A few weeks ago, I ranted about my gym, the Ranch Health Club in Valley Ranch.

In that post, I detailed the many things the club is doing wrong and how it was setting the standard on how not to run a business.

Since then, it hit me to maybe try to be a part of the solution, not just complain about the issue. So here it goes.

First, the new owners at the Ranch are now in town and going full force, which is a good thing. At least there’s a vision now. They’ve already put on new vinyl on the machines, painted the whole place, added a coffee machine and implemented a “free Margarita Thursday night”(?). That last one caught me a little off guard, but if it works, so be it. These new owners also own a few other gyms in town, so I have to assume they know what they’re doing. And you can definitely tell they’re cracking down with the staff.

Anyway, with all this being said, I’d like to take a shot at giving some ideas on how the Ranch or any gym can grow their business a little more. I’ve never owned a gym, and I’ve never worked in the industry. So some of the things I might suggest might either be gym-owning 101 or so outrageously out of the question that you won’t be able to close your browser fast enough. But, I am a gym attendee, the person you’re trying to impress, so maybe I can offer a thing or two that could help.

  1. Let me try it out.
    I hate gyms that make me pay for a single visit. If I’m thinking about joining your gym, I need at least 2 weeks to figure out if I like it or not. Not just one visit. And I shouldn’t have to pay for it. In fact, give me a month free. Just charge me for the card. Or a very small fee. You see, if you can get me hooked on your place, it’s going to be a lot harder for me to let you go. And, because you’re giving me that first 2-4 weeks so cheaply, it’s going to keep me from going somewhere else. Let me sample what you’ve got.
  2. Have a referral program.
    Most gyms do this, so I won’t go into detail, and I won’t act like it’s a revolutionary idea. But just make sure people know the full details about it, and that the reward is significant.
  3. Have a loyalty program.
    Don’t get caught up in getting new gym rats that you forget the old, loyal, 4 times a week gym rats. This program is much more important than any other marketing program you have. If you treat your top 10% of your customers right, they will take care of most of your other marketing for you. Come up with programs to make them feel appreciated. Free t-shirts. Got extra services at your gym, like massage therapists, supplements or a Smoothie King? Give them a coupon for one of them. Keep the people who love you in love with you.
  4. Find what makes you different and shout it from the rooftop.
    This is marketing at its most basic form, but find out what makes you different from 24 Hour Fitness and put it in people’s face. In the case of the Ranch, my impression is that its a more serious workout facility. It’s not a pickup joint, and the layout is much better than 24 Hour Fitness. It also has top-notch trainers (or at least used to – see below). All of this breaths a certain brand experience.
  5. Treat your trainers right.
    If you’re going to allow trainers into your gym, get the really good ones. The ones that do it for a full-time living, not the ones that just like working out so they figured they could make money showing other people how to do it. In the past, the number of impressive trainers at the Ranch is what really impressed me about it. I have never used one, but just seeing them there, knowing they are the real deal made me feel good about being at the Ranch. Rumor has it that the new ownership at the Ranch is actually going to charge the trainers more than they have been to use their gym. Which is going to drive the full-time trainers away to another gym – it’s their livelihood, so they have to. I think this is a huge mistake. Your trainers are your endorsers, your spokespeople. I would charge them less than I used to (they kinda fall into that loyalty program group). I would do everything I had to to keep them there, and not look at their fees as a money-maker, but look at the memberships they drive as my money-maker. That would only make them feel appreciated and possibly attract more great trainers if you needed them (which would then bring their clients, etc.).
  6. Leverage your trainers – have events.
    Lots of trainers are interested in doing more than just training. Many like to teach. Can you give them the opportunity to do it? Set up events to talk about nutrition, strength training, specific exercises for sports, stress management, weight loss, organic foods – ANYTHING. The wellness industry is huge, so capitalize on it. And invite the whole community.
  7. Build a great blog.
    In my mind, this would take any gym to the next level. Let’s say you have 15 different trainers. Plus you and your team probably know a thing or two about health yourself. That gives you 20 or so people who could contribute to an amazing blog. Think about it – daily exercise tips, diet and nutrition tips, wellness, weight-lifting, sports, ANYTHING! Plus, it provides a great way for you to communicate what’s going on at the club. But most importantly, it builds a community among your users with the staff and trainers. Which will only feed more loyalty. And when they’re impressed with what a trainer writes, it will only lead to more training enrollments. Then, of course, some of them will email a link along, which will only feed more referrals. Which all leads to more business.
  8. Build (or find) a great website.
    Don’t let this intimidate you. But if you want to succeed in any business today, you’ve got to have a passable website. The secret for a gym is to load it up with services, like diet trackers, workout trackers, etc. But don’t build it all yourself – programs that do this are a dime a dozen online. Find one, partner up with them, and let them do the work. You just link over to it. For some of it, you might need to charge, but for a lot of it, you can just claim that it’s “part of the membership fee.” It will make a huge difference. Have lots of pictures, be clear on your prices, advertise any promotions and make it easy for someone to find you. Web-surfing is just part of the buying cycle now.
  9. Get involved with the community (this is my wife’s idea – it’s a good one)
    Work with local businesses, apartments, associations, etc. and offer special rates for their employees/patrons. Find out who’s new in town and give them a month for free. Or a free training session. Or a free 1-hour massage (they probably need it after moving in). The smaller your community, the more important this is. Make sure you’re seen as a foundational part of the area, and people will appreciate that.
  10. Buy people back.
    If someone leaves you to go to another gym, give them some really good reasons to come back to you. If you’re a good gym, chances are they are regretting their decision. Figure out what the obstacle is that would keep them from coming back, and address it. It might cost money, it might not. Figure out what makes good business sense for you, and do it.

