How to get more paying members – 4 powerful methods for fitness businesses

One of the most difficult things in running a fitness business is attracting new customers, especially with all the competition out there these days. You know that the more members you get, the more profitable your business will be.

When it comes to getting new members, you can’t expect people to simply walk in and sign up. 

It is a more complex process. First, you need to catch people’s attention, turn them into leads, and then – hopefully – some of those leads will become paying members.

Here are 4 powerful ways to get more paying members:

1. Word-of-mouth marketing

Fitness referral marketing

Referrals, also called “word-of-mouth marketing,“ have always been an effective method for acquiring new members. In fact, a Nielsen study found that 92% of consumers around the world said they trust word-of-mouth, or recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.

The good news is that people are already talking about your business. Existing members casually mention an amazing training session they had and, in this way, they spread the word about your business. 

By doing this, they certainly brought in some new people. But the truth is that this is only the top of the  iceberg. 

The goal is to get your existing members to work hard to bring people for you, the same as they work hard in your gym. 

But how do you do it?

To make it easier, you can look at it in 2 parts. 

Offer special rewards to your members for referrals.

Studies indicate that more than 50% of people are likely to give a referral if offered a direct incentive, social recognition, or access to an exclusive loyalty program  –  Software Advice

So, providing rewards works. But is a bottle of water enough for a referral? Probably not. The more attractive the rewards you have, the more referrals you are going to get. Here are some rewards you could offer:

  • A discount on their next membership extension
  • Premium memberships options, such as scheduling before regular members
  • Free services that aren’t an expense to you (e.g. diet plans)

Now that you have people to refer friends, you want to make sure referrals are converting. 

To do so, you can create a two-way incentive program. This means that you reward your existing members after the referral results in a new member, and you welcome the new member with an incentive. 

For example, you can give the existing member a 20% discount on their next membership extension, and you can give the new member a 10% discount on their first month.

Promote your referral program.

This is commonly overlooked. After investing so much effort and resources in a good referral program, members aren’t aware that it even exists. That’s why it’s important to promote the program, and this means taking the extra step. In the end, this is the most cost-effective marketing method you can find. 

How do you promote the referral program? Here are some ideas:

Use your social media platforms: You already have an audience there. Let everyone on your social media know about your new referral program by using engaging images and short descriptions. Explain the rules and make sure that everyone understands that their engagement will be rewarded. 

Staff: Encourage your staff to casually remind members about the great advantages of your referral program. 

Make use of empty surfaces in your business: Sometimes you won’t be able to inform your members about the referral program by communicating to them directly, therefore you should resort to indirect communication – posters in your own business. Set up conspicuous posters in different parts of your fitness studio where members will notice them, such as:

  • At the entrance of your business – doors, gates, windows, etc.
  • Inside the fitness studio on the walls
  • Locker rooms

Print out regular size flyers containing information about the referral program and keep them on your front desk.

Website announcement: If you have a website, it would be a waste not to mention the novelty there. You can use the same image you used on your social media with a short description.  

Email/text promotion: If you collect your members’ information when they sign up, use email and text marketing to promote your referral program. 


In contrast to these tips, there are a few red flags with referral programs that you can easily overcome by paying attention to the steps below.

  • Make sure members are not abusing your referral program. If you’re offering rewards to members, you don’t want to spend resources on giving them dozens of rewards while your member count stays the same. Give rewards to your members only if the referrals become members of your fitness studio. When the new member gets his membership, then give the reward to the member who was the referrer.
  • In referral programs, simplicity is key. To avoid unnecessary confusion make sure not to overcomplicate your program, and define the rules clearly.

2. Social media

Social media is not just a place where you can build your brand, it’s also a great place to generate leads. It’s cost-effectiveness is proven in a Quicksprout statistic which states that 63% of companies using social media saw an increase in marketing effectiveness.

There are two types of social media marketing – organic and paid. 

Organic involves posting content regularly on popular social media platforms such as:

  • Facebook – With almost three billion active users, it’s a must!
  • Instagram – A platform where 90% of users are up to 35 years old, which makes it a big potential for fitness studios.
  • Pinterest – Yes, Pinterest is a great option for raising brand awareness

So, the question is, which type of content should you put out if you want to generate leads from your social media?

The goal is to stop the average person from scrolling down the feed and taking a few seconds to actually read your post. In order to do this you must make your post interesting and useful:

Here are a few ideas for high engaging content:

  • Common mistakes among popular exercises – educate your audience. There are certain exercises members tend to do wrong, over and over again, which can result in serious long-term injuries. Inform them about the possible injuries and educate them how to do the exercises correctly.


