Your new fitness center might be bright and shiny with top-of-the-line equipment and gorgeous facilities, but a gym isn’t anything without customers. The number of unique fitness centers currently available to consumers has grown, not surprisingly, as interest moves toward specialized diets and training customized to health-conscious individuals. In order to find your niche in this market, it’s important to review your resources, strengths and location to help you develop the best marketing strategy for your fitness center.
You’re unlikely to pick up a bunch of marathon runners if all you have available are elliptical machines. Likewise, if you’re working with a single weight station, you’re unlikely to pick up the muscle-hungry trainers. Look around at the space and equipment you have, and make a list of the possibilities of programs (yes, there’s usually more than one fit for every gym) you could run for customers based on what you have on hand.
Did you manage to buy out an existing fitness center? This probably means you have a lot of equipment on your hands for a lot of different workouts. Survey what you have and then take a look at the fitness center's history.
If they offered classes, which ones were popular and which failed? Is there something critical the gym was lacking that caused the previous owner to go out of business? Are certain machines not being used at all? Could they be cleared to make room for new equipment? In the case of buying an existing facility, the marketing strategy needs to be all about what will be better in this new iteration of ownership.
If you have a new facility, take a look at what you have on hand, but think outside the box as well. A set of free weights along with weight-training machines immediately brings to mind the traditional “gym bro” coming in to deadlift and build muscle. That’s fine — it’s an obvious market for a reason!
But, also consider something different: Do you have the training and personnel to target your weight facility to individuals who are disabled or in rehab? What about a facility dedicated to introducing women to the joys of weightlifting? These might be markets that are readily available and just waiting for a fitness center that suits them.
Do the same for the equipment you have on hand, but don’t ignore your other resources: floor space and employees. Free floor space can easily be converted into a space for yoga, aerobics or other body-weight exercises, adding a new option to your advertisement-worthy workouts. Exercise mats, balls, resistance bands and blocks are easy, inexpensive additions that can make that additional space incredibly useful.
Another thing to consider is your hires. Are you looking for inexpensive workers to man the desk or are you out to hire fitness trainers with programs in mind? The skill sets you acquire while hiring can definitely expand your options in terms of being able to offer multiple things to the public. Human resources can be as important as physical ones!
This is the next step after reviewing exactly what you have available and what options open up to you as a target market. Review these options and figure out which ones play to your strengths — not just your personal strengths but the strengths of your personnel as well.
If you’re an entrepreneur who's looking at a fitness center as a business opportunity, then that’s your strength: Being able to keep the books accurate, look at and determine the profitability of offerings and determine when upgrades may be needed. You don’t have to know anything about working out or gym culture to successfully run a fitness center.
Just understand that your strength is on the business side — making your gym a profitable establishment — and go from there. In this case, your weakness might be having someone knowledgeable to answer questions about your gym equipment and workouts. This makes hiring highly competent fitness individuals one of your top priorities.
If you come from a fitness-centric background, have experience in a sport or have some general knowledge, it’s time to align that knowledge with what you have on hand to see what opportunities it creates.
Are you looking for a small elite gym where you're the personal trainer? Do you want to focus on one aspect of fitness (weights, cardio, flexibility) or offer a lot of options? Are you a marathon runner with some experience in how to train? These factors all become things that are good for advertising for your center.
To really narrow down all of the options, it’s time to select an approach and a customer base. This usually starts by deciding what the specific value of this fitness center will be. Is it offering the same thing as other local gyms but at a reduced price? Is it offering the same things as local gyms plus something new for an equal price? Is it offering a unique or tailored experience to a smaller target market for a fair price? Each of these will lead you in a different direction.
If the gym is focusing on competitiveness with other local gyms who offer a generically typical selection, this can be pared down to two target markets: users of other local gyms who'll need to be persuaded to leave and non-gym users who were unconvinced by previous offers and need to be convinced by the offer from this new facility.
Thus, the marketing campaign needs to be focused on what’s different about this facility. It might be location, newer or better equipment, price point, service, a unique addition other facilities may not have or any combination of the above. These are the things a gym needs to highlight before its launch and focus on in the first six months of service in order to retain a customer base.
For a gym focusing on a niche target market, the marketing strategy then becomes a case of building up what’s unique about this facility’s approach and making sure the message meets up with the desired clientele. For example, a facility targeting women looking for uniquely designed strength-building programs would want to get their information in front of local women.
A facility with a pool dedicated to water therapy would want to target an older crowd. In electing a niche market, advertising becomes simpler in some ways, but it can be difficult to know just how one’s efforts are actually reaching the desired market.
In all cases, location is important. Many people struggle with regular gym attendance due to the simple fact of inconvenience. Your biggest market is likely to come from the neighborhoods closest to your facility, so do your research on location and plan accordingly.
At this point, you’ve narrowed down your gym’s brand — the particular feeling and purpose of your fitness center that you want to get across to potential customers — and decided on a target market for your facility. Actually bringing people in involves a combination of legwork, online presence and an understanding of how to offer a “deal” that's good enough to intrigue potential customers.
The legwork required involves using physical media, such as brochures, posters, business cards and/or signs to alert the public to the new business. These should be simple and straightforward, without too much text, and include good photos of the facility to show that it’s clean and organized with plenty of space. Printing should be of high quality. When there’s room, focus on describing how this fitness center would be a good fit for potential customers. Highlight the resources and touch on what sets it apart from other available gyms.
To promote the facility on social media, it’s best to create an account for the facility itself that's separate from your personal account. This may mean it’s more to manage, but linking a business account with a personal account requires a good deal of sensitivity on the part of the owner to not get overly personal or offensive on their account.
Create separate accounts on the biggest social media platforms in your area, and establish them early with frequent pictures and posts while ramping up to an opening. Reach out to local news establishments on social media and ask if they'd link to you on their platform. Consider offering deals or discounts on your social media that won’t be offered elsewhere to help build your presence and recruit followers that might help spread your online message. It’s important to have someone who's dedicated to keeping these online accounts active and positive if you want to have the biggest impact on social media.
In order to tempt new customers, you’ll need to understand the price points of other local competitors and ways you can have your establishment stand out from what’s already on the market. You’ll need to do some business research to find out what competitors offer, their membership and monthly fees and deals they're offering.
Deciding on a price point can be difficult and requires some understanding of business finance, accounting and marketing. Offering a good deal to get an initial clientele might seem like a good strategy, but a lasting business model considers holding on to customers after they’re brought in. Be sure you’re working with a plan that considers long- and short-term success.
In the end, you know your facility’s strengths and offerings better than anyone else. With society’s increasing interest in all things fitness, more customers are looking for a facility that meets their specific needs and desires. This means there’s more room than ever for your gym to become the place where people prefer to go. With social media expanding as well, it’s easier than ever to advertise your brand and reach potential new customers.
Above all, listen to the customers you do get, and use their feedback to help promote what’s special about your fitness center even further. The users will have a better idea of what they’d like, and if a number of users are making the same suggestion, it can’t hurt to expand on their thoughts.
It’s also OK to evolve your marketing strategy over time. If the fitness center draws a certain demographic of loyal customers that isn’t what was expected at first, take some time to understand why — it could be a new market to reach out to. Keeping your facility clean and friendly with everything in working order and listening to the customers as you grow are easy things to do, and success should follow.