10 Step Marketing Guide For Your Gym

The ability to attract new members is critical to your gym’s success. You can have the best gym in your city, but if you’re not properly marketing it, you won’t have enough members to sustain your business.

We have extensive experience helping gyms succeed. We’ve worked with thousands of gym owners since 2006 and are experts in the industry. During this time, we’ve researched, gathered and implemented proven strategies for effectively marketing gyms. The following 10 strategies will guide you step-by-step in growing your list of prospects and ultimately increasing your member base.


1. Define your target

Before you start any other marketing activities, you must gather and document a profile of your ideal member. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting time and money sharing vague marketing messages with people who have no interest in your gym.

For example, you don’t need or want to market to people outside a comfortable driving distance to your gym. The likelihood that they would become a member is extremely small. But if you advertise to them, you’d incur the cost of doing so.

To avoid untargeted, ineffective marketing, we suggest creating personas, or a written description of the ideal member(s) for your gym. A persona includes details like age, gender, location, job, interests, values and challenges. Personas should answer questions like:

  • How old is your ideal member?
  • Is your ideal member a man or a woman, or both genders?
  • Where do they work or go to school?
  • What do they do for fun?
  • What neighborhood do they live in?
  • What are their goals and reasons for working out?
  • What could be preventing them from joining your gym?
  • How much money are they willing to spend on a membership?

Start the process of creating your personas by asking your current members these questions. It’s important to be as specific as possible when gathering this information because the details will help you develop your personas. You may hear responses such as cost or classes, but dive deeper to find the true driving factor. For instance:

  • Cost: why was this so important?
  • Quality of instruction: what exactly do they like about your class instructors and/or trainers?
  • Availability: why do the hours of operation work for them?
  • Location: how far would they be willing to drive to get to your gym?
  • Meets needs: what specific needs?

Once you’ve collected the details for your persona(s), give each of them a unique name (ex: Workout Wendy or Gym Go-er Greg). From there, you can tailor your marketing messaging and ad placement to match your personas, making your marketing more powerful and effective.



2. Launch a website

It’s common for new gyms to forgo creating a website and use Facebook instead. The problem with this is that not all Internet users have a Facebook account, and businesses without a website have limited search visibility on Google. Because of this, you must have a website.

There are plenty of options available to help you build a site on your own, but this can be a time-consuming process and might leave you with limited capabilities. Zen Planner makes it simple to get the website your business needs with our integrated websites. These expertly crafted websites are fully integrated with our gym management software, have strategically designed features focused on establishing your brand and will take your business even further.

Whichever way you decide to go, there are basic webpages every gym site should have. They include:

  • Homepage: You need a general page that provides high-level information about your gym.
  • Class Schedule: Make sure your schedule is easily accessible online. Many member management solutions allow you to embed your schedule on your website. This provides members the ability to register and reserve a spot in class.
  • Instructors or Trainers: You have amazing instructors with different backgrounds, so make sure your website clearly shows them off.
  • FAQ: Do you typically hear the same five questions from your new members? Do you have specific rules around drop-ins? Is your gym hard to find? Make sure your site answers common questions so it’s easier for prospective members to visit your gym.
  • Lead forms: Every page of your site should have a lead capture form with a distinct call-to-action prompting visitors to complete the form. We’ll provide more details on this in the next step.
  • Contact Us: This page is extremely important. It should contain your phone number, contact form, hours of operation, address and Google Map plugin that will display where your gym is.


Embedded calenders help sites look professional, and allow prospective members to see if class times work with their schedules 

Once you’ve created these essential pages, you’ll need to optimize them so that your site will show up in Google searches. Check out our helpful SEO guide that explains what search engine optimization is and how you can easily optimize your site.


3. Capture leads

For your website to successfully drive prospective members to your gym, you need to make sure they can contact you. To do this, you will need an embedded form on your website. You can start by simply having a Contact Us form on your Contact page. However, if you really want to drive leads to check out your gym, use the form to promote an offer. Try offers like:

  • Try a free class!
  • Sign up for a free week!
  • Schedule a free consultation!

Great offers will entice prospective members to fill out your form and visit your gym. To ensure prospective members see this offer, make sure to add your form or a button linking back to the form on every page of your website. 

When creating forms, it’s important to think about the information you absolutely need from a prospective member. Having too many fields on your form can prevent someone from filling it out. Must-Have fields include:

  • Name (first and last)
  • Phone number
  • Email address


Simple, yet effective form from Zen Planner customer, 181 Fitness

These fields ensure that you have the necessary information to follow-up with your leads. Some Nice-to-Have fields include: 

  • Mailing address
  • Goals
  • Current fitness level
  • How they found out about your gym
  • What program/class they’re interested in


Longer forms allow you to get all the information needed from prospects, as seen on the form of our customer, The Works Studio

Finally, think about the button at the end of the form. Studies show that buttons with the word Submit tend to convert at a lower rate than action-oriented phrases like Get Started, Try Now or Reserve Your Spot.

