Customer acquisition is one of the most expensive parts of any business. Supermarkets will sell loss leaders that actually cost them money just to get people in the door. Jeff Bezos sold books at a -$3.00 cost for years, just so that he could acquire customers (and we all know how that turned out for him). The point is: that it’s not easy, and it requires creativity.
Thankfully, we have this list for you here derived from the CrossFit Affiliate Handbook, which gives you insight into every working component that a gym can use to effectively bring in customers, and re-acquire customers who have fallen off the membership bandwagon in the past. This is absolutely everything you need to know.
Acquisition Marketing Strategies
Customer acquisition is one of the most difficult parts of any business. In fact, it’s increasingly difficult as customers and clients are trusting individual influencers over businesses. With the scaling difficulty, new tactics and creative methods are being applied to numerous business models.
But with fitness, it’s a pretty straightforward, cut-and-dry system. People want to get in shape, improve their health, or maintain a healthy lifestyle. There aren’t as many avenues you can explore, which is why you have to get creative with the ones you have available to you in order to acquire new customers.
These are some of the types of acquisition marketing strategies that CrossFit wants you to use to improve the membership signup rates at your gym.
Many users will only sign up for a gym membership during a certain season. Even if they end up falling into the reactivation category later on down the line, right now they’re seasonal gym-goers. These are some tactics to acquire seasonal guests:
- Advertise in Obvious Places: Does your town have a restaurant that’s only open during summer? That’s the perfect place to buy advertising space. Is the pier or boardwalk twice as active during spring? Pop up a billboard ad. This can even work in winter when signup rates are typically low. Put advertisements in obvious spots where people congregate during these seasonal times.
- Follow Seasonal Trends: As seasons shift, certain industries gain traction. For gyms, sometimes you’ll have qualified leads simply because people are trying to be healthier or want to get in shape for the beach. However, that’s not going to be for everyone. A lot of people don’t know what they want until they see it. Seasonal trends are changes that happen over the course of a full calendar year with the season changes and vary from area to area. Understand your local trend changes and develop creative advertisements in these areas to maximize visibility.
- Seasonal Price Cuts: New members, as in those who are not reactivating their previous memberships, get a discount when they sign up. It doesn’t have to be a massive discount, but any discount at all can help bring in sign-ups, as long as they’re fully aware of when it ends. It could even be a major discount on the first month, and normal pricing on subsequent months. Play around with the idea.
Previous members who’ve cut off their subscription, for whatever reason, are prime candidates to bring in more money. Why? Because you acquired them once, and if you were able to capture data on their exit survey, you’ll know why they left. More often than not, people cancel subscriptions to buckle down on personal finances. You can reacquire them because you already have a rapport with them. This is what you need to know.
- Targeted Emails: Email marketing is powerful, and if they signed up for your email list when they first joined your gym, they’ll likely still see when you send emails their way. Offer a coupon for reactivation, or mention a deal that’s going on. Reactivation emails are effective because there’s still some form of an emotional connection there. If someone frequents your gym for months on end, there’s nostalgia, and we all know how powerful that is. Let them reactivate for a fraction of the cost, or throw in some goodies on top, and see what happens.
- Request Referrals: This is a tongue-in-cheek way of reacquiring customers. Contact them via email or text message, and ask if they would be willing to quickly tell you all about their previous experience at your gym, and if you could use it as a testimonial on your website and social media pages. That way, you get something extra out of it that most people don’t think about. To thank them for their response, offer to reactivate their gym membership with a free month to kick things off. Watch how many people sign up again.
- Simply Thank Them: Whether it’s through email, social, or text, thank your previous customers for trusting you with their time and fitness goals. Mention how grateful you are to have had them. This is a way to show affection to your current and past members, while also reminding them why they loved going to your gym so much.
Call to Action
A call to action, or CTA for short, is exactly what it sounds like. It’s something that causes people to act nearly immediately, otherwise, they might not act on their own. CTAs can come in many ways, including:
- Window Advertisements: A simple window ad that you don’t need to swap out all that often, and if you use the right language (which you’ll likely need a copywriter for), you can generate interest. Give them language that isn’t pushy, but still gets them to act now, which touches on our next point.
