If you’re a gym owner, you have most likely tried a variety of different fitness marketing strategies. Some inevitably worked, and some probably crashed and burned. Your phone most likely rings five times a day with another “SEO Specialist” promising the moon.
It can be tough to cut through all of the noise and find an approach that is affordable, sustainable, and attracts the right type of gym member. By the right type, I mean people who are serious about their health, promote a healthy culture for your gym, and are receptive to you and your team helping them exceed their health and fitness goals. That’s why you’re in the business in the first place—to help people!
In this article, I lay out how you can utilize weight loss challenges in combination with modern online marketing tools to absolutely crush your goals. Skeptical? Bear with me to the end of this article and you will see how a carefully-thought-out marketing angle used with the right online marketing platforms provides the chance to change your gym forever.
Weight Loss Challenges
First of all, I want to be clear that the concept of weight loss challenges is not new or innovative. They have been used by big brands like Herbalife and SlimFast, and gyms of all sizes across the United States for years. The main reason they have been adopted so widely is because they work. The US weight loss market is worth 66 billion, and losing weight in a challenge environment adds competition, community, and is flat out fun.
The proof of concept is there, so the question is, “how do you roll out a challenge for your gym specifically?”
The first step is to come up with answers to the following questions:
- How long will the challenge last?
- How much will members pay to participate?
- What will they receive as a participating member?
- What is the specific goal? Number of pounds lost or percentage of body fat lost?
- If members complete the challenge successfully, what will be the reward in addition to being healthier? Incentives are important.
I am going to provide an example of how to structure a challenge. Of course, you can change the details and customize the program to make sure it fits in with your gym’s goals, operations, and the talent of your team.
Example answers to the questions:
- How long with the challenge last? 6 weeks.
- How much will members pay to participate? $100 a week, or $499 paid upfront. This gives them the benefit of spacing out payments or the benefit of a cost savings if they pay upfront.
- What will they receive as a participating member? As part of the challenge they will receive a nutrition plan and semi-private scheduled workout sessions. Other members in the classes will only be challenge members. This will allow them to build relationships with other members who have a common goal. They will also be invited to a private Facebook group where they can interact with other gym members for encouragement and your gym’s instructor and staff for questions and updates on the challenge program.
- What is the specific goal? Lose 25 pounds or 5% of body fat by the end of the challenge.
- If members complete the challenge successfully, what will be the reward in addition to being healthier? Of course, if challenge members successfully hit their weight loss goals, you are going to have an extremely happy member that is hopefully raving about your gym. If you feel that is enough, then no other incentive is necessary. However, I recommend offering a refund and/or allocating all or part of the $499 toward membership.
The strategy I am giving you here today is intended to help grow your gym’s member base, increase monthly revenue, help get your gym to capacity, and think long term. If challenge members can apply their upfront payment to their monthly membership, they are likely to be members for a very long time. Members can help with online reviews and serve as active referral sources.
Okay, so now that you have a framework for modeling your challenge, let’s jump into marketing funnel
ClickFunnels for Gyms
You now know how to design a weight loss challenge! It’s time to decide where your paid advertising traffic will land. We want to make sure traffic is converting and people are signing up for your challenge.
There are a variety of different softwares used for building landing pages. The most popular are LeadPages, ClickFunnels, Unbounce, and Instapage. I have tested them all, and the truth is they are all pretty good. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.
Personally, I think ClickFunnels has an edge over the others. It is fairly easy to build a new landing page, there are several templates to choose from, the system integrates with all the main email autoresponders, and there are plenty of talented freelancers that know the software well.
If you’re going to hire a freelancer, I recommend utilizing Upwork. Create a free account, post your job, review pitches, and hire. It’s easy to use and full of good talent.
Whether you have your landing page coded from scratch in HTML or utilize a modern landing page software, you will need an attractive lander to convert traffic from Facebook and Instagram and enable users to sign up for your challenge.
If you’re new to creating landing pages, here is a great guide that covers the essentials of a high converting landing page. Remember to include the basics: headline, persuasive copy, and multiple calls to action.
