This is the most comprehensive list of fitness marketing strategies online. Many of these will be very effective for your gym.
The key to succeeding with any strategy is to give it a lot of focus and go deep, rather than a scattered approach to multiple strategies.
So if you’re looking to grow your gym and provide the best experience possible, read on!
Online Marketing Techniques and Local Gym SEO
Google My Business
Chances are you know what Google My Business is already. It’s often also called the “map pack” and consists of the first results you see for local searches. If you type in “Crossfit Gym” in Google you’ll see a map listing gyms and showing review counts for each. This is where you NEED to show up to drive new members. It’s today’s version of the phone book.
If you don’t have this set up, build it right now! https://www.google.com/business/
When members LOVE your gym, they are willing to leave a review, unfortunatly the same is true if they don’t love your gym…. These provide social validation. People trust gyms that other people like and will read these before deciding if it’s worth checking out. It’s key to set up a sign at the front desk with something like “Share the love, leave us a review on Google!” or something similar.
The funny thing about reviews is that we all look at the negative first. This is why it’s key to reply in a positive spin to all your reviews, but especially negative ones. Most will read a negative review and think, “that person’s clueless, this place looks great” if they see mostly positive reviews. Make sure you always reply!
Whether you love or hate Yelp (we don’t like their shady practices), they are a major factor in rankings and most people trust their reviews. Ask for Yelp reviews and make sure your profile is complete and detailed. Handle this similarly to Google Reviews.
Think no one uses Bing? Think again. It comes pre-packaged with Microsoft’s Edge Browser, so many PC users are using Bing. Estimates say it now accounts for 33% of all searches.
Bing Places is Microsoft’s version of Google My Business. The best thing about this is that most businesses don’t even consider Bing, so competition is much lower! https://www.bingplaces.com/
Directories – Moz Local Plug
Having your site listed on several credible local and industry specific directories proves to Google that your business is real and is located where you say it’s located. This provides validation so they can trust and help rank your site appropriately.
We recommend a tool called Moz Local and using their basic paid plan to make sure everything matches up and is easy to manage. https://moz.com/products/local
The simplest way to make sure you show up for local searches, is to make it very clear where you’re located. If you run a luxury gym in Denver, CO, make your homepage headline something like, “Denver’s premiere luxury fitness gym”. Google sees these keywords and identifies where you are based.
Actual Beautiful Imagery
Real is what matters. Show actual photos of your gym all over your site. Spend the money to hire a great photographer to show your fitness center in it’s best light. It will be well worth it.
Content Guides – Educational Content
Our favorite strategy for SEO involves building educational content for website visitors. This shows your expertise to site visitors and addresses their concerns. This content is something you can point members to as well when they have questions.
Going past simply educational content, deep information and info guides that cover a subject in its entirety will help you rank and provide a valuable resource to any potential members and all current members.
Ranking on Google and Bing is a popularity contest. Links drive them to crawl your site and determine where you should rank. Great links show that trusted sites trust you as well. Partner with local companies that have a strong link presence and honestly any friends / partners who are willing to link to you.
This is a great way to establish expertise and provides a link back to your gym as the author. Do a quick search for whatever topic you’d like to write about + “guest post”.
If your specialty is HIIT training, try searching for “HIIT blog guest post” and variations. Another great search term is “write for us” and “blog”. There should be a ton of results!
Location based content relevant to your gym
Creating resource content that helps members find other valuable businesses is a great way to gain links from other businesses. This shows Google / Bing that you are a part of the community.
A great way to do this is with a list post, featuring restaurants, coffee shops, other types of gyms, etc… You can reach out to all of these and maybe they can offer a promo through your site.
Question and Answer addressing frequent member questions
Our absolute favorite SEO strategy involves building a list of all the questions you, your staff, or your trainers regularly receive. Simply answering these questions makes an easier cycle for new members, and simultaneously gives you more and more terms that will rank and get your gym found online!
Links from suppliers
Anyone you work with could potentially link to your site. Suppliers like to showcase their partners and who uses their product. This could range from energy bar suppliers, all the way to fitness equipment suppliers. Reach out to everyone you work with.
Social validation drives conversions. Would you trust a gym that had no reviews and no testimonials on the site? Sprinkle these all over your site and prove that your gym is the real deal.
