Gym and Fitness Marketing: Text Message Strategies that Grow Memberships and Renewals

Leaner, stronger, and faster. It’s what people want from fitness centers, and it’s what fitness center managers want from their marketing activities. The problem is, small gym owners don't have enough time to exercise their marketing skills.


Fall bootcamp text message.

Short on time? There’s no doubt that managing ad campaigns, monitoring social media, and developing creative assets for print campaigns can slow you down and leave you winded.

Short on know-how? You may be getting advice from all directions. “Direct mail still works.” “Everybody’s on SnapChat.” “Email is dead; you’ve gotta do Google Ads.” It’s nearly impossible to unravel the tangled web of conflicting opinions and figure out what will actually put feet on your treadmills.

Your marketing is out of shape, and you don’t have the time and knowledge to get moving in the right direction. So, what do you do?

We’re going to tell you to do what you tell your prospects to do. Get advice from a pro (that’s us), get on a proven, results-delivering text message marketing program for gyms, and get moving.

We’ll show you a marketing exercise regimen that has helped hundreds of gym owners and managers quickly get more powerful results from the time and money they devote to marketing. These strategies will deliver results for personal training, boot camps, boxing, martial arts, pilates, spinning, MMA, Crossfit, and Yoga.

Simple, Fast, and Effective Text message Strategies

activity report

Text message marketing works. Look at these Short Message Service (SMS) marketing statistics:

  • 98% of text messages are read by contacts, according to a study of our customer’s campaigns. Compare that to the average open rate of 21% for email and 18% for social media posts. You can be virtually guaranteed that contacts will read your messages. That’s something no other marketing channel can deliver.
  • 90% of text messages are read within the first three minutes of receipt. With smart planning, you can be assured that your contacts will get the message at a time when they’ll be most likely to take action.
  • SMS produces engagement rates six to eight times higher than retailers normally achieve via email marketing. People take texts more seriously than they do other types of messages.

As you can see, SMS is uber-effective for fitness engagement. But, before we go further, let’s define exactly what we mean by text marketing.

What is Text Message Marketing?

Why Choose EZ Texting for Your Text-to-Landline Service

Text message marketing is when an organization sends a text to a lot of contacts at once. This is also known as 1-to-many text marketing (as opposed to 1-to-1), mass texting, or bulk SMS. Text marketing has to be done through a bulk text provider (like us). Carriers can tell if the activity from your account exceeds what is humanly possible in 1-to-1 communication, and they don’t allow mass texting from a normal account.

One important thing to keep in mind is that SMS marketing is a permission-based activity. You can’t send marketing texts to contacts simply because you have their cell number. They have to opt-in to your marketing text messages. We’ll show you how to get people to sign up for texts below.

Marketing text messages can be delivered in two formats: SMS messages of 160 characters or less, or Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) messages with rich media attachments. Many successful gym managers use MMS to inspire their contacts with motivational quotes and images. We’ll cover more on this topic below as well.

You’ll also enjoy: 6 Ways Mobile Marketing Can Impact Fitness Centers and Gyms.

Trial keyword text message.

Keywords and Short Codes

A couple of terms you’ll often see in text message marketing are Keywords and short codes. Keywords are used in conjunction with short codes as a way for individuals to subscribe to marketing text messages and interact with organizations. 

Keywords are up to 12 characters in length. Short codes are five or six digit numbers. You’ve probably seen a message like this for another gym: “Text ‘TRIAL’ to 474747 to get a free week membership.”

When a contact texts the Keyword to the short code, they will receive an automatic reply letting them know how to claim the free week membership and that they’ve been subscribed to your marketing text list. The auto-reply will contain required verbiage letting them know how to easily unsubscribe if they want. The contact will automatically be added to your contact list inside the text marketing platform.

In that example, ‘TRIAL’ is the Keyword and 474747 is the short code. You’ll be assigned a shared short code by your messaging provider. You’ll then reserve your own branded Keyword. A Keyword can only be used once with a short code, so you’ll find a Keyword no one else has claimed. (It’s simple and fast.)

NOTE: It’s a best practice to reserve single-word Keywords, if possible, so that autocorrect doesn’t change the sender’s text before it goes out.

Why Text Message Marketing Works for Fitness Centers and Gyms

iphone image of political texts

Fitness center and gym managers deal with challenges that other marketers don’t face. To get someone to convert on a membership plan, you have to catch them at the right time, get them in the door, and get them primed to take action. It isn’t easy to motivate people to get off the couch and open their wallets. And to get renewals on those memberships, you have to continually prime the pump to keep members active and happy.

Bulk SMS marketing can help you conquer those challenges particularly well. With smart text marketing, you can get people to read your messages at the optimal time, encourage them to visit the gym with incentives, and show them a vision of their new self. When you do those things, you’ll convert more prospects into members.

And, once they’ve signed on, you can use text messages to deliver workout tips, let them know about new classes, inspire them to reach their goals, and more. The result is that members use and enjoy your gym regularly and are more likely to renew.

“We use EZ Texting to administer a portion of our nutrition coaching…We have found that sending it right to them, eliminating the login or check your email step, has improved our read rate and adherence by at least 60%. In health and fitness, that’s the name of the game!” - Jaclyn Weber, Marketing Director, Faithfully Fit

Some of the ways fitness center marketers are leveraging text message marketing to accomplish their goals is to send campaigns such as free week pass promotions, workout tips, personal training session reminders, new class schedules, and more.

