The Ultimate Text Message Marketing Guide for Gym Owners

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Is text message marketing for gyms effective—and should you hit your clients with SMS messages instead of email?

The answers: yes—and sometimes.

Text message marketing is incredibly effective. Redeye.com reports that SMS open rates are 99 percent, while marketing emails are opened about 30 percent of the time. And 97 percent of text messages are opened in 15 minutes or less.

Those are amazing stats that will make any gym owner salivate. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon email completely. Read on: We’ll explain how, why and when fitness texters and gym entrepreneurs should use SMS marketing.

Why Text?

Ever looked at a friend’s phone and seen over 1,000 unread emails? It’s more common than you might think. Interestingly, if you text those same people, you’ll often get an immediate response.

Think of SMS (short message service) and MMS (multimedia messaging service) marketing as your direct pipelines to your audience. If you send something, it will almost certainly be seen very quickly.

Here are more key stats—some of the many that support fitness texting:

  • 58.7 percent of surveyed consumers read texts within five minutes. (Source: Simpletexting.com)
  • Of businesses surveyed, the majority said their text message click-through rate (CTR) was between 20 and 35 percent. For email, the majority reported a CTR of 10-20 percent. (Source: Simpletexting.com)
  • 62 percent of business owners list speed of delivery as text marketing’s greatest advantage and almost 61 percent were planning to increase their text marketing budgets. (Source: Simpletexting.com)
  • Back in 2016, a study published in the International Journal of Pediatrics reported, “Text message reminders effectively improve show rates at a resident pediatric practice with high no-show rates, representing a promising approach to improving appointment adherence.” (This is key for gym owners who are booking sales appointments with prospective clients.)
  • Salesforce reported that 91 percent of clients who opt in for SMS marketing consider those messages “useful.”

Those stats should convince you that text marketing for gyms is a good idea. Below, we’ll show you how to use it, as well as how email marketing figures into the equation.

Text Marketing for Gyms: Deployment Tactics

Text messaging for gyms can solve a lot of problems, but it isn’t the perfect channel for every communication. Here are the ones that will work best for fitness texters, gym and studio owners, and personal trainers.

Connections, Confirmations, Welcomes and Urgent Info

SMS messages are perfect for instantly connecting with leads. Quick responses dramatically increase the chances of making a sale and the speed of SMS makes it the clear choice. Your leads should instantly get an automated text as soon as they enter your funnel or pipeline. You’ll get your name and number in their phone and they can message you right away (make sure your system offers two-way texting).

Same deal with new clients: When someone signs up, it’s professional to send a quick text that welcomes them and explains how they can contact you if needed.

Finally, appointment confirmations sent by text are now standard. People are not surprised to receive them; in fact, they expect and want them. Whenever someone books a free consultation, a goal review session, a personal training session or any other appointment, they should receive an automated confirmation and subsequent reminders. According to ZipWhip, 64 percent of their State of Texting survey respondents rated appointment confirmations as the most valuable business texts.

SMS is also the place to send waiting-list upgrades, cancellations and closures, emergency details, COVID-19 info or any urgent bulletins that should reach clients ASAP.

Email: You can double down by sending this same info via email, but spam filters, inbox overflow and speed of opening make it the less-preferred channel. Prioritize SMS and use email as your backup.

Lead Nurturing: SMS Marketing Automations for Gyms

New leads should receive a series of automated texts as soon as they enter your funnel. Five or six over the course of three days will maximize your chances of making contact when the person is still thinking about your gym and services.

These texts should be short, direct and actionable. Casual, informal language is OK: “Hey [NAME]! Thx for contacting. Can we talk fitness right now?”

You can send up to two SMS marketing messages a day for two to three days, then space them out—maybe one every two weeks for 10 weeks. Texting is designed to get a near-immediate response, so if someone ignores the first six messages early in your relationship, it’s less and less likely they’ll respond at all. But you never know.

Email: New leads should receive email in the first days after entering the funnel, too. The first five or six should be short, direct and actionable as well. But the emails should become increasingly longer to educate, confront objections and so on. After the first messages, it’s less about motivating instant action and more about building trust and convincing someone to eventually take action. Email is a better place to do that.

Retention: Increasing Length of Engagement

In a microgym, you must build a personal connection with every single client. That means you should notice when a client accomplishes a goal or is absent. These major events warrant in-person high-fives if possible, but they demand SMS communication as well. In the 2020s, SMS is almost as personal as a face-to-face chat.

You can certainly use automations, but improved retention is worth a huge amount of money, and nothing beats a personal message from a coach: “Darla! 200-lb deadlift. You’re a boss! Congrats!”