Optimize content on page
A quick search for on-page optimizations will show you what you need to know. Basically, your page should have a single H1 Heading tag (the largest and most important text on the page) and use H2 tags for subheadings. Write content like an outline. This also makes it easy to write. The main keywords you target, like “denver crossfit gym” should be in the content and in the main heading tag.
There is a lot more to implementing this correctly, but this will provide a good start.
Optimize titles and metas
When you do a search on Google or Bing, you see the titles and metas. The title is the blue part that’s biggest, and the meta is the content. Make these enticing to click. This is your click-bait!
Metas will automatically pull from the page if you don’t set them up on your own. This generally looks sloppy and doesn’t convey the best message.
Make location clear to Google
If you can’t tell where your Gym is located in the first few seconds on your site, you’re losing leads. Make it clear in the text, add a note above the header with your address, and put a map at the bottom of the page or in the footer. You want people to find you, right?!
Make your site load fast
Google has put a strong emphasis on site speed. They even have a tool that tells you if your site is slow or fast.
If your site is loading slow, you should find a way to speed it up so potential new members will stay on the site instead of jumping to your competitors.
If it’s a WordPress site try removing plugins you don’t need or aren’t using. Also make sure your images are sized correctly.
There’s a lot more to making a site fast, so if you’re struggling please let us know and we can give you some actionable items!
Clear Call to Action
What is it that you want people to do? Chances are you’re trying to get them in the door. Create a call to action like a free week if they join your newsletter. This serves two purposes, it builds up your email newsletter which will help remind them about your gym, and it gives them a lower barrier to entry to come and try it out.
This is something most sites mess up by placing multiple CTAs on the same page. It’s ok to have several, but all of them should do the same thing! Make it obvious what a visitor should do.
Video Tour of Gym
Make your Gym REAL! A video tour showcases the facilities in the most complete way possible. Visitors will likely look for specific machines, kettle bells, etc.. and a tour shows them what you have to offer (even if you have that in text elsewhere). Work with a professional here as well.
Video Tutorial Content
Show weight-lifting techniques, exercises, programs, and more. Providing this kind of free content will make site visitors even more comfortable with your gym.
Build an interesting infographic
You know those fun little graphics that give statistics? Turns out they are easy to make and can educate members as well. Try building one at canva.com for free and send it out to other sites in exchange for a link back to your site (backlinks). This way you provide something of value and a reason to link to your site.
Interview the top fitness pros and feature on your site / social channels
Reach out and interview the pros. This provides amazing site content and promotion as they will share it to their network as well. Focusing on local fitness pros makes this most effective as their followers are likely local.
Capture – CTA
Capturing your visitors and members e-mail is the best way to keep them engaged and active. If someone visits your site for the first time and has a reason to join your list, simply receiving a few newsletters over a month or two may trigger them to join or try a free trial.
This should be your main CTA on your website if you have the time and ability to manage emails. Not sure if this works? Take a look at your past online orders and see if you can track down what convinced you to purchase… often times it was the small reminders you saw in emails!
Scheduled E-mailing – Automation
Scheduling your email marketing efforts is a great way to create a system. Build all your messages in one sitting for the next month and in under a half day you can have a nice smooth campaign up and running with no further steps involved.
With most email sending services you can create full automation that send a welcome series of emails to any new signup. These can go for as many weeks, months, or years as you want for every subscriber!
Give your email list subscribers a reason to take action! Offer different promotions and exclusive discounts to get them through the door and keep current members engaged. Everyone loves a deal and even a small one can persuade someone to take the next step.
Following up with people is the easiest way to keep them interested and move them towards the next step: trial membership. Retargeting is this next step and can be a great way to re-activate a previous member or someone who only tried the gym once. This can be automated and after a member leaves the system they can be sent a series at the intervals of your choosing.
Most email services make this fairly easy to setup and all you’ll have to do is move inactive members into the right list and the series will run it’s course!
One Call to Action Strategy
Emails aren’t rocket science. BUT… still most get this completely wrong. Your email shouldn’t be a one stop shop for everything you have. Have one clear call to action in each message. The reader should really only have a single option for next steps, like one giant button that says, “read more” or “purchase here”.
