So you’ve just opened your first gym.
You’ve scrimped and saved and taken out a loan or two, just enough to cover the rent and buy some iron.
Now you’ve got to get clients in the door and working out. So where does that leave time (or money) for marketing?, “People, when they hear marketing, they hear ‘I gotta spend money on stuff,’” said Chris McConachie, founder of PushPress. “But there are other ways to do it, too.”
1. Create A Website
You’ve gotta have one.
You’d think this would go without saying; however, “I actually still run across gyms that don't have websites,” said Dan Uyemura, CEO of PushPress.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, think about your own website and every page and pixel on it. Who’s it serving?
“Many gym owners feel that their website is a service for their members, and it one hundred percent absolutely is not,” Dan said.
Your members already know who you are and what programs you offer, and most likely they get most of their gym-related news through your social media platforms. If anything, they only visit your site for the daily workout—which Dan suggested you post elsewhere.
“What you're doing is you're putting a potential barrier between you and a lead,” Dan says.
“I've been a computer programmer for 20 years and I'm deciding to get back in shape, and I can't walk up two flights of stairs without shortness of breath, and then I look at your website and it says I'm gonna do 100 pull-ups in a workout, I'm out. I'm going to Orangetheory.”
The same advice goes for photos.
Too many gym owners slather their website with six-pack abs and heavy barbells. It's proof the program works, right?
If you don’t also have photos of the clientele you’re trying to get in the door—people with weight to lose, twenty-somethings—you’re alienating your biggest market.
“Many gym owners think that’s cool, and it is,” Dan said. “But it’s not cool to the person who has no belief in themselves yet.”
2. Do The Work
Write the programming. Clean the bathroom. Train the coaches. Lead an intro session.
As a new affiliate owner, your to-do list is long, and writing a daily blog post probably seems like a low priority.
“(It’s) literally one of the most important things they can do,” he said.
Part of your Google ranking is based on how often you post new content and the quality of that content. And in addition to making your site more SEO-friendly, good content—content that’s informative, engaging and useful—will keep current members engaged while also drawing in prospective clients.
“People lurk,” Dan continued. “They’ll come to your website and they’ll want to learn everything about you, but if you're not putting content out, expressing your opinions, your views, the reasons behind why you do what you do, you're not giving them a chance to absorb your expertise or your gym's culture. These are all things that attract and encourage people to want to pay to become part of a gym.”
You don’t have to be a Pulitzer winner to write a good blog post.
Ask your members what they struggle with. Ask your friends what keeps them from trying CrossFit. Ask yourself what you wish you’d known when you first started, and then write about those things—and save the analysis of the latest elite competition for your personal page.
“Most people ask, ‘Do I fit in there? Will I have friends? Is it intimidating? Will I lose some weight?’” Dan said. “So write content that's geared toward that.”
Member spotlight articles are a great way to do that, said Chris.
Choose one inspiring client each month and shoot them a list of 10 questions about their fitness journey and what they love about your gym.
“Then you put that up on your blog and try to get as many people to share it as possible,” Chris said.
3. Get Social
Remember what we said about photos on your website? The same rules apply with social media: Make sure you showcase the everyday athlete having fun with fitness, not just your star lifter.
But even the best content is useless if you don’t share it—and share it often.
“The cool thing about social media is you can actually leverage your clients to share your stuff without them even knowing it,” Dan said.
When he owned an affiliate, every week he’d post an album to Facebook of the best photos of the week—watermarked with the gym logo—and tag all the athletes.
4. Ask For It
I’ve gone to the same auto mechanic for more than half a decade.
His shop is small and dingy. There are four stain-covered chairs and a broken TV in the “waiting room”—and he doesn’t have a website.
I have to call weeks in advance to get an appointment because he’s so popular. How can this be?
Great service equals great reviews and plenty of word-of-mouth recommendations. If you’re doing your job right, your clients should be so happy with your service that they won’t stop talking about it.
But don’t just cross your fingers and hope Mark from 3:30 class thinks to write a review.
“It’s the easiest thing—you just have to ask, ” Chris said.
Ask your clients to post Facebook and Google reviews—and ask in person.
“We can automate all that stuff when you’re bigger,” Chris continued.
He offered this scenario: Say you had 200 members, and you sent a generic email blast to the whole list asking for reviews. Maybe 10 percent would follow through.
“But if you have 20 members and you ask every single one of them personally, maybe 50 percent would, and you're still gonna make out with 10 reviews,” he said.
You might strategize even further and ask yourself who stands out among your membership. Who has an inspiring story? Who’s reached a goal lately?
You might say something like:
“Hey, John, I’m so proud of all the work you put in to get your first pull-up; you’ve really made great progress. Would you consider sharing your story in a Facebook review?”
5. No Money, No Problem
As your business grows and you become more financially stable, you’ll want to start looking into paid advertising campaigns and/or hire a marketing professional.
But just because you’re green and strapped for cash doesn’t mean you’re not marketable.
“You can either spend money or you can spend time,” Chris said.