How Text Marketing Works

One of the reasons thriving fitness center owners love text message marketing is that it’s so darn simple.

You don’t have to come up with catchy (or spammy) email subject lines to get people to read your messages. You don’t have to outsmart Google or Facebook’s hidden algorithm to make your updates magically appear. You don’t have to spend hours writing and editing long blog posts hoping someone will find them.

Even if you wanted to do those things, text messages don’t allow it. 160 characters and you’re done. Not much to it. You’ll cut your marketing time down from days and hours to minutes and seconds.

But how do you actually do it? Let’s look at the steps you’ll take to get started sending marketing texts to your prospects and members.

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1. Sign Up and Send a Test Text

When you sign up for a free trial on our platform, the first thing you’ll do is send yourself a test text message. Our easy-to-follow wizard-guided tour makes this super simple. We selected sending a test as the first step on purpose. You’ll see how quickly setting up and sending a marketing text can be done. The first time your phone buzzes with your own marketing text is a cool feeling. Sign-up and Send usually takes less than five minutes.

Create Groups

2. Upload and Segment Contacts

Next, you’ll upload contacts who have given you permission to text them. (In the future, you’ll use Keywords and short codes which will automatically add contacts to your list.) Our tour walks you through this by either copying and pasting contact info from a spreadsheet or by uploading an Excel file. You can also add contacts manually, one-by-one. Make sure to include any pertinent fields you might use to segment contacts at a later time.

Once you’ve uploaded contacts, you can create organized groups of contacts based on their demographic info, exercise class, membership status, and more. This is a very important step to complete. One of the mistakes we see rookie text marketers make is sending the same text to everyone on their list. Make sure that you send the right messages to the right contacts. People will be quick to reply ‘STOP’ to unsubscribe if you send messages that don’t match their status or interest.


3. Reserve Some Keywords and Grow Your List

Another mistake we see first-timers make is not reserving Keywords so that they can grow their contact lists. This is the number one reason most marketers never get off the ground with texttext marketing marketing. They don’t reserve branded Keywords and promote their texts to grow their contacts.

We used a free week membership as an example of an incentive to join your list above because that’s what we’ve seen to be the best way to get prospects to join your list. Some fitness centers have offered a discount on the first month’s fee, but more people take advantage of the free week. (And, you’re not forfeiting margin on that first month.)

Use the free week or another giveaway to get prospects on your list and in the door. Promote your Keyword, short code giveaway in your gym, on printed materials, and everywhere you can. This is the lifeblood of your text marketing activities and, therefore, your business.

Make sure to give current members a reason to subscribe to your list as well. Prints signs and send emails saying “Members text ‘HEADBAND’ to 474747 to get a free headband.”

We can’t stress this point enough. Get some good Keywords and promote the heck out of them.

Another way you can get subscriptions for your text marketing is by using a sign-up widget. Website widgets are customizable, simple sign-up forms which most mass SMS platforms provide free of charge. You quickly build the form and embed it on your website or social media page, and the subscriptions roll in.

We’ve written an in-depth eBook to help you grow your text message marketing contact list. Get the free eBook here.

Review Message

4. Execute

Now comes the fun part; sending your first mass text. We’ve worked hard over the last decade to make sending texts as easy as possible in our platform. One feature you’ll be sure to use is message templates. When you start to compose a message, you can select a template to get you started. We provide several default message templates which are specifically created for gym and fitness customers. Or, you can create and save your own custom template for later use.

Another great feature that the best text marketing providers offer is scheduling texts ahead of time. When you create your first message, you can schedule it to go out at the right time, whether you’re in front of a computer at that time or not. You’ll also have the option to make the message recurring. This can be a great way to send reminder texts for classes or appointments that occur on a regular basis.

Here are a couple of tips to keep you from hitting the potholes that give first-time text marketers trouble:

  • Include a Call-to-Action: In almost all of your texts, you’ll want to tell contacts what to do with the info you’re providing. Tell them whether they should reply to the text, call you, talk to you when they come to the gym, etc. To learn more on CTAs, read How to Write an Effective Mobile Marketing Call-to-Action.
  • Mention Who the Text is From: When you use a short code to send messages, contacts won’t necessarily know who the text came from.
  • Make sure to include your gym name in the text. Use Personalization Tokens: Make sure to take advantage of personalization tokens in your text to get better engagement from your contacts. For instance, instead of saying “Hi Green’s Gym Member, …” say “Hi [First Name], …” The [First Name] personalization token tells the platform to insert the contact’s name automatically.

Why Text Message Marketing Works for Fitness Centers and Gyms

Fitness Playbook

Now that you understand the basics of text message marketing for gyms and fitness centers, it’s time to put together your own marketing exercise playbook. We’ve mentioned a few examples of the types of texts that gym managers send in this article, but we just scratched the surface.

We’ve compiled a list of the top 15 campaigns that fitness center managers use to turn their gyms into marketing powerhouses. These campaigns include:

  • New Class Announcements
  • Inspirational Quotes
  • Class, Personal Training, and Payment Reminders
  • Low-Usage Gym Alerts (to let your members know when there will be more room and equipment available)
  • And more…

Not only will we show you the types of campaigns you can run, but we’ll also give you the templates you can copy to set up your own campaigns. Get the playbook now.