What to write about
You can honestly write about anything that your members / potential members would want to read. But try to keep the message relevant and specific. A few ideas to start with could be: Training tips, Member Profiles, Inspirational Messaging, Facilities Upgrade, Contests, Fitness Challenges, etc…
Whatever you choose to do, try to release the same type of topic on the same schedule, so maybe every Monday is your “Muscle Mondays” newsletter where you share how to use a specific machine for certain gains.
Your weekly newsletter should announce any exciting news about the gym or share a motivating story featuring a member. Think about what you’d want to read each week if you were a member, not what you want to sell!
Featured member of the month
This makes your community stronger. Most people love to be featured and will share it with friends and family (which helps spread the word). It let’s members learn about each other and brings familiarity to the whole experience. Anything that creates community will naturally drive more membership signups.
Add a pop-up
Your CTA on the site will help get those emails rolling in, but having an exit intent pop-up is a great way to lock in even more. These are the ones that pop-up when a site visitor goes to exit the site. It’s a quick last chance to signup and they are quite effective. Make sure it has an offer and isn’t just “signup for our newsletter”, otherwise no one will engage.
Local event booth
Most local events are great opportunities to get your name out there. Booths can range from under $100 to over $2000 depending on the event length. This is also a way to generate site links as the event usually will list all companies that are vending.
You can do giveaways here or have a fitness challenge to make it fun and interesting so people stop in. Just remember that they have to have a great reason to come and talk to you or they will walk right by.
Business card handout at events (without paying!)
You don’t always have to pay to play! There’s a few ways to do this so it’s as smooth as possible. One easy way is to speak with different booth owners about your company and offer them a deal in exchange for putting your flyers/cards out. The other option is to simply walk around and canvas the event passing out cards and talking about your gym to everyone you meet. This all works best with highly localized events.
Host and Sponsor 5k / 10k / marathon events
Hosting an event will get your name out in a big way but is a large undertaking. This all depends on what type of gym you have and is a very natural fit.
Before hosting, we recommend sponsoring events to help get your name out there. Sponsors are usually allowed to include free items in the schwag bag that every competitor receives. Print out custom discount cards, 10 punch trial cards, free month promo cards, etc… Plus, your name will be on all the promotional material and the event will link to your website.
Whatever type of gym you have, there’s probably some discipline you teach or train that caters towards competition. If you want to push out that training program or class, sponsor a local comp for a highly targeted marketing strategy.
What better way to get people through the door? Host an event and make it open to the public for viewing. This way all the competitors and members will do the marketing for you and bring friends and family through the doors. Pass out promotional cards to everyone who comes in and do a giveaway to collect e-mails for remarketing.
Host health events at offices with special offer cards given out at end
Health / weight loss is why many members join a gym. Partner with offices to come in and give a free health demo or seminar. Then offer everyone a free month to come try out your gym. This can be repeated regularly at many offices near you and is a great way to create community and familiarity with your gym.
T-shirt handout – Walking Billboard Method
Allocate a stack of your promotional clothing as freebies for members. After someone has been at the gym for a certain amount of time give them a free t-shirt with your gym logo (make sure it’s something people will actually wear…) and they will do some marketing for you within their circles. Plus, they’ve been at your gym for a while so they are likely to speak highly about it.
Word-of-mouth and Partnership Marketing
Basic Business Partnership
Partnering with other companies near your gym is a quick and easy way to get the word out. You put out their cards or flyers at your gym, and they will do the same and spread the word at theirs. Anytime people refer other businesses it carries much more weight.
If you’re in a city than this is for you. Coworking spaces are workspaces where all types of companies come together under one roof and have a strong community. These companies either have offices or rent desks. Theres also a large base of entrepreneurs that rent community space and float around the office.
Talk to the coworking spaces and offer them an exclusive deal and flyers to put out.
Old fashioned business marketing 101. Joining the chamber of commerce is a great way to attend networking events (and get a quality link to your site). Bring cards with free trials and bring them out naturally in conversation, rather than forcing them on everyone. These are prime opportunities for partnership development as well.
Cross Gym Promotion (different gym types)
Say you run a local crossfit gym, wouldn’t it make sense to cross promote the local yoga studio? Most fitness lovers leave a very healthy lifestyle and are open minded to different forms of training. This promotion works perfectly and captures people who are already in the right mindset.
