Get More Gym Members Without Paid Ads

A photo of a prospective gym client receiving a text from a gym owner.

John Franklin (00:02):
Hello, and welcome to this week’s episode of “Run a Profitable Gym.” I am your host, John Franklin, the CMO here at Two-Brain, and I put together a quick video for you guys on how to get more members without paid ads. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart because literally every week I have a gym owner who messages me and will say something along the lines of, “I’ve tried doing Facebook ads, I’ve been blogging, I’ve been posting on Instagram, but nothing seems to bring up my member count.” And I know this can be really frustrating. You’re doing all the stuff that you think you’re supposed to be doing, you’re following all the guru best practices, but you don’t really get a ton of traction. And the reality is that can be incredibly frustrating. But when I get this question, I always ask the same question back to the gym owner, and that is, “Well, how many potential clients did you speak with today?”

John Franklin (01:03):
And for most, that number’s going to be zero. And while blogging can get you more members, ads are a great way to get more members, having a strong social strategy is important—those things can fuel a fire, but it really isn’t going to work if the fire isn’t burning. If your gym is struggling and you’re really having a hard time getting new members in the door, you don’t have to make this super scalable strategy. You don’t have to have thousands of people reading your blog, and you don’t need ads that push out and get millions of impressions. The best thing you can do to get clients today is to go out and figure out a way to talk to potential clients in your market. If you are unhappy with how your gym is going and you want to get more members, the only number you need to be tracking is the number of conversations you are having with potential prospects.

John Franklin (01:56):
I am known within Two-Brain for saying more conversations equals more conversions. I say it all the time. If I had a tagline, it would be this. And it sounds simple, but it’s true. Think about it. If you have a gym and I have a gym in the same market, and I’m talking to 10 people a month about my gym, and you’re talking to a hundred people in the area about your gym, over time, your gym is going to be a lot larger than mine because marketing is a numbers game. And so, if you don’t have a goal for yourself on potential conversations with prospects each day, that would be where I would start as a very simple marketing goal. So, for most gym owners, I say, “Hey, if you just talk to five new people about your gym every day and do that consistently for 90 days, I guarantee at the end of the 90-day period, you will not have a marketing problem.”

John Franklin (02:54):
Inevitably what I hear back is, “Sure, that sounds great. I would love to talk to five new people about my gym every day, but how do I do that? That’s hard to do.” And the reality is, yeah, it is hard, and it involves going outside of your comfort zone and initiating conversations in ways that don’t feel natural. It’s a lot easier to hide behind an Instagram account or social media or post blogs and give yourself the impression of being busy when being a little more direct and doing some more brute force marketing may be more effective. And so today, I’m going to share with you six ways that you can actually have more conversations. These are six different strategies that are direct ways to start talking to people quicker about your gym and not necessarily waiting for them to fill out a form on your site or call or physically walk in.

John Franklin (03:47):
So these are going to be people who are a little higher up in your funnel, right? Typically, when someone fills out a form for your website or literally walks in your gym wants to buy, you don’t really have to sell them that hard. They’ve already discovered your gym, they figured out that it works for them, and they’ve already decided that they’re in a position to take that step or else they wouldn’t have called the gym or booked a consultation. So, just note that these conversations don’t have to be salesy, but you do need to start the conversations, and you will be working with colder traffic in a lot of these scenarios. So, let’s get into it now that I’ve given you my official warning there. The first one—and this is an easy one, and some of you may be doing this already—is utilizing Facebook messaging and Instagram DMs.

John Franklin (04:34):
So, all of you have a personal Facebook account and a personal Instagram account. And I would imagine you have the same for your gym. If you’re not active on there, this strategy isn’t going to be super effective, but it is a good starting point, right? So, I’m assuming you get new followers on a weekly basis. So, here’s one that came in 19 minutes ago for me. And if I’m a gym owner, I should treat this person as if they’re a lead. If they followed my personal account and I post about gym specific content, or if they followed my gym account, that’s even better because they saw that I was a local gym in the area and resonated with the content I was putting out. That person is interested. And so just reach out to them—like reach out to them and reach out to them quickly.