BONUS TIP: Remember my name. If the guy working the front desk remembers my name, you’ve got me. Do whatever you have to do to find someone who can do this.

My wife and I both have other ideas, but this is enough for now. If you’re a gym owner or trainer and like at least a few points you see here and want some help marketing your business, please contact me. I’d be glad to help as much or as little as you’d like.

And let the record show that we are still fans of The Ranch. That’s why I thought I’d stop complaining and start helping.

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    99 Responses to “10 Marketing Tips for Gym Owners”

    1. Brett says:

      What? -

      From the tone of your comment, I have to guess you either a) currently work at the Ranch, b) are married to someone who does, or c) are extremely fanatical about the place.

      I actually agree with you for the most part. I was up there working out some more the other day and thinking that things are actually looking pretty good up there. Especially with AC. The new management seems to be doing pretty good, and the crowd is picking up.

      Thanks for clarifying everything – I’m hopeful for the Ranch, and I definitely don’t want to go to 24 Hour.

    2. Chad Hackler says:

      i, too, stumbled upon this blog and have to say hi to all the “old crew”. I started working at the Ranch on the first day it opened back in 1997 and LOVED my job and all the people i had the privilege to intersect with.

      Ac problems aside, that job was ALWAYS about the people! It was sad that the new management decided that the trainers who’d invested their lives in the Ranch weren’t worth keeping when they decided to cut our pay in half (penalizing part-timers). I had tried to apply for the fitness director position in order to RE-develop an amazing club personality but lost out to a clearly inferior candidate who evidently didn’t last too long.

      I’m now the assistant training director at Golds Gym Preston Center and love it…but i do miss my beloved Tracy D and all the other wonderful members that made that 10 years of training at the Ranch so wonderful.

      So to whomever (old school Ranchers) reads this blog…May God bless you and all your future endeavors! The pleasure of your acquaintance was truly mine!

    3. Your name says it all……. Hack!!!!

    4. Brett says:

      Hackler – First, it’s good to hear from you. Hope all is well in your world (sounds like they are). I’ll be posting my latest opinions of the Ranch soon, but I must say that they are making things right.

      Willie – I think you’ve got some hidden angst you need to work out. Try a margarita, since you seem to like them so much.

    5. If you remember it was Fit For Life who liked the margaritas so much. You should be glad I visit your blog, nobody else does.

    6. Brett says:

      I guess I should be glad; I can’t figure out why I’m not.