Flyer / Card leave behind – like coffee shop, etc…
Spreading the word doesn’t have to involve partnerships. There are lots of additional places where you can get the word out without doing much at all. Local coffee shops usually have a table with flyers or a bulletin board and are happy to have you put up your flyer.
Either do this yourself or pay a college student a bit to pass out cards for you. Students are always looking for deals and will talk up your gym if they like it. Pass out discount cards and try to engage with every student you talk to. If you do hire a student to pass them out, drop by and make sure it’s happening. It’s pretty easy to make a stack of cards disappear…
Guest incentives (like free month for every 5 referrals, etc..) Free class for each new member signup referred
Building up a referral program adds that motivational factor to drive your members to talk up the gym. Maybe every signup they refer saves them a months membership, or gives them a free class. You can get creative with this and members will really appreciate the ability to earn a little back.
Affiliate Marketing Program
Affiliates make a little bit of money (or discounts) for every lead they send your way. It’s similar to a referral program but can be set up with local businesses to incentivize partnerships. Give affiliates a specific card so you can track where these referrals are coming from and credit them to the right people.
Corporations love to provide benefits for employees. It shows they care and keeps employees happy and healthy. Talk with any business you can in the area and see if they’d like to set something up. Basically, the corporation pays you a lump sum or a monthly fee to let any of their employees workout at your gym. It’s a great way to generate a larger amount of revenue, fairly quickly.
Free Guest Pass Monthly
So simple and under rated. Everything is better with a friend. Help your members convince their friends to come to the gym with a free day pass and hopefully they decide to join too. Fitness especially is best with an accountability partner!
Member Challenge (workout every day this week and get something for free… etc…
Get people talking! Host a weekly or monthly challenge for your members to compete in or just something to do to feel good about. Give out a small prize or discount for anyone that proves they completed the challenge. This creates more community and engagement in the gym, and members will talk about this with non-members out of the gym as well.
Community Party / Friends welcome
Who doesn’t love a good party? This is a great way to spread the word and create even more member engagement. Members will appreciate this and will bring friends as well who may join the gym. Added bonus: Promote local partnerships at the party by putting together a little schwag bag with their cards, some energy bars, and discount memberships.
Partner with local energy bar and drink companies for cross promotion
Local companies are always looking to get the word out about their brand, and guests to your gym likely would prefer to purchase products from local vendors. Work together to build a promo deal where they include your gyms card in their orders, and you promote them on your e-mail list and at the front desk.
Partner with PTs and Chiropractors
Physical therapists and chiropractors will recommend gyms to patients for recovery. Reach out to any in the area (closer ones will be most receptive) and work out some way of referring eachother similar to the last bullet point.
Local Health Fairs Sponsorship
Health fairs are generally free events where people can go to learn about improving their overall well-being. Sponsors make this possible and can hand out materials or provide demos at the events. Visitors are looking for businesses like yours!
Fitness Photo Shoot Day – Partner with Photographer
Photographers are always looking for new clients, and you’re looking for new members and great exposure. Work with a photographer for a day (hire or some kind of membership / gear trade) to do free photos with guests. They can share these and tag your gym in the share. Plus, you’ll have a ton of great photos in your gym that you can use for promotions and social media. Just make sure you get signed releases for everyone in the photos you use.
Partnership Package Giveaways
Work with local companies, both product and service, and create a grand prize package. Promote this with software like King Sumo and have all partners promote on their channels as well. A rising tide brings us all up.
Fitness Pass – Class Pass
Joining programs like fitness pass will give your gym a bit of additional income and expose you to potential new full time members. It’s easy to join and will provide great marketing.
Trainer Certifications (Offer courses and show your certifications on site)
Running certification courses for trainers through your gym gets the word out to all the participating trainers in the area. If they like the gym they will recommend it to friends in your area.
Stickers and Discounts for people who share where they put them
Give out free stickers. Have members post photos of the sticker with a shoutout on social media, give them a sweet discount for a month. It’s that simple.
Work with businesses nearby to cross promote via signs in eachothers windows
Post a neighboring businesses sign in your window in exchange for them doing the same, or putting cards out. Your gym likely has a lot of wall space as well so you can post these inside.
Master your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)
It’s a tough sell if all you say is that you have a great gym. Figure out what makes your gym special and make sure the whole staff understands what matters. Then when you or staff are talking to anyone, the message comes across clearly and they will know what to tell friends about your gym.
