How to Sell Gym Memberships in a Hypercompetitive Market

For Gym Operators

How to Sell Gym Memberships in a Hypercompetitive Market

If there is one thing that most business owners can agree upon, it is that traditional marketing is no longer as effective as it once was. The ubiquitous nature of the internet changed marketing forever.

The following is a summarization of an education session from the 2015 IHRSA Convention, produced with full permission from IHRSA. The full-length video is available for purchase at

About the Speaker

Casey Conrad has been in the health and fitness industry for over 26 years. She is an internationally recognized author and speaker. Her books are translated into several languages. She enjoys motivating fitness professionals to excellence and individuals to improve their lifestyle by using natural products, removing toxins and chemicals, incorporating regular exercise and making better nutritional choices.

How to Market and Sell Memberships in a Hypercompetitive Market

Today, consumers prefer to receive information and updates from the internet, outdating old media marketing strategies. Traditional marketing strategies typically involved businesses purchasing advertisements in newspapers, magazines and telephone books, as well as advertisements delivered through the mail. A few years ago, when people still read newspapers and magazines, this media represented solid marketing strategies.

In addition to the inefficiency of traditional marketing, the fitness industry is saturated with competitors from yoga and Pilates studios, fitness clubs, and personal training studios. Despite this hyper-competitive market, there is no significant increase in market penetration. Customers are becoming increasingly savvy and price is no longer the most important sales driver in the world of fitness options.

4 Ways to Create Successful Marketing Efforts

There are four actions that operators can take to significantly improve the chances that your marketing campaigns will be successful.

1. Assemble a Lead-Driven Team

"Natural networkers" are naturally comfortable meeting new people and cultivating interest in your products or services. They have outstanding people skills.

Guerilla and Social Marketing

Consider existing connections with other businesses to establish profitable business relationships. Relationships generate leads, which become sales. Evaluate social currency – the potential resources or leads that develop from a social media presence. Leveraging an employee’s social currency represents a great guerilla and social marketing tool.

Joint Marketing

Joint marketing cultivates long-term symbiotic relationships with businesses that have similar customer bases. This combination creates consistent and profitable business-generating activities for both parties.

Engage All Members of Staff

Identify joint marketing opportunities with your entire staff. If each staff member identifies at least one joint marketing opportunity a month, profitable joint marketing relationships will expand.

2. Spend Time Leveraging Technology and Building Your Own Lists

Consider compiling your own list rather than purchasing a compiled lists of a target market. This provides more control and specificity over your target market and allows you to build greater trust with your consumers.

Capture mechanisms are essential to compiling lists, building trust, and creating leads. You can utilize external, internal, guerilla, or social marketing as capture mechanisms to entice consumers.

Here are several examples of capture mechanisms:

  • Offer limited-time guest passes to your club
  • Publish e-books that include previous customers’ testimonials
  • Produce fitness or nutrition videos or lectures for online sharing
  • Make nutrition programs available to potential members

Provide these tangibles to potential customers in exchange for their names and email addresses. This will cultivate a level of trust and allow you to identify leads based upon the customers' interests.

Leverage technology in the form of auto-responder software. This will convert leads to sales by monitoring all activity 24/7 and responding accordingly.

3. Create a Clear Competitive Advantage

If your fitness club does not subscribe to the low-price fitness model, it is essential that it delivers high-quality service. Otherwise, potential members will go with the cheaper options that are available. It's important to establish who your target market is because, without a clear target market, you cannot create a clear brand. By establishing your core market, you are able to create more members by catering to their specific needs.

How Are You Different from the Other Fitness Clubs?

Be a unique service provider. Offer special programs, such as exercise programs for new moms or programs for people with arthritis, to attract people who want niche fitness. Partnering with nutritionists or dieticians can provide your customers with unique and enriching services. Implement "feeder programs" such as weight loss and lower-back exercise programs.

4. Professional Sales

To ensure your business offers professional sales, hire professional salespeople. Implement a standardized interview process that includes situational selling assessments and personality testing. If your fitness club lacks full-time salespeople, the front desk staff should be trained to identify leads and convert them into sales. Assign responsibility for sales performance to employees in order to ensure follow-ups on potential leads.

These four components are essential to the overall success of your club’s sales numbers. To summarize, you want to assemble a lead-driven team; build your own target lists and leverage technology; consider your competitive advantage and brag about it; and hire a professional sales team with quality sales skills. Invest in these components and you will likely see higher member satisfaction and revenue in your club.


1. Conrad. How To Market and Sell Success Membership. Published on June 09, 2015.