It’s challenging to grasp just how much the world has changed from COVID-19 — Zoom happy hours, takeout instead of dining in, working from home, and squeezing in virtual workouts. To say we’ve reached a new frontier is an understatement, and small businesses in the fitness industry have had to pivot operations to stay open.
But there’s a glimmer from the chaos: An industry once contingent upon physical attendance is now finding footing online. That said, the transition hasn’t been easy.
Now, as lockdowns ease and we endeavor outside again, it’s time for another massive pivot in your marketing strategy. How can you promote your fitness studio post-covid?
It’s going to take hard work, but you’ve got this. In this comprehensive guide, we’ve outlined the best strategies for promoting your fitness studio after COVID.
Ready to reboot? Let’s get moving.
Narrow Your Focus and Niche Down
There’s no need to be an expert at every form of fitness. Plus, there are already mega fitness chains like Planet Fitness occupying that catch-all space. Since 86% of consumers base their purchases on brand authenticity, your best bet is to niche down on your specialty.
If you’re a yoga instructor, niche down on a type of yoga, breathwork, or technique you’ve mastered. Niching down shapes your marketing strategy to attract your ideal clientele.
Who has mastered this flawlessly?
Kayla Itsines, the fitness influencer who basically wrote the (e)book on how to niche down and own your expertise. Kayla created Bikini Body Guides (BBG), 28-minute workouts designed for women to yield maximum results with short sessions.
The fitness guru took the method she used for her own fitness and monetized it into a multi-million dollar business. By niching down to address bodyweight strength training, Kayla attracted a massive following — and wealth.
What’s standing in the way of you achieving the same success? A pandemic? Not anymore.
How to niche down:
- Don’t aim to be a jack of all trades fitness studio, be a master of one. Choose the niche you’re passionate about and could teach all day, every day.
- Start brainstorming workouts within your niche. Cover the basics in your niche, and zoom in to discover sub-niches.
- For every piece of content you create, add your unique spin. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you do want to be original and recognizable.
Tell Your Story to Motivate and Relate
The pandemic has made us a little more skeptical, a tad wiser, and pickier about which businesses we support. A HavasGroup report found that 77% of consumers choose brands that share similar values. To gain trust, be transparent and vocal about your personal fitness story.
Have you been passionate about fitness since you were a kid and learned to box in your uncle’s garage? Maybe you have a weight-loss story or live, breathe, and eat health and fitness. Your story doesn’t have to be groundbreaking or sensationalized, but it has to be honest to make an impact.
Sharing the why behind your business motivates people who’ve had similar experiences to join the movement. When you stand for something bigger than just one workout, you start a conversation.
Just ask Tally Rye, a London-based fitness instructor and health coach. Tally shares non-diet, weight-inclusive fitness programs that inspire people to “train happy.” The underlying message across all of Tally’s content is her story: ditching diet culture to find a happy way to train and love your body.
The message is clear, consistent, and honest. And that’s why over 100k people follow along!
How to tell your story:
Take pen to paper and write out the crucial moments in your story that led you to a career in fitness.
- If you’re not a writer, no sweat! Find freelancers on sites like Upwork or ClearVoice and outsource the task to a pro.
- Share your story on every channel, including your website pages, social profile descriptions, offerings, products, and captions.
- Keep it simple, be honest. Open up about the difficult circumstances or adversities you overcame to get where you are now. If that doesn’t apply, share the path that led you here.
People don’t just buy products and services; they buy stories they can relate to, so don’t be afraid to share yours.
Create a Library of On-Demand Video Lessons
Creating an on-demand video library sets you up to reach the broadest audience within your niche. The more diverse the library, the broader an audience you’ll reach.
Stay within your niche, but diversify lessons to reach every fitness level. There’s no use attracting a beginner if you’re only posting advanced cardio classes. If your studio focuses on HIIT workouts, create an advanced series of 60-minute lessons and a beginner’s series of 30-minute lessons demonstrating each move.
Also, share videos that tackle sub-niches. If you’re a yoga instructor, create playlists targeting abs, upper body, and lower body. While you’re at it, why not offer a 10-minute wellness series featuring sessions for meditation, breathwork, and anti-anxiety poses?
