Gym owners, personal trainers and fitness instructors are in the business of changing lives through exercise and healthier habits. In a perfect world, this should sell itself, but this is the world of business. Running a successful gym, fitness center or health club means kicking your gym membership sales into overdrive. 

Bringing waves of new customers through the door—and keeping them long-term—requires a solid plan. This plan should include, among other things, a strong membership sales strategy, lead nurture campaigns & marketing plans. All that may sound like a lot, but it can be simplified significantly if you have the right tools and processes in place, which we’ll dive into below. 

Remember Your Niche & Target Audience

In an earlier article, we covered how identifying a niche (or niches) and defining your target clientele are among the first steps toward starting a successful fitness business. They’re even included in your business plan. Understanding your niche enables you to create a client avatar, or member profile, which will help you focus your lead generation efforts on the right kinds of prospects. You don’t want to chase after people who simply won’t commit to memberships at your gym or studio in the first place. 

The fitness industry is highly competitive, which is why you also must determine what sets you apart from your competitors. This should be included in your business plan, so refer to it as needed. Remember why potential clients should choose your gym or fitness studio over your competitors and play that up. It’s also important to learn what membership promotions or deals they may be offering, or events they’re running. You don’t want to be a carbon copy of the competition, and you want to be sure to offer something that gives unique value to potential clients. 

Lead Generation & Management 

folder full of client leads with yellow post-it with magnifying glass and alarm clockStreams of new gym members aren’t just going to flood into your business when it opens. You need to roll up your sleeves and build your membership base, and that means lead generation. 

Lead generation is how you get your gym’s name & message out there to total strangers and convert them into new members. This is done by utilizing your various marketing channels, including your website, blog and social media pages

Essentially, you will entice leads with something of value on these channels. You’ll also want to provide a link that directs potential members to a landing page with a form that prompts them to give their details. Once you obtain it, you can follow up with email marketing. Let’s examine these three components: 

Lead Magnet Offer 

You must offer something of value to justify giving their contact information. The most logical magnet is a discounted or free trial, which you should be advertising and offering at your gym anyway. The trial or discounted personal training sessions should be long enough for the potential member to make an informed decision about joining. 

Other effective lead magnet ideas include: 

  • Free e-book 
  • Free workout plan 
  • Free meal plan 
  • Free digital consultation 
  • Free workout video 
  • Free fitness challenge 

What do the above have in common? The word, “free!” Always lead with it! 

Lead-Gen Forms 

To build a list of contacts for qualified leads, you can use lead generation forms that you can embed on your website, blog or social media channels. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn also have their own lead generation forms but are a bit limited. Hosting lead-gen forms on your website gives you more freedom with the kinds of questions you can ask. In addition to phone number, email address, height & weight, you can ask for: 

  • Their current fitness & activity levels 
  • Any physical issues they may have  
  • Their fitness goals 
  • Diet 

You may also dedicate multiple questions to what their greatest fitness challenge is and what their fitness goals may be. This will give you an understanding of which fitness programs, classes or resources are best suited to them. 

(Pro tip: Vagaro’s forms can be attached in emails, texts & social media posts, and embedded in your website. You can also include space for the above information on your liability forms, which first-time clients must fill out before booking a class, signing up for a session or taking part in an event.) 

Lead Email Nurture 

Since you now have their email addresses, you’ll be able to send email marketing to the leads who signed up for your offer. Apart from the email containing their video, guide or eBook, you should begin a lead nurturing email campaign. Send emails (no more than 2x/week) with valuable, personalized content, such as diet & exercise tips. 

Showcase your gym, health club or fitness center in these emails. Feature testimonials of current members. Always include links to your website, blog and social media channels, as well as your phone number & CTA (call to action) to visit your gym. 

This entire process is easy with robust, automated e-mail marketing software. 

A Strong Sales Process 

gym owner going over memberships with female clientOnce you’ve established your lead generation strategy, you’ll need to know how to convert those leads. To that end, you need a strong sales strategy. A few tried-and-true sales tips include: 

Establish Contact Quickly 

  • Follow up right away after getting info from lead generation tools like forms, email & social media. 
  • Schedule a consultation right away and create a sense of urgency (not pushiness). Let them know that spots are filling up fast, even if that’s a slight embellishment. 
  • It’s very possible that a lead found out about you through word of mouth. If you haven’t acquired this information with the lead generation form mentioned above, send a questionnaire after contacting. This should give you an understanding of the customer, their goals, their pain points, etc. This is vital for the next steps. 

Nail the First Impression 

  • Address your client immediately. Don’t leave a potential member in the waiting area with a sign-in form. Rather, take the time to walk them through your facility and all of its perks. Make sure walk-ins know that you see them and, if you and your sales team is busy, let them know that you’ll get to them very soon. 
  • Personalize the experience. Address their goals and concerns and line them up with the benefits you offer. Remember, however, that this conversation should be about offering solutions to their problems rather than a hard sell of your services, classes and packages. They need to see the value in you, not the other way around. You’ll start building loyalty when they see that you’re interested in their challenges & want to help them accomplish their goals. 
  • Start building a relationship. Creating real connections with clients is important, especially for personal trainers and boutique fitness instructors. You do that by listening, showing a sense of humor & making workouts fun, building trust by being informative, and demonstrating your knowledge & skills.  

Start a Referral Program 

two friends working out together at gymOne of the best aspects of gym membership referrals is that you save money by having a member handle the advertising for you. They know your gym or fitness club better than anyone. There are incentives, of course, like a free class or a discount on next month’s membership fees. You may even give them a free month. Don’t worry, though—the new membership you gain will effectively pay for the one you’ve skipped. The following month, you’ll receive twice the fees. 

