Word-of-mouth is one of the most effective, yet hard to track, forms of marketing. Customer service is a key element of success here, but at the same time, so is exposure.
It’s not free advertising — it’s better, because studies have shown word-of-mouth referrals, while harder to come by, crush advertising.
When it comes to local success, you can’t overlook the people in your neighborhood. And with that, cue Sesame Street:
Assuming your gym isn’t in a field in a remote location — and if it is, well, this still pertains to you, but you’ll need to work harder to make it happen — you probably have neighbors in the business community. Maybe they’re adjacent to your facility, maybe they’re up the block. You probably also have parks nearby, and maybe even beaches like we do here in San Diego.
PR firms typically deal in media relations — working with journalists, bloggers, etc. to get a brand’s story out to the media. In this instance though, I’m actually referring to true public relations. Build good will for your gym in the local neighborhood and with your own members by putting yourself out there in the public.
To start, let’s assume there’s some healthy places to eat near your facility. Your members probably like to eat sooner than later after a workout in order to maximize those gains, right?
Consider approaching quick service restaurants — or bars, because everyone loves happy hour — with the idea of a discount for members on certain days or certain times. Your gym probably doesn’t have ID cards for members, but I bet it sells shirts. And maybe it has stickers for their water bottles too. Work it out with these local eateries so that people who somehow show they’re a member can receive a small, but meaningful discount. Perhaps it’s only after a workout; perhaps it’s all the time. It’ll most likely bring extra people into the restaurant and at the same time, help your community get to know each other outside the gym.
While I’m on the subject of T-shirts and stickers: You do sell T-shirts, right? Good quality ones? These branding tools help your facility live outside of its four walls. They’re a must. Once you have them, you should think of ways to leverage them to build more good will in your surrounding neighborhood.
As I said, you probably have a park nearby. Or beach. Or some sort of run or walk event coming up for a worthwhile charity.
Motivate and organize your members to participate in these in some way, while wearing your gear. Maybe it’s being part of a cleanup or manning water stations during a fun-run. Perhaps offer to donate, or sell at a steep discount, your shirts and accessories so members can wear them while participating in this upcoming charity event.
Why? Again, this is where the ‘public’ comes into public relations. If enough of your members show up, they’ll catch the attention of the public. Then people may ask questions about your gym. Maybe they’ll join, maybe they won’t, but at the least they’ll have a positive experience to associate with your brand.
Stereotypes about CrossFit and HIIT facilities run rampant, and from an outsider’s perspective looking in at your gym, well, daily workouts look pretty intimidating compared to people cruising on the elliptical or some sort of machine at a mega gym. Trust me, those workouts were intimidating to me before I started.
Motivating your members to be part of your neighborhood outside of the gym, either on a volunteer level or through their shopping habits, can not only build good will, but also build your fan base.
It’s a win for everyone involved.