The 3 Most Successful Fitness Studio Marketing Tactics


The 3 Most Successful Fitness Studio Marketing Tactics

According to the recently released AFS 2016 Marketing Best Practices Research Report, studio owners across the country employ a wide variety of marketing strategies, often depending on regional geography, market location, type of studio, and how long they’ve been in business.

Finding commonality that fuels success is often perplexing.

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Keep in mind that purists in marketing principles often lecture on the confusion between marketing “strategy” (the offer) and marketing “tactics” (the communication of the offer). “Facebook,” for example, is not a marketing strategy. It is a tactic – a vehicle to carry your strategy (your message), no different than a flyer or an ad in your local newspaper.

We raise this issue because our survey results clearly show a blurring of the understanding between strategy and tactics, often making it difficult to identify which is which. We will ignore the purists, therefore, and speak the language of the marketplace.

The 3 Most Successful Fitness Studio Marketing Tactics

*Source: Association of Fitness Studios 2015 Operations & Financial Benchmarking Research Report

As you can see from the chart above, the top three marketing “strategies” (but really “tactics”) reported by studio owners are clearly head and shoulders above the others.

1. Social Media

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past 10 years, you know that social media is the marketing darling of the fitness industry (as it is in many industries). For fitness, this platform achieves several goals:

  • It’s inexpensive. The costs involved in building a Facebook page or posting a video are minimal. Your communication gets out and your dollars stay in.
  • It allows you to convey multiple messages that you control, be it your latest class addition, newest trainer, special offer, etc.
  • It not only hits the target customer, it involves the customer. There’s no waste here since the uninterested will be nowhere to be found. Involving your customers can ultimately raise them to ambassador status, spreading the word to enhance your business.
  • It’s visual. With photos and videos of your studio, your classes, and most importantly, your clients, the impact is far greater than words.
  • It’s easy to change. Today’s menu can be posted today with no delay. Want to change an offer? No problem. You can do it instantly.

2. Client/Member Referral Programs

There are many client/member referral programs, often called reward programs, where you provide incentives for your clients to refer new customers to your studio. Usually, the client receives a free something (month, class, t-shirt, etc.) and the new customer receives a special deal (free month, class, t-shirt, etc.). It’s a tried and true, albeit somewhat stale, means to the end.

The best referral program is one in which you need not offer a reward to either party. This is “word of mouth,” where you can save the “free.” Put it back into your pocket.

People love to share good stuff and positive experiences (look no further than Facebook). When you deliver that dynamic client experience, when your studio over-delivers on its brand promise, when your members can’t stop talking about how great your studio is (before: the anticipation; during: the awesome workout; after: how great I feel) – you’ve set the stage for word of mouth referrals.

Bottom line: deliver for your clients and they will multiply.

The 3 Most Successful Fitness Studio Marketing Tactics

3. Email Blasts to Members/Clients and Prospects

Then there’s the tried-and-true email blast. Once the darling of marketers worldwide, it’s harder and harder to be in love with email blasts. It’s tempting, of course, since you know you’re sending your message directly to your target audience. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the world now considers a 30 percent “email open rate” to be good performance, meaning 70 percent of your customers or potential customers don’t even open your message. To be successful, marketing must be ongoing and consistent. Consider this:

  • You can send an email but it doesn’t necessarily get opened
  • It can get opened but doesn’t necessarily get read
  • It can get read, but the message might not be understood
  • The message can be understood, but it doesn’t resonate
  • The message resonates, but it’s not compelling
  • Finally, the message is compelling and it’s acted upon

That’s a tall mountain to climb, but as the data shows, many studios are climbing it.


Marketing works best when the marketer understands what he or she is doing. A crisp message with a clear call to action, communicated in a vibrant manner using the above tactics should serve you well.

Author Information

Chuck Leve
Chuck Leve's picture

Chuck Leve is a 40-year veteran of the fitness industry and proven successful developer of fitness industry associations. Currently he serves as the Executive Vice President of Business Development for the Association of Fitness Studios (AFS). He's been involved in the creation and development of some of the most successful trade associations in the history of the fitness industry. For more information on AFS, visit

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