Marketing Ideas for New Gym Owners

A hand with scissors cuts red tape at a gym grand opening.

The most challenging part of starting a gym business is attracting new clients—but you can do it with solid gym opening ideas.

Even though you might have had a strong client base as a coach, scaling up to a client base capable of sustaining a profitable gym is a formidable task. Therefore, your marketing efforts should go beyond just circulating fliers and putting ads online or in print media.

Currently, many well-researched techniques can help you acquire enthusiastic paying members even before you cut the ribbon on opening day. Read on: Along with sharing some terrific gym-opening ideas, we’ll explain how you can create a solid client base that will support your business.

Marketing Ideas Before Your Gym’s Doors Open

In the first stage of gym ownership, you need to get to breakeven—or profitability—fast. That can be very tough without a marketing plan, and many gyms struggle in the early stages and bleed money as they try to sign up new clients.

The solution: assembling your initial group of clients into a “founders club.” If you employ smart marketing techniques that earn clients before you open, you could start on Day 1 with 50 to 70 members, like some Two-Brain clients have. One Two-Brain client had 94 members on opening!

The founders club is without doubt the most important of all gym opening ideas. It can literally supercharge your business and ensure you’re profitable as soon as you open.

A portrait of a woman with a set of muscular arms drawn on the orange background behind her.
Members of your founders club will be very likely to tell their family and friends about your new business.

Adding Incentives for Your Founders Club Membership

Offering a value-added incentive to the founders club membership package is among the best gym opening promo ideas. If you are unsure of what gifts to include in your offer, think of services that will assist your new members in keeping up with their fitness and dietary regimens. You can also include “can’t buy it” apparel that will give founders a sense of pride.

For example, a founder’s club membership might include:

  • “Founders Club” T-shirt ($25).
  • Two free coaching sessions ($175).
  • 12 months of free passes to all seminars ($250).
  • Two free fitness challenges ($200).
  • Free nutrition consultation ($50).

You should include the price of the benefits in your founders-club offer so people understand they’re getting an incredibly valuable package. Also, this approach fits into a marketing format most consumers understand.

One caution: We don’t recommend you offer discounted membership rates. Doing so attracts flighty people and will force you to recruit more people to reach breakeven.

With your founders-club offer set, get it in front of as many people as you can and sign them up so they can get started right on Day 1.

Give the Pre-Registered Members a Hard-Hat Tour

Along with satisfying the curiosity of your first members, a tour of your gym in the development stage helps make your founders feel like they’re part of the process. In the future, they can brag to new members about how they were part of the original group that helped launch your gym. This sense of pride and feeling of “ownership” are good reasons this idea should make your gym opening promo checklist.

When your fired-up founders are in your under-construction space, ask them if they know of other people who might want to take advantage of your pre-opening offers. At the very least, ask your founders to tell their contacts about what they saw during the tour and how excited they are to start training.

Click here to get a collection  of free founders club resources.

Gym Opening Ideas: Your Grand Opening

We recommend holding your grand opening about a month after your “soft” opening day. This will give you three to four weeks to promote the event. In the lead time, you can use your social-media platform to get your target audience excited about the event with Facebook or Instagram promotional videos, pictures and content.

When your first members start training, you’ll have an army of “marketing assistants.” Your new clients will no doubt love your facility and staff, so be sure to let them know that their family and friends are more than welcome at the grand opening. Anyone who shows up with a current member will be a very warm lead.

Your community engagement efforts should also include inviting your neighbors, circulating flyers and using word of mouth. At the event, be sure to collect email addresses of attendees. You can start conversations after the event by thanking them for attending and asking if they have any questions. Be sure to add the addresses to your mailing list so your lead-nurturing sequences can warm the leads further.

To help you optimize your event, we offer these gym opening ideas.

A closeup of the search box for an internet search engine.
When local people search for “gym near me,” you want to be at the top of the list!

Maximize Your local Online Search Presence

According to a 2010 BIA/Kelsey consumer tracking study, 90 percent of consumers surveyed were already using search engines to comparison-shop in their local areas. So, to ensure that consumers in your target audience can locate your online and physical address, you should list your gym on Google My Business and Yelp.