    7. What? says:

      Guess what??!!! There is talk of changing the name of the Ranch to distance themselves from the bad rep from the old Owners. I have also heard from some of the staff that there is and idea floating around to turn the Ranch into a Gold’s Gym??? Now that sounds like a great Idea. Golds Gym has such high standards for their gym’s so they would bring alot of upgrades to the club. Another rumor is along with the city blends going in to where smoothie king used to be, They will add fitness gear (shirts gloves pants etc etc) to be sold.

    8. Brett says:

      What? -

      OK, you’ve definitely got the inside track. You need to identify yourself . . . .

      I’ve never been to a Gold’s Gym. Always thought of it as the place for meatheads, but sounds like an OK idea. Changing the name might help, but I also think if the current management just keeps doing what they’re doing, it’ll turn around.
      Activity is already picking up. Changing the name might make folks think it’s changed ownership again.

    9. why? says:

      The ranch is here to stay! Too much has been invested in to the club for the new owners just to dump it! As far as the Gold’s Gym Idea goes i think it would help lift the Place again the franchise holds High standards that the new ranch staff will have to meet.. i think they are doing a great job. From sales to operations to the trainers they are friendly and listen to the comments and suggestions that we have. Lets try and help our gym grow and be successful deep down we all love it and don’t want it to go anywhere so lets spread the word and get our club rocking again!!

    10. If I only had a flux capasitor I would send you all back in time to the “glory days” of the Ranch. You guys need to live in the present. Let it go, man. That place will never be the same.

    11. Brett says:

      Why – OK, so are you with Gold’s Gym? Personally, I hope they don’t go the Gold Gym route. I’m liking what they’re doing now. Just do more of it, and keep doing it, and word will spread.

      Willie – dude, you are the quintessential armchair blog commenter.

    12. Where is everyone. This blog is like the Ranch, no one goes to it.

    13. Doc Holiday says:

      I’m here Huckleberry

    14. Kat says:

      Please DO NOT change the name to Golds’ Gym- I don’t care if the owners have bought a Golds in another area of the Metroplex.. The fact that The Ranch is a neighborhood gym and free of the stereotype of corporate gyms, is a huge draw for me and other members- it’s picking up, slowly but surely- I’m starting to see some of the old faces coming back.. The club has a long way to go but I think it would be a huge step backwards to change the name to something else that’s already known as a “corporate” gym.. That’s what I hate about 24Hr Fitness and the reason I’m cancelling my membership with them!!!

    15. What says:

      Willie Randolph III // June 17, 2008 at 3:46 pm

      If I only had a flux capasitor I would send you all back in time to the “glory days” of the Ranch. You guys need to live in the present. Let it go, man. That place will never be the same.

      See comments like this are so stupid. Seriously you shouldn’t post anymore. It’s like I said before THE OLD OWNERS messed up the glory days. THE NEW OWNERS are trying to fix their bad reputation. I cannot stand to see these negative comments. If you don’t want to see the gym do better (leave) Its that simple


    16. What says:

      Ok after that last comment let me move on lol. I still think the gym would be ” a neighborhood gym”. Simply because it would be the only Golds Gym in the city. At least thats what they said they were working on. They want to see memberships go up. They want to see higher standards put in place so the members have something to brag about. This gym will stay a “family gym” simply because of the staff in place now. I like going their mostly because they remember my name each and everytime. And they make conversation- rather than the usuall Hi! Bye! come back and see us routine! I seriously doubt this club will go corporate. But then again if the club makes more money…. you see better improvments.

    17. fly on the wall says:

      Who is your all time favorite Ranch personal trainer? Why?

      Who is your all time favorite Ranch group exercise instructor? Why?

      What did/do you like best about the Ranch?

      What did/do you like least about the Ranch?

      What’s the one single thing that has always made the Ranch stand out?

      Do you still workout at the Ranch? Why or why not?

      What do you predict for the future of the Ranch?

    18. Willie Randolph III says:


    19. Brett says:

      What -

      I have no doubt the gyms will continue to improve, regardless of its name. I have to agree with Kat, though, when I say that there’s just something about the Gold’s Gym brand that seems to take The Ranch in a different direction. It might be a better one, but it is still a very different one. I might not be typical, but when I think Gold’s Gym, I think Arnold Schwarzenegger in his glory years. I think meatheads, bulging vessels and lots of Zubaz pants.

