Your most profitable customer...

how to advertise a new gym

As a future gym owner, you'll quickly realize that your gym population isn't one big unified group. Instead, it's a melting pot with all sorts of shapes, sizes, ages, likes, dislikes, goals, and interests. 

And as a gym owner, it's your job to find the customer segments that are most profitable to your gym. The sooner you do, the more money you'll make because one thing you'll learn right out of the gate is you can't be everything to everyone. A customer must "feel" like you understand them before she purchases a membership. 

Side note: Although you may be too hardcore for Planet Fitness and they may often be the butt of your jokes, they've done a phenomenal job with their marketing by speaking directly to their target market. Instead of mocking them, learn from them.  


At Ageless, our market segments are separated by sex and goals, as those are the two variables that seem to have the biggest influence on creating the right message to get people in the door and renewing from month to month. 

So, who is our most popular segment? What group are we consistently marketing to? Who is our favorite lead?

Trick question...  

The segment of our market that makes us the most money year after year after year...... 

Drumroll please.... 

Our current members. 

Surprisingly, that's the one market segment that constantly gets overlooked. Even though it's literally a money tree, most owners don't nurture it as they should. Instead, they focus 90% of their marketing efforts on new leads that end up costing them 10x the amount of time, money, and energy to acquire them when compared to current customers. 

At Ageless, we knew right away we're not Facebook. We're not Google. Scaling sounds great, but it wasn't for us because of our limited geographical region. Although that sounds depressing, there's still a lot of money to be made, even in a small pond like Gillespie.

As a small business owner, growth hacking shouldn't even be in our vocabulary. We shouldn't spend the majority of our marketing efforts on building customer acquisition funnels, sales pitches, and various other lead generating activities that you constantly read about it. 

Instead, we should focus on creating an awesome customer experience. And if there is one thing we've done right at Ageless, it's that. 

We've always put our current customers first. Unlike service providers that I won't name (*cough cable *cough internet *cough), we've never given a new customer an incentive or deal we haven't also given our current customers. Our customer acquisition funnels are very simple. Our brand awareness campaigns are done as cheaply as possible. 90% of our marketing is spent on wowing our current customers with the understanding that they'll bring in new customers if we provide an awesome experience. 

So, when I saw the opportunity to purchase a 22' tall inflatable marshmallow man, I jumped on it. It looked ridiculous and didn't tie into our marketing plan, but it made our members smile every time they pulled into the gym. And if you can start and finish your workout with a smile, you'll more than likely be a repeat customer. 

Why is the wow so important?? 

One, if social media has taught us anything, it's that people love to give advice. Scroll through your feed, and you'll see nothing but advice or opinions. Even more importantly, social media as a platform has been dynamite for word of mouth marketing. Its' easier and quicker than ever to get free advertising. Check out Jonah Berger's book Contagious for a good read on the subject.   

Two, the gym industry as a whole is plagued by member turnover. If you can reduce that, customer acquisition costs will decrease tremendously causing profit to improve. It's simple math. Unfortunately, the big chains would rather spend thousands of dollars every month on new leads rather than keep their existing members happy. 

Third, it's more fun. I enjoy seeing the same members month after month and building real relationships with them. That's so much more satisfying than seeing a new face every month. 

As much as I'd love to say we were ahead of the curve with our relentless focus on our current customers, it was actually out of necessity. Ageless is in a town of just 3,200 people. That's one small pond. Very small pond. Negative word of mouth is poison to a larger market, but it's an absolute nuclear bomb to a market the size of ours. Plus, within 9 months of opening our doors, 95% of our market knew about us. Our leads had dried up so we had to focus on delighting our current customers. And that's exactly what we've done for the past 10 years and is the reason we've never had an unprofitable month. 

So, if you open a gym (or any business), focus on your current customers. Don't get caught up in the latest Facebook funnel, landing page design, or email newsletter provider. 

Business still succeeds based on old-school principles - a handshake, a warm smile, eye contact, etc. 


P.S. This email was inspired by a book I'm reading (and loving) Never Lose a Customer Again that was recommended to me by Sol Orwell, one of the founders of Examine.com. Check it out. 

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