John Franklin (05:21):
So here’s an example from Two-Brain Mentor Tres Kennedy. You don’t have to be creepy and be like, “Come into my gym now.” He literally just says, “Hey, thanks for following us. We really appreciate it. We hope we can motivate and encourage you with our page. Are you currently active in your fitness?” So just a simple question to the prospect to try and get the conversation going. There are a bunch of different variations you can use for this, a bunch of different scripts. We have a full sell-by-chat cheat sheet that you can use that we’ll link to down below. But this person responded; they said, “Hey, I’m sort of active these days. I used to be a lot more active.” And so, Tres went on to ask, “Well, what are you doing?” And then that got into a conversation about what his motivation was, and then he invited him in to try a class and he did.

John Franklin (06:09):
And then he signed up for a membership. And so that was an example where he took someone who was a lead 19 minutes ago and probably would’ve passively followed the Instagram account for months before deciding to take the leap into the gym or maybe never would’ve done that and got them into a position where they could come in and try the gym a lot faster. And so doing something like this isn’t particularly salesy. It shows that you’re being attentive to people who follow the page, and it makes it less intimidating. Like joining a gym is a very scary thing for a lot of people. And this is an easy way to move people down the funnel and to build trust. So, if you’re not talking to new followers, that is the easiest source of leads for your business.

John Franklin (06:55):
Now, some of you may run ads as well for a six-week challenge or a free trial class or some type of a low barrier offer. And all that’s great. I hope your lead costs are low and that is bringing sufficient leads for your business. But we hear from gym owners all the time that lead costs are going up and some markets are north of $100 a lead, and there are gym owners still making it work at that price point, but you need to get a little more juice out of that lemon if you’re spending that type of money on leads. And an easy way you can take people who engage with the ad and move them down the funnel is simply reaching out to them. So, here’s one where somebody liked an ad that they put out and on Instagram, that gym owner DMed them and said, “Hey, we saw you liked our ad for the four-week program.”

John Franklin (07:44):
“I see you also know a few of our clients.” So, they did a little stalking on that person’s Instagram profile, and then they said, “Hey, do you want to come in and try out a free class?” And the person responded, literally said, “Heck yeah. I would be honored.” And so, they were taking somebody who passively engaged with an ad—didn’t even opt in, right? They just liked it. And that person looked at their profile, saw that they had mutual friends at the gym. So, it was probably, uh, the reason the ad was served to them and just invited them in to come for a class. And so, while the ad didn’t work the first time around, the added element of personalization and professionalization of reaching out to that person got that lead into the gym and resulted in a sale. So again, more conversations equals more conversions.

John Franklin (08:28):
So, some of you don’t have Facebook, don’t have Instagram, aren’t active on there, aren’t getting new followers—that’s fine. Another source that you can look for is local Facebook groups. Every single city has these. So, I live in Jupiter, Florida. This is not a particularly large town, but you can see here there’s two groups. One’s called “Moms of Jupiter.” There’s almost 9,000 members in that group, gets five posts a day. And another one called “Jupiter Locals” with 30,000 members, and stuff’s just going off in there all the time. And so, this is a great place to look for potential clients and to start conversations about your business. The easiest way to get a little bit of a presence on there is to go into the group and then just do a search for keywords. So like “gym,” “personal training,” if you’re CrossFit, search “CrossFit,” and then posts will inevitably come up.

John Franklin (09:27):
So here are two: “I’m looking for the best personal trainer in Jupiter.” “Looking for a personal trainer. Thanks in advance.” And there’s 85 comments on here from people who are recommending other people. And you can see these posts are old, but I recommend commenting on them anyway because people go into these groups looking for providers all the time. I know my business partner, Mateo Lopez, recently looked for an auto mechanic and found someone through a Facebook group. We hired a nanny off of that “Moms of Jupiter” group. And the way my wife found that person is looking at a post recommending a nanny from three years ago, and this person just kept coming up, and she reached out to them. And so, while these posts are old, I guarantee people go back and look for them. Recommendation posts are incredibly powerful, and I wouldn’t necessarily go in there and say, “Hey, I’m the best personal trainer in Jupiter or Tequesta.”

