Should You Hire an Ad Agency for Your Gym?

"Agency" text on a glass window of a business with Venetian blinds behind.

Advertising is tough to figure out.

Though Facebook and Google provide tools to show us what’s working, advertising is complex. It’s always been this way. John Wanamaker, the “father of marketing,” famously said this over 100 years ago:

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

Because gym owners have very little money to waste, they don’t want to gamble on advertising. So they have three choices:

  1. Figure it out.
  2. Hire someone else.
  3. Ignore it and hope for the best.


The third approach isn’t really an option anymore. Though strategies such as affinity marketing multiply your return on advertising, you still have to pay to talk to strangers. And Facebook, Instagram and TikTok aren’t good “free” strategies anymore.

So you’re left with figuring it out or hiring someone.


Ad Agencies: The Good and the Bad


There are pros and cons to using an ad agency.


Pros

You don’t have to spend time figuring out ads, setting up campaigns or building audiences.

You can probably start right away because there’s no time requirement for learning.


Cons

There’s still a learning curve. An ad agency will have to spend money to figure out what doesn’t work in your case.

You have an incentive problem: The ad agency is incentivized to maximize lead flow, which means it will spend all the money it can.

An agency will also charge a lot, driving up your cost of lead acquisition. Can you really afford to spend $100-$200 for each new client or will you lose money on the front end?

Agencies will define “a lead” differently than you do and almost always produce cold leads who don’t know much about your service—or, worse, who might be unqualified.


Should You Farm Out Your Advertising to an Agency?


The bottom line: Ad agencies optimize for quantity over quality.

But you have to advertise. So should you pay an agency to do it for you?

It depends what stage of business you’re in.


Founder Phase

Stick with referrals and organic posting.


Farmer Phase

Learn about search-engine optimization (SEO), Google ads, Facebook and Instagram. Free up time to do it. You probably have some money to spend but not much to waste.

We train gym owners to do this stuff for themselves in our RampUp program. Even if you decide to hire someone else later, you’ll know how to measure their efficacy. Knowing how to run ads yourself has a huge return on investment: When you know if you’re getting good results, you won’t ever waste money on advertising.

Most people who hire ad agencies employ a “Jesus, take the wheel!” approach. They abdicate knowledge and responsibility to the agency—and therefore live at the mercy of the agency. The agency staff can do whatever they want and raise rates anytime, knowing that the gym owner is totally dependent on them for lead flow. This is a dangerous position.


Tinker Phase

After you’ve learned to do it yourself, delegate the repetitive tasks. Either hire someone who’s an expert (which is going to be expensive) or keep the creative work for yourself and delegate the posting, audience building, funnel setup, reporting and other repetitive tasks.

If you hire someone, you’re going to need a lot of leads to cover the cost. Make sure your systems can support a large inflow of new leads. Many entrepreneurs who hire ad agencies get caught in this trap: The agency is expensive, but it’s generating leads. Yet the business can’t handle them so it loses money.


We’ll Teach You How to Run Ads


When I found someone to handle my advertising, I hired him—and I paid him to teach gym owners how to handle their own advertising. Now we have a full Facebook and Instagram advertising course in Two-Brain; it’s included in RampUp at no extra charge even though it will create tens of thousands of dollars in revenue (and savings) for an owner over the life of a gym. We provide the course because you need this stuff, and if you need it, it’s in RampUp.

It’s rare that an ad agency is worth the investment for gym owners. If you have a large gym and your time is worth more than the cost of the ad agency, then hiring can be a great investment. But for more than 80 percent of gym owners worldwide, it’s better to learn how to advertise properly.

Even if you eventually hire someone else to run your ads, you’ll know how to maximize your ROI on that investment.

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