As a health club owner, you spend much of your time seeking out marketing tips and small business advice that will help you be more successful. The fact is that there are more gyms and fitness centers than there were just a few years ago, and competition is fierce. Curves for Women has now expanded to some 9,600 locations, and other fitness franchise operations are also growing as quickly as possible. Add in the fact that there are now more YMCA and city Recreation Center locations than ever before, and you’re faced with an imminent threat to your health club.
So how do you handle the competition? Savvy gym owners are looking for and absorbing all the business advice they can find, while at the same time intensifying their marketing and advertising efforts.
Unfortunately, many fitness center owners are lost when it comes to business marketing strategies and tactics. Fortunately, you don’t need a marketing degree or an advertising agency to create a fantastic and effective advertising promotion for your health club. There are many opportunities for you to create a unique and powerful marketing plan in April, whether you’re working on direct marketing to the locals or you’re doing some online advertising via your gym website. Small business marketing doesn’t have to be difficult when you utilize and take advantage of these 12 national events that occur during April:
Alcohol Awareness Month
Alcohol Free Weekend (1st weekend, varies by locale)
Alcohol awareness should be part of your marketing strategy in April because it ties in quite nicely with the health and fitness industry. “People who drink frequently may have increased potential for weight gain because 1) A higher percentage of the energy from food eaten during the day may be converted and stored as fat and 2) Less energy from body fat stores can be used while alcohol is in the bloodstream.” Alcohol is also higher in calories than many other nutrients: 1 gram of alcohol = 7 calories, 1 gram of protein = 4 calories, 1 gram of fat = 9 calories, 1 gram of carbohydrate = 3.75 calories (Source: Washington State University).
To take advantage of this information, your sample health club marketing plan for April could include information on how alcohol acts upon the body, causing weight gain and a host of other problems. You may wish to educate your members about alcohol use, or even do some promotional advertising that includes a reference to alcohol awareness. For example, you could offer anyone and everyone free exercise during National Alcohol Free Weekend, emphasizing that exercise is a much healthier pastime than drinking. Another approach would be to offer free alcohol screenings in your gym on National Alcohol Screening Day. With either of these ideas, be sure to notify the local media so you receive some free advertising via newspaper articles and television coverage.
Cancer Control Month
Minority Cancer Awareness Week (3rd full week)
Another marketing tool you can use in April to boost fitness center enrollment is cancer education. “Evidence suggests that one third of the 550,000 cancer deaths that occur in the United States each year are due to unhealthy diet and insufficient physical activity” (Source: The Washington Post).
Take the initiative to educate your members about cancer, and how regular exercise can prevent (or at least reduce the risk of) many different forms of cancer. You could also do some promotional marketing to educate the public about how your health club can help them reduce the risk of several cancers. It’s called educational advertising, and it works!
Another option would be to do some event marketing by hosting a fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society in your health club. Notify the media and make it a big affair!
Counseling Awareness Month
National Counseling Awareness Month could help you sell gym memberships by offering some free counseling sessions during April. You may wish to invite in a nutritional counselor or a registered dietitian to teach a class on healthy eating and weight loss. Invite all of your members, and consider doing some newspaper advertising as well so you capture some new marketing leads from the event. Another marketing idea would be to invite a counselor, psychiatrist or psychologist to your fitness center for a one-hour group session. The professional will probably pick up some new clients, your existing members will get to sit in on a valuable class, and you’ll have the opportunity to distribute your marketing materials to every non-member who attends the event. It’s a win-win-win situation!
Eating Disorders Awareness Month
Although anorexia and bulimia get all the attention, compulsive overeating is an eating disorder that causes as much pain and as many problems. To utilize National Eating Disorders Awareness Month in your business advertising this month, you may want to consider forming a ‘Compulsive Overeating’ support group. Be sure to invite both members and non-members, which will allow you to reach more people with one single marketing promotional effort.
National Public Health Week (week of 1st Monday)
Every fitness center in the country could easily build an April advertising campaign using National Public Health Week. The easiest and least expensive way to do this would be to put up a sign advertising that everyone can exercise for free during National Public Health Week. This is essentially the same thing as the 1-week free passes you’ve (hopefully) been using, but it’s available to everyone at the same time. Be ready to tour and sell everybody that shows up to take advantage of this offer!
Sexual Assault Awareness Month
At first glance, Sexual Assault Awareness Month may not seem like it could be an advertising opportunity for a health club. But as any advertising consultant or advertising firm will tell you, when you offer your customers (or potential customers) what they want, you both win. The women in your gym want to know more about sexual assault and how to prevent it, so why not help them receive that information? Contact the local police department and ask them to come teach a class on self-defense. Alternatively, you could invite an instructor from a local martial arts studio to teach a similar class. As always, invite both fitness center members and non-members, and remember to notify the media. This is creative advertising at it’s best, but most importantly you’ll be helping women prevent sexual assault.
Walk America / March of Dimes (4th weekend)
Yet another small business advertising idea is to participate, as a health club, in the Walk America event. “Join WalkAmerica and a million compassionate people nationwide who care about saving babies. Do it in the name of someone you love – a premature baby, a healthy baby, your own baby or the baby of a relative or friend” (Source: WSB-TV Atlanta). Get an enrollment sheet up in the gym, sign up a team, and make it an event to remember! An advertising technique to tie in to WalkAmerica would be purchasing special t-shirts for the walk – put your gym logo in a prominent place on the shirt and give one free to every member who takes part in the event. Not only will you be helping a worthy cause, but you’ll also make a powerful public relations statement.
World Health Day (7th day)
As we’ve been emphasizing in this article, taking a national event or theme and bringing it down to the local level is an effective advertising technique for any fitness center. If this is true with national events, how much more powerful will it be with a worldwide event? World Health Day is one such opportunity for top selling gyms. Promoted by the World Health Organization, World Health Day gives the health club owner yet another chance to advocate health and fitness.
YMCA Healthy Kids Day (1st Saturday)
Our final selling tip for gyms in April is to utilize the subject of childhood obesity. The YMCA hosts a National Healthy Kids Day, and although you may not operate a YMCA you can still piggyback on that concept. One idea would be to invite a local class in to your fitness center for a tour. Even though the kids may not be allowed to join your facility, any field trip is inevitably accompanied by several parents and teachers who may be interested in membership.
Another selling idea or selling strategy would be to promote National Youth Sports Safety Month. You may want to visit local physical education classes as a guest speaker, or maybe be a volunteer assistant coach for a local sports team. There is never a shortage of sports teams, particularly kid’s sports teams, that need sponsors. One concept with real selling power is to print up some specialty t-shirts or water bottles that you can donate to the team. Be sure to incorporate your own logo and phone number, along with the name of the team. Soon, families all over town will be reading your name!
The odds are good that there are a lot of gyms in the health club directory for your town, and to stay on top you need to be better, stronger and faster than the competition. Take the advantage by utilizing national events, because that’s how you’ll sell more gym memberships in April.