  • Workout systems for targeting specific muscle groups – this is always useful. Post tutorials of a 5 minute morning abs exercise tutorial for your members to do at home, or a full booty workout program at your gym.


  • Nutrition and diet tips – “You are what you eat.“ Remind your followers that the most intense workouts in the world won’t bring them much muscle gain(or weight loss) without a proper diet plan. Don’t just remind them not to eat junk food – instead, post recipes for a healthy pre-workout shake, or a nutritious post-workout meal.


Even though social media is a cost-effective method, it will take some time to actually get members to utilize it. You have to generate content on a consistent level (daily, or at least three times a week) and make sure that it is quality content, with attractive designs. 

Also keep in mind that besides posting images and textual posts on your social media, you should also focus on putting out video content – videos of challenges, workshops, demonstrations of exercises, etc. Video content is very powerful as it is shared 12x more than images and texts posts combined.

3. Facebook ads

Opposite of organic social media marketing, Facebook ads is a paid, lead generation tool, done through the ad platform of Facebook. Even though it is a very popular method for generating tools, it can easily become a bottomless pit. Here, we will focus on what measures you should take to prevent that from happening, while successfully generating leads from your Facebook ads:

Promote special offers – Free intro week, discounts for certain programs, VIP one-day pass (which would give them exclusive privileges).

Promote special events – Host fitness seminars and workshops in your fitness center in which experts will educate your audience in different aspects (e.g. benefits of a healthy diet).  You can also contact popular athletes or celebrities that enjoy grinding in the gym and host a meet and greet.

Time your offers correctly – Sometimes timing is everything. People tend to make the decision to become healthier and fit at certain periods, such as the beginning of the year, or during the spring, in an attempt to get that summer body. Use that to your advantage by incorporating their needs to your ads. Create a special 30-day New Year’s challenge, or a last minute “summer body workout.”

Want to see a good ad in practice? 

Here is an example:

Fitness marketing

Don’t forget to use the simplicity and power of the AIDA formula in your ad. 

AIDA stands for:

A: Attention.

I: Interest.

D: Desire.

A: Action.

First, there is an attractive video that clearly shows online training (Attention).

“Don’t hit pause” in the first sentence is so powerful because it directly speaks with the target audience who may lack the motivation to train from their home (Interest).

“Science-backed” and “technology-tracked” represent the principle that separates them from others. It is something unique about their proposition (Desire).

“Sign up for a live coach-led workout today” is a simple but powerful call to action. In the description of the ad, we can also see the same call to action, the only difference here is highlighted that it is free (Action).

Need more ideas? Check out 25 offers that attract potential customers like a magnetic force

4. Partner up with local businesses

How to promote fitness business

Last – but certainly not the least – partnering up with local businesses is a very effective method for generating leads. In fact, 54% of businesses say partnerships drive more than 20% of their total revenue. (Partnerize, 2018)

If you are looking for new members, a good thing would be to look at places where they already hang out. This doesn’t mean that you should reach out to other gyms – instead, find local smoothie and protein bars that your target group already visits. 

They will be willing to do this because it is mutually beneficial. For example, your members get a discount in their products, and in return their guests can get a discount on your membership. It is a win-win situation. They get returning customers every day, and you get new members.

No smoothie bar or any similar businesses near you? Contact local businesses and offer to give their employees a discount on your membership. You can also offer them a unique team building experience by organizing group challenges for them with a prize at the end. Organize the challenge into several different stages, a point system and whichever team has the most points – wins. Keep in mind to make challenges in which everyone can participate such as:

  • Longest rowing distance in a certain time frame per team.
  • Tug of war – a classic competitive game everyone is accustomed to since childhood.
  • Shortest time for a ten-yard sprint per team.

Once their employees come to your fitness studio for the challenge, they’ll see what you have to offer and some of them will become regular members of your fitness studio. And even better – they’ll talk to their friends about the experience which will result in a huge increase in word of mouth marketing. It’s a win-win situation! 

Now, with this newly acquired knowledge you can start implementing our methods – but only one method at a time. Focus your time and resources on improving one method to perfection and then move on to the next. 

You can speed up the process if you know a friend that could have use of these methods. 

You can start to implement one, and your friend can implement another. Once you both develop each method to perfection, you can share valuable experiences and knowledge with each other. For example, notify each other about challenges that could happen or show more efficient ways for implementation.

Do you send emails to your members? Here you can find 10 best performing emails for Fitness studios.

Recommended Posts

No comment yet, add your voice below!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *