Most fitness center & gym owners would agree that there’s nothing like finding a good customer. But it’s hard to find a good customer if you don’t have calls & emails coming in.
Some gyms have a location that brings in applications with nothing but a sign in the window. But for most fitness center managers, you have to go out and market your gym to get a quality pool of potential customers.
I’ve consulted on search marketing for several large, locally based business. Based on those experiences, here are some fitness center & gym marketing ideas that you can use to bring in more customers.
Create Neighborhood-Specific Website Pages
For many gym customers, city searches are too big, street searches are too small, and ZIP code searches are not relevant. Neighborhood searches are just right.
That may sound obvious, but most local businesses that I’ve worked with still don’t focus their marketing on neighborhoods. It’s a lot of work. It’s tedious. But it can still be worthwhile.
If you list multiple locations on your website, simply organize them by neighborhood (i.e., make neighborhoods your category).
If you have a single gym location, create a neighborhood & next to your neighborhood pages to try to rank for “gyms in [neighborhood]” searches.
Create Niche Amenity Pages
Lots of gym customers have specific amenities and/or requirements that they want. Instead of listing your amenities in a giant list, make detailed pages about each amenity. Try to rank for searches like “gyms with [amenity]”.
You can use Google Suggest for ideas. Go to Google and type in “[city] gym with” and hit space, but not enter. You’ll see some suggestions.
You can do this with the entire alphabet and as many modifiers as you can think of.
Create pages that match those search queries to show up when people search.
If you want to take this to the next level, you can use a tool like SEMrush’s Keyword Explorer to provide phrase match search terms in bulk.
Create Local Data Pages
Create resource guides for people moving or visiting your city. Create lots of them.
Use Google Autosuggest to understand what people are searching for in your city.
Develop Your Local Citations & Reviews
You should already have a Google My Business profile so that you can show up in Google Maps.
But you can take it to the next level to show up even more prominently.
First, you can build your Google My Business profile with photos, posts, and full listing details.
Second, go to every local business listing site and make sure that your Business Name, Address, and Phone Number match exactly. Whether it’s on the Yellow Pages, Yelp, or elsewhere – everything must match. These are called your “local citations” and Google uses them to confirm the relevance of local business.
You can use SEMrush’s Local Listing Management Tool to audit all these listings quickly.
Third, create a local review strategy. Having diverse, unique, and regular reviews on your Google My Business page is the number one way to get more views (aka lease applications) from Google Maps.
Steal Ideas from Large Local Competitors / Businesses
I’m not a fan of brainstorming. I think that it’s more effective to build off ideas that have already worked.
No matter your size, you can always look to larger competitors or larger businesses for inspiration.
With fitness center & gym marketing, make a list of local businesses that you *think* are being creative – including companies in different industries.
Note – This is where the big guys – Planet Fitness, Orange Theory, LA Fitness, etc are useful. See what they are doing in [large city] and steal their tactics.
Like local listings and keywords, I then use a marketing tool like SEMrush to spy on those competitors. Type in the URL of a competitor below to see an example.
Here’s what you’ll see.
It looks like a lot. But drill down and categorize each link. You’ll quickly get a sense of what they are doing. You’ll see where they are posting on social media. You’ll see which media outlets have accepted press releases and what types of digital marketing they’re doing.
The trick here is *not* to copy cat them. Instead, take the general idea of what your competitors have done and make it your own – or, make it better.
Work with Local Blogs
Every city, no matter how small, has an interest in what’s going on. In Atlanta, where I live, we have Creative Loafing, Porch Press, Atlanta Voice, Atlanta Parent, etc.
Find those and become a regular fixture. All local blogs act on tips & press releases. Very few have a “boots on the ground” journalist. If you can be the place to provide inside information, local trends, free images, and consistent write-ups, you’ll earn attention and links.
That extra attention and those links will help every other idea on this list. Google loves links. Social media users find URLs via links.
Your neighborhood pages, rental listings, amenity pages, and everything else on your website will benefit from more inbound links.
Use Hyper-Local Facebook Ads
A local business has one massive advantage against national brands trying to operate locally – you live in your city and understand it.
Facebook allows for hyper-local advertising. You can run ads that show within a radius of only a few miles. It’s tedious to set up, but it’s relevant and effective.
Learn how to create hyper-local targeting for demographics and geography to find lots of interested customers.
You can run small, targeted campaigns that show multiple places at once. Be sure to take advantage of Facebook’s Lookalike ads. You can target your *exact* customer (ie, those who like CrossFit, Jillian Michaels, etc) and live in a specific neighborhood.
Use Hyper-Local Google Search Ads
Google Search ads are famously effective and famously expensive. The best customer is someone who searches for “gyms in [neighborhood]”.
But that search click will be very costly.
But like Facebook, you have an “in” – Google Quality Score. Google will show ads higher if they are more relevant even if they don’t have the high bid.