Host a social event that matches your demographic for awareness
Any type of event that brings in your target audience will work. You could even host a singles night to help locals find dates.
Monthly Free Day
Having one day a month that’s totally free can be a little chaotic if you run it for too long. But doing this for a couple months every once in a while will pull in all the people who are dragging their feet on joining and might just push them over the edge.
Member free guest day
Working out is always better with a friend. This might be the push a friend needs to join the gym finally, and on top of that, will keep the original member on for longer if they have a great friend to work out with regularly.
Inspirational fitness movie night
Projectors are now ultra cheap. You could have a setup for $150 through Amazon and show a movie on the wall. This builds community.
Host a movie showing
Similar to the idea above, but instead host a movie that’s on tour. This can be a paid event with all proceeds going to the movie company, and will bring in more fitness minded guests.
Sponsor local sports teams
Providing a gym membership for a local sports team is a great way to build community. You could also sponsor through funding and providing gear that has your logo and branding.
Local Athlete Sponsorship
Everyone is on the lookout for the next top athlete. Provide them a training facility for free and your community will be talking about the athletes they see at the gym. This adds a lot of credibility.
Paid and Promotional Marketing
Most gyms are intimidated by pay per click ad campaigns initially. It’s a great way to get the word out and test keywords for SEO. It can be done fairly cheaply with highly targeted words and insures your gym shows up first for it’s location.
Essentially the same as Google pay per click and can even import data direct from your Google account. Bing has a 33% market share of internet searches and is often forgotten by marketers. Oh, and the prices are lower too.
If someone has already visited your website, seen an ad on instagram or facebook, or taken any action on an ad, you can hit them with a different one. This is very effective as brand recognition increases and the people who click again are most likely to actually take the next steps.
The facebook ad platform allows you to target down to levels never seen before. You can literally target people who “like” your competitors pages and fit your demographic. The best part? Local advertising on facebook is much cheaper than national campaigns. Pair this with the previous method, retargeting, for the best results.
Works through Facebooks platform and makes it easy to send out highly targeted and relevant ads. Instagram is a great platform for the fitness industry because results are so easy to show.
Target corporations, coworking, and local businesses near your gym on LinkedIn to land whole companies as clients.
Adspace on fitness sites
This is generally a more national approach to marketing, but can work well with local bloggers who may already attend your gym. Find the sites that fit your target demographic the best and see if they have an option for advertising. It’s usually not too expensive on a local site.
Paid member promotion (paying a member or free membership in exchange for regular posting at gym)
Your gym has raving members who love the community and feel. Talk to these members and offer discounts, promo gear, or free months in exchange for posting more content on their social networks in the gym. This only works if they have a good natural following!
Local magazine / newspaper ads
The local newspaper is still a great place to advertise, and it’s usually not too expensive. The trick here is to run multiple campaigns over a month or two. This way potential new members keep “hearing” about your gym and enough reminders will get most people to make a move.
Bus stop / bus ads
Local advertising and highly targeted. Running some bus ads or at the very least, bus stop ads will help get the word out there.
This is the reason the USPS is still functioning at all… Those flyers that we all get in the mail and take out to recycling. However, when the right person looking for a gym in the area sees your direct mail, that could be the push they need to come in for a visit. Put an offer in here to make it enticing.
Hire some local kids to walk around the neighborhood and drop flyers for your gym in everyones mailboxes or on their doors. Include a good offer and this will likely work even better than direct mail (because you won’t be mixed in with 20 other offers).
Local Press Release announcing your gym if new, or announcing new gear / new classes / exciting news
Push out a press release to local media including news stations, newspapers, etc… Make sure it’s easy to read, interesting, and includes an offer. This works best with a new gym but if you truly have something newsworthy, send that out. This could be tied into hosting events at your gym or sponsoring races to help promote those as well.
Hire a sign spinner
It’s catchy and you don’t see too many gyms using sign spinners. Plus, the price is low and if your gym is in a tricky spot will help get people there the first time.
Promotional gear (but good fitness gear, not generic!)
This is a win on every level. Additional revenue for the gym, brand recognition in public, and the community loves it because it makes them feel even more involved. Plus, you can give out the gear in raffles or to your “member of the month”. Choose high quality gear that people enjoy wearing. It could be as simple as a t-shirt but make sure it’s a tri-blend or dri-fit.