It is always great to have testimonials from other gym members throughout the landing page. Lastly, you will want to make sure your ClickFunnels landing page integrates with Scheduling Software, Google Sheets, your email autoresponder, and Zapier. In fact, your call to action should take them directly to an embedded version of the scheduling software. The key is to enable prospects to schedule without having to call your gym. This saves your staff time and plays nicely with today’s consumer behaviors. Most of the traffic from Facebook will be mobile. And all of the Instagram traffic will be mobile. People will use their smartphones to interact with your video ads and schedule.
Your Funnel is going to consist of three parts. (A funnel refers to the landing pages that are connected to one another.) The funnel is designed a certain way to not only track conversions but to also setup effective retargeting.
Step 1 – This the first page users will see after clicking on your paid advertisement. Your objective on this page is to get them to request more information about the challenge by submitting their contact info.
Step 2 – This is where they land after submitting their info. This page thanks them for their submission and gives them an opportunity to directly schedule a consultation with your gym. More on the scheduling software will be discussed later along with how this structure sets up retargeting.
Step 3 – This page is only displayed if they schedule a consultation. This a simple thank you page with a unique URL. This URL will help us track conversions in Facebook and also help out with retargeting.
Now that you’re up to speed with the best landing page software on the market and how to structure your funnel, you’ll need to know how to drive targeted traffic. Let’s dive into Facebook and Instagram!
Facebook & Instagram Marketing for Gyms
Hands down, Facebook and Instagram will be your best platforms for driving in challenge participants at a cheap cost per lead. If you have tried Facebook ads before, the success or failure was based on a variety of factors. I have come across so many small business owners who quickly put together a campaign on Facebook with no results and then take the position that Facebook advertising is a waste of money. I’ve also seen gym owners who hired a freelancer or self-proclaimed expert who did not take the time to understand the business and target market, and again the campaign ended in failure.
Trust me when I tell you, Facebook and Instagram can absolutely crush it for your gym if the Campaigns, Audiences, Ad Sets, and Ads are properly built.
Campaigns on Facebook correspond with objectives. The picture below shows the marketing objectives that are available today. Facebook is constantly rolling out updates and changes.
The Objective you will want to select is “Conversions.
The next step in the process is creating your Ad Sets. This is where most of the magic happens. Under Ad Set settings you can select your Conversion Event, Audience, Placement, and your Budget & Schedule.
In order to setup conversion tracking, you’ll need to add your Facebook Pixel to your website. This is a simple piece of code you grab from your Facebook Events Manager page. Of course, you can always send the code to your developer for the installation. Once you have installed the Pixel on your site, you will be able to track conversions and see the data in the Facebook dashboard on a Campaign, Ad Set, and Ad level. This is absolutely integral when determining what is working and what is not working.
In my opinion, this is the most important part. Audience breaks down into a few different options:
Create a New Audience
This option allows you to create an audience in real time. This is my least favorite option. I personally like to create my audiences prior to the start of building a campaign. I encourage giving a considerable amount of thought to demographics, interests, and behavior. And the “Create New” option strikes me as the ad hoc choice.
Use a Saved Audience
A great option! This means you have already gone into Ads Manager and pre-built your Audiences.
When building an audience you will need to consider location, age, gender, demographics, interests, and behaviors. For example, let’s say that through experience you have noticed that when it comes to weight loss, most of your clients have been women between the ages of 35 and 50.
Using this information, you could create an ad set that specifically includes these parameters. Let’s call that Ad Set 1.
You could then create another Ad Set (Ad Set 2) that includes the same parameters but also incorporates some detailed targeting. If you type “weight loss” in the Detailed Targeting box, Facebook will show you all the related targeting options:
You could then include Weight Loss (Fitness & Wellness) and Dieting, for example, in Ad Set 2.
Next you would create some Ad Sets that specifically target men.
Let’s say you would end up with four Ad Sets: two targeting women and two targeting men. Let’s also assume you allocated $10 per day for each ad set. Since you set up your Pixel and Conversion Tracking, you can log in daily and see what Ad Sets are converting and which ones are spending money and not converting.