John Franklin (10:20):
But what you can do is you can copy the link to the post and then send it to maybe one or two of your best clients and say, “Hey, I’m looking to grow my business, would you mind recommending me on this post?” And you know, if they like you and you’ve helped them in their life, they’ll be happy to go out of their way to help you in return. And so, they can comment on there, you can get a couple likes on it, and that puts you on the map for these posts. So, anything like that, you want to be showing up there. And then people who are commenting on the posting that they are looking for a personal trainer, there’s no problem friending them and reaching out and saying, “Hey, I saw you were looking for a personal trainer. I’m a local gym owner in the area.”

John Franklin (11:02):
“I’ve been looking for a couple people to try out a new class offering that I’ve got going on. Are you still looking for someone to help you out with your fitness?” So, a simple message like that, you can reach out to them, and it opens up conversations, OK? Because these are people in your market, they’re looking for health services—an easy way to get the ball rolling. Now, this is a little more passive. DMing people who comment on the post is a little more active and will be a little more immediate, but you can also go hunting yourself. So, here is Two-Brain mentor Ashley Haun. She lives in DeLand, Florida, and there’s a DeLand Florida community page. And it looks like she posted a photo of herself looking fit and says, “I’m looking for three people who are interested in personal or semi-private training.”

John Franklin (11:50):
“If you’re a busy professional, if you have decision making fatigue and you want real change, raise your hand.” So, she’s just qualifying what she’s looking for, and she posted that in the group, and she ended up getting 21 leads from that post. So, 21 people raised their hands and said, “Hey, I’m interested; tell me more.” And she just reached out to all of them and explained the offering and started a conversation, and she ended up getting three sales just from that one post. And that’s something that you can do relatively frequently. So, every group will have its own set of rules. Some people go with the “ask for forgiveness” route where they’ll just post, and until they get slapped on the hand by an admin, they continue to post. Or you can contact the admin and just explain your situation and say, “Hey, I own a new gym or an established gym in the area.”

John Franklin (12:40):
“I’m launching this new service. I want to post about it in the group. Is there a specific day I can do that?” And most of the time the admins will get back to you about the rules. Like sometimes they won’t let you post an outbound link but will allow you to post something like this in the group. So again, I’m not an expert on every city Facebook group, but I know that there are hundreds of people in Two-Brain running this exact strategy successfully. So, if one group tells you no, go find another one because every city’s going to have a mom group, a locals’ group, and various groups like that where a bunch of your potential members are congregated. And again, if you’re afraid no one’s going to like or comment, you can take the link to your post and send it out to a couple of your favorite clients who love you, maybe a few friends as well to just ask, “Hey, can you like this post and comment on it to give it a little more boost?” Right?

John Franklin (13:31):
Because posts that get a lot of engagement like this perform better in the group. More people will see it. So, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “Hey Susie, I know I don’t ask for much, but if you got value out of coming to the gym, can you just like and comment on this post and tell people the results you got working with me?” So, you know, having someone who’s within the community saying, “Hey, I worked with Ashley. She did great work for me,” that’s just going to add an element of trust and get more people to reach out. So again, an easy way to have prospects raise their hand so you can start more conversations. Now, maybe you don’t want to go hunting in Facebook groups. That’s fine. You have friends and followers now, and we talked about how to reach out to new followers and use that as a way to start more conversations.

John Franklin (14:17):
But you can also get your existing friends and followers to raise their hand. And the best way to do that is by offering them something of value. So, here’s Two-Brain client Ashley Sell, and she runs a couple successful gyms, and she posted this on her Facebook profile, and I love this. So, she said, “I created a list of my top four Costco finds for busy professionals looking for healthy meals in less than 10 minutes. Comment ‘busy,’ and I will send you my free guide.” So again, busy professional, so that’s who she’s targeting. Healthy meals in 10 minutes or less, so that is very clear what the value prop is. And then Costco, she’s just like piggybacking off of the love and brand recognition for Costco. And you don’t need to overcomplicate something like this. A lot of people think, “If I’m going to put together some type of guide or note or something that I’m going to send to prospects, it needs to be this big complex thing.”

