It’s no surprise that the most popular times for studios and gyms to offer promotions are the New Year and summertime. There’s good reason for this, but it also means there’s a lot of competition. Here, we share some creative tips for offering promotions — without devaluing your brand — to take advantage of the marketing calendar year-round.
Team Up with Local Charities
Local nonprofits host galas and other fundraising events that are great opportunities for you to offer promotions or specials. They often have hundreds of attendees, many of whom have likely not heard of your studio or gym. Do some research into the largest annual charity events in your city with silent auctions and inquire about donating a basket which includes merch, some branded products, a few free classes, and a special for signing on for a membership after.
Also, incentivize signups on holidays by donating a percentage of the new members’ fees, say their first month of dues, to a related cause. For example, on Veterans Day you can partner with Hope for the Warriors. On International Women’s Day, you might consider donating to Planned Parenthood. Tag these organizations, many of which have significant social followings, in your online posts about the specials so they can share with their audience.
There are also times throughout the year where particular causes are trending and people are more inclined to spend money on services that are donating a percentage of their proceeds. If there’s a natural disaster somewhere, join up with your local Red Cross. Or take advantage of political momentum like BandCamp recently did when they donated 100% of their earnings for 24 hours in response to President Donald Trump’s immigration ban. Don’t forget to promote the effort on social media with hashtags trending around the issue.
Instead of just competing with other gyms and studios in January, consider trying to get a boost in membership before or after the New Year. You can offer a free week or of classes for a nonmember when a member writes a Google or Yelp review, or checks-in on Foursquare or Facebook. You can promote this in November and early December as a limited-time only holiday special.
Muscle Up Marketing Senior Consultant David Vail also recommends keeping the marketing campaigns going when other clubs in your area slow down. You’re most likely, he says, to get clients if you’re not just investing a lot during particular times of year, but you are running promotions, sending emails, posting on Facebook, and sending deals in the mail often. “It’s about marketing on a consistent basis,” Vail says. “If you’re on a low budget, you just do it the old school way. Go out to community events, have your employees pass out flyers, go everywhere the people are.”
Marketing consultant Bedros Keuilian agrees. There’s no such thing as running too many specials. He did say, though, that he thinks August is a good time to snag new clients as there’s less competition when many studio owners head out of town.
Offer Exclusive Challenges
Clients who are looking to get in shape love programs that have a clear goal and end date because it gives them something to work toward. A great time to run these specials is from January to the beginning of summer. As you know, many people commit to getting back to the gym for their New Year’s resolutions, but they’re concerned they won’t be able to stick with it. A six-month boot camp will keep them committed, but it will also give them long enough to get used to coming to your studio so they’re more likely to become a member when it’s over. Many studios also use challenges to promote and encourage user attendance during low-traffic months.
To ensure success with your challenges, in addition to setting a time frame, Keuilian recommends promising a clear and manageable result for clients who sign up. “Back this up with testimonials,” he said, “and you’re golden.”
If you have any corporate clients or relationships with local businesses, you can also consider approaching them about participating in a friendly competition with one another for the challenge. Whoever loses the most weight cumulatively wins.
Keep Track of Your Expiring Specials
Keeping members is just as important as getting new ones. A lot of times a new client will stop attending the studio simply because the promotion they signed up for expired.
Train your staff to take note of when someone’s contract is about to end. For example, has a client taken four out of their five discounted classes already? If so, your employee at the front desk should inquire about what they intend to do once they’ve taken their fifth class. If they seem unsure, talk to them about why. Maybe you can offer them a student discount, or maybe their company would be interested in building a relationship so you can provide an employee rate.
Jim Thomas, founder of Fitness Management USA, warns about offering too many discounts without the security that they will pay off. He says try to get people to sign up for longer trial periods initially. This helps lower your customer acquisition costs by encouraging more usage at your studio, which increases the likelihood someone will return. He wouldn’t, for example, recommend waiving the enrollment fee for just a month-long commitment.
Thomas says the most important thing for retaining clients after specials end is to make sure you’re addressing their particular fitness needs. This applies to prospective members too. When someone inquires about your studio, don’t just give them a tour, talk to them about their goals. “You have to know how to get people in the door,” says Thomas. “But you also have to know how to properly guide them to become a member.”