Or: “Miss ya! Comin’ to lift tonight?”

Email: Email is far less personal than a text. We recommend members receive automated congrats and, “where-are-you?” emails too. But emails are easy to miss or ignore. Retention is too important to only use email.

Sales and Promotions

According to Techjury.com, 75 percent of clients actually want to get offers and promotions by SMS. Keep in mind that this stat is not suggesting you fire fitness messages off to random numbers at 3 a.m. The stat is referring to comms with clients: These people gave you their number and the permission to use it. 

Clients want to know about things that will benefit them. And they love to be first.

Example: “Our Feb weightlifting clinic starts on the 20th. Lock down your spot before we open registration to the public: [URL].”

Used appropriately, SMS is great for sales and promotions. The qualifier is that you can’t feature a bunch of products and services in one text. It’s not the right medium. When you’re text marketing, limit yourself to one product, one event, or one promotion. And keep it brief and to the point: “Supplements are BOGO for the next 2 days. Click [URL] to double down on gainz!”

Email: Use this medium for multiple offers, products, and so on. You’ve seen—and probably enjoyed—email fliers from companies you’re interested in. They often have pictures and a more involved layout, plus features, benefits and links to purchase. If you’ve got a lot of things to sell, email is the better option.

Loyalty Rewards and Reviews

Text is also the perfect medium for loyalty rewards, exclusives and insider info. By delivering this stuff right to your client’s phones, you’re creating value for your gym and showing the love in a very personal way.

Example: “Just 4 U [NAME]: members-only lululemon pop-up event at the gym Friday at 7pm!”

Example: “Member exclusive: Use the code ‘gainz’ for 10% off protein powder!”   

People love this kind of membership-has-its-rewards stuff. The more exclusive the reward, the more personal the communication should be.

Similarly, text is the right spot for “big asks”—like Google, Yelp and Facebook reviews. When you ask a client for a review, you’re essentially requesting a positive public endorsement. So use a personal, direct means of communication.

Here’s the best practice for generating glowing reviews: When you meet with clients to review goals and progress, make sure to celebrate their wins. When they’re feeling happy and fired up, ask them if they’d be up for a review. If they say yes, send them the link via text right away—Google My Business makes this super easy.

This plan maximizes the value of your face-to-face interaction but saves clients the trouble of clicking away to find the right place to leave a review. Grease the rails by sending them a link to click when they’re happiest.

Email: You can and should ask for reviews via email, but you’ll want to segment your mailing list so these requests only go to clients. The benefits of this approach: you can link to all the sites where you’d like reviews. The negatives: many people ignore email and you don’t have as much control. What if your client opens your email right after a message saying the IRS is going to audit? That client will not be in the best mood to talk about your business.

Loyalty rewards can also be sent by email and sometimes they work well in that format. For example, an email flier with five or 10 feature products and a discount code often encourages purchases.

The best plan: Track clicks or code usage for loyalty emails and texts to find out which method of communication gets a better response from your audience.

Newsletters

The wise fitness texter will message clients a link to a newsletter but won’t cram a bunch of info into a text. No one likes long texts.

Example: “Hey there! Monthly newsletter is out. Check it out to see our spring events! [URL]”

Email: Newsletters are perfectly suited to email and clients expect to find these messages in their inbox. Send newsletters regularly to tell clients you love them and let them know about things that might interest them.

Customer Service

While some people prefer phone or email for customer service, an increasing number want help by text. Check out this info from a 2020 UJET study: “72% of respondents thought that texting in real-time with an agent would improve their support experience.”

Some gyms don’t have the bandwidth to offer something like this. But if you do, clients will appreciate it. Few things satisfy clients more than a real person who solves their problems fast. Be careful, though: you don’t want clients texting your personal phone at all hours of the day and you don’t want clients communicating with staff outside the channels you control. Be sure to use a two-way system that’s tailored to your business.

If your gym employs a client success manager, members should be able to text that person and get gold-standard customer service.

Email: You can deal with client requests via email, but it’s increasingly viewed as archaic. Modern consumers expect swift responses. If you’re an inbox-zero master who deals with messages quickly, you’ll be OK with email customer service. But if you tend to miss emails and let things pile up, you might consider setting up a way for your valued clients to get the help they want faster.

Gym Owners: Start Texting Now!

Text Marketing for gyms is incredibly effective and it’s even better if you have the right tools.

Gym Lead Machine offers two-way texting for fitness entrepreneurs as well as professionally written SMS marketing sequences that are backed up by email. To learn more, book a sales call here.

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