CTA_Button_4.pngCTA_Button_3.pngCTA_Button_2.png CTA_Button_1.png


4. Claim, update and optimize local listings

Did you know that four out of five consumers use the Internet to conduct a local search before selecting a business? 50% of those searches result in a visit within a day of the local search. With so many people turning to the Internet to find businesses nearby, solely having a presence with your website is not enough.

If you do not have optimized local listings, your gym is missing out on valuable first-page real estate on the search engine results pages (SERPs). As you’re starting to execute your local search optimization plan, be sure to focus on the following important (and free) sites:




Once you’ve claimed and/or created your listings on these sites, it’s time to make sure they are well-optimized and consistent. The following components are necessary for each listing:

  • Gym Name: Always use the actual name of your gym, and ensure it’s the same across all of your listings.
  • Address: Only use a physical street address (not a PO Box) for your gym. If you have more than one location, create different, unique listings for each one.
  • Phone Number: Your phone number is a crucial component of your listing because 61% of mobile searches result in a phone call.
  • Website: Local listings are a great way to get quality links to your website.
  • Hours: Google will display your business hours in search results for your gym and on Google Map listings as well.
  • Description: Keep your description short and sweet by staying between 250 and 500 characters.
  • Logo: If you don’t add your logo, the main image that will show up with your Google Business listing is a map of your location.

Once you’ve added these essential components to your listings, consider spicing them up by adding photos and videos. Then encourage your members to leave reviews for your gym.


Solid Yelp listings have important information, like gym hours, location, phone number and pictures, as seen on Project MOVE's listing


5. Implement a social media strategy

Everyone is turning to social media to research products and services before visiting a local business. According to a recent survey from G/O Digital, 62% of respondents claimed that Facebook is the most useful social network for researching small businesses. Due to the tremendous popularity of Facebook, as well as the features it offers small businesses, we recommend you start your social strategy with Facebook

There’s some basic information that every Facebook business page needs. This information is extremely important for prospects that might be researching your gym.

  • Short Description: This section has a 255-character limit, so just share the basics about your gym like the style of classes you offer, the neighborhood you’re located in and, if it fits, a promotion you’re offering (i.e.: Try your first week free!).
  • Long Description: This is your opportunity to tell prospects how amazing your gym is. Talk about your facility and equipment, the programs you offer, your community, certifications your instructors have and anything else a prospect should know.
  • Hours: Make sure you have an updated schedule for each day of the week.
  • Email: Be sure to include an email address so that prospects can reach out to you.
  • Business Category: Underneath the name of your business, you’ll see the option to add a business category. Be sure to select Gym.


Make sure you have Gym listed as a category. You can add other categories too if they are relevant to your program 

Once you have established your Facebook page, start writing engaging posts and boosting them to get your gym's name in front of prospective members in your area.


Zen Planner customer, Youth Combine, keeps active on Facebook by posting pictures and updates daily


6. Use Member Testimonials

Nielsen found that 70% of consumers trust online reviews from people they don’t know. Displaying testimonials on your website and social media accounts creates trust because they are seen as an honest representation of your services.

To get started, identify members who show appreciation or who have made significant progress since joining your gym. When getting testimonials, make sure you:

  • Interview your members to capture the story of their success at your gym. Have they decreased their BMI? Were they able to complete their first half marathon or adventure race since joining your program? Are they able to do movements they couldn’t have dreamed of doing before? Do they have new found confidence?
  • Take photos to help personalize the testimonials.
  • Pull out good quotes from these interviews so you can use them in future marketing materials.
  • Have these members sign a consent form allowing you to use their name, photo and story in your marketing materials.

As you start collecting testimonials, add them to your website, social media accounts (consider running a Featured Member of the Month post) and online or print marketing materials you create. Once you have your hands on quality testimonials, encourage your members to write additional reviews on your Facebook page and local listings.


Before and after photos, like the ones shared by The Works Studio, are a great way to visually show the success of your fitness program


7. Establish a referral program

Referral programs are a proven low-cost way to recruit valuable new members. Referrals tend to buy more in products and services and have a higher lifetime value. According to Referral Candy, referrals are also happier and more loyal because they’ve self-selected your services using reliable criteria-the recommendation of a friend.

Before you launch a program, ask yourself these three questions:

  • Do you want to reward just the member or the member and the person they’ve referred? Giving the referred person something like a first month discount helps get them in the gym.
  • What will you use to reward referrals? Consider compelling offers such as gift cards, sessions with a trainer or discounted memberships.
  • How will you measure the success of your program? If you have member management software, you can easily measure it by creating a referral lead source.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you are ready to launch your program. This program will only be successful if people know about it. Get the word out by:

  • Adding a note about the program in your monthly newsletter.
  • Announcing the program on your Facebook page and website.
  • Distributing business cards that your members can give to their friends, family or colleagues. (I love ABC Gym. Join me for a free class with this card!).
  • Have each of your instructors mention it at the beginning of class.
  • When a current member refers a new member, make a big deal out of presenting the ‘reward’ to the person, ideally in front of a packed class. You could also thank the person publicly and welcome the new member in a Facebook post.

