11 Effective Ways to Turn Gym Members into Advocates (and Increase Sales)

In the fitness industry, the effectiveness of word-of-mouth marketing is unmatched. When gym members share positive experiences, it can help accelerate your gym’s growth. In fact, a Nielsen survey shows that 92% of people trust recommendations from family and friends more than any other advertising method. This makes your existing members powerful brand ambassadors and an essential part of your sales team.

So, how can your gym capitalize on this?

It’s important to ensure that your members are so satisfied with your services that they can’t help but talk about your gym. Every member who leaves your facility impressed has the potential to bring new clients through your doors. Better yet, these prospects often arrive already inclined to join because they trust the good things they’ve heard.

In this article, we’ll explore how you can turn your existing gym members into your greatest advocates. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What is word-of-mouth marketing?
  • What are the different types?
  • How does word-of-mouth benefit your gym?
  • 11 strategies to get people talking about your fitness business

Let’s dive in.

What is Word-of-Mouth Marketing?

Word-of-mouth marketing is an effective strategy that uses personal recommendations to promote your gym. When your gym members share their positive experiences with others, it naturally boosts your gym’s visibility and credibility. This kind of marketing is powerful because it’s based on trust and genuine customer satisfaction; your members talk about your gym not because they have to, but because they want to.

Types of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

There are two main types of word-of mouth marketing that are essential in creating a buzz around your fitness business: organic and amplified.

Organic: This word-of-mouth happens when members naturally and spontaneously recommend your gym to others. For instance, if someone asks one of your members where to find the best personal training in the area, and your member has had great experiences at your gym, they’ll likely recommend it without any prompting from you. Another example is when members share your content or mention your gym on social media, such as tagging your facility in an Instagram or Facebook post or story.

Amplified: This word-of-mouth involves deliberate strategies designed to get members talking about your gym. This could be something as simple as asking your members to leave a review on your Google My Business page or implementing a referral program that rewards them for bringing in new members. Another strategy includes featuring customer testimonials on your gym’s website or social media platforms.

Fitness Narrative testimonial section

Source: Fitness Narrative

💡 Both types help build your gym’s reputation and can significantly increase your membership base.

What Makes Word-of-Mouth Effective for Gyms?

Word-of-mouth marketing is a crucial driver of growth for any fitness business. When members share their gym experiences, it has a direct impact on attracting new clients.

Here’s why this strategy works so well for gyms:

Credibility

People generally trust personal recommendations more than advertising. Studies show that 92% trust recommendations from peers, and 70% trust even those from strangers over traditional ads. You can easily see how when gym members talk about their positive experiences, it holds more weight than standard marketing practices.

Reliability

According to a Nielsen study, over 80% of Americans reach out to friends and family before making a purchase. Long-time members who are familiar with your gym serve as reliable and trustworthy sources of information, influencing prospective clients’ decisions to join your gym.

Cost-Effectiveness

Unlike paid advertising, which can be expensive, word-of-mouth generates new business at a minimal cost. It primarily requires providing excellent service, turning current members into advocates without the need for costly marketing expenses.

Quality Leads

Members who are well-acquainted with your gym’s environment and community are more likely to bring in prospects who fit your ideal client type. These referrals are often high-quality leads who have a genuine interest in joining your gym.

Easier Sales

When a prospect visits your gym through a member’s referral, they already have a favorable impression of your fitness business, making them more receptive to joining. This simplifies the sales process for your team and boosts the likelihood of a successful membership sign-up.

Brand Loyalty

When members become advocates, they’re invested in your brand. This loyalty not only improves customer relationships and retains members but also makes them more valuable over time.

High ROI

Word-of-mouth marketing can lead to a high return on investment. The viral nature of personal recommendations means that one satisfied member can lead to a cascade of new clients.

personal gym recommendations means high ROI

Source: Single Grain

11 Simple Strategies to Make Gym Members Your Best Brand Advocates

Here are 11 simple strategies that can help existing members spread the word about your gym:

Deliver Exceptional Service

Providing outstanding service is essential for keeping members happy and setting your gym apart from competitors. To truly excel, you must consistently exceed your members’ expectations across all aspects of your gym’s offering—from the quality of training and expertise of your staff to the cleanliness and ambiance of the environment. Here are some ways this can be achieved:

