How to Build a Simple Fitness Center Marketing Plan
As a first-time business owner, launching a successful fitness center is no easy feat. There are a countless number of marketing tasks that you need to handle right away. Why? The success of your business relies on building a dedicated following of enthusiastic members. Oftentimes, it’s these early advocates that will position your fitness center for sustained business success.
At this stage of your business, building a fitness center marketing plan is mission-critical. Without a marketing blueprint, your business simply doesn't have a growth plan. Instead of initiating reactive marketing when business is slow, a defined marketing plan will help you invest in strategies that work in the long-term.
Fortunately, we know what it takes to build a results-driven fitness center marketing plan, and we've combined some of our best marketing strategies in one easy-to-read guide to help you get started.
How to Build a Simple Fitness Center Marketing Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide
In our experience, the most successful gym and fitness center owners and marketers follow six simple steps to build a high-value marketing plan. Use these expert insights to build a high-powered fitness center marketing plan, build your membership, and scale your business to new heights.
1: Outline Marketing Goals and Objectives
Creating specific goals and objectives helps guide and shape your overall marketing strategy. Without a clear set of benchmarks, it’s difficult to know whether or not your business has achieved any significant traction. The most successful fitness centers work to orient each and every employee around those success metrics.
To create actionable and realistic goals, follow the SMART framework:
Specific: Your goal should be exact. What is the core business metric that you're trying to influence?
Measurable: Your goal should be easily measured. What key performance indicators will you use to monitor marketing success?
Attainable: Your goal should be achievable and realistic. Don't expect to quadruple your membership overnight.
Relevant: Your goal should align with your broader business goals.
Timely: Your goal should follow a strict timeline. Make sure to set aside time for project planning, implementation, management, and progress check-in.
2. Identify the Unique Value of Your Fitness Center
Many business owners confuse their unique value proposition with the services that their business offers. The fact is, your competitors probably offer very similar services. The challenge is to figure out what your fitness center does differently and why someone would choose you instead of your competitor down the street. Start by building a unique value proposition statement.
Here's how to create a unique value proposition statement:
Your unique value proposition should accomplish four main things. It should be easy to understand, clearly communicate the specific results your customers will receive, explain why you're different, and be easily read.
Take the time to answer these questions:
- What problems are you trying to solve?
- What makes your business valuable?
- Do you have any examples that showcase your business's worth?
- How do your services differ from your competitors?
3. Identify Your Target Audience
Your target audience is the people that your business services. They are the ones who will become loyal members and raving fans. As a new fitness center, there's a temptation to market to anyone and everyone. Unfortunately, this thought process will spell disaster for you and your business.
Think about it this way – Equinox caters to high-end urban clientele. Meanwhile, Gold's Gym caters to serious weightlifters and bodybuilders. Find an audience that benefits from your specific offerings.
Think about it this way — Planet Fitness targets people who want a quick workout at their own pace. Meanwhile, Gold's Gym caters to serious weightlifters and bodybuilders. Find an audience that benefits from your specific offerings.
Here's how to build your target audience:
Step 1. Define Your Core Offerings
Consider the services and equipment that you offer to your customers. Think about the types of people that benefit the most from those services and equipment. What problems are you solving for them, and how do you do it differently than your competitors?
Step 2. Define Your Demographics & Psychographics
Think about your customers. Are you catering to people that are bodybuilders, workaholics, or people that have a lot of free time? What motivates them to buy a membership and actually use it?
Step 3. Build a Buyer Persona
Research your customers. Start by taking a look at your current customers and talking to them. Why did they choose your gym? What are they like and don’t like? Next, look at your competitors and what their customers look like. You can even read online reviews to see what people think.
4. Review Your Budget
Your marketing budget defines the costs involved in implementing your marketing plan. It will include all of the promotional costs such as advertising, public relations, hiring marketing staff or outside resources, internal costs related to marketing, and any other costs that you will incur as you implement the items in your plan.
Here's how to create a marketing budget:
There is no hard-and-fast rule that defines how much money any given business should budget for marketing. It will greatly depend on the stage of your business, your profit margins, and your annual sales. There are a few different strategies to consider.
- Most businesses will base their marketing spend on a percentage of their gross revenues. This makes it easier to increase your marketing budget as your sales increase. However, this could be a bad strategy for a business that is just starting out. After all, marketing generates sales, not the other way around. If you’re just starting out, you would need to budget a disproportionate percentage for marketing compared to your sales.
- You could calculate your marketing budget off of your sales projections instead of your recorded sales. Your business plan should include these forecasted projections.
- You can also refer to industry organizations, trade associations, publications, and other websites that have benchmark information about average marketing budgets for your industry.
The Small Business Administration recommends that you spend 7% to 8% of your gross revenue on marketing and advertising if your business does less than $5 million a year in sales. Their calculations assume that your net profit margin after expenses is in the 10% to 11% range.
5. Experiment with a Few Proven Marketing Tactics
Now that you have a fitness center marketing plan in place, it’s time to start experimenting using marketing tactics that have already been proven to work. This strategy will allow you to get started quickly while reducing your risk.
Here's how to experiment with a few proven marketing tactics:
You can review case studies and other materials published by various marketing vendors to understand how they were able to use their services to reach your audience.
For example, EZ Texting provides software that makes it easy for gym owners to send text messages out to various segments of their audience. To help, we regularly publish statistics that show the effectiveness of text message campaigns:
- SMS produces engagement rates six to eight times higher than retailers normally achieve via email marketing.
- Texts have a 98% open rate, nearly five times higher than email
- 75% of users prefer offers be sent by text.
We also publish content that shares strategies and tips to help gym owners get ahead. Applying these proven strategies can help you kick off your marketing while increasing your chances of success.
Step 6. Measure Your Marketing Effectiveness
Measuring your marketing is the only way that you’re going to know if it is working. Think back to the goals that you defined in step one. They were designed to be measurable and specific. You also defined your budget in step four.
Here's how to measure your marketing effectiveness:
Going through the steps allows you to examine your progress towards the goals that you defined and determine if you were able to stay within your budget.
Step 1: Review the analytics information that you collected during the time frame that you specified in the goal setting step.
Step 2: Determine if you were able to meet your goal, exceed it, or if you fell short.
Step 3: Consider if you want to repeat this goal or change it for the next period.
Bonus: Develop a Playbook for Fitness Text Message Marketing
Now that you have a defined marketing plan for your fitness center, it’s time to start expanding on some of your goals. Hopefully, your goals include implementing a text message marketing program — we’ve already talked about how effective these can be.
To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of the top 17 campaigns that fitness center managers are using to turn their gyms into marketing powerhouses. You can learn to do things such as sending announcements for new fitness classes, motivating your members with inspirational quotes, sending out payment reminders, and a lot more.
But we don’t stop there. We’ll show you these campaigns as well as give you templates that you can copy to build your own. Download your copy of the playbook now.
Photo: Getty Images/Milkos