Increase your budget on Ad Sets that are converting and producing leads for an acceptable cost per lead. If your leads are more than $15, you are paying too much! Stop Ad Sets that are not converting, and then roll out new ads sets.
This is an ongoing process.
These are people who visited certain pages, engaged with your content, or watched a certain percentage of your videos. You are probably more familiar with the term retargeting. Since you are building a three-part funnel in ClickFunnels, your structure is prime for retargeting or for custom audiences.
You’ll want to build a “Custom Audience” and select “Website Traffic.”
From there, you will want to select “People who visited specific web pages in the past 30 days.”
Select “URL Contains” and enter the exact URL for the first step of your funnel from ClickFunnels.
Now click “Exclude” and select “People who visited specific web pages in the past 30 days.”
Select “URL Contains” and enter the exact URL for the third step of your funnel from ClickFunnels. This is your thank you page and how you ensure that you don’t serve the ads to people who have already opted in.
This setup will serve your ad to people who initially clicked your ad and visited the landing page, but did not schedule an appointment.
You can also create another audience for people who landed on the first step of the funnel and did not make it to the second step. You have all the autonomy in the world with this strategy. You can land this traffic on a different landing page, or you can serve them different ads. I recommend starting with the basics and as your program matures, start getting more advanced with retargeting.
There is not a whole lot to be said for placements. For sure your best placement options will be Facebook Mobile and Instagram. Feel free to experiment with desktop and other placement options, but they are not likely to perform as well.
For your ads, you can use video or images. Go ahead and test both, but I highly recommend using video. It flat out converts at a higher percentage.
Facebook and Instagram Video Gym Ads
First and foremost, you will you need compelling videos that describe the challenge. Videos should be between 30 and 59 seconds, high energy, communicate the main selling points quickly, and end with a call to action.
While under a minute may seem short, that is the cutoff for Instagram. Videos one minute and over can only be advertised on Facebook. The stats are a little different for each video and niche, but you will get the highest amount of engagement for videos between 30 seconds and a minute.
Keep it simple. Go in early one morning to your gym and have your partner or a staff member film you. If you are using a smartphone, make sure your cameraman turns the phone horizontal. It may take you several times to shoot a video you like, so carve out enough time for several takes.
Don’t read from a script. Instead, write out your thoughts the day before and practice out loud. You’ll want your video to sound natural, and you’ll sound like a robot if you read a script. Once you’re comfortable around the camera, your body language will exude confidence and it will start becoming easier and easier.
Lighting for your Videos
There is nothing wrong with shooting an amateur video and using it to advertise. In fact, shrewd online marketers do this all the time with great success rates. It does help to know a few lighting tricks though. You will want to avoid shadows by having the right tools. The good news is you can pick up everything you need from Home Depot or buy online from Amazon for around $100. Check out Wistas Down and Dirty DIY Lighting Kit for details.
For scheduling software, you can use Calendly, Acuity, or ScheduleOnce. All three are great platforms and work seamlessly with ClickFunnels and Google Calendar. At Rocket Pilots we have used all three but find ScheduleOnce to be the best option for our gym clients.
With ScheduleOnce you will want to create booking pages for each team member that will be handling initial consultations.
The second step of your funnel in ClickFunnels should bring users to a page that allows the prospective member to choose a time and schedule a consultation.
Pro Tip: Do not make every hour of every day available. This is like walking by an empty restaurant in the middle of town on a Saturday night. It’s just not appealing. Instead, use a little marketing psychology to create the feeling of scarcity and only make a handful of appointments available each day.
Google Sheets is a free spreadsheet tool. It’s essentially Google’s version of Microsoft Excel. Now you probably have a customer relationship management system, but I still highly recommend utilizing Google Sheets for this program. Google Sheets will serve as the central repository for all your leads from the program. Log in anytime from desktop or the mobile app to view your lead count.
You can also create additional rows to track whether a prospect has been contacted and scheduled a consultation. Track return on investment (ROI) by updating the spreadsheet when a prospect becomes a paying member. Updating your tracker is key to ensuring you can pull accurate stats. Ultimately, you want to see the amount of leads, number of leads that scheduled consultations, and the number of consultations that turned into paying customers. You’ll need to log in to Facebook to pull the cost-per-lead data to complete a full ROI analysis.