Fitness is so visual and results driven. Have you staff on the same instagram account and share fitness tips, gym news, and promotions. This works best with a plan in place to release certain types of content every day. Pro tip: Hire a photographer for a half day to come in and do a full shoot with several members and staff. Then post and re-post images for the next few weeks.
Take a similar strategy to instagram but with a bit more verbal approach and thought out posts. Make sure it’s interesting content that your members and followers would actually care to read and share with friends. Promo content is great but use sparingly on any social channel.
Build a group that isn’t all about your gym. It could be “Ultimate fitness gains” or any of your main focuses. This is NOT a place to promote your gym but it’s OK to have a link in the description to your gyms facebook page that say’s “group managed by …” People will find you through this.
Pick a topic you can specialize in and release a deep dive of tutorial videos on that topic. Don’t make the channel a promo video for your gym or people will lose interest. You can have a title slide with your gym or credit slide at the end but shameless plugging is less enticing. People want to share videos that are genuinely helpful and not salesy. Quality of content is more important than quality of filming.
Promotions in social marketing are a simple way to draw in some more visitors. BUT… most gyms fail at this by making their social media a massive set of ads and offers. Pepper in promotions lightly once you actually have a good following or no one will join your channel.
Tips / Tutorials
Through every approach you can use this technique to help educate members and create shareable content. Some gyms will do a series of how to do each workout. These sections take about 2 minutes to record with a cell phone showing a trainer or member working out. Pair video with text and eventually add a section to your site showcasing these as well.
Mainly a business to business platform. Use LinkedIn to connect with potential partners and follow up. Pair with dropping by in person and making your name more recognizable.
100 pull ups in a day… Any difficult challenge is perfect for a video competition. Members can post a video showing them completing the challenge to win some schwag. These videos should be posted to members accounts and have the gym tagged like #fitnessprogymchallenge
Social promoter discount
Offer a discount to members that post a certain amount of times every week. Make sure everyone in the gym knows about this and you’ll have an army of marketers happily sharing your gym to their mostly local networks!
Social Media Giveaways
Free stuff. Schwag. Everyone loves this stuff. Host a giveaway where members gain entries by posting or joining your channels to build them further into the community. Try out Kingsumo.com to build this in minutes and maximize results.
Share member stories / interview members
Just about every single person has an interesting story to tell. Do quick and frequent member interviews to tell their stories. These can be filmed for your social channels, converted to text to help your website with content, and used as testimonials.
Run a Pop-up gym
Events are a great place to setup a small pop up gym. This could be as simple as setting up a single pull up bar to host a challenge at the local market. Or as complex as renting a temporary space in a nearby mall to setup a small gym with your branding everywhere that people can use for free. This kind of advertising is very clear and works great.
Street side / Park Fitness Challenge
You don’t have to have an event to host a challenge. Take your gym out to where the people are and invite your members to join in at a challenge in a local park. There’s usually some equipment at playgrounds or parks that is perfect for a challenge.
Build a new fitness discipline
It’s a lot of work but creating your own style of fitness will give you an actual product that you can market and grow on a national level. Being the founder makes you the expert.
Set a challenge inside your gym that’s incredibly hard with a great prize for the first person to complete. This will get people talking.
Pretty much self-explanatory. Make it really hard but obtainable. You probably already have a challenge in mind and know a member that would be the one who could complete it, just make sure it’s inline with your gyms style.
Hire an artist or Graffiti artist to paint the outside of your gym and make it stand out
Especially important for any fitness center located in a slightly awkward spot. Have the artist paint in your gyms color palette and create something that represents what your gym is all about.
Start a fitness podcast and interview members
This is a big undertaking but easier than creating a lot of video. Interview members and top fitness professionals and run a podcast. Make sure you share the podcast and that all your members know about and share as well.
Gamification – Create a “game” that will entice members to try new things and promote the gym (daily check-in streak bonus)
This can go really far. Think back to grade school and the Presidential Fitness Challenge. Most people love challenges. Build up a checklist of challenges and when they are completed reward members (coffee gift card, etc..). These rewards can be sponsored by other local shops to get their name out and remove any cost to you!
Is there anything missing from this list?
Whether you have a question, comment, or completely disagree with any of these, we’d love to hear from you!
Please leave your comment below.