      Willie – Stay asleep.

    20. Manny dasilva says:

      I’m thinking about going to school for business then opening a gym. Any tips on how to have a great business from the beginning? Any marketing tips?

    21. Brett says:

      Manny – first off, best of luck to you. I’ll email you a few more ideas, but the best advice I can give you right now is, if you’re set on starting a gym after school, start working at one while you’re in business school. You’ll learn a lot more on-the-job than in the classroom.


    22. Shennan T. says:

      Great article. Those are all good ideas that can pertain to other things besides gym. Thanks for posting.

    23. Riyaz says:


      I found your article very intriguing, especially because I am an owner of a software company and very recently have been appointed as the President of a gym. Ours is a closed community and the gym has been made especially for the women and the senior citizens. It is being supported by members of the community but the gym is expected to fend for itself.

      We have 2 trainers and they are superb (topnotch in your words). But the gym or fitness center as we call it, is still lacking the memberships. Those who are rich are going to bigger gyms and those who actually need the gym are not coming ahead. I have tried all the discount therapies, but i guess need something else to draw the members in. i have published success stories, had events in the gym.

      Can you suggest something for a gym like ours?



    24. Brett says:

      Riyaz – thanks for stopping by the blog.

      Congrats on the new gig as President of a gym. Without really knowing a lot more about your gym, it’s hard for me to give too many detailed ideas. I will say this: if your target is women and senior citizens, then do EVERYTHING you possibly can to make sure you are known as THE gym for that target market. Make it so well known and obvious that women and senior citizens in your area would be silly for not going to your gym. This will take time and commitment, but it will give you a strong position.


    25. @chaffsandflares Well, the clip was ‘bottoms up’ in more than one sense…

    26. ian says:

      Just in the process of purchasing my first ever Gym, the gym as been going for some 15 years and is what we call in the UK a spit and saw dust Gym with the members being mainly, male under 40 body builder types.

      This gym is at the oppisite end of the market to Fitness first I want to concentrate on young males who like to blow there money on the suppliments have you any ideas on good marketing tips to increase my members and turnover

    27. Jason Nicks says:

      That info was great. Hope to get more from you so I can have more knowledge on how to market my business better. Thanks for the advice. My best friend and I just opened up our own gym in Ontario CA. We’re very excited to learn more information on how to increase our business.

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    35. Wayne says:


      This article is awesome, thank you so much for this… but I need some help. I bought a 10-week “Body Transformation Gym” and I am looking for some ways to increase our membership. We have only 5 times a year when we start new sessions to get people in the door. I like all of your ideas, but need to blitz the market 5 times a year to get people in… and in large numbers! I would love some help!

    36. Slay says:

      You have absolutely zero clue about the fitness industry.

      Why did you write this? Ur obv just an overly opinionated consumer.

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    38. Maggie Kelly says:

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    39. website says:

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    40. These are great tips. Especially 1 and 5. If you come across to the customer as desperate, they will run for the hills. Give them the free week or longer and leave them along. If they leave, it’s a good chance they were not going to last long anyway.

      You have to also treat good trainers like gold.

    41. These are great tips. Especially 1 and 5. If you come across to the customer as desperate, they will run for the hills. Give them the free week or longer and leave them alone. If they leave, it’s a good chance they were not going to last long anyway.

      You have to also treat good trainers like gold.

    42. Julia says:

      Wow!amazing article!!!& well said!!! Im trying to get as informed as possible since i have plans of opening a zumba/group fitness studio someday:) great ideas!!!

    43. Brett Duncan says:

      Good point on trainers – they are the influencers. If they’re happy, they’ll make sure others are happy.


    44. Brett Duncan says:

      Julia – thanks. Good luck with the group classes. Let us know how it goes.

    45. Jordan says:

      Excellent article.

    46. mizah, en komik fotoğraflar, capsler

    47. Edward says:

      I’m ok with most but point 1.. ow god no.. so a cheep member can wander around the local area working out for free…. Why should you get a free service when the environment costs money to the owner. an entire month… Members requiring this are not needed in a gym portfolio and if they are your running your gym wrong..cant get over point 1…

    48. Hello, I do think your blog might be having web browser compatibility issues.
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