Another way to get referrals is to use Sweat Angels. Every time a member checks into your gym on Facebook, your gym will make a donation to the featured charity of the month. This is a perfect incentive to get members excited about checking in. Since each member has an average 100 friends on Facebook, just10 members checking in a day will expose your gym to 1,000 potential new members.



8. Attend Local Events

Local events give you exposure to a large group of people and allow you to connect on a personal level. In fact, the more we rely on digital communication, the more powerful person-to-person connections are for building trust.

Events to attend include festivals, street fairs, school carnivals, community health fairs and farmer’s markets. To discover these events, frequently check your local Parks and Recreation website, community blogs, Nextdoor and the Events section on Facebook. Once you’ve selected an event to attend, make sure to take the following items into consideration:

Plan Your Presence: Find out exactly where your exhibit space will be. Since setups vary from event to event, your location will determine what you can and cannot do there. Some events will set exhibitors up in a tent or big outdoor space. Other events will be inside a hotel ballroom or warehouse. Knowing what to expect before you arrive is key. Plan to bring some handouts and a tablecloth for your table, as well as a giveaway to entice people to walk over and talk to you.


Whether you have a booth, table or tent, don’t forget to bring branded signs with your gym's name

Promote Your Presence: Although the event will do their own advertising, you should let your community know you’re going to be there as an exhibitor. Run a targeted Facebook ad to announce that you’ll be at the event. List your spot or table number in the ad, as well as the hours you will be there.

Collect Leads: Use a giveaway to collect names and contact information you can use later. Giveaways don’t have to be big or expensive. You can offer something as small as a ‘workout tips’ newsletter or a big as a prize in conjunction with a raffle.


Having a tablet at events makes lead collection a breeze

Incentivize a First Visit: Many attendees will be at the event just to collect information. To give them the nudge they need to visit your gym, incentivize their first visit. Offering a one free visit or one free week pass is a good way to do that. You can either hand the passes out at the event or email them to your contacts after the event, using the information you collect while there.

With proper planning and a strong presence, local events can be a great way to attract new members for your gym. 


9. Start a blog

Although blogging might sound overwhelming, it’s not. You are an expert in your field and have a great deal of industry knowledge to share. Consider writing blogs on the following topics:

  • Nutrition and clean eating
  • Health and wellness tips
  • Instructions on specific exercises or lifts
  • Success stories
  • Happenings at your gym (events, clinics and boot camps)
  • Member spotlights
  • Instructor or trainer introductions
  • Current promotions

Blogging is beneficial for both your website and social media accounts. A frequently updated blog provides your site with fresh content, which Google loves. Blog posts are also great content for your social media pages.

When you post a new blog, make sure to:

  • Link to other pages on your website (this is great for SEO, but limit the number of links to two or three per post).
  • Add social sharing buttons to your posts to help your content get discovered.
  • Include a contact or lead capture form on every post to convert prospective athletes.

You can start a blog on the popular platform WordPress in as little as five minutes. Check out the following guide from blogging expert Jeff Bullas on how to quickly setup your own blog.


Increase engagement by making your blog more visually appealing with imagery, like our customer Liv Athletic does on their blog


10. Automate to save time

Marketing automation is the final step in a marketing strategy for your gym. Automations maximize your time and results by automating time-consuming manual tasks. Automations are a basic feature of many member management solutions and can be personalized based on the unique needs of your gym. The best part about automations is that they ensure you never let a valuable lead fall through the cracks.

Processes to automate include:

  • Welcome communication for prospective members who filled out a form on your site.
  • Follow-up email with prospective members who visited your gym, but have yet to return for another class.
  • Staff alerts to call current members who haven’t been into workout for a specific period of time.
  • Email communication and alerts to call when a membership is about to expire, or if a member’s payment didn’t go through.

Automations make all the marketing work you do more effective and efficient, so be sure to add them to your marketing plan.

Find a system to automate the management of your leads and basic marketing tasks. Doing so will give you more time to do what you love, which is transforming lives through fitness. And we’re cheering for you because this world needs more healthy and inspired people in it.


No matter how great your classes and equipment are, your gym won’t survive if you aren’t able to bring in new members. The good news is that the step-by-step plan we shared with you will make marketing your gym and attracting new members easy. Throughout the guide, we mentioned member management software and the critical role it plays in marketing your gym. If you want to learn more about how software can grow your gym, schedule your demo with one of our Software Pros today.