The Perfect Local Marketing Blend for Gyms

May 4, 2017 - 7 min read
Cheering guy behind his desk - Virtuagym

If you’re a local gym, local marketing for gyms is going to be pretty darn important for you. What you do online plays a critical role in local marketing.

As it turns out, only 44% of businesses have claimed their business on Google . That’s surprising if you take into consideration that 64% of locals use search engines to find local businesses, like your gym for example! Not only do they use search engines, they loooove social networks, with Facebook being the number one platform for acquiring members .

So, say you’ve been searching for a local fitness club.

Chances are, you’re going to see a few tailored ads on your social media accounts afterward. And one way to make sure that your gym will pop up on a potential clients’ network is by reading this article ;-)

Because we know how time-consuming running a gym can be I’ve set up this starter’s guide to local marketing for gyms to help you in your process of smashing your online and offline local presence. Because let’s be honest, local marketing for gyms is pretty important. Online and offline marketing have to go hand in hand these days - especially if you’re targeting millennials .

Why Online Matters for Local Marketing

The Benefits of Social Media

Ah, Instagram and Facebook. They are great platforms for sharing. The possibilities of online communities go so much further than posting health tips for your clients. They are an excellent way to promote your brand.

Take Facebook for instance.

Starting in 2015, they launched local awareness ads. If you register yourself as a local business you can select a target radius for your ad, say 150m. Not only will your ads show up on Facebook, but in local searches on Google too.

Big plus:

You’ll get insights into your local audience like:

  • Age and gender
  • Busiest day of the week
  • Busiest time of the week
  • The percentage of people reached
  • Location

Age, gender, and busiest times of those on Facebook around your business are shown on the ‘Local Insights’ page. You’ll be able to better target your audience expertly with demographics like these.

You’ll have the possibility to understand and cater to the needs of potential customers. Take this insight for example:

FB insights

From this, I can see that the best time to post would be on a Thursday between 15.00-16.00, and I also know that to get an even bigger reach, I should target my post to 25 to 34 year-olds.

Much like Facebook, you can get the same information from Instagram. Facebook and Instagram allow you to target your ads specifically. You can do this by setting the parameters for your target audiences, for example, their location, age, and gender.

Utilizing Google for Local Marketing

Signing up your business on Google is an absolute must! You might be thinking “Well duh, of course, I did that.” But there’s no harm in pointing out a few handy tips too:

  1. Verify your business on Google by signing up for free. You’ll then receive a call or letter from Google, and all you’ll have to do is double check your information, and hey presto, you’re a verified business. You’ll be expanding your presence by being more likely to pop up on a local search. google set up
  2. Contact a Google ‘trusted photographer’ who can set up a visual tour of your gym. You’ll be able to show off those fantastic facilities before potential client’s step foot in your gym. When they’re looking at your gym on street view, the ‘see inside’ button will guide them through the virtual tour.
  3. Offer a week long membership, or another incentive for those who write you a review on Google, this is going to help you build credibility when people conduct a local search. It may be a small step, but it makes a big difference.

4 Tactics That Boost Local Marketing For Gyms

1. Competitions and Merchandise

I recently met with Halima Hollenberg, co-owner of FemmeGym, a female-only gym in Amsterdam. They’ve always had a clear vision of what their gym should be, and that was to keep the customer at the center by focusing on the client experience.

FemmeGym has a lot of variation in what they post online, but their message is always clear and consistent. One of their popular hits is the recurring competition held every three to four months, and the steps are simple.

  • Take a picture with your FemmeGym bag
  • Post the picture to FemmeGym
  • Employees or members of the gym will pick who wins. Now, if their members are picking the winner, they’ll start tagging their friends. Some of which will live locally! They’ll become aware of your gym, and launch the word of mouth train.
  • The winner receives three free months of membership.
  • Repeat!


How does this tie into local marketing for gyms?

It’s simple:

They have promotional gear available and a free tote bag for clients after completing a 6-month membership. The merch is an incentive to join, but it’s also going to spread the word through the neighborhood!

You can’t ignore it when more and more women pop up around town with branded bags.

2. Philanthropy

Choosing a charity to sponsor can be a good way to improve the relationship within your neighborhood. If you’re stuck on a charity to choose you can get your members in on it! Once you’ve chosen a charity, you can begin to organize events.

Use online channels to advertise and support the events. Blogs, online campaigns, paid Facebook ads which target people in the neighborhood; it all helps to promote your gyms’ cause - and your gym itself by proxy.

A business that’s doing it right is  Fitness Formula Clubs , a US fitness chain that sponsors many charities, including the Heart Alliance, and the American Lung Association.

Further increase your brand awareness by sponsoring your clients. Mingle with them and find out if any of your members are involved in local sports events, for example, a marathon. Once again, make sure to have promotional gear around.

3. Perfect Partnerships

Scan your neighborhood and see what local businesses are in your vicinity. You can use these businesses as an opportunity to widen your sphere of visibility. Partner up with businesses by offering a discount to gym members, or get chummy with the local GP and see if he is willing to refer physio patients to your facility.

FemmeGym is a great example of a gym that has a good partnership program. If you take a browse through their Facebook or Instagram, you’ll see that they give 10% discounts to their members on locally selected stores. I recommend checking it out.

femmegym discount

The extra business brought to the local stores will help to promote a healthy relationship with gym clients, and the store employees, and it might even encourage the employees of these locally run stores to use your services.

4. Referral Programs

Having a referral sheet and leaving it at the front desk, or somewhere visible in your gym is an absolute must! Why? Because it’s the unfortunate truth that clients won’t stick around forever, so you’ve got to utilize your member’s network by setting up a referral program .

While referral campaigns can be fully offline, there’s plenty you can do online too.

Set up a monthly email campaign, and a website page alerting your members of the referral program/s. Tell them how to sign up and what the guidelines are, so that means creating an online referral form too. You can check out ours for some inspiration.

There are several types of referral programs, like client referrals or competitive referrals. It’s one of the many fun sides of fitness marketing, and you can get extra creative too with a free day pass for a friend when signing up, or a month free for every new member they bring.

Sport club referrals are pretty useful so mingle with your members to see if any are part of a local sports team, the closer, the better. Make sure that you have the equipment that they’ll need for training too, for example, rowing machines for the local rowing team.


There are lots of simple tricks you can implement to establish yourself in your community. The trick is to find the right mix for you while keeping the customer at the center. If you’ve read more of our articles you’ll notice that this is a running trend: know your brand and your target audience.

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Anna Thorsen

A Communication Officer at Virtuagym who enjoys traveling far and wide, and I'm passionate about art and philosophy too!