“The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.”

Many gym businesses and coaches are slowly but surely starting to reopen and conduct business again.   Many are nervous about marketing and putting their business out there in fear of ruffling feathers in these uncertain times.  Remember this simple concept; if you don’t ask, you will never receive!

Throughout the midst of the pandemic, we didn’t promote or ask for anything. Sure, we had people see the virtual classes and buy our virtual onboard, but not by design.  We felt the right move was to ensure the health of the current population we had before the lockdown.

Our focus was regulated to providing value to our clients and continuing to over-deliver at all costs.  Equipment sign-out (the gym was almost bare, completely wiped out of equipment), multiple virtual classes per day, virtual charity events, swag giveaways, and surveys (providing clients the opportunity to speak up and let us know how we were doing and where we could improve).

RECENT: The Effects of COVID-19 Eliminated My Job

Our goal was to give the unexpected and continue to provide an outlet—a reassuring and familiar routine. Our efforts have paid dividends. We've retained nearly 80 percent of our clientele during the lockdown.  Not only that, it gained some incredible fans along the way…

Now that we are coming into the new “normal” it’s time to get aggressive again in a way that won’t stir the pot!  We are going to systematically ask our members to spread the good fortune.  Remember, if you don’t make the referral process EASY, it won’t happen, and if you don’t ask you don’t get!

Here are five ways that Varsity House (VH) will market to our clients and press into the referral generator.

1. Creative Ad Spend

When people think ad spend, it’s about building the funnel, dumping money into Facebook/Google/Instagram, and waiting for strangers to become clients.  Here are a few more creative and old-school ways that we’ve advertised:

  • Google reviews for discounts or prizes.  We recently did a VH branded Yeti mug giveaway for review (pictured in the post above).  This cost $30 and we got over a dozen glowing reviews that will be reshared on social platforms for free and in email campaigns.  What a great first impression when people search for us on the Google machine!
  • On-site initiatives by coaches.  $50 to a coach willing to attend a race, local town day, health fair, or ball game decked out in full VH has paid dividends!  There are not many weekends throughout the year when we don’t have a representative out and about in the community.
  • Free 4-week challenge.  Free is for ME!  Everyone loves free, so instead of trying to ad spend to sell immediate clients, why not ad spend or social share to an opt-in program of REAL value.  People are more likely to buy from brands they already know, like, and trust!


2. VIP Referrals

  • Members-only bring-a-friend to class.  As simple as it sounds, host open house-training sessions that are only available for friends and family of your current clientele.  Make sure it’s ever apparent to your membership too!
  • Print the list… who is a super fan of the brand?  This can be calculated by how much they spend, how many they’ve referred in the past, or simply by someone who you think is awesome!   Give them a ring or send them a letter showing your appreciation.  Include a gift card that covers a free month for a family member or friend of their choice!  This has been a massive hit for us in growing the VH community.

3. Transformation Contest

The Quarantine 15 is a real thing!  People also love definitive timetables with a start date and end date…think of it as a training camp.

  • Send a survey. Send them to your community members/lost leads/nonmembers asking specific questions about expectations of the gym and what they’d like to see moving forward.  To spark interest to get market research, let them know that you will be picking a winner for a free transformation.
  • Cap it. We are going to cap the transformation at a 20-person limit.
  • Keep it premium. All participants will be doing the transformation in semi-private groups to get accustomed to a premium level service.  This also won’t flood the gym with more bodies, it’ll either ladder up people on large group rates currently or bring new people in at a premium level.


4. Local Restaurant Guide

We see healthy meals and chef spotlights in magazines all of the time.  What about spotlighting some of your favorite dishes at local spots?  The food and service industry was hit equally as hard as the gym business. I smell a joint venture opportunity!

  • This is how it works. You approach a local restaurant owner or manager and tell them that you’d like to feature them in an article that goes to your list!
  • Here’s the kicker. Typically businesses like to share positive content regarding their business via social media and email.  This builds the list with future leads.
  • Keep the guide simple. For example, “The healthiest and most tasty entrees and cocktails in all of Bergen County!”

Not only are you creating a great relationship with a local business owner, but you are also creating value for the community—providing a level of expertise and becoming a person or business of authority.

5. FREE Clinics

These can be done in person, streamed virtually, then uploaded to YouTube and Facebook. Let’s make our content work for us long-term.  A few that we’ve done have focused on nutrition, deadlifting, pain management with a chiropractor, and anti-aging with a local dermatologist.

MORE: How To Reopen Your Gym

And there you have it—some tactics that will be used by our team to grow back to capacity and beyond!   Action is the antidote to fear. Start by getting one or five of these processes in motion today.

In Strength,

Dan Goodman

Dan Goodman is the co-owner of Varsity House Gym, a strength and conditioning facility catering to elite athletes and weekend warriors alike. His passion for entrepreneurialism and business transformed itself into the internationally recognized Business of Strength seminars and podcasts. Dan is a proud family man and lover of traditional Italian Sunday dinners who currently resides in Bergen County, New Jersey, with his wife, Dana.

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