John Franklin (15:15):
But the reality is a lot of people go to Costco, a lot of people have trouble identifying what’s healthy and what’s not healthy. And you can literally type up something in an Apple note—as simple as just a plain text note. Like “here are the things,” a sentence or two on why you like each thing, and maybe a link to it on the Costco site or a photo of the actual product. And something like that should take you no more than half an hour. And for Ashley, this post resulted in six sales. So, that’s six people signing up for her gym and something that took under 45 minutes. So, in terms of ROI, stuff like this is insane. And if you need a system for coming up with ideas—because you can do a post like this every single week. I know a lot of Two-Brain gym owners who actually do, and there’s a strategy for that.

John Franklin (16:04):
So to get inspiration for these kinds of value posts you can put together, go to your favorite fitness or nutrition YouTube channel, go to their videos and then sort them by popularity, and you can personalize those videos for your market. So, if you’re listening to this, I have three thumbnails from popular people in the fitness space. One of them is like “Top 10 Cleanest Fast Food Keto Options.” And it’s a video with 1.8 million views. And so, you’re probably not going to make as good of a video as someone who is a professional YouTuber, but you don’t need to. You just need to make the best video or the best guide for your market. Again, if I’m in Jupiter, I can put together a Google note that says, like, “The Top 10 Cleanest Quick Lunch Options” or “Lunch on the Go Options for Jupiter Residents.”

John Franklin (16:55):
And I can just put the name of the restaurant and the thing that I would order, and something like that wouldn’t take very long to put together, and it would be a very high value for someone who is looking to lose weight. Here’s another one under here that’s like “The Only Five Stretches You Need for Good Flexibility.” So again, it’s like—golf is very popular where I live in Jupiter—it’s like I would put together like, “Here are the five stretches I use to not hurt your back playing golf.” And then you can list those all out, and you can put that together as a guide. You can post that on your profile, and you can get people to raise their hand and say, “Hey, I want that,” which allows you to start the conversation about the services you offer.

John Franklin (17:32):
Now, if you want to go a step further, you can create a public Facebook group of your own. And so, there is a Two-Brain client by the name of Kieran O’Dwyer who lives in Bathurst. And he has a Facebook group called “Bathurst and Orange Free Fitness Tips.” So, it is a group of people in his community who are looking to improve their health and fitness, and he creates guides like the ones I just mentioned every single week. And he has a whole elaborate system he uses to create these guides. And I did a full hour video where he breaks down that system. We’ll link to it below so you can go watch that because it’s packed with value. You can literally just copy his entire method. It’s so great. But I’ll just show you—I’ll give you a quick idea of what goes on here.

John Franklin (18:27):
So someone joins the group, there’s a welcome post, and he talks about the purpose of the group, which is to help people on their health and fitness journey and to provide a space where they can interact with others who are going through the same journey. And he says, “I’m here to offer you my knowledge and help any in any way I can. And we give eBooks, guides, workout programs, nutrition tips and recipes in this group, free of charge.” And that’s the whole thing. And then he says, “If you want to begin your journey, comment ‘habits,’ and I’ll send you my free four-week healthy habit challenge.” So, he put together this challenge, and you can see he had 192 people comment on it. So that’s literally hundreds of leads from this one post, which is going to be a business changing amount of leads for most gym owners.

John Franklin (19:17):
And again, every single week he adds a new one in there to just really help the community out. So, here’s one called “Get Your First Chin Up,” 73 comments on it. Here’s another one called “Six High Protein Dinner Recipes,” 52 comments on it. So again, he’s consistently generating a ton of leads for his gym, repurposing information that he already has. And he’s built a system where this takes him—he told me it was under two hours a week all in to keep this machine going. So again, go watch that video if you want to see how he gets people to join the group, how he makes these guides, and the actual conversations he has with those people. But again, this is a great opportunity for those of you who are good at building communities. You absolutely should have a general health and fitness group for your city on top of the one you have for your members.

John Franklin (20:06):
Now, if social media isn’t your thing, one of the quickest and easiest ways to start conversations with people is to go out into the real world. And this is the method that is most uncomfortable for most gym owners, and that’s why people don’t do it. But it’s also the most effective if you can do it correctly. And someone I look up to who does this really well is Mike Doehla. And if you don’t know Mike Doehla, he built a $10-million-a-year nutrition business without using any paid ads. So, it was all just in Facebook groups, it was all posting helpful stuff to Instagram, and it was all going out to real life events and community building and having conversations. And one of the tips that he shared with me is—he says, “If you work at coffee shops, so if you go to coffee shops to do some of your admin work, you absolutely should get a sticker for the back of your laptop.”