- FOMO: Fear of missing out is a huge motivator behind action. If users think that a service or an item won’t be available later, it makes them not want to miss out on the experience right now. It’s powerful, but it’s something you should never abuse. Genuinely set a specific deadline for an offer or promotion, and stick to your guns. If people only have a week, they may all flood in towards the end, but you will get customers that don’t want to miss out on savings or experiences.
- Give a Reason: It can be through email, fliers, or business cards, but you need to give your prospective clients a reason to act right now. Not later, not whenever they feel like it, but right now. It could be something motivational that doesn’t surround the idea of FOMO, but whatever it is, it has to be creative and impactful to whoever is reading it.
Referrals focus on what’s called affiliate marketing. In fact, there are entire websites set up as directories to businesses of a certain niche, such as dentists. The directory site refers people to the dentist, and then when someone books for and pays for an appointment, the dental office pays the directory owner a commission, because without them, they wouldn’t have gotten the sale/new customer.
The same works with gyms. You can find affiliate marketers, or sign up for an affiliate network, and offer a percentage of the first sale from a new customer to an affiliate in order to help them promote your gym. Typically, you don’t have to pay them anything else on top of this.
Corporate and Business Membership
Another way you can garner new membership interest is with corporate and business plans. If you’re in a city with frequent travelers, there’s likely a huge presence of traveling businessmen. Most hotels don’t have the best gyms, so they’ll use a stipend (or their own money) to sign up for local gyms infrequently traveled cities so they have access to quality facilities during their stay.
You can appeal to these needs and get corporate plan sign-ups, which are basically like monthly retainers that allow multiple users in that corporate pool to access your gym whenever they need. As a CrossFit gym, they’re going to want classes, and that means more than other gyms in the area are making.
Fliers work out more than most people would expect. Yes, we’re in a digital age, but that doesn’t mean that tried-and-true direct response methods don’t work. You can either sign up to put fliers in local mail, or put them up around town to frequented locations.
Direct response methods like these should have instructions, such as a website, phone number, and address so that clients can sign up however they see fit. You want them to see the flier, and sign up immediately.
Don’t rule out the possibility of posting fliers at local restaurants and shops with community boards, pending their approval of course.
Digital marketing is the most effective way to garner new interest in your business. While this is an investment and not an immediate response (usually), it’s an investment that’s worth your time and effort.
In fact, CrossFit wants you to have a website that’s up to their standards. You already have to have one, so using digital marketing to bring more prospective clients to your website to sign up for their first month is a mostly hands-free way to bring in new acquisitions. Digital marketing also does a few other things for you:
- Provide Authority: Prove to everyone why you’re the authority in your category. Beyond CrossFit, show them why you’re the best gym in the area. The key word here is show, not tell. Anyone who just says, “We’re the best gym in the city” will look arrogant. There’s no reason for people to believe you. Digital marketing establishes authority through perception. Like how a story begins in a writer’s mind, and ends in a reader’s mind, the same is applied to digital marketing.
- Place You Above Competitors: This includes other local CrossFit gyms, by the way, along with other non-CrossFit gyms. With a solid and consistent digital marketing strategy, you can appear before your competition in local search results. That is to say, when someone types in “CrossFit gym in [your area here]”, you should come up before your competition does. If done correctly, that is.
- Build Audience Trust: Beyond being an authority figure in your category, you also have to build trust with your readers and viewers. Many people won’t find a result and instantly assume that it’s the best option. They’ll find you through blog posts, website content, and guest posts on other websites or blogs. Once they’ve seen your gym name around a few times, they’ll begin to trust that your brand is legitimate.
- Make People Like You: You have to become a person, a business, that people know, like, and trust. Digital marketing aims to put you in the best possible spotlight imaginable so you can show what you’re really made of. This will naturally attract a crowd of like minded people, who will quickly see all the reasons to like your brand.
Digital Marketing Trifecta
There are three main ways that you can attract attention and make the most of your digital marketing journey. These methods are tried and true, and while they can take a while to give you the results you want, delayed gratification is a virtue worth having.
Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization
Search engine marketing refers to both paid marketing and search engine optimization, known as SEO. You want to dominate search engine results, but then again, so does everyone else with a website and online presence. This is what you need to know.
- PPC Ads: These are pay-per-click advertisements, like the little text links at the top of Google’s results with the small “Ad” symbol next to them. People pay a lot of money per click just to be on the top of these search results, but typically, they’re selling high-ticket items when they do. It’s tricky for a gym to use PPC ads because you don’t know if the customer acquisition costs will be worthwhile. PPC ads can help you get started but aren’t usually a long-term solution for a local gym.