  • Train Your Staff Continuously: Ensure your team is knowledgeable and passionate about assisting members. Regular training sessions, workshops, and team meetings keep staff up-to-date and informed on how to improve and become better trainers.
  • Enhance the Environment: Make your gym a place members look forward to visiting. This can be through meticulous maintenance, updating equipment regularly, and creating a welcoming atmosphere.
  • Personalize Member Interactions: Go the extra mile by doing simple things such as recognizing members’ achievements and remembering their names. This personal touch makes members feel valued and can greatly enhance their gym experience.
  • Solicit and Act on Feedback: Actively seek and thoughtfully consider member feedback. Making changes based on member suggestions not only shows you value their input but can also significantly enhance the quality of your service.
💡 By focusing on these areas, you’ll not only deliver exceptional service but also encourage members to talk about their great experiences, attracting new customers to your gym.

Establish a Referral Program

Don’t just wait for referrals—actively encourage them. A structured referral program shows you value your members and leverages their networks to attract new clients. Referral programs also benefit your gym because people are four times more likely to make a purchase when referred by a friend. You can successfully implement a system like this by:

  • Communicating Clearly: Inform both prospects and existing clients that you have a referral program. Explain clearly how it works and what the benefits are for those who participate.
  • Offering Incentives: Motivate your members to refer others by offering rewards such as discounts or bonuses for each new member they bring in. This can be a percentage off their next month’s membership fee, free merchandise, or even a free personal training session.
  • Making It Easy: Ensure that the process of referring someone and claiming rewards is straightforward. Use tools like referral codes, shareable links, or even simple sign-up forms at the front desk.
  • Tracking and Optimizing: Monitor how well your referral program is working and make adjustments as needed. Keep track of who refers the most members and recognize them, which can further encourage participation.
💡 By effectively using your existing members’ networks, you expand your gym’s reach and attract new members who are more likely to trust and invest in your services because a friend recommended them.

Collect Client Reviews

Client reviews are incredibly influential. Most consumers read at least 10 reviews before making a decision, and 88% trust these as much as personal recommendations. Here’s how you can make the most of positive reviews for your gym:

  • Encourage Reviews: Make it a routine to ask for reviews. For instance, choose two members each week and encourage them to share their experiences. This steady stream of fresh reviews can influence potential members actively looking for a reliable gym.
  • Simplify the Process: Ensure it’s easy for members to leave a review by providing direct links to your Google My Business (GMB), Yelp, or other relevant directories. You can also set up a kiosk or tablet at your gym where members can quickly leave feedback.
  • Respond to Reviews: Engage with those who leave reviews by expressing your appreciation for their feedback. This demonstrates that you value your members’ input and are attentive to their experiences.
💡 By effectively collecting and leveraging client reviews, you build a reputation that resonates with the trust that prospective members place in others who know your gym well, drawing the right clients to your facility.

Showcase Customer Testimonials

Once you have them, don’t let your customer reviews or testimonials sit idle. Most prospects start by seeing your reviews on Google My Business, and often, they’ll visit your gym’s website next. Therefore, it’s important to use this opportunity to leverage these testimonials by showcasing them on your gym’s social media pages, website, and in promotional materials.

3Q Fitness showcasing customer testimonials

Source: 3Q Fitness

Displaying real member experiences not only enhances your gym’s credibility but also serves as compelling social proof. Regularly updating these testimonials keeps your content fresh and engaging, reassuring prospective members about the quality of your services. And finally, with 57% of consumers influenced by reviews, a strong display of positive feedback reinforces your gym’s reputation and can help convert prospects into members.

Create a Facebook Group

Fostering a sense of community among your gym members can significantly enhance their loyalty and long-term engagement. While your physical gym space is important, expanding this community online is equally crucial. Creating a Facebook group is an excellent way to achieve this. It allows you to build rapport not only between you and your members, but also among the members themselves.

In your Facebook group, encourage members to engage in discussions, ask questions, and share their fitness journeys. This can include posting reviews, success stories, and before-and-after photos. Providing a platform for members to connect and share information makes your group a valuable resource they will want to keep using and sharing with their network.