At no cost to you, Google My Business offers you a business profile, storefront and service area. This platform allows you to promote special events, offers and discounts. In addition, you can post content, images and videos like you do on a social-media platform. Most importantly, it gives you a free listing on Google Search and Maps.

In addition, you can track your profile visits, map visits, conversions and other key metrics on your Google My Business profile dashboard.

Google encourages businesses to create and update their profiles, and the company even suggests an optimized profile will improve local search ranking. That’s important when you consider that attributes 92 percent of search-engine market share to Google.

In your list of gym opening ideas, put a start beside getting your profile set up. This is an essential business practice!

“The Guide to Local SEO for Gym Owners”

Yelp offers similar free features and services, including a listing on Yelp’s powerful consumer search engine. In addition, the company claims 97 percent of users purchase from businesses they found on Yelp. You can also receive and respond to messages, track your progress on the platform’s analytics page and exploit other social-media-like features.

Both business listing platforms base their rating system on customer reviews posted on their sites. So encouraging your founders-club members, stakeholders, friends and associates to leave positive reviews will help your cause. In particular, the Google My Business app makes it very easy to send happy clients requests for reviews by text or other messaging platforms. These reviews will be read by prospective clients and help increase the status of your brand.

In addition, use the best search engine optimization (SEO) practices in all your postings.

A closeup of veggies at a farmers market.
Healthy food and fitness: Complementary businesses can partner to give each other access to new audiences.

Join Forces With a Nonprofit or Complementary Business

Partnering with a health-related, nonprofit fundraiser is a wise gym grand-opening idea for four good reasons:

1. You get the opportunity to double your marketing reach for your opening and connect with people who might not be in your audience yet.

2. Partnering with a nonprofit organization can be cost-effective because of pooled budgets and talent resources.

3. It could increase your gym’s credibility and status in the community.

4. Your gym could develop an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship with the nonprofit.

As part of the collaboration, you can implement a sign-up drive with an option for new members to add a donation to your nonprofit partner. Gestures like this can define your brand as a philanthropic, socially conscious business. Today’s consumers value these traits in a company. For example, a study from the Nonprofits Source found that 90 percent of businesses discovered that partnering with nonprofit organizations enhanced their brand.

Similarly, strong local partnerships can benefit both businesses and their clients. For example, consider inviting a local farmers market to set up a booth at your grand opening. The market will sell some produce and your clients will get access to locally sourced healthy food. In this scenario, you also have an easy way to start conversations about your nutrition services.

The strongest businesses have webs of local connections. Make some!

Plan to Distribute Branded Giveaways

Whether you choose to hold raffle drawings or fun competitions for prizes, branded giveaways have great short- and long-term marketing benefits. People love free stuff, but once the free item in their possession, they see your logo all the time. This fact is the reason customized giveaways might be a solid addition to your gym grand opening promo checklist.

In a survey conducted by Total Inspired Branding, 96 percent of consumers want to know whether a company is offering customized promotional giveaways ahead of time, and 83 percent of consumers are more likely to become customers of the business responsible for the promotional gift. Popular products for branded giveaways are backpacks, T-shirts, watter bottles and gym bags.

A closeup of a video camera to demonstrate a great gym opening idea.
Local media outlets are often looking for great stories. Contact TV and radio stations and tell them about all the happy people getting fit at your gym.

Alert Local TV and Radio Stations to Your Gym’s Grand Opening

This gym grand-opening idea used to be a standard marketing tactic. But today, small businesses often bypass local TV and radio coverage for online promotional options. However, TV and radio are still powerful means of spreading your marketing message. According to BIA statistics, TV has an annual transaction value of $4 billion, and radio’s transaction value is $178 million.

Some people assume that local TV and radio stations are too busy to cover a local gym grand opening. However, journalists are constantly looking for local color stories and material for filler spots. One successful phone call to a local news director could significantly affect your promotion success.

If you can present local media with a unique story or a different story angle, you stand a better chance of getting your event covered. For example, here are six story angles that might catch a local news director’s eye.

