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The fitness industry is incredibly competitive, often seeming as though there isