Most fitness professionals start their mornings by getting dressed and lacing up their shoes. They live in a world dominated by sneakers rather than loafers and heels. Those shoestrings are important for more than just getting dressed for the day however; they also tend to represent just about every aspect of fitness marketing. Shoestring budgets, shoestring staffing and shoestring timelines are all part of the plan for everyone from management to trainers.
This month, we’ll be digging deep into the world of internet marketing on a shoestring budget. Whether you are a gym owner/manager, a personal trainer or group instructor, we’ll be sharing ideas about how to build stronger connections with your happy customers as well as reaching out to create new relationships with future customers.
Good Marketing is Like Good Training…You Have to Make Time for it.
One of the first things you probably realized about working with gym members is that everyone is trying to fit a little more exercise into their very busy lives. As crucial as exercise is, it still tends to take a back seat to work, family, friends, etc. For most of us in the fitness world, marketing suffers the same fate. We spend so much time focusing on our jobs that we forget to invest the time in making sure our business is healthy. In other words, we forget to make time for marketing.
Much like making the decision to get healthy, you have to make the decision to invest in marketing. You have to sit down and look at what you want to accomplish and then find a way to fit time for it into your schedule. For owners and managers, that often means allocating time for your staffers to invest in marketing. For trainers and instructors, it means squeezing a few more hours into your work week, or prioritizing your day to “cut the fat.”
Even committing to just 30 minutes of time per day can make a big difference in reaching your goals. (Sound familiar?)
Taking Stock as a Gym Owner or Manager
If your primary position is as a gym owner or manager, you need to look at the big picture of marketing. Are you trying to promote a single gym or a chain of them? Are you an all-purpose fitness center, or do you specialize in something specific like CrossFit® or weight training? Are you trying to build up a customer base to stay afloat, or are you simply looking to expand and grow? Much like knowing a member is training for their first 10K would lead to different training plans than if they were training for American Ninja Warrior, understanding what you are trying to accomplish as a business is crucial to figuring out your marketing plan and timeline.
It’s also important to take stock of the resources you currently have available to you. Social media usage is huge within the fitness industry. There’s an excellent chance that many of your employees are already using sites like Pinterest and YouTube for workout plan ideas and sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to connect with their friends and many of your current gym members. Asking around to see who has experience on which platforms and who might already be using them as part of their work day is an excellent way to start generating ideas.
You’ll also want to give consideration to the natural skill sets of your employees. Even if they don’t have experience with YouTube, you may have one trainer who has a naturally exuberant personality that shows up really well on film. Making time to film one video tip a week from that trainer provides you with excellent content for your Facebook Page and blog. Maybe you have a group fitness instructor who rocks at building playlists for her sessions. Consider asking her to put together workout lists that can be shared to social media services.
Taking Stock as a Personal Trainer or Instructor
If you are looking to boost your personal stock as a trainer or instructor, you’ll likely want to take a more personalized approach. Relationship building is generally a key part of social media marketing for these positions. Give consideration to connecting with your clients and gym members via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Something as simple as using Twitter to announce a new class schedule or offering encouragement on a client’s Facebook post can go a long way toward building a positive connection with them. Being “taggable” on these services also gives your clients a great way to share your name and connect their own friends with the trainer who has helped get them into great shape.
Service like Instagram and Pinterest give you the chance to share the research you might be doing anyway with the clients who are always looking for ideas and inspiration. A Yoga instructor might curate a Pinterest board featuring tutorials on how to conquer difficult positions while a running coach might Instagram daily motivational photos.
The idea here is to focus on how to help meet the needs of your clients during the hours they aren’t in the gym with you while also making sure you are easily accessible in the social media world for referrals.
Reputation: Your Most Powerful Shoestring Marketing Tool
No matter what your position is within the fitness world, the single biggest thing you must have to pull off strong marketing with a shoestring budget is a great reputation. Social media has elevated word of mouth to one of the most powerful (and free!) forms of marketing available. Add to that people’s propensity to talk about their weight loss journeys and fitness goals and you create a world where being like and respected can often mean free advertising.
Take a frank look at how you are viewed by your customers. If your gym has a steady stream of members cancelling or complaining, you have some work to do before you are ready for social media. On the other hand, if you get most of your new clients from referrals, there’s a good chance you have plenty of people out there ready and willing to help spread the word about how great you are.
Stay tuned this month as we dig deeper into all things Internet Marketing!