Head over to the Popsugar Fitness YouTube channel, where 5.48 million Youtube subscribers have free access to a rich library of on-demand video workouts.
Covering everything from hip-hop to HIIT to targeted muscle training sessions, Popsugar has something for everyone while staying true to the integrity of their niche: fun, fresh, vibrant workouts.
How to make a fitness video library:
- Record fitness videos in bulk sessions. Block out 1-2 days a week to batch content until you’ve got a sizable stockpile.
- Create playlists for each video category so that viewers can explore specific areas of your YouTube channel.
- Optimize your channel and videos. Use a free keyword tool like KW Finder and include them naturally in the title, description, and tags.
- Have fun with it! The more engaged you are in your video and content, the more likely people will show up to your channel.
Pitch Your Offerings to Local Media Outlets
Press coverage builds social proof and establishes your fitness studio as an industry leader. Plus, 92% of consumers trust organic media coverage more than paid ads. You’ll gain their trust by earning organic publicity, which also broadens your exposure.
Are you launching a new video series or offering virtual memberships? Write up a press release and send it to regional news outlets that feature local businesses, like this segment on KSBY News in California.
Tips for approaching news outlets:
- Use a free press distribution network like PR Newswire to find quality media leads known to feature small businesses.
- News outlets frequently lift copy directly from a press release and use it in their coverage, so make sure your press release clearly states what you’re offering.
- Include crucial details about your event or promotion, including date, website links, price, and why it’s worthy of publicity.
- Share a little insight about your business (refer back to your unique story); that way, if you’re featured in a multi-business segment, your studio stands out.
Leverage Live Video on Social
There’s nothing like a personal training session to motivate your clients and build a connection. Well, in this post-COVID landscape, you can still do that with live videos.
Live video lets you knock down the screen to interact directly with your attendees. Encourage them to ask you questions and keep the communication active by addressing your viewers by name.
As you build attendance, create a daily 2-minute tutorial or weekly sweat session they can mark on their calendars. Live video is the closest we can get to a personal training session, and your viewers will show up pumped and ready to get moving.
Just ask Massy Arias, a fitness influencer with nearly 3 million followers on Instagram. Massy often engages her audience with Live workouts for all fitness levels. Viewers can join in for free beginner sessions, mobility and yoga flows, strength training, and warm-ups.
Toward the end of the video, she gives a call to action to guide viewers towards her paid 60-day strength and yoga program.
How to Leverage Live for Your Fitness Studio
- Don’t be shy to jump on Live and start training with your viewers. Chances are, they’ll embrace the opportunity to get to know you better and join in.
- Leading up to your Live workout, tease the event on Instagram Stories, Facebook, and any social channels where you hang out. Promote it like an in-person event by leaving hints about the workout to get your audience pumped.
- Before you record, outline your routine and find an open, attractive space that sets the right tone for the workout, i.e., a lush indoor space for yoga or a bright room for cardio.
- While you’re recording, engage with your audience by asking them questions and interacting as if they’re working out beside you.
- As you conclude the workout, share the product or program you want to promote. Tell viewers about your fitness studio, a 30-day challenge, or a meal program. Whatever you’re promoting, you have viewers tuned in, so while they’re here, promote your services.
Monetize Behind The Curtain Content
Your business needs revenue to stay open, and fortunately, you don’t need a physical space to do that anymore. You can monetize exclusive content with apps like Patreon. The key is to incentivize your viewers to support you. How will you do that? By providing exclusive content that’s only available to your Patreon subscribers.
How to Monetize with Patreon
- Offer 2-3 subscriptions, and make each higher tear a more expensive investment.
- Share snippets of exclusive Patreon content on your social channels to encourage your audience to subscribe.
- For a middle-tier subscription, offer bonuses like a 30-day meal plan or insider tips you don’t share in free content. Then up the ante for the premium subscription by offering monthly 1-1 coaching sessions to focus on each customer’s specific goals.
By monetizing these higher subscription tiers, you’ll accrue revenue without any enormous overhead costs.
Check out HASfit’s Patreon page. There are three membership levels, each under $10 a month, to make fitness accessible to all.