1. You’re a disabled veteran who wants to help others recover from setbacks through fitness like you did.

2. Your gym grand opening is raising money for the homeless.

3. The gym is in a historical building that has been vacant for decades

4. Your gym business has a novel approach to exercise, coaching or operation.

5. You have famous parents or you are famous.

6. You serve a specific niche in a new way—for example, you offer functional fitness training for seniors.

Another advantage of this gym grand opening idea is most local TV and radio stations have a digital presence. So you can benefit from online and traditional local media coverage at once by using this gym opening promo idea.

Once you build a list of media contacts, blast it with a press release or brief when you run other events that might be of interest.

Provide Your Own Video Coverage

Using social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, YouTube and Instagram, you can create a video documentary of the event. The appropriate length will depend on the platform. Videos should include highlights from before, during and after the gym grand opening. You can showcase some classes, coaches and founders-club members participating in gym activities. The goal: show off the most marketable aspects of your business and hope to catch the eyes of prospective clients.

Also, live-streaming your grand opening over your social media profiles might tempt people to come down to the gym and join in the fun. Even if they don’t show up, every second they watch represents a stronger connection to a new person.

As with all your social media output, acknowledge and respond to all comments and questions posted on your videos. And be sure to respond to direct messages as fast as possible. An increasing number of consumers prefer to interact with businesses on social media.

A portrait of a dog wearing sunglasses presented as part of a list of gym-opening ideas.
You might not be able to get Tom Brady to your gym—but get creative and contact local celebrities who might put in an appearance.

Invite an Influencer or Famous Person

This gym grand-opening idea might require you to use your powers of negotiation. If you know a famous person who will show up at the opening, it can significantly boost your marketing efforts because celebrity sells. Your endorser can be an athlete, actor, internet influencer, local radio personality or reality TV star. If they have a following, their presence will give unrivaled credibility to your gym.

You might know a celebrity who’s been out of circulation and needs exposure. In this case, you could offer to feature this person on your social media, blog posts, videos and other promotional material. Or maybe a local fitness athlete is looking to boost their status in the gym community.

Using star power can produce stunning results if the person connects with your audience. And research has shown a direct positive correlation between celebrity endorsements and profits. In addition, stars can provide access to unique spaces in your marketplace.

If you don’t know any famous people, ask around in your social circles. Also, you can search social media platforms for fitness influencers in your area. Some might jump at the chance to be part of your event and connect with a new audience. And if you partner with a nonprofit as suggested above, you can sometimes access celebrities who like to give back to the community by attending events.

Whatever enticement you offer could have an excellent return on investment if you use this gym opening promo idea.

Provide Healthy Food

No grand opening would be complete without tasty, healthy food. So, your opening should not be an exception. As suggested above, you could use this gym grand-opening tactic to found partner relationships with local healthy food-prep businesses and markets.

Meal-prepping companies offer consumers convenient and helpful ways to stay on track with their eating routines, and they’re always looking to connect with busy people. You could invite two or three local meal-prep services to set up a “tasting area” at the opening. Plus, you can provide healthy finger foods and beverages to round things out. You want it to be an overall wonderful experience, so do a preliminary taste test before you decide to include a vendor.

Similarly, supplement retailers often love to connect with gyms because people who work out are always asking about post-workout nutrition, pre-workout stimulants, protein shakes and other products. Local stores might be happy to provide prizes, samples or reps who can answer questions.

A smiling man exists a coffee store carrying for paper cups of java.
Get out there: Taking coffee to another local business is always a great gym marketing idea.

Gym Opening Ideas: Other Marketing Tactics

Hopefully your grand opening was a huge success and you’re on your way to breakeven and profit. To keep the momentum going in the early stages—or if you’re an established gym looking for new marketing tactics—check out these ideas.

Getting to Know Your Neighbors with Coffee

Getting as many local business owners, workers and residents as you can to join your gym’s founders club is a major marketing coup. Especially in the first few years, the members of this group will be your biggest promoters and endorsers—and you can be theirs in return.

One of the simplest and most effective gym opening ideas can be one of the most impactful. By paying your neighboring businesses a morning visit with cups of coffee in hand, you can strike up a conversation that can be mutually beneficial for years to come. Coffee is a great ice breaker, and sharing a cup of it with your neighbors helps your initial meeting with them go a little smoother.

