Creating a steady stream of new clients requires mastery of inbound marketing.
This is the process by which you create interest in your gym via new content, drive people to that content, capture their contact information, and (eventually) get them to sign up for membership.
Inbound marketing is incredibly effective, requires very little money, establishes trust with prospects, builds your brand, and helps you retain the clients you already have. Done correctly, it is a magic bullet.
Below, a basic overview of the methodology, using The AF Project as my example. Follow along, and apply the concepts to your gym. Every stage is applicable to the gym business. Read through the Steps, concentrating on ideas rather than particulars, and then revisit the links in each Step to get a better idea of the nuances.
Step 1: Create Content
Your first step to effective inbound marketing: create compelling content. Your blog posts and videos must provide visitors with unexpected value, first and foremost. This means you are giving away knowledge: how to squat, how to eat for fat loss, how to maintain fitness while traveling, how to stay committed in the dog days of summer, what it really takes to be the Biggest Loser.
Don't be stingy here. Make sure every post provides a takeaway that will make your site visitors stronger and smarter (regardless of their status as a current client).
In addition to providing knowledge, valuable content educates clients and prospects on your status as an expert in the field. This establishes trust, the key ingredient in getting prospects to give you their contact information, the second stage of inbound marketing.
Additional Reading: Content is King: The Gym Owner's Step-by-Step Guide to Blogging
Step 2: Capture Information
Your gym website needs to have unique landing pages and information capture forms. If it doesn't, creating these is your next step.
A landing page explains the value you offer potential clients and tells them what you want them to do about it (via a call-to-action). The call-to-action points to an information capture form, which then takes the prospect's contact info, putting them into your database for later action.
For instance, this landing page on the AF Project tells site visitors about our Gym Business Seminar 1.0, and invites them to sign up for free (using a form capture). If they like the value offered in the copy (the "value proposition") and find a date/location that works for them, they give us their contact information: name, address, phone number, email.
In doing so, they've given us implicit permission to engage in lead nurturing, the third stage in our process.
A quick note: when you're capturing information, remember that you need three things:
a value proposition
and an information capture form.
The call-to-action is an explicit set of directions on what to do next, and there should only be one per landing page. On our example landing page (referenced above), the call-to-action is bolded near the bottom of the page.
Step 3: Lead Nurturing
Once you have contact information, your job is to nurture your leads. This means that you are talking to them regularly and providing value via a steady stream of relevant information, all geared toward your end goal: getting them to sign up for membership.
In the case of a free class/free trial signup, your lead nurturing process could look like this:
Call your new lead via phone and ask about their fitness goals, record the answer, and remind them that you'll see them at the first free class.
Two days later, you'll send them an email with a link to your new article on "What to Expect in Your First Month of CrossFit".
At the free trial, you'll run them through a warmup, a workout, and an introduction to the other coaches and members, before hitting them with your big close, getting them to sign up for membership.
Lead nurturing has endless variants (and doesn't stop with the sale).
You could send newsletters to leads that became members, pointing them to your new member barbecue on the last Friday of every month and inviting them to bring their family (getting you more prospects). You could then call your clients once every two months to check in on their progress and offer help. You could even follow up with leads that failed to sign up for membership, sending them your article on how to stay fit without a gym membership and inviting them to call you with questions.
The idea: once you've captured information, never stop providing your clients and prospects with valuable knowledge, regardless of where they are in your process. For instance, we've had over 400 gym owners go through Seminar 1.0. We regularly send those attendees newsletters linking back to our articles and my personal blog, whether or not they've signed up for Seminar 2.0 or engaged our consulting services. We continue to build trust so that when we do ask for the sale, those clients and prospects are more likely to say "yes".
Step 4: Threading Across Platforms
This stage is very simple in concept, and crucial to getting inbound marketing right. You're looking to keep your copy and call-to-action consistent across platforms, always sending folks back toward information capture.
Threading uses social media and newsletters to point your clients and prospects back to your content (which is linked to your landing pages, which leads them back to the lead nurturing stage), keeping them in your marketing loop.
As an example:
My recent Facebook post on Seminar 1.0 sends prospects from that platform over to this website, directly to a landing page where they can sign up. The language in the Facebook post includes the fact that the Seminar is free and valuable, and lists the dates and locations for future sessions. It includes the call-to-action "Register at (link)".
When they arrive at the landing page for Seminar 1.0, the headline on the page ("Register for AF Project Business Seminar 1.0") informs them that they've arrived at the correct place. They are greeted with similar language on the free and valuable session, and the call-to-action ("fill out the form and click the "Submit Registration" button") is easy to understand, explicit, and consistent with the call-to-action from the Facebook post.
Once they've submitted their information, they begin receiving information specific to their Seminar 1.0 location, along with valuable extras and logistical reminders, all clearly market and full of further calls-to-action. They are now back in the nurturing loop.
The thing to note here: the prospect never has any doubt as to where they are and what they should do next. This is the core lesson of threading. Use your headlines, body copy, and calls-to-action to guide your prospects step-by-step into your nurturing process.
To check the threading on your gym website:
Ensure that your "Free Trial" call-to-action actually specifies the action you want your prospect to take. A bad link says "Free Trial". A good link says "Click Here to Register for your Free Trial".
Ensure that the landing page for your free class/trial has a "Register Here for Your Free Trial" headline, a value proposition, and explicit directions as to how to sign up and what to expect afterward. That is the only purpose of the page; no other links, no other text. Just tell me what I'll get and give me directions on the next step.
When using social media and pay-per click to thread prospects toward your free trial, ensure that the links those posts go directly to the landing page (not your home page), and that those posts use the same language and headlines as the landing page.
Step 5: Planning
The basics of inbound marketing are easy to understand and enact. Still, it's important to take adequate time to plan. Start with the goal, always. What are you looking to achieve?
Membership signups? Event registrations? Increased member retention?
Once you know, create content around the goal, and use it to drive your information capture, lead nurturing, and threading efforts. For instance:
I had a consulting client with poor average attendance per member (usually the first sign of a soon-to-be-lost membership base), and we decided to create an inbound plan to address it.
We began by writing member biographies on athletes that attended often, wrote about their results, and used the copy to relate their progress to frequent attendance.
We then created a newsletter telling their stories with the subject line "3 Rules for Success at CrossFit", and sent it to the entire membership. The newsletter contained a call-to-action and hyperlink, asking readers to sign up with the Head Coach for one-on-one goal planning sessions.
The link led to a landing page that echoed the signup call-to-action, and captured member information. We further threaded the effort by posting excerpts from the newsletter on the gym's Facebook page, and linked back to the landing page.
The result: a rapid rise in attendance. Still, without identifying the primary goal (membership retention), we couldn't have planned and executed an effective inbound plan.
Here's your call-to-action: start planning your first inbound effort today. Begin with your goal, and work backward, creating applicable content, calls-to-action, landing pages (with information capture), and threading across platforms (social, paid, and newsletter). It will cost you nothing but time, and bring you nothing but more clients.
Want to develop your first Inbound Campaign? Consider attending an AF Project 2.0 Business Seminar. We'll teach you a host of valuable skills (including content marketing), allowing you to attract a parade of interested prospects and giving you the ability to close them consistently. You'll boost your bottom line (and you'll never have to compete on price again). Click below to see upcoming dates and locations.