Prasanna Natarajan

Marketing for my local Gym

I pay just Rs 600 every month for my gym membership. It’s unlike its premium counterparts who charge 2000 or 3000.

What I like here is that it’s spacious. It could hold a lot of people and so you don’t get the claustrophobic feeling you might get in other cramped gyms. And also till date I haven’t had to smell any sweaty armpits or unwashed socks. The fantastic natural ventilation takes care of it.

They do have their fair share of cable-weight machines. But I don’t use them at all. I just occupy the territory around the squat rack and do all my Stronglifts exercises right there.

I always thought that having a gym is a poor business model. Motivational authors always like to joke about how a lot of people sign up during January and then don’t show up for the rest of the year. And the general imagery is that the buff gym master would try to upsell you a bucket of whey protein.

But in a city like Bangalore, a lot of young people, in their teens and twenties show up regularly. And in a spacious gym like this you could make a killing. But I see little to no effort put in to market this.

Recently they had all members write and put a sticky note near the entrance saying whatever about the gym (I said I loved the gym but want another squat rack so people don’t step in while I’m working out).

So here are some ways they could make people show up regularly. At least that’s what I’d do if I had to manage one.

  1. There’s no set date where each member has to pay their membership, regardless of their delays. This needs to be fixed. If I signed up for the gym today, Nov 11, then I’ll have to pay the next fee on or before Dec 11. If I go to gym on Dec 11, then I’ll remember to pay. But if I happen to take a break and had to come to gym on Dec 26, then when I pay the fee, the receipt is made only on Dec 26! This means the gym is losing money in the long run. If I skip the fee payment each month by 2 days, then in a year I would have gotten a free month! To fix this, make the receipt for Dec 11 even if I paid it only on Dec 26.

  2. The staff is responsible for tracking when a particular member paid the last time and just remind him if his due date is upcoming or is gone. With paytm etc, it’s easy to collect payment. All they need is their phone and everyone these days has it by themselves all the time.

  3. Make them strong quickly. People join gym for various reasons. Teen, thin guys join to get muscular and big. Shapeless middle-aged men join to just get into an ok-ish shape. Women join to become slim. Fat men never join gym. It’s never come across their radar that they could change. Fat middle aged women never join too because they have kids and too much family work to take care of and no time (they think). Usually they are all wrong about what they want. As a gym master and as someone who knows better about health and fitness, it’s your responsibility to suggest what’s best for them, instead of bending your back to satisfy their goals. What always works, and what everyone needs is to get strong and build muscles. Not necessarily to get big. But just raw strength. This will make everyone happy and healthy when they see the results. Imagine a clueless young petite woman joining a gym just to do some mild workout, and you put her in a stronglifts workout and get her to squat 40kgs in 2 months! She’ll feel the change and be hooked forever. Same goes for the 40-year old IT manager who joined because his doctor asked him to. If you could get him to deadlift 60kgs in 2 months then he’ll be hooked to.

  4. Have motivational stickers all around the gym and also things specific to certain exercises. Like “The squat is the king of exercises”, “You showed up!”, “It’s ok to take it easy. Lift light today. You’ll get better tomorrow” etc. Give people more reasons to like your gym.

  5. Have a whatsapp broadcast and share useful tips each day there. If people go out of membership, they will be removed from the group! Make them come back.

  6. Teach them the basic 5 movements - squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press and row. And them teach them how they could do these movements using a variety of different exercises. Teach them how they could do it from home, how they could do them with a barbell, with a dumbbell with cable-weight machines, with bodyweight exercises etc.

  7. Create affiliate program. If people bring in their friends and if their friend pays at least 3 months of membership, the referrer gets a month free. Or some other status indicator. (Status! Seth Godin talked about that. It’s too important)

  8. Teach them the nuances - like how to hold a bar without getting chaffed, how to hold the bar while doing overhead press and while doing bench press and while squatting. About hook grip and suicide grip and a million other things you can find in Mark’s Starting Strength book and the excellent Mehdi’s Stronglifts site.

Well, my time’s up. That’s all for the local gym. Maybe some other day.