Tricks of the Trade

May 28, 2008

What marketing strategy has worked especially well for you?

The best—and most cost-effective—form of advertising is, and always will be, word of mouth. In the fitness industry, we stay in business over the long term because we get results for clients. Without those results, throwing money at costly marketing and advertising initiatives is futile.

At FRESH! we focus on doing what we do best (getting our clients the results they desire and need). Once we do this, they are more than happy to speak our praises to their friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances or just about anyone they meet. Of course we help the process by formally asking for referrals, testimonials and feedback on our performance.

With this invaluable information at our disposal, we can easily add it to our e-mail newsletter, our website and any other marketing materials we generate. As a small business, we can’t afford “brand marketing,” so we focus on specific population segments with cost-effective strategic marketing options that utilize our community alliances and social networks.

Most personal trainers and clubs approach marketing backwards and try to attract large groups of people without proof of the effectiveness of their services. People won’t buy unless they know us, like us and trust us. Accomplishing this task is very difficult without a strong history of getting results and having “raving fans” for clients.

Tim Borys
President and CEO, FRESH! Fitness
Calgary, Alberta

When we decided to collaborate with another business and package our services together, we doubled our database and exposure. My company provides personal training and group exercise classes with a holistic approach. As exercise specialists we feel confident prescribing exercise programs for all populations, but sometimes our clients need extra assistance with dietary modifications.

To help our clients and also to broaden our marketing base, we decided to work with a group of local dietitians. We created different package options that enabled clients to see us for the exercise component and go to a dietitian in the group for help with their diet. This strategy was highly effective because we attained all of the dietitians’ database contacts, to whom we now send our newsletter and promotional information. In turn, we have a great referral source and are listed on the dietitians’ website as the exercise specialists to go to; essentially every person who visits the office of these dietitians is exposed to our company name and services. This marketing strategy has proved lucrative and helped build more community awareness for us.

Kate Rogers, MS
Director of Personal Training and Group
Exercise, State of the Heart Fitness
Santa Monica, California

Over the years we have tried many marketing techniques—some more successful than others. The trick is to evaluate your market and determine the best way to access it. Newspaper ads hit a wide population but may miss your target audience. At the very least, they serve as good name recognition and remind the community that you are there. Timing is everything. Typically, after the New Year, when people are more apt to be looking to start new fitness habits and when the papers run special health and fitness sections, is the best time to invest in these ads.

Whether you decide to do the more expensive direct mailings or simply to put up fliers in your location and surrounding towns will depend on the numbers you want to attract. If those numbers are relatively small, you would do better focusing on your immediate residential area. This is an effective and more economical method. Often, local merchants will allow you to post fliers or leave color postcards printed with your schedule and other information in their stores. Dry cleaners, nail and hair salons and even grocery stores are good places to leave your contact information. Take advantage of this opportunity and offer to do the same for them if appropriate.

Higher-tech communications like e-mail or newsletters via e-mail are a great way to stay connected to present and past clients. You can use these vehicles to inform clients of upcoming events as well as schedule changes or to relay any announcements.

No matter which advertising method you use, its effectiveness is only as good as your follow-up. Make sure that when a potential client makes an initial inquiry, you respond quickly. The sooner you call back, the sooner you can get that client to come in. And that, after all, is the goal.

Dale Weber, MS
Lorraine DeLuca, MS
Owners, Bedford Pilates & Fitness LLC
Bedford Village, New York


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