The lowest tier gives supporters access to the community page. The middle option offers monthly calendars, early access to programs and contests, and Live workouts. Lastly, the highest membership offers exclusive Q&A’s, plus all the perks of the lower tiers.
The beauty of this strategy is that you make the rules. Adopt this framework and apply it to your niche. The more you offer, the higher the subscription.
Create a Referral Program
Before Coronavirus, digital marketing trends favored the new and unconventional. Now? We’re reverting to what has always worked: word of mouth.
The 2018 Chatter Matters Word of Mouth report found that 83% of Americans offer word of mouth recommendations to their friends and family. How can you get existing clients to recommend your fitness studio?
Referral programs capitalize on the clientele you’ve already established. And when you make those clients happy? They’ll likely tell their friends about your fitness studio. Nudge them toward sharing by offering incentives for recruits.
You can easily implement a referral program for your existing members by offering rewards like 24 Hour Fitness. When members invite a friend to use a 3-day gym pass, they’re rewarded with a training session or in-store coupon.
But you don’t have to be a national gym chain to make this work because referrals work for businesses small and large.
There are a few ways to do this, but whatever method you choose, don’t skimp here because referrals will comprise much of your post-COVID fitness members. And if you want to expand with minimal investments that bring in sizable returns, let’s get people talking about you.
Referral program strategies:
- Offer a free 1:1 personal training session to existing members who recruit a new member.
- Consider offering a free trial to your recruits, and while you have them, promote your Facebook group and online community that’s rich with free resources and exclusive access to new content.
- Launch a review campaign. Reviews are instant social proof. Incentivize them to leave a review by offering exclusive access to a private workout series or meal plan that gets them invested and singing your praises!
While reviews aren’t a form of direct word of mouth, they work in the same way because 95% of customers read reviews before buying.
When you combine referrals, reviews, and rewards, you create a word of mouth trifecta that builds revenue.
Repurpose Content Across Platforms
There’s no disputing the importance of content for business growth, but creating a steady stream of high-value content takes time. Repurposing content is kind of like juggling but way easier. It’s an effective way to stretch the existing content you’ve already created.
Say you filmed a weight training video targeting specific muscle groups. You can create bite-sized content from one video for newsletters, Instagram Stories, Facebook posts, and more.
Repurposing content saves you time and reaches your customers on various platforms. That’s especially beneficial if they happened to miss the original fitness video but caught your Instagram carousel post while scrolling the app after work.
Need a tool to make repurposing your fitness content quick and painless? Try PosterMyWall, a free graphic design tool offering customizable templates for creating social media images, videos, and marketing graphics.
Tips for repurposing fitness content:
- Review your existing video content. Think about how you can break down fitness videos into small, digestible pieces.
- Start with one video and branch off smaller content pieces for social media posts, infographics, or tweets.
- Rather than writing content from scratch, use an affordable transcription service like REV to transcribe your video’s audio into written text. Now you can use the text to formulate a blog post and social media captions.
- Cut short snippets from the full-length and share them on Instagram. Tell people to head to the link in your bio to see the full video.
- Snap screenshots of the video and post them to Twitter and Facebook.
Did you just create a dozen pieces of content from one video? You sure did!
Cultivate an Engaged Community
With your business operating virtually, it makes sense to build a community for your members to interact with you and one another. One of the best ways to do this is by starting a private, members-only Facebook group.
The best part about this strategy is that it requires zero investment. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain. If you’re tight on marketing funds, this is a great place to start.
Offer exclusive access to your studio members and stimulate conversations by sharing new workouts, your favorite recipes, and tips for balancing healthy living at home. Take the time to interact personally with your members and show them that you’re a real human who cares about their progress and pain points.
The goal is to make a fun, interactive, engaging space to grow your community like 305 Fitness, a dance cardio studio. The 305 At Home Facebook group is a private group where members chat about fitness goals, upcoming dance parties and motivate each other.
Tips for starting a Facebook group for your fitness studio:
- Encourage members to join your Facebook group. Tease them with exclusive content, real discussions, and exciting news.
- Ask new group members to introduce themselves in a post and share their goals and pain points.
- Post daily, respond to comments, and interact directly with your community to keep the conversations going.
