January through March typically means big business for gyms as individuals with New Year’s resolutions set their sights on fitness goals. Yet, by July those members often cancel for one reason or another. Either they feel defeated because they didn’t succeed in reaching their fitness goals or they simply haven’t made exercising a habit. So when the New Year’s resolution rush is over, does that mean it’s time to relax, kick back and wait until the next peak season to roll around? Absolutely not! The slow season can actually be a blessing in disguise – you just need to know how to effectively use the extra time. Whatever the reason your membership typically declines, the trick is to create good habits for your clients so you can get through the slow times without losing money.
The following are some ideas on how to manage your off-season time and get your marketing activities lined up in anticipation for your business’s busy season.
Marketing Activities During the Off-Peak Season
You’ll do yourself no favors if you wait until the last minute to do a promotion to bring people into your club. The following methods can be used as a guide to help keep your current members engaged year-round while encouraging new membership.
Set New Goals
New Year’s Resolutions are great. But once members have met them (or haven’t) then what? Setting new goals and always keeping things fresh is a key component to ensuring your members stay active (literally!) and loyal to the club. Engage them by creating a white board and encouraging them to write down their goals. You could spotlight one or two members who have reached their goals on your social media page or in your newsletter to encourage others to reach their goals as well.
Luckily, the off-season lets you identify your own goals as well. You can reevaluate your business plan and see what you’ve accomplished and adjust your business’s goals based on the success or failures. You can do this by simply developing short and long term goals and create weekly or monthly plans to achieve them. Some ideas include:
1. Get more website traffic: Brainstorm new blog post topic ideas, recipes, and other material that sets you a part from the competition and places you as an expert in the industry. Publish on a regular basis.
2. Grow your social media following: Set a social media schedule and planning out post content. From the above mentioned blogs, to motivation, to fitness tips, to any other pertinent info, be sure you are consistently engaging your followers and gaining new ones.
3. Generate more leads: Send out email newsletters with updates, new blog posts, class schedules, advanced sales, and loyalty programs. Just because it’s slow, that doesn’t mean your members have to know that! By staying consistent with your communication and updates, your members will think it’s business as usual, and you’ll drum up more business by staying regular with your postings.
4. Increase sales: Plan promotions like a gift with purchase, free training session, or themed promotions during various holidays. You’ll be surprised just how effective this type of marketing can be.
Start a Member Loyalty Program
Every gym has a core group of members who are there on January 1st, July 1st, and even Christmas Eve. They don’t care what day of the week it is or what holiday, come rain, sleet, snow, or sunshine, they are there working out at your gym. There’s no doubt you know their names, their schedules, and even what they had for dinner last night. These people aren’t going anywhere so why not launch a customer loyalty program to thank them. By doing so, you encourage loyalty from other members as well. The loyalty program can be as simple as 10% off the pro shop, a free shake, or a gift card once in a while. Anything to show your gratitude for your long-time members will go a long way.
Launch a Referral Program
Your club may already have one of these, but if not, starting a referral program during your off season is something you’ll definitely want to do. The people who will take advantage of a referral program are loyal customers who already use and like your club! Keep your loyal customers coming back, and entice new ones to purchase a membership by giving discounts to both the original member and the new member who was referred.
Advance Purchase Deal
Planning on doing a Back to School special? What about a free class over the holidays? If so, encourage member loyalty by offering an advance purchase deal. Doing this is a way to solidify sales for your business once things pick up again and also keep the gym on your members’ minds during the off-season. You can also send out direct mailers and email reminders to keep your gym on the forefront of your members’ minds.
Master Email Marketing
Email newsletters provide a way to group together and send out important information to your audience all at once. Plan out future email newsletters during the off-season, and create basic outlines for monthly newsletters. Think about holiday promotions that you can run during your busy easy. Also consider what other promotions you might want to hold, what products you could showcase, and upcoming events you can highlight.
Maintain Your Social Media Accounts
This is something you should absolutely be doing on a regular basis, but if you have taken a break due to being too busy, now is the time to get back at it. Participate in #FollowFridays to follow active members, use member “before and after” pictures for #ThrowbackThursday and more. Putting some of these methods in place will ensure strong client retention despite the decrease in sales activity, and will help you keep up your momentum for the upcoming season.
Plan Future Sales and Promotions
With a little more time on your hands you can focus on creating future marketing plans. Doing this during the off-season will help alleviate some pressure as sales pick up. Instead of having to spend valuable time brainstorming and wondering how to attract new members while also maintaining the club and responding to members, you’ll already have ideas mapped out on a calendar and have your
Get Involved with Charity
Giving back is a surprising way to market your business. Getting involved with a local charity or sports team gets your business in front of people through sponsorship.
Promote Partnerships with Local Businesses
Showing your support of local businesses through partnership is a great way to promote your business while also staying ahead of your competition. You can do this through discounts, loyalty cards, etc. For instance, if there is a local coffee shop near your club, consider teaming up with them to give your members a 10% discount for a cup of coffee.
Implementing the above habits into your plan allows you to become more equipped to take advantage of the down time and view the slow period as an opportunity for more success. Evaluate what part of your fitness business you think needs the most work and allocate a majority of your time to enhancing it – there’s no better time to do it than a slow sales time. Keep a list of other tasks you’d like to accomplish as well throughout the slow time, and be sure to set milestones or goals for yourself to keep up with your progress during the busy season as well.