Essential Gym Marketing Funnels: Paid Ads

A graphic showing a finger about to click a computer screen with a graphs of sales and advertising metrics.

Want a steady stream of new clients?

You need four marketing funnels running at all times.

In this series, I’ve helped you build three funnels: the referral funnel, the content funnel and the organic social media funnel. Now it’s time to add fuel to the fire.

Before you run ads, you should have the three other funnels set up. Each multiplies the value of paid ads: referrals double your return on ad spend, content builds trust with cold leads, and organic social media lets you build a better audience for your ads and give people little samples of your personality. A lead who clicks through your ad with no other context will be very cold.

Paid ads aren’t an art; they’re a science. We teach Two-Brain gym owners how to be scientific about ads in our Growth Course.

Here are the most important things:

1. Know your numbers. It’s easy to say “my ads don’t work!” but when we audit a gym’s marketing funnels, we often see the ads do work but their sales process is broken. Or their lead-nurture process doesn’t work. Or their website doesn’t work. Before you can determine what to spend on paid ads, you need to know your set rate, show rate and close rate. (We teach you what these are and how to measure them in our RampUp program.)

2. Boost your best organic posts first. If you don’t have good traction with your organic posts, you probably won’t be good at creating ads. Think of investing in ads as pouring gasoline on an already-burning fire. The bigger the fire, the greater the impact of the gasoline. If you’re not good at consistently posting on social media, it’s too early to pay for ads. Two-Brain clients can easily build a publishing habit: There are hundreds of posts, images, AI prompts and graphics for them to swipe from our Content Vault.
Spend $5 a day boosting your three best posts before you set up an ad campaign.

3. Set up three ads and test them. Use a mentor to jump through months of trial-and-error, but do not use an agency to run your ads for you at this stage. Remember when I said that paid ads are a science, not an art? That means you’re going to be systematic about testing. Run three ads for at least 14 days, then pick the one that performs best (meaning it creates a measurable increase in leads to your site). If your site doesn’t measure the number of leads you’re getting, go back to Step 1 above. Pick the ad that’s performing best. Shut off the other two ads and dedicate your full ad spend to the working one.

4. If you want, try running two more ads as testers while maintaining your spend on the working ad.

5. Finally, you can outsource the process only when you understand your metrics, have someone who will report on the process and know how to fix the process when it eventually stops working. (This could be months or even years, but eventually every ad campaign will stop working—and you won’t know it’s stopped until you understand your metrics.)

Ad Agency?

Hiring an ad agency before Step 5 will not help you. It might generate traffic, but you won’t know. You won’t maximize your return on ad spend because you won’t have the other pieces in place. Instead, the agency will maximize the spend instead of the return. Their job is to spend the money.

When an agency leaves—as they eventually will—you’ll be back to square one. It’s better to learn to drive before you buy the car.

The top reasons gym owners hire ad agencies is fear: They don’t know how to run ads and they fear they can’t figure it out. We help them do that, and it saves them $3,000 every month in agency costs. Some still decide to hire an agency later, just to save time and energy. I get that. But they’re doing it with their eyes open, and they know how to tell if the agency is doing well with the gym’s money.

When to Run Ads

Should you run paid ads? Yes. After you’ve set up your other funnels.

Do you need to run paid ads? Probably not. I spend $5 per day to run the same ad I’ve run for three years. I’m in a small market, but I also have good referral rates, solid content and consistent social media posts.

We teach clients how to build all these funnels, in order, in our RampUp and Growth programs (and it’s all plug and play).

You didn’t open a gym to learn marketing. But when you opened a gym, you accepted the marketing job. Don’t worry: It’s not complicated when you build your funnels with a mentor.

Other Media in This Series

“The Referral Funnel”
“The Content Funnel”
“The Organic Social Media Funnel”


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.