Skipio (Text Message Software)
I understand text message marketing may be uncharted territory for your gym. In fact, it is for most small businesses in general. Text message marketing has more considerations than traditional online marketing methods like pay-per-click on Google SEO, Content Marketing, and Facebook Marketing. With text, you have to be aware of people’s privacy and respect their space.
If used correctly and thoughtfully, text message campaigns can be highly effective.
We have investigated the market quite thoroughly and have not found anything that compares to Skipio.
Skipio is a client engagement platform that enables you to automate communications through mass texting.
The key to text messaging platforms is to use very natural sounding language. Casual and friend-speak will be much better received than cheesy promotional messages.
How you design your funnel in ClickFunnels will play a key role in your text message campaigns. As you know, I recommend a three-part funnel.
Step 2 – In order to make it to Step 2, they must have opted in (submitted their contact info) during Step 1. That means you now have their contact information to act on. Step 2 should include the embedded calendar. Whether they schedule the consultation or not determines which text campaign they will go into.
If they scheduled a consultation, you will place them into a campaign that welcomes them and simply builds excitement about the challenge. The goal here is to start building a relationship and to reduce the chance they won’t show up for their appointment.
If they bail out of the funnel in Step 2 and do not schedule a consultation, drop them in a different campaign. This campaign should remind them that they showed interest but forgot to schedule the consultation. These messages should include links to the scheduling page and persuasive marketing copy to compel them to book.
Step 3 – This is a simple thank you page.
Please keep in mind that you can automate the process of dumping leads into Skipio. However, a team member will need to log in and assign the lead to the appropriate campaign. Also, expect people to respond to text messages. You can reply to them via the Skipio dashboard. It works best if your front office team member gets the text string to be notified of new leads (from Zapier), has Google Sheets (to look for new leads), and has Skipio up on a computer all day. When a new lead comes, they will receive a text, the lead will hit Google Sheets, and they can put the prospect in the correct campaign and also reply to prospects’ text messages.
I hope you are now realizing why the funnel from ClickFunnels is structured the way it is. The structure incorporates proven patterns in user behavior, text campaigns, and retargeting campaigns in Facebook. Keep all of these important variables in mind if you decide to change the structure or roll out another funnel for split testing purposes.
Zapier connects all of these web applications together. Here is what Zapier will do specifically:
- ClickFunnels to Google Sheets – When a prospect opts in to your funnel, the lead will populate in your Google Sheet through a “zap.”
- Notification of new leads via text – Zapier will send all stakeholders a text with the prospects contact information immediately after they opt in.
- ClickFunnels to Skipio – Zapier can automate the process of getting new leads into the Skipio database. Remember: You will have to log in and move the leads to the appropriate campaign.
We used to have to request API documents from companies and plug in IT professionals for these integrations. Now we can take advantage of breakthrough technologies like Zapier to seamlessly connect all of our web apps.
I know I have given you a lot of information and it may seem overwhelming. If you break the process up into small steps and set target completion dates, I promise you can get this done in a timely manner. Anyone who told you that online marketing for gyms does not work or that Facebook is a waste of money did not know what they were doing. Their advertising was put together haphazardly or they hired an amateur marketing agency.
If you take the time to build out your marketing thoroughly, the consequence will be a high converting marketing funnel consistently producing results. Along the way there will be learning opportunities and times where you need to make adjustments.
Small business owners are always asking me what the perfect demographic targeting is for their campaigns. People want to start with the answers that are learned and earned over time by paying close attention to what is converting, what is not converting, and making adjustments accordingly (otherwise known as optimizing campaigns).
I am always happy to conduct fact-based research and due diligence, and call on my anecdotal experience to hypothesize on the ideal audience. But, experienced marketers know you have to get in the trenches to find the gold. Otherwise, everyone would strike gold on the first attempt and we’d all be rich.
Take action today and start building a high converting marketing funnel for your gym. Commit to the process and reap the rewards of a predictable revenue stream. If you have questions, need help along the way, or would like professional services, don’t hesitate to contact me. I hope to hear from you!