At the start of every new year, resolutions are passionately declared—and fitness is always one of the most popular goals. In 2021, 50% of people say they intend on “doing more exercise,” and 48% noted that “losing weight” is a priority. And although the physical locations of many gyms and fitness studios are closed or at limited capacity, that isn’t stopping consumers from being active as virtual classes continue to gain in popularity.
As a fitness provider looking to help clients satisfy these new year goals, it’s important to have a strategy to grab their attention—whether you’re trying to get new folks in the door, maintain stamina with current clientele, or win back previous clients that may have fallen off.
Make it easy for customers to get started
Give a free trial
Regardless of your business model, attracting new customers is an absolute necessity. A good way to do this is by offering a free trial, pass, or session. Prospective clients can then test the service, giving you an opportunity to prove why their investment is worth it. On top of that, free trials give you access to the contact information of prospective clients, which helps with nurturing sales leads and creating email marketing campaigns.
The leads you gain from free trials are much more invested in the idea of becoming a paying customer than your average consumer. Converting someone who has had a taste of what they would get—no matter how small—is a lot easier than selling to someone who has never taken a test drive. So take advantage of the unique opportunity to prove to these high-intent prospects why your service is worth paying for. Additionally, as people try to maximize their use of the trial before the deadline, they’re creating habits that will hopefully inspire them to make it their standard routine.
Run a promotion
Sweetening the pot with a deal is another way to convert leads into clients. Offering a buy one, get one free special, adding a complimentary 10th session, or creating a custom Yelp check-in offer are all great ways to encourage clients to go from curious → taking advantage of a promotion → becoming a paid client. If you’re already offering a free trial, consider pairing it with a follow-up promotion to keep those customers engaged.
Offer a buddy pass
Being able to attend your first session with a friend helps make new clients feel comfortable. Dance fitness studio DivaDance offers a “BFF pass” where customers can bring a friend for free, which is another great way to get double the amount of people in the door.
Help people feel comfortable
Unless a potential client is a seasoned fitness guru, they may feel a little shy taking your class or joining your gym. A great way to break the ice is to offer introductory classes or services to ease someone into what it is you do.
For example, if you run a gym, pair a free 60-minute personal training session with the purchase of a membership and add on a tour of the space, an introduction to the machines, guidance on their first day, etc. One-on-one sessions can create additional revenue down the line while also making a prospective client feel comfortable. Plus, they help create loyal clients.
The same goes for something like a cycling class—you could offer a beginners ride, great for newbies or returning clients looking to get back into the groove. Focusing on the “basics” helps ease the mind and body of a newcomer.
Market yourself strategically
Customize your content for different audiences
Knowing your target demographic and current clientele is critical when targeting your marketing efforts and making a lasting impression. Whether you are communicating via email, text, social media, or in person, it’s important to stay top of mind. And this doesn’t mean you’re always trying to sell something—you could and should be educating, inspiring, and motivating. Successful entrepreneur Nic Faitos lives by the motto “ABP—our principle is to Always Be Promoting. There is never a time where we would shy away from publicity or finding a way to wedge ourselves into a story or an event.”
The type of content you share depends on who you’re talking to:
Potential clients: Educate Provide insight and tips on what you specialize in—maybe it’s “the best yoga flow for beginners” or “tips to stay accountable with your fitness.” Whatever it is, educating prospective clients helps to build trust, brand awareness, and engagement.
Past clients: Motivate Reengaging former customers can be as simple as reaching out to them to show that they’re still on your radar. Message them and say “we missed you in class today” or tag them in a class or service you know they’ve done before. In a general sense, you can create content that speaks to getting started again, like “5 tips for getting back into your fitness routine.” Pair it with before and after photos—working to motivate your audience will help ignite this group.
Current clients: Remind Promoting your current services to this group is always a good idea. Going a step deeper means taking a look at what classes, packages, or memberships they’ve signed up for and notifying them of upcoming similar services. Building community and connecting folks with one another is also a great way to encourage organic promotion.
Regardless of who you’re targeting, your marketing material should showcase the experience, the emotion, the fun, the results of your business. You want people to want to be there—and if they’re not there, they should feel like they’re missing out on something.
Have your staff and loyal clients serve as mini marketers
Employees and instructors are your business’s biggest believers and advocates. Asking them to post on social media or reach out to clients (active or disengaged) is an easy, free way to help keep your business top of mind. Create social media assets or provide a written text template that your employees can share on their networks. This type of outreach helps clients feel connected to the brand on a deeper level.
Since fitness services have either partially or fully transitioned to digital, now is a good time to leverage the social media followers of your employees. Oftentimes, instructors host classes through their personal platforms, like on Instagram Live. Empowering and encouraging staff promotion and involvement will ultimately lead to more exposure. You can push a specific class or service organically by encouraging your employees to post on a specific day and providing premade graphics and suggested text. When class schedules are released, consider making special assets for each class based on the instructor—that way they can text, email, post, and forward to their audience. This introduces your business to a network you might not have otherwise had access to.
Loyal clients are very powerful in a number of ways. Whether it’s because they’ve been with your business for awhile or they’re passionately aligned with your mission, customers that are connected to a brand can be authentic promoters for your business. Empower them to tell their network about your services—they’re likely happy to do so even without being asked. Consider creating an ambassador program, even if you even just have one regular, recurring customer. They become your advocate, and you can even offer a referral bonus, like a free class.
Lindsey Kaalberg, owner and founder of Ritual Hot Yoga, focuses on her existing students—working to ensure they’re happy, which in turn makes them a strong voice of the brand. She provides a safe space and sense of community, even with in-person operations on pause during the pandemic. When asked how Lindsey maintained such a strong community after months without in-studio classes, she said, “We want to know their name. We want to know their dog’s name. The new student that comes in, we want to know where they work and what they’re up to. And once we really honed in on those smaller key aspects, we started to see the community rebuild itself.”
Partner with like-minded businesses
With so many different services in the fitness industry, there are unique opportunities to create partnerships. Boxing, dance, yoga, cycling—the categories are endless, and specialty studios can partner with each other. Maybe you promote each other’s classes through social media or email campaigns, or you can give out their free trials to your clients (a perk for them and the promotion works both ways).
Think about other local businesses in your community that have similar beliefs and missions. Maybe it’s the local smoothie or salad shop or perhaps it’s a clothing brand you admire. Imagine your current and ideal clientele. What would they want? What would they enjoy? Form alliances with those companies, and cross promote.
Focus on the follow up
Sending direct messages to clients after class is incredibly beneficial—whether you do it yourself or you hire someone to handle the communication. It helps with community building, brand connection, and positive business sentiment. During a time when almost everything is virtual and automatic, reaching out in a sincere way, just to say “good job,” will make your brand shine. Encourage brand ambassadors and staff to do something as simple as sending a direct message to a new or recurring client to tell them how great it was to have them in class. That gratitude, attention, and superior customer service will make clients feel important. And whether that client boldly enjoyed themselves or felt a little silly, they will take great appreciation in hearing that their presence was simply acknowledged and enjoyed. Think about the way you feel if someone writes you a review—it feels good to be complimented!
Incentivize their return
You should also think about how you can continue to reward your existing customers and incentivize them to spend more. Many businesses tend to focus only on their new clients when it comes to offering savings, but you still want to take care of your loyal base. Define the stages of relationships you have with your customers, and consider a tiered reward system based on things like membership length, number of referrals, or class attendance.
You should also provide a variety of options based on the needs of differing customer personas. Maybe they want to pay a larger sum upfront for a year so they can save on the annual membership. Or maybe they want a 10-class bundle that comes out to be a little more expensive per class but offers much more flexibility.