The deadly sins of
fitness club marketing

By knowing how to avoid the five deadly sins of fitness club marketing you can stop wasting money and resources on fruitless campaigns and turn every marketing drive into a tried and tested lead generator, says Frank Smarrelli.

If you are struggling to make your fitness facility more profitable you are not alone. I recently read that six out of every ten gyms in the US are at or below breakeven – a staggering number considering more people are joining fitness clubs worldwide than ever before.

From my experience of speaking with club owners and managers every single day from countries all over the world, I have realised that the main reason over half of fitness clubs are not doing better than breaking even is not the economy or the heightened competition. It’s because of simple marketing mistakes.

Owning a fitness club can still be very profitable. But club operators must take responsibility for their entire marketing and ensure it is continually reaching the right market with the right message using the right media. The most profitable clubs are the ones that market their club on a continual basis and align the marketing strategies with strong sales processes and systems.

If you own or operate a fitness facility the quickest way to go bust is to continue committing the five deadly sins of fitness club marketing. To smash through your membership ceiling, read this article and immediately apply its messages to your fitness business.

“you don’t need amazing results from one strategy, but good results from multiple strategies”

Deadly Sin 1. Inconsistent marketing

I estimate that 95 per cent of club owners that I have spoken to, coached and consulted with for over two decades have not got a marketing plan that they follow from week to week and month to month.

Marketing is not an event or a tactic – it is a system – and probably the most important system within your fitness business. Marketing is a continual implementation of lead generation strategies that drive new traffic to your business.

It’s important to understand that you don’t need amazing results from one strategy, but good results from multiple strategies. The key point is, you must always be marketing your club and its services.

Deadly Sin 2. Not understanding your target market

One of the key reasons many fitness clubs fail is because they don’t understand and define their target market before they start spending their marketing dollars. The most important element of any marketing campaign is the target market. You must tailor and deliver your message to the right target audience to maximise the return on your marketing spend. All great marketing campaigns start with a very clear and specific target.

If you owned a mixed martial arts studio or club, for example, you wouldn’t market to females aged 65+. Similarly, if you owned a weights-only club, like many of the 24-hour models that have burst onto the scene in the past few years, you wouldn’t market to females that want to do group classes.

A simple definition of target market is ‘customers who are most likely
to buy your products and services.’

You must resist the temptation to be too general in the hope of getting a larger slice of the market. Hope marketing, or ‘spray and pray’ marketing as it’s also known, isn’t going to work.

Deadly Sin 3. Not consistently marketing your club’s USP

Your club’s unique selling proposition (USP) is a real or perceived benefit that differentiates the service you provide from that of your competition. It’s a reason for prospective members to prefer your business.

So, what makes you stand out from the crowd? Your USP might be your location, a specific style of training you deliver, your no-contract policy, or a host of other things. If you can’t describe something that differentiates you from your competitors, you may have a problem.

If you do have a USP, a competitive advantage, then it should be plastered all over your marketing materials, including your website. Remember, a USP is free, easy to communicate, and it tells your prospects and members the unique advantage of being a member with your club.

Deadly Sin 4. Not optimising your marketing

Marketing optimisation simply involves any activity that is designed
to maximise the return on you marketing investment. Marketing optimisation comes in many different forms, but here we will focus on media integration as a way of optimising your marketing campaigns.

Firstly, let’s define ‘media’ and ‘marketing integration’. Media is the means by which you deliver your message or offering. Email, SMS and direct mail are media.

Marketing integration is a strategy aimed at unifying a particular message or offering. Its objective is to complement and strengthen the marketing impact of each media used.

I often hear about club owners and managers sending out a direct mail piece without integrating that media with SMS or a direct phone call. Other times, an SMS blasts goes out without marketing integration with email or social media, namely Facebook.

The more media integration you can use to optimise your marketing message, the better.

Deadly Sin 5. Not testing and measuring your marketing

Successful marketing is based around a process where you ‘test and measure, test and measure’ everything you do in your business until it’s as effective as you can get it.

You test a new strategy, for example direct mail, and then you measure the results you get – the number of leads. You would also measure your leads to closed sales, so you have a percentage based on that specific strategy.

Why test and measure? Because you can’t manage what you can’t measure.If you don’t actually know where your leads are coming from, it’s like driving without a destination. Do you know where every lead is coming from? Which marketing campaign? What marketing platform or media? Which salesperson? Once you know these answers, you have the power to make educated decisions for your business. You know which marketing campaigns and strategies to stop, which ones to tweak and improve and which ones to keep running with.

By understanding these five deadly sins of fitness club marketing you can begin to eliminate revenue zappers and implement positive change – not only with all your future marketing campaigns, but throughout your entire business.

Frank Smarrelli
With a distinguished coaching career of over two decades, Frank has written and developed over 20 books and workshops on sales, marketing, and success principles of high achievers. He has been a multiple club owner and is now a presenter and business coach with his FasTrak to Health Club Profits™ program. For more information on how to increase sales, systemise marketing and build retention visit


Benefit from Frank’s wealth of fitness marketing know-how at FILEX 2014 where he will be presenting:

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