Offer Shareable Content

Your gym’s website is a valuable resource, particularly when it features insightful blog posts that members find useful and relevant. The more relevant your content, the more likely it is that people will share it. By making it easy for members and visitors to share your content with their family and friends, you not only increase your gym’s visibility but also establish your brand as a valuable resource in the fitness community.

💡 Here’s a tip: Whenever you upload a blog post, include social sharing buttons on each post and clearly invite readers to share the content. Adding a direct call to action, such as 'Share this post with someone who would find it useful!' can significantly extend your content’s reach.

Respond Quickly to Client Concerns

Businesses that prioritize customer experience can see up to 80% increase in revenue, and this includes how effectively you handle feedback. A key part of a successful word-of-mouth strategy is actively preventing negative feedback from escalating. So, along with responding to positive reviews, make sure to respond the the less favorable ones as well. It shows that you value all feedback and are committed to providing quality services for your members. By effectively managing these concerns, you may also prevent losing prospects who could be swayed by seeing how you handle concerns and criticisms.

Remember, your responses should be considerate and professional. How you handle criticism publicly reflects on your gym’s overall customer service and contributes to its success. Here’s an excellent example of how to effectively respond to negative feedback:

Respond Quickly to Client Concerns

Get Involved Locally

Increasing your gym’s presence within the local community is a fantastic way to get people talking about your facility and enhance its visibility. Being actively involved in local events and initiatives shows your commitment to the community and helps put your gym’s name out there. Here are five easy ways to make yourself visible and boost your gym’s community profile:

  1. Sponsor a Community Event: This is a direct way to show your support and gain visibility. Whether it’s a charity run, a school event, or a local festival, sponsoring community events can associate your gym with positive local activities and drive awareness.
  2. Host Free Workshops or Fitness Classes: Offer free sessions in public spaces like parks or community centers. This not only promotes healthy living but also introduces your gym to potential new members.
  3. Participate in Local Health Fairs: Set up a booth at health fairs and other wellness-related events. It’s a great opportunity to meet community members, provide health and fitness information, and offer promotional sign-ups or trials to get them through your doors.
  4. Collaborate with Local Businesses: Partner with local businesses for cross-promotions. For example, offer discounts to employees of nearby companies, or collaborate with local health food stores for mutual referrals.
  5. Volunteer as a Team: Organize group volunteer days for your staff and members to participate in community service projects. This helps build a positive brand image and shows your gym’s commitment to the community.

Host Bring-a-Friend Events

One of the best ways to introduce new people to your gym is by making it easy for current members to bring along their family and friends. A simple way to do this is by organizing special events throughout the year that are designed to be fun and welcoming for guests. These events are effective because they give potential members a firsthand experience of what it’s like to be part of your gym.

To encourage participation, consider offering incentives such as discounts on membership fees or special bonuses for both the member and the guest if they decide to sign up. This approach can help increase event attendance and the likelihood of gaining new members.

Promote Email Sharing

Email sharing is accessible and has the potential to reach a massive audience quickly. By including a note in each email that invites members to forward the content to friends and family, you not only extend your reach but also leverage personal recommendations, which are highly trusted and influential. This simple action transforms your existing subscribers into active promoters of your brand.

💡 As more people learn about your gym through trusted sources—seeing the value you provide firsthand—your network of potential members grows.

Engage with Members Across All Platforms

Building strong relationships with your clients through consistent engagement both online and offline is crucial for turning your gym members into brand advocates. At your gym, make it a priority to connect personally with each member by asking questions, showing genuine interest in their fitness journeys, and making them feel valued and special.

Online, continue to foster these relationships by:

  • Responding to their comments promptly
  • Initiating conversations through direct messages
  • Featuring them on your gym’s social media platforms

This level of engagement not only strengthens individual connections but also positively impacts your overall brand perception. By consistently interacting with your members, both in person and digitally, and making each one feel important, you enhance their loyalty and motivate them to share their positive experiences with others. This transforms satisfied members into enthusiastic ambassadors who can naturally promote your gym.

Next Steps for Your Gym

Turning your gym members into brand advocates is a powerful strategy to enhance your fitness business’s growth and reputation. By implementing these effective word-of-mouth marketing techniques, you can leverage the trust and satisfaction of your current members and see a significant increase in membership and sustained business growth. To see how Kilo can help you engage members and automate your marketing workflows, watch the demo today.

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