33 Marketing Best Practice Guidelines to Help Boost Your Brand

Good marketing can be the deciding factor between a successful business and a failed business. Ensure that you are following these best practices.

Alan Leach, CEO of West Wood Clubs, and Chair of the IHRSA Board of Directors, and Cheryl Ward Barnett, chief growth officer of ROR Partners, contributed to this article.

In today’s world, marketing is an evolving and ever-changing discipline. It is the key driver of new members and guests as well as part of your member retention strategy. Review the following guidelines and then dig deeper into additional IHRSA resources to learn more.

This article is one in a series of 28 Best Practice Guidelines for Operating a Fitness Facility.

We have broken up these guidelines into 8 categories to ensure you don’t miss a thing when creating the ultimate marketing strategy for your club.

  1. Know Your Niche

  2. Target Your Marketing

  3. Make Sure All Your Marketing Tools Work Together

  4. Track Your Successes

  5. Manage Your Database and Marketing Initiatives

  6. Balance SEO With PPC

  7. Perform User Experience (UX) Testing on Your Website and Landing Pages

  8. Ensure You Are Marketing Legally

Know Your Niche

1. Position your brand within your market. For example, is your club premium, boutique, budget, trendy, serious, fun, adult, family, or other? Choose a position for your brand that you can dominate and don’t try to be everything to everyone. Set your price points based on your desired brand position and geographic market.

2. Study what customers in your market want from fitness products and services, then develop programs for the needs/desires you wish to serve. Generate leads by identifying problems you can solve within your market.

Target Your Marketing

3. Take a bottom-up approach with your target market to determine the catchment area around each facility/location so you know who to target. Restrict your digital marketing to within the target area which should be defined by drive-time, demographics, and customer penetration.

4. Market to specific segments of your catchment area based on your facility’s strengths and points of difference with your competitors. This can be done with mailing/postal codes with many vendors in many countries/regions.

5. Create custom audiences within your first-party data so you can remarket to your former customers, lapsed customers, missed guests, and web leads across all digital channels. When possible, deliver unique creative to each of the segmented audiences for increased personalization.

6. Choose the social media platforms that fit your business model and post fresh, regular, educational content to position yourself as an authority figure in your market.

7. Consider collaborating with a local influencer to increase awareness of your brand.

8. Consider creating personalized communications based on customer behavior.

9. Create custom messaging, creative, amenity highlights, and even purchase offers depending on demographics, interests, and where the customer is in the purchase funnel.

10. Understand your customer demographics and how they currently use your programs, then market to them based on their specific interests.

11. Send members email messages based on usage and interests—stay relevant.

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Make Sure All Your Marketing Tools Work Together

12. Consider a customer relationship management (CRM) software and marketing automation tools to track the progress of all marketing efforts.

13. Outline your promotional marketing calendar as part of an annual marketing plan.

14. Compliment digital advertising spend with regular direct mail campaigns. Speak with a local marketing firm or consultant about the best frequency for direct mail in your geographic market. Many clubs do a minimum of two to four direct mail campaigns a year. Ensure a consistent consumer experience. The call to action on your digital advertising should match what the customer sees on the website/landing page as they click through.

15. Utilize remarketing in all channels of marketing: social media, pay-per-click (PPC), display, acquisition email, and website visitors.

16. Develop a series of retention marketing initiatives to continue engaging your current customers and generate referrals.

17. Incorporate user-generated content (UGC), such as testimonials and social posts, into your digital advertising to increase brand awareness and engagement.

Track Your Successes

18. Don’t overspend or underspend on marketing. Set a specific return on investment (ROI) for your marketing spend and adjust accordingly to meet your desired ROI. Measure effectiveness. Typical marketing spend is 1-4% of revenue. 2% seems to be a current norm based on digital focus.

19. Determine your key performance indicators (KPI) and analyze them regularly.

20. Manage and measure the effectiveness of search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), and PPC marketing.

Manage Your Database and Marketing Initiatives

21. Build and own your customer database. Coordinate all marketing campaigns as well as your website to drive leads directly to your database.

22. Regularly audit your email database to remove duplicate entries.

23. Offer something complimentary to generate leads and grow your database.

24. Keep all online listings up-to-date and consider using a listing management platform.

25. Audit your website regularly and develop a plan for the next revision or release.

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Balance SEO With PPC

26. Review how you are ranking organically for your branded keywords.

27. Assuming strong performance, strike a balance by bidding for a higher percentage of non-branded keywords.

28. Branded keywords will give you low cost per action (CPA), however, utilizing non-branded keywords geographically closer to the facility will help fill the top of the funnel with qualified leads.

Perform User Experience (UX) Testing on Your Website and Landing Pages

29. If you offer online join and/or free workouts on your website, keep that visible and easy for the prospective customer to find and complete.

30. Capture information in every step of the online purchase process so you can track performance as well as remarket to the prospective customer should they abandon before purchase.

Ensure You Are Marketing Legally

31. Follow all local, national, and regional (e.g. GDPR) privacy laws. Obtain legal counsel to advise and maintain compliance with all applicable data protection laws.

32. Obtain explicit permission to call, email, and SMS/text message your customers where relevant.

33. Use an email service that automatically removes unsubscribes from your database.

This article is part of the 28 Best Practice Guidelines for Operating a Fitness Facility series, where we’ll cover topics like fitness inclusion, emergency preparedness, group fitness, and more in upcoming articles.

Additional Marketing Resources for Fitness Professionals

IHRSA has an extensive library of marketing articles, webinars, publications, and videos. View our Sales & Marketing section to learn more about how to market your business. Plus, check out How Behavioral Design Can Transform Your Business.

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Author avatar

HFA Staff @HealthFitAssoc

This article was a team effort by several HFA experts.