most important benchmarks are the open rate, click through rate, click to open rate and unsubscribe rate.
  5. Always be transparent will your readers.


Email marketing should form the backbone of your gym’s inbound and outbound marketing efforts. Setting up your email campaigns is pretty labor intensive at the outset. However, if you do it right, it will then become automated, allowing you to focus on running your gym, confident that your email campaign is cementing relationships and leading prospects to your door.


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