John Franklin (21:03):
So if you’re listening to this, there’s a photo on the screen now that has Mike’s company, which was Stronger U, and it takes up the entire back of his laptop. And it says in big letters it says, “Hi, I’m Mike, ask me nutrition questions even if I look busy.” And he meant it. And then under that it says, “And if you’re shy, go to” So he sold macro nutrition coaching, but if you’re a gym owner, you can be like, “Hi, I’m Mike. I’m a personal trainer. Ask me questions about looking better naked”—however you want to position it. Whatever your thing is, make sure you put it on there. And that’s like free advertising. He said people would literally ask him questions. And one of the things that he would do, as he got more comfortable with this process to get people to talk to him more, is he would go to the coffee shop that he posted up in every single day, and he’d give the cashier like 20 to 100 bucks.

John Franklin (21:58):
He said depending on how he was feeling that day, and it would just pay for the people’s coffees behind him, and he’d tell the cashier—who he had a relationship with at that point in time—if anyone asks, I’m the person who did it and just point them my way. And he’d sit near the register with his laptop open doing his work. And when someone would say, “Thank you,” he’d just start a quick conversation with him. Didn’t have to be salesy, but that reciprocity kicks in, and these are all people who have coffee near your business, and people like coffee. One in every 10 is probably going to be looking for a gym. So, it creates an easy and cheap way to build personal relationships with actual people in your community. And I can’t stress it enough:

John Franklin (22:42):
This stuff works; it’s just uncomfortable, so you’ve got to push yourself to do it. And there are hundreds of fun other ways you can get involved in the community. You can kind of brute force your way into starting conversations. Again, Mike was nutrition specific, but he said he would go to Barnes and Nobles and put his card in nutrition books. So like people who were looking, he’s like, “I didn’t want them to get bad nutrition advice, so I just put my card in there.” Or like, during Halloween, he would go into the grocery store and tape his card onto bags of candy or stuff like that with a message like, “You can eat this on my diet program.” But just fun stuff that doesn’t really scale but is effective if you do it over and over and over again. And again, your competitors won’t be doing this, so it’s an easy way for you to stand out.

John Franklin (23:30):
Now the sixth way to start more conversations is through events. So, you have a gym, you have this space that you can entertain people, and you likely have relationships within your local market. So, I know a lot of people who collab with other people who collab with other businesses to throw events and share customers. But if you don’t want to do that, the simplest way to get some bodies in the door is to do a bring-a-friend day. And a classic spin on a bring-a-friend day is a “wine and workout.” And so, this is really simple. Just go get some wine, ask members to bring a friend to class on a Friday, and then hang out after class, drink the wine and talk about how great the gym is. It really doesn’t need to be that complicated.

John Franklin (24:16):
So this is the actual post that Two-Brain client Shae Pomeroy used, and the last time she ran this, she got 20 leads. So, people brought 20 friends into her gym. That’s 20 conversations she could have to grow her business. Another gym owner I know, Mike Brogue, he partners with a brewery, and once a quarter he’ll do a 0.5k around the brewery. So, they’ll run around the brewery once and go in and have a beer, and it costs like 20 bucks, and he promotes it to his members, and the brewery promotes it to their list, and he gets to have conversations with the brewery’s list. And then his members have this super fun experience, and it’s an easy way to bring—to get people indoctrinated into what you do in a very non-intimidating way.

John Franklin (25:04):
And the sky’s the limit here. The idea is to just do events consistently if that is a strategy you are going to run with. And again, like the guides, don’t overcomplicate it. You just want to do something because it will allow you to have more conversations than if you did nothing or if you were paralyzed with indecision. So that’s it: six simple methods for you to start more conversations. And again, if you are not tracking how many conversations you are having with prospects on any given day, that is the only marketing metric you should be tracking when you are struggling to grow your gym. I hope this was valuable to you. If it is, be sure to like and comment and tune back later this week for the next episode of “Run of Profitable Gym.” Thanks.

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