- SEO: Optimizing your web pages, articles, and overall website for indexing by Google. SEO is a practice that comes with a seemingly endless number of agencies willing to help you out, all at varying prices. You can also do SEO yourself with a few free tools and some time. The whole point is to make your website as searchable as possible, and hopefully rank it at the top of Google’s results for specific keywords.
- Local Business Page: Google has a service called Google My Business, or GMB for short. This is where you can put your business listing on the column that appears next to search results. If someone types in a keyword or something relevant to your local business name, your business might pop up with direction, photographs, and contact information, and immediately give searchers the assurance that you’re the best choice. This is a sub-practice of SEO for your website, but it’s arguably just as powerful as a well-optimized website.
Brands need blogs. These aren’t interchangeable with articles, because articles have to be subjective, void of personal opinions, and generally include a sophisticated writing style. Blogs can have opinions, conversational wordplay, and be completely casual. This is why blogging is important for any brand, but especially a local gym.
- Lead Magnets: Every individual page you post on your website can be indexed by Google. If customers don’t find you through local business searches, they might find you through a stellar blog post that’s on your website. Blogs act as lead magnets if you optimize them to have a proper call-to-action at the bottom. Just as you would expect, this means to request action from the reader at the end of the blog post, which should hopefully lead them down a sales funnel.
- Gives Your Brand a Voice: There are a lot of fluffy marketing terms out there, but some of them have merit and gravity behind them. Brand voice is one of them. It’s what your brand sounds like, and how it speaks to potential customers in a way that other brands just aren’t. Your brand voice is unique. Even if you model it after another successful gym, it’s still going to come out differently, which is what makes it special. You just have to know how to market it.
- Keeps You Relevant: Fitness trends come and go, but when they’re here, they can be leveraged with online content. Become a leader in the fitness world by talking about what trends are going on right now, what they mean for fitness, if they’re worth your time, and write conversationally. If you have an audience and monthly visitors to your site, they’re going to see this and understand that you’re an expert in your field, not just a business owner.
- Talks to Pain Points: People don’t sign up with a gym for the sake of it. They sign up to your gym for a solution to their problem. What is that problem? Well, there are loads of problems that cause people to sign up for a gym membership. Address each of them in separate posts, and broaden the type of clientele you see in your gym. Make blog content centered around different niches of fitness, and before long, you’ll be able to speak to their interests. Next thing you know, they’re walking through the door.
The fitness side of social media is active, loves photography, and has a very specific mantra on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. You can leverage social media. While you don’t own your audience on social media, you can convert them to your email list or to paying customers, which is where your business grows. This is what you can do on fitness social media:
- Post Short Workout Training Videos: Quick 60-second videos of how to do a certain exercise properly, or show how people normally do exercises incorrectly with a solution at the end. You don’t have to make entirely original videos, but you should be consistent with it. Talk to your trainer(s) about getting involved and showing their experience on camera. It can be an excellent way to boost your brand. Plus, if someone comes in because of one of these videos, and they see you and the trainer, they’ll have all the social proof they need to sign up.
- Text-Based Sets: Use images on apps like Instagram to show a photo of your gym, with text shadowing over it with a set of workouts to do. Give them a solution at the end, such as “This set will help with your X in X days,” or something to that effect. Sell them the solution, not the process. Consistent posts like these establish your brand authority without having to host a website, and if you find local influencers, this can be a great way to get them to stop by.
- Influencer Marketing: Social media is filled with influencers in all types of niches. You can find local influencers and see what they’re doing that works, and either adapt a version of their strategy, or get them on board for social media marketing. Social media can be a complete ROI machine if you use it properly.
- Stay Relevant: Just like with posting blogs on your website, social media helps you stay relevant. If you don’t post content regularly, you quickly get forgotten. As a side note, social media platforms also have powerful built-in ad campaign tools that you can use if you’re having a slow start to organic social media marketing.
Marketing and Acquiring Customers is a Never-Ending Task
The acquisition is hard and requires a lot of creativity, but if you put your mind to it, you’ll create irresistible offers for your members, and bring your old members back for more. If you aren’t constantly marketing your classes, services, and overall gym, then you’re falling behind.