Today, networking is not just about talking to trade groups or creating refer-a-friend programs to gain a foothold in your community. Today’s consumers are a little more savvy, so that means if we want to become the go-to gym in our areas, we need to get creative with how we network and advertise our services.
Here are 5 out-of-the-box ideas you can implement TODAY in your facility for $0 to raise awareness and 1 that costs a little bit, (but even that is negotiable).
1. Barter Organizations
Look, I know most of you will skip right over this idea due to the fact that you’re not getting actual cash, but please hear me out. I am involved in several groups of business organizations in my area who barter their services for the equivalent in trade dollars for other services. The businesses involved range from printers and security service providers to landscape designers and dentists.
What happens in these organizations is that businesses seek out others for services they need and offer to trade with you. If you don’t have a use for their service, you are given an equivalent amount of trade dollars to use with any other business in your organization. For instance, if a landscape designer approaches me with interest in providing his 3-person team with personal training services I would tell him how much that would cost. The key here is that these are new clients that would otherwise NEVER have come in to see us. And from these new clients, I can set them up with paid services such as daily smoothies, supplements or nutrition programs.
At any rate, I don’t have any need for landscaping at our facility, so I would be given the equivalent amount in barter bucks to use for something else like painting, office supplies, or janitorial services. You are not getting actual cash, but you are also out a lot less money for services you would typically pay for out of pocket. At any given time, I have between $2-$15k in barter bucks to use for those expenses that pop up unexpectedly. I can now save the actual cash for services and use my barter instead. This keeps cash in the bank for operating costs. Think of barter as a separate bank account that can be used for just about anything. It’s a real no-brainer in my opinion, you just have to think outside the box!
There are many barter organizations across the U.S., it just takes a quick Google search and an email or phone call to screen them.
2. Discounts for Local Businesses
This one isn’t actually that novel, but it’s something that’s often overlooked and for me, has been quite profitable. When we moved into a new business center, I personally visited each and every company in the complex and offered them a great rate for their employees. More than one business took us up on the offer, which is great, but one company purchased memberships for all of their employees. We have continued to show great value to the organization by helping promote a healthy workforce and have now been approached to design a nutrition plan for their company as well.
3. Joint Venture (JV) with Other Local Businesses
The idea behind this suggestion is to partner with another company who may share a similar client demographics, where you each trade special offers for your clients. Let me explain. Say you share a shopping center with a day spa. You approach the management of the spa and tell them that you would like to offer a discount to their clients for one free week of training. You offer to write the emails from the spa’s point of view, allowing the customer to draw the conclusion that they (the spa owners) care so much about their clients that they “went to bat” for them with the gym to get them a special offer, only available to them. The spa sends out the emails that you wrote to their own list, themselves.
Reciprocally, the spa then creates an offer to extend to your (the gym’s) clients. They will write the emails for you from the gym’s point of view and you send their discount out to your client list, however you can offer to write the emails for them as well. This way, both companies look like they are going above and beyond for their clients AND are able to reach potential customers to whom they previously did not market. Neither partner in the venture compromises their own email list because you don’t hand it over. It’s a value add for both partners, yet it can be potentially difficult to explain to other business owners who may not be savvy marketers like you are. Done correctly, however, this can be a very successful campaign for both you and your partner company.
4. Community Facebook Page
This suggestion is a straight ninja tactic. You know how I always talk about providing valuable content to your clients and prospects alike? That’s the idea behind creating a community page. It is just is an undercover way of reaching your target demographic without coming straight at them with advertisements or marketing copy.
Create a free, private Facebook group such as Healthy Living, Scottsdale, where you are the creator, the administrator and resident expert. Post relevant articles, blogs, recipes and local fitness and outdoor events. Make it a fun place for the community to interact with each other-somewhere they want to comment and learn and ultimately invite others to do the same. But, DO NOT pitch anything in there and do not allow anyone else to do so either. People will eventually figure out who you are and what gym you own and visit you there.
Grow your followers by running contests – give away shaker bottles when you reach 1000 followers; offer tickets to spring training for getting the most people to follow your page. One of the best things about this is that you can add all of your local friends to the page without them even knowing about it. Then, your content shows up on their feed and they can add their own friends from there. Slam dunk, also a $0 cost play!
5. Charity Workouts
This is a win-win for everyone. Create a fun charity fundraiser at your gym by offering a paid workout to the community at large. Allow the charity to help market the event, reaching a potential client base that wouldn’t have come in otherwise while also allowing your members to bring in family and friends. Donate all of the proceeds to the charity, but collect the contact information from all participants. Several hours after the event, send an email to the entire list with a note that says “Thank you for coming to support the charity. With your help, we have raised $X to be used toward research for a cure. Here are some pictures and videos from the event today. Please connect with us on Facebook and as a special thank you for coming out today, here is a FREE 7 day pass to come in and give us a try. We would love to see you again.”
6. Mud Runs
Races of all types are still hot and a great way to build team camaraderie with gym members, their family and friends. We participate in several every year and always have a great turn out. The best ones are when our teams are comprised of even numbers of members and non-members because not only do we have a great time training for and participating in the event itself, there is great word of mouth publicity for us along the way. While there is usually a fee involved to sponsor a team in addition to the nominal participation fees, you may be able to get them to waive it if you bring a large enough team to participate.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of out-of-the-box networking opportunities, but they are all suggestions that you can incorporate easily into your fitness marketing plan and most will not cost you a dime out of pocket. Good luck!