Like Facebook, it’s tedious to set up, but if you can set up a hyper-local campaign, you’ll be able to get Google Search traffic that large competitors can’t bid on.
Use Hyper-Local Google Display Ads
Google’s Display Network also offers opportunities for local advertisers who are willing to put in the work.
Google serves banner & text ads on some of the best ad locations on the Internet. Many placements are expensive for bulk ad buys.
But again, Google would rather serve a relevant ad with a low bid than an irrelevant ad with a high bid. That’s your opportunity to set up a hyper-local campaign focused on specific demographics in a specific area.
List on Locally-Popular Review Websites
Review websites are a dime a dozen. They will send traffic to your listing. But they are expensive and require a lot of legwork.
The key is to find a few key review websites that are popular in your area – and list on those.
List on NextDoor & Local Forums
NextDoor is one of many local social media websites & forums. They are hard to find and hard to join, representing an opportunity for any local, enterprising fitness center manager.
These networks are interesting because they are specifically local and extremely relevant for gyms. NextDoor also has a new early adopter ad program.
Advertise / Post on Local Subreddits
Reddit is an attractive website for many industries. But local subreddits are especially interesting for gym owners for a couple of reasons.
First, they are hubs for local discussion & recommendations.
Second, they are the first place for people to plan a move visit to ask specific, local questions.
Now, they are decidedly non-commercial with lots of rules. You should get to know them before posting or commenting as a commercial entity.
However, you should explore their sidebar wiki for research.
You should get in touch with the moderators to listen to their rules about business posting. And you should look at running ads or giveaways there.
Post Listings w/ Photos in Instagram
Think about how you can take workout & equipment photos & repurpose them across different platforms. I don’t think you should simply post listings on every platform, but instead use photos from actual workouts and fitness equipment to create a truly interesting feed on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter.
For example, suppose you have a unique piece of gym equipment. Post a tutorial on how to use it! So much gym equipment is useless to members because they don’t know how to use it. Take that opportunity to educate and help followers envision themselves in your gym space.
Develop a Local Workout Pinterest Board
Pinterest is an incredible resource for people looking to improve their lives. You can get in front of prospects with a locally-focused Pinterest board.
Use local photos, guides, etc from real workouts to provide ideas. Promote local trainers, businesses, etc.
Identify & Market Local Employers
Your customers are all working somewhere. And your prospective customers all will want a gym coming or going from their job.
Identify all the largest employers & sources of potential customers nearby. Create resource pages for those employers (especially if they are large).
Create discounts, bonuses, etc. Get in touch with those employers to see if there is a way to collaborate.
Identify & Market Local Schools & Amenities
Take what you did with local employers and do the same with local amenities and resources.
Create pages that act as resource hubs for neighborhood amenities & schools.
Identify & Market Popular Customer Sources
Take previous & existing customers and try to understand where those customers came from and how they found you.
See if there is a way to build off that success.
Cross-Promote Local Fitness Professionals
Local fitness professionals (trainers, nutritionists, sports instructors, etc) usually have an incredible offline network, but have a poor online network.
If you are investing in your online marketing efforts, try to develop a relationship to cross-promote the professionals.
Cross-Promote Local Businesses
Your customers will spend money nearby. Figure out what other businesses do well when you have 100% occupancy. Offer a way to cross-promote, especially if they have multiple locations or a presence with your target customer.
Remember that even a link to your website from their website will dramatically help your other online efforts.
Use Events To Get Social Media Attention
Events like open house tours, openings, holiday showings, etc are marketing staples for gyms. But events have a bonus effect online.
You can list them on multiple platforms to get extra exposure. Facebook is the best place for this tactic, but it also works on Google, Instagram, and event apps like Meet and Four Square.
Use Video Tours To Hack Social Media
Like events, most social media gives preference to video in their feeds. Take interesting video tours of equipment & workout tutorials.
Post the file natively to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Pay a small budget to boost it. And look for opportunities to embed it on your website.
Use Digital Referral Fees for Word of Mouth
Referral fees are also a staple of gym marketing. But they don’t get the same reach as digital referral codes.
Whether you use a simple bit.ly link, manually hand out custom codes (i.e., access numbers), or use a software service – digital referral codes can help you move limited physical word of mouth to unlimited digital word of mouth.
Find & Sponsor Local Charities
Sponsoring local charities provides a few marketing benefits.
First, you can likely get a link to your website, which will help your other efforts.
Second, you can tap into a well-networked organization with lots of word of mouth potential.
Third, you can tap into neighborhood goodwill to help with soliciting reviews to help with your Google My Business efforts.
There are a lot of marketing ideas out there for gym & fitness center owners. You don’t have to do all of them. You just have to do one or two well.
Find the one that fits your interests & resources and give it a try. Learn based on your initial experience and improve.