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March 15, 2023

Built on Fitness Show Episode 6 Recap: Attracting Your Clients Back Through a Pandemic

A positive outlook on new marketing strategies brought to light by the pandemic.

In the latest Built on Fitness episode, Stewart and Mandy, both gym owners in North Carolina and Virginia respectively, delve into the successes and setbacks of their gyms.

The reopening phase of the pandemic offered new opportunities for both gym owners, while Mandy has seen top numbers in March 2021, Stewart has noticed a lull that he hopes will be admonished with fewer restrictions in June 2021.

Here are a few of the positives Mandy experienced, that she thinks may have contributed to her pandemic success.

Positive Outlooks for Gym Owners:

  1. Time to Analyze: Having to close your doors to the public for a period of time is never wanted, but Mandy used this time to take another look at the gym’s business model and refocus for a new set of needs.  After analysis, she was able to truly dial in on the positive highlights and the areas that needed more attention, which were addressed with a new marketing strategy.

  1. Local Business Focus: In Richmond, Virginia, there was a community campaign to support local small businesses.  Although Mandy does not attribute any new memberships to the advertisement, she does believe it helped to draw more attention to her business during the difficult pandemic times.

  1. Opportunity for Movement: When the entire world quickly transitioned into a virtual reality due to the pandemic, Mandy and the community saw this as an opportunity for business.  Mandy found that there was a welcoming attitude for any program that gets people outdoors, on the move, and away from a screen.

  1. Vaccine Availability: The local community in Richmond, Virginia is engulfed by a large medically-driven college campus.  As the COVID-19 vaccine became increasingly available, Mandy noticed that her new clients and memberships saw a correlating rise as the community became more comfortable with outings.

Stewart and Mandy frequently speak about various questions they used to help develop better marketing strategies to attract clients back through the pandemic.  

Here are 5 questions that any fitness business owner should be asking themselves.

  1. What stands out in your business model, and what needs more attention?

In other words, determine what the best and the worst parts of your business model are.  Use both!  Mandy relays that her current members had a great retention rate and were very loyal, so she focused her marketing on her current members.  She also recognized that her need to control was getting in the way of productivity, so she hired a new communications coordinator and delegated some work to feel less overwhelmed.

  1. How does your business contribute to the fitness industry?

Every business has its own niche.  Define your niche in the fitness industry, and determine what your business offers that helps contribute to the overall community.  Reel in on what your company is doing to help better the fitness industry.

  1. What do you want your business to be to the community?

Address and define the needs of your target community.  Figure out how your programs can contribute to those needs.

  1. Who are your current members, and what do they have in common?

In order to focus on your current members, you need to know your own community and the stories of your members.  At the very least, your members are similarly located, but what else do they have in common?  Your current members are some of your best advocates, so get to know them and their stories.

  1. How does your own personal story play into your business, and is this story known to your clientele?

On the flip side, let your community get to know you!  Everyone has their own fitness journey story.  Make sure you share your own with your current members so they can get to know you and support you and your mission on another level.

Now that you’ve better defined your own business model, put it to work!  

There are an endless number of marketing strategies available to you, but here are some that Stewart and Mandy have seen success with during the pandemic.

Marketing Strategies:

  1. Outdoor Workouts: Take advantage of your outdoor space and even parking lot and get outside with your members.  This is an entirely new form of advertisement that anyone passing by cannot help but notice.  Mandy used this strategy and partly attributes it to her increased memberships.

  1. Get Help: Don’t be afraid to hire a communications coordinator or consult with a marketing expert.  A third-person perspective or an extra hand can go a long way, and your members will notice the difference.

  1. Launch a Campaign: Never doubt the power of a short-term campaign with a catchy slogan.  Stewart had participation outcomes with a positive forward-thinking campaign surrounding the idea of getting the local community in Charlotte, North Carolina up and moving again.  Mandy did a month-to-month marketing campaign that focused on member participation with themes such as fitness goals, member and community appreciation, and couple member story highlights (including her own story).  Personalized promotional videos and social media posts and advertisements are great ways to reinforce your campaign and slogan.

  1. Host an Event: Whether it's an outdoor workout at a local park, pop-up shop, or pool party, hosting an event is a great way to get your staff, members, and the local community mingling together.

Last, but not least, Stewart and Mandy agree that as gym owners, there should always be a focus on members.  During the pandemic reduced staff, and temporarily closed doors make it increasingly difficult to provide the best possible services for your members. 

Here are a couple of strategies that Stewart and Mandy used to best utilize their resources with the given restrictions.

Improvements for Members:

  1. Efficacy of Space: We may not all have the funds to redesign our gyms with open floor plans, but if you are able to fit 5 more members safely in your gym by moving around some squat racks then do it!  Several states have capacity and class-size restrictions.  Thinking outside of the box may help you accommodate more members.

  1. Simplify Membership Options: When it comes to closing a new member on a sale, do not give them twenty options to read through.  Your members will not appreciate it, and Stewart and Mandy both note that you are less likely to make the sale.  Keep your membership options simple.  Your new member is looking for a new gym, but too many options can be overwhelming.

  1. Invest in Equipment: Every gym has an array of equipment.  Mandy discusses that with her new floor plan, she also invested in moveable equipment that will allow her to fit more members in the gym but safely socially distanced at the same time.

Attracting new clients after all the challenges that the pandemic has presented to gym owners is still a difficult feat.  The great news is there are an incredible amount of great resources at your disposal.  Both Stewart and Mandy have seen great successes without having to pay tens of thousands of dollars for paid marketing advertisements.  Homegrown guerilla marketing on a budget seems to be a key component of continuing to grow clientele during the pandemic.


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