Referral programs are great for turning a short-term member into a long-term one. Friend referrals are likely to be more motivated and stick it out long term because they’ll be exercising regularly with friends and family. Rep this out and you’ll start to see more income each month. 

Boost Brand Awareness with Social Media Blue backdrop with social media terms

Social media channels are powerful tools for awareness, lead nurture and gym member retention. Your social media strategy is a major component of your gym’s overall marketing strategy, but it should be seamlessly integrated into your sales strategy as well. 

There are many social media platforms, from Facebook & Instagram to TikTok & YouTube. Which one should you use for your business? Well, that depends on your target audience, as discussed above. What is their age group, and what are their main goals? Now, learn which platforms they’re likely to use most, and what the strengths of each platform are. Will you create short how-to videos and form checks, answer frequently asked questions live, or offer weekly meal planning and nutrition advice? 

The type of content you want to create should indicate which platforms you should extensively use. There are so many things you can post, from positive client feedback and member success stories to contests and fitness challenges that are open to non-members. Of course, you’ll constantly be promoting your gym’s activities. For more ideas, check out these social media post ideas for gyms. 

Use Paid Ads 

If organic lead generation involves posting regular content on various channels, then paid lead generation is done through the ad platforms on those channels. Paid ads are usually used for marketing campaigns. Often called pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, businesses bid to display ads to internet users. The health club or gym willing to pay the most has their ad displayed and they pay for each click on that ad. This strategy comes at a cost, but allows you to run effective, local campaigns in the surrounding areas of your business. Depending on the platform, you might set a daily or overall budget based on how much you want to spend per ad. 

The three most effective paid ad platforms for gyms include: 

  • Google Ads: Google ads are a type of search ad, meaning they are displayed in the results of search engines when users search for something. You bid on keywords you want to rank highly for and then pay for each click you get. Google then displays your ads when people search for products or services like yours. These appear on Google Search & Google Maps, and across their network of partner sites. The more competitive the keywords, the more expensive they are. 
  • Facebook Ads: Facebook ads are targeted to users based on their location, demographic and profile information. You can directly target users by location, age, gender, interests and other demographics. You can also target broad interests, like fitness, wellness or nutrition. Detailed interest targeting includes listed likes & interests, the pages they like, apps they use and various profile timeline content. The Facebook Pixel is an analytics tool that enables you to measure the effectiveness of your advertising. 
  • Instagram: Instagram ads are posts that promote your fitness services which you can pay to serve to Instagram users. They appear in users’ feeds, Stories, Explore & elsewhere. They look like standard posts but have a “sponsored” label to show that they are an ad, and may contain CTA buttons, links to your webpages and other elements. 

Build A Professional Website 

mobile phone with business website on screenYour website is your primary lead generator. A sleek, branded website grants your gym an air of legitimacy, showcasing your industry expertise, services, logo, employee profiles, mission statement and selling propositions for both new & returning visitors. As mentioned above, it’s also where you can embed lead generation forms and a common destination for those paid ads. If you don’t have a website built yet, your online booking page can function as one in the meantime. 

Make sure that your website is easy to navigate and mobile-friendly, as an overwhelming number of people search for businesses on their phone. The more information you include on your website, the greater chance a customer looking for specialized services will find you. Using the right keywords on your website will enhance its SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Tools like Google Keyword Planner can help you find them. 

Accumulate Reviews & Testimonials 

As covered in an earlier article, customer reviews (and how you respond to them) matter. Consumers trust online reviews as much as a suggestion from a close friend or family member and are more likely to choose a business that responds to them. Customer reviews are, effectively, a form of free advertising and speak to how awesome your gym is. 

Make sure that your business’s ratings, reviews and testimonials are visible and always respond to them promptly. There should be a section of your website dedicated to reviews, in addition to your social media pages and review sites, like Yelp. By leveraging Vagaro’s booking widgets and customer reviews feature, fitness professionals give people the opportunity to leave or read a review wherever they book. Convenient, right? 

Before you start compiling those 5-star ratings, it’s important to know how to ask for reviews and testimonials

Get Gym Management Software 

Vagaro gym management software on laptop, tablet and wireless card readerHaving robust client management software, like Vagaro’s, is essential for several reasons: 

  • It allows you to create & sell a variety of monthly, recurring memberships. You’ll want to create a range of memberships that appeal to the unique needs of potential customers and price your packages in such a way that upgrading to a recurring membership is a better deal. This creates a regular cashflow, helping to make your gym or fitness studio recession-proof. 
  • It makes booking sessions, signing up for memberships or buying class packages fast & easy. This one is more important than people realize. Remove unnecessary hurdles from the sign-up process. The closer the finish line is to the starting line, the more likely customers are to dash through it. 
  • It makes payment easy & convenient. Like booking, potential clients want a painless billing process. You should be able to offer them contactless payment options at your business, or via an app on their phone, accessible wherever they are. That means you can get paid anytime, anywhere too. 
  • It enables you to track your sales & membership retention. Which classes are filling and which ones need…a little help? Vagaro’s Reports feature, for example, can tell business owners all this & more. Get comfortable with the data, because it gives you a clear view of where to go next. 


Like fitness itself, boosting gym sales is a science. Fortunately, it isn’t rocket science. 

Among its many features, Vagaro’s fitness software has a whole slate of marketing tools that can help you sell more packages, increase membership sales and improve retention rates. If you’re ready to take your fitness business to the next level, sign up for a free 30-day trial and discover everything Vagaro can do for you!