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We Spent 70+ Hours Researching the 7 Best January Gym Marketing Hacks So You Don’t Have To

Want the best marketing tactics for your gym or studio this January? Here are 7 unique campaign ideas you won’t find anywhere else.

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It’s been a weird few years for gyms. First there were lockdowns and question marks over whether the industry would ever recover from the impact of COVID.

Then, just when it seemed like things were turning a corner, gyms suddenly faced a new nemesis: high gas prices and historic inflation. With members trying to cut back on living expenses, gyms and fitness studios are feeling the impact on membership numbers.

All that to say, this January gym rush is shaping up to be even more critical than in years past.

That’s why we spent nearly two weeks meticulously researching what the smartest gyms are doing to attract and retain new members.

1. Run an Extended Attendance-Focused Raffle

More than 12% of gym members join in January, and yet almost 50% of new gym members cancel their memberships by the end of January. That’s a lot of wasted money spent on acquiring new members that will simply cancel 30 days later.

That’s why our first hack revolves around retention and comes from an Orangetheory Fitness studio. 

The owner ran a two-month-long raffle that focused on getting people to attend. The prizes were bigger each week which helped reduce cancellations, and instructors made sure everyone got their raffle tickets after every class. 

This had downstream effects for the studio, with higher class attendance and lifetime member value beyond January and February.

2. Go Old School With Letterbox Drops

This one is old school, but it works: a letterbox drop (aka direct mail). 

Make up a glossy card with information about your gym. If you plan on running a January discount, make sure it’s front and center.

Then place a fridge magnet with it so your gym is on their fridge forever. Even if you get a few thousand in letterboxes around your gym’s area, you’ve reached a massive audience in a way that stands out from the crowd. 

The cost is low, and you only need to land a few clients to get an ROI. It’s old school, but it still works.

Let’s crunch a few numbers:

If you send out 1,000 postcards to households near your gym, you’re looking at spending about $650. 

If you get 19 membership sign-ups at $35/month each, that’s a 1.9% conversion rate, and you’ve more than cover your up front costs.

Since they signed up for monthly memberships, that’s $665 in recurring revenue. Not bad!

3. Try a Referral Program With a Twist

A quick Google search will tell you one of the best ways to bring in new people this January is to have existing members do all the work in the form of a referral program. 

One CrossFit box did just that, but with a clever twist. Members had to post a photo on social media wearing one of the box’s t-shirts with the friend they wanted to bring in. 

Their friends got a free week for being in the photo. The member got one point for each friend that showed up for a workout and three points if they signed up. The owner bought the winner a new pair of Nano 4s. 

The competition lasted two weeks, and the box had a total of 45 people come in with 12 signing up. Not only did it help with increasing membership, it also boosted the gym’s exposure on social media channels and increased the box’s shirt sales. 

4. Position Yourself as a Holistic Fitness Option

The average gym member is more interested in fitness, nutrition, motivation and mindfulness than ever before. This intense interest in wellness is prompting a new movement: holistic fitness.

One gym owner we spoke to started a nutrition and health coaching program, partnering with a business that sells ready-made meals. This partnership provides her with all of the advertising and nutrition support she needs. 

She then coaches these clients on weight loss and also does personal training with them. Not only is this an additional revenue stream, several of these clients have become members of her gym. 

If nutrition isn’t in your wheelhouse, you can look at bringing in additional people or other types of specialized programming alongside your regular offering. 

5. Team Up With Local Fitness Influencers

Partnering with local influencers can be a great way for a gym or studio to increase brand awareness, reach a new audience, and expand its member base. While often thought of as being time consuming, an influencer program is something you can launch in five easy steps.

1. Search Instagram or TikTok for influencers with an audience in your local area, a large following, and interest in health and wellness.

2. Once you’ve identified several, DM them. Explain how the partnership would benefit both of you, and invite them to visit your gym and try it out.

3. Provide them with free or discounted gym memberships, as well as promotional materials, such as t-shirts or branded water bottles.

4. Ask them to create content for your campaign. Request that they post a picture or video of themselves at your gym, and encourage them to include hashtags and mentions of your gym’s name. Consider using a referral code, an SMS keyword, or link if you sell memberships online.

5. Monitor the success of your campaign and track the results. Follow up with those who have had success to ensure they are still happy with the partnership and double down.

@fuadalhakimofficial

How I am as a trainer most times 😂 @hjjuddrubaii @thegympod #askcoachfuad

♬ TWINNEM – Coi Leray

6. Offer Lunch and Learns to Local Businesses

We spoke to one gym owner that uses lunch and learn sessions at local businesses about healthy eating and exercise to bring in new members. She focuses on providing tips people can implement right away to improve their health and wellbeing.

She concludes the sessions by providing information on her studio’s membership options, discounts and incentives, as well as any available classes and other services. Additionally, she provides employees with a promotional code or special offer to encourage them to sign up. 

She also collects their phone number and email so she can nurture these new leads.

7. Give Away Something of Value for Free

Membership is just one step in the buying journey. One way to encourage people to take the first step is by providing a valuable resource for free. This can be anything from a free e-book detailing exercise routines to a 30-day diet plan. 

We also see gyms offering:

  • Access to free events on nutrition and fitness
  • Membership in an online Facebook or Slack community
  • Branded workout gear

Once someone has taken you up on this initial offer, you can give away a free trial membership, a discount on a membership, a free fitness consultation, or a free fitness class. This can entice someone on the fence to come in and become a member.

Dad Bod Health uses free livestreams and podcasts on topics related to men’s health to attract members to its paid programs. They run Facebook ads that direct people to a ClickFunnels landing page. There, they collect phone numbers and send out text messages notifying these leads when they are about to start streaming. 

Take These Gym Marketing Hacks and Run With Them

Gyms who are growing quickly are constantly testing and improving their member acquisition and retention strategies.

And that’s what we hope this post articles you to do: test, learn and improve, always. Use the ideas above to figure out what works best for your gym this January, and keep testing to ensure that you continue to get better.

Drew Wilkinson
Drew Wilkinson

Drew Wilkinson is the Head of Marketing at SimpleTexting. Drew has more than a decade of experience managing successful integrated marketing programs to build brands, raise awareness, and generate demand.

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