Your mission for the first conversation is to get to know each other—no sales tactics are necessary. Eventually, the subject of your new gym will surface, and you can share all your plans for the opening and invite the owner and the staff members to join in. Perhaps you’ll end up doing a fitness presentation for their team in their business or running a corporate wellness program.

You should repeat this coffee ritual with two to three businesses a week up until the gym opening and beyond. Got some spare time for marketing? Pick up some coffee and start a conversation in another business. Build your web and become a “local expert.”

Organize a Fitness or Nutrition Kickstart

Challenges used to be a big deal—and they still are in some places. But we’ve discovered “kickstarts” are better—even if the only difference is in the name.

Staging a fitness or nutrition kickstart is one of the most successful and cost-effective promo ideas. Some advantages of this idea are:

  • You don’t necessarily need a location.
  • You can easily promote the event via social media, your website, email and word of mouth.
  • Kickstarts can easily be marketed with paid ads, and they often generate significant interest if you target the right audience and create compelling ads.
  • You set the foundation for a fun, client-centric business.
  • You provide people with easy entry through a low-barrier offer. People love programs with time frames attached­—six weeks, 90 days and so on. Whatever your time frame, that’s how long you have to create a strong relationship with the person and try to extend it after the program ends.
  • You can establish an exceptional income stream if you encourage people to continue with ongoing coaching after the kickstart ends.

On your gym promo checklist, you should plan a kickstart or special challenge with an end goal, an end date, participant tools and a tracking process (Two-Brain provides plug-and-play plans to clients). Your exit interview at the end date is really a chance to celebrate the client’s hard work and sell ongoing coaching that will take the person even further.

Also, the goals of the kickstart or challenge should be realistic because you don’t want any disappointed participants at the end. For example, short “weight-loss challenges” can set you up to fail, but “healthy habits challenges” offer more sure wins.

The price of these programs should be determined by staffing costs, resource requirements, desired profit margin and other factors. Here are some very general starting points:

  • Around $99 per person for a fitness or nutrition challenge or kickstart.
  • Around $125-$150 per person for a combo nutrition-fitness challenge or kickstart.
A closeup of a male and female athlete, each with well-defined abs.
Kickstarts and challenges can be powerful marketing tools when you open a new gym business.

Kickstart/Challenge Ideas

Need ideas? Here are four:

Ab Challenge: The goal is for participants to work on their cores for one month. You can make your participants famous by posting before and after images of them on your social media, website and bulletin boards, and you can reward them for sticking to the ab-training plan, making healthy meals and so on. This choice is a great online fitness challenge.

Better Eating Kickstart: This program could feature an online cooking class, nutritional counseling, healthy recipes, peer-support groups or a personalized meal plan if you have the qualifications required to supply one in your state or country. The goal is to get your participants to adopt healthy-living strategies that support training in the gym.

Fitbit Challenge: Fitbit and other fitness apps have settings that allow users to set their goals. So you can use this feature to have your participants set step goals, for example. Then, when they reach their goals, you can reward them with a T-shirt with your gym’s name on it, a customized coffee mug or credits toward a special privilege—or even just a badge or certificate. Step challenges are a great way to connect with people who might not be ready to join a gym but would consider it after getting to know you.

Personal Records Challenge: This challenge allows participants to customize their activities and goals, such as miles ran, weight lifted or completed exercise sessions. As per the terms of the challenge, participants strive to reach their personal best in their chosen activity within the event’s timeline. You can review each activity to determine how you can help the participants reach their goals.

These kickstarts aren’t just gym opening ideas. They can be used by established fitness entrepreneurs to acquire new clients at any time.

A group of happy people celebrate backlit by sunshine.
Use your gym grand opening to generate momentum, and then keep it going with a strong marketing plan.

Here Comes the Good Part

You are a business owner in one of the most positive industries in the world, and there are millions of people looking for the type of expertise and assistance your gym can provide. If you continue to focus on giving your clients the best possible experience, you should reap the rewards of running a stable, very successful gym where people love to improve themselves.

These gym-opening ideas should help you reach that point.

Two-Brain Business specializes in helping gym owners reach profitability fast. For info about our RampUp program, click here to book a free call.

About the Author: John Burson successful ran a personal training business for over 20 years, and he has written volumes of published articles on business entrepreneurship, finance and the fitness industry.


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.