- When you have an exciting product to promote, give your Facebook group members first-access — this will incentivize non-group members to join!
Choose a Monthly Theme for At-Home Fitness
You’re in a competitive industry, but there are ways to stand out. Rather than simply posting your content and recording fitness videos, personalize your program to keep it fun and lighthearted.
Create monthly themes to engage your members and keep them interested in your content. Play around with themes like 30 days of crunches or Fit February. This strategy is another way to roll out new challenges that keep your clients motivated and participating year-round.
Because if you don’t, they might slip away or try another program. Adding that motivation boost will bring people back to participate and engage with the community.
Promote the monthly theme on your social profiles to encourage people to join your program, Facebook group, and jump in on the challenge.
Take it a step farther and ask members to take selfies of themselves participating in the monthly challenge and post it with a hashtag. This is a great way to build awareness about your fitness studio and recruit new members.
Fitness Themes in Action
A fitness theme can be as simple as targeting a specific area for one month or as dynamic as this Go The Distance challenge from iFit. For October, members participated in distance goals to reach major miles by running, cycling, or rowing. On October 31, members who completed the challenge received an exclusive reward.
Get the creative juices flowing and have fun trying different themes. Follow the format from iFit and reward members with free merch. When you get people involved, they’ll come back for more.
Offer Gift Certificates and Pre-Packaged Deals
No one’s in the dark about how the pandemic has hit small businesses, and people are eager to help. Loyal clients will likely jump at the opportunity to purchase packages, gift certificates, and pre-paid memberships because they’re invested in your business.
There are several ways this can work, and you don’t have to do them all. Instead, try one and see how it goes. If it works well, keep at it. If not, try another strategy.
- Roll out pre-packaged personal training deals to use after the pandemic or when restrictions lift in your area. If you offer these sessions at discounted rates, people are more likely to buy them and cash in when they can meet up with you for a 1:1 session.
- Offer gift certificates for your clients to buy for friends and family, like the ClassPass gift card; a redeemable cash value people can apply to future membership plans.
- Discount your membership fees. It’s not an ideal solution, but it will help to keep your business afloat in the interim.
Host a Fitness Workshop
Regardless of fitness level, people always have questions that only pros like you can answer. There are probably several questions you regularly hear, right?
How many calories should I eat every day?
Am I breathing right during cardio?
What’s the proper running form?
Think about the repetitive questions you get and compile them into a workshop for your members.
A workshop isn’t much different from a video series or fitness regime — you’re still instructing people. The difference is that you’re providing a comprehensive overview of a specific issue or problem in a workshop.
Workshops provide value that you can charge for or offer for free to your members. If non-members want to sign up, by all means, charge a fee for the workshop, and they might end up paying for a membership to your fitness studio.
Let’s look at a great example from Yoga with Adriene.
In her free 30 Day Yoga Journey, Adriene instructs attendees on how to breathe consciously. On the sign-up page, she offers access to her free community platform and a downloadable calendar corresponding to the 30 days of breathwork students will learn.
The program is hyper-focused on one area of yoga that’ll benefit an attendee’s yoga technique. By offering this workshop, Adriene will likely garner new followers and subscribers to her online yoga studio.
Apply the technique:
- Design your free workshop. You can choose to post a video series on your website, YouTube, or a third-party portal like Skillshare or Udemy.
- Create an opt-in page with sales copy that illuminates the benefits of attending the workshop (including access to your private Facebook group).
- Promote the workshop on your website and social media channels to build hype and encourage sign-ups.
- Direct attendees to a higher sales funnel like training sessions or membership to your fitness studio.
Get Moving On Your New Marketing Strategy
The writing is on the wall: this pandemic changed the fitness industry. Brick and mortar gyms have had to migrate to virtual offerings to accommodate their members and maintain revenue.
In this sink or swim era, fitness studios have found new life online and shown what can be achieved in dire straights.
As you pivot your marketing strategy and maneuver this new digital frontier, focus on reaching people on a more personal level. Share high-quality content across all platforms to promote your fitness studio and increase brand awareness.
Most importantly, make fitness accessible, relatable, and convenient for your members, and you’ll experience a new type of digital business that’s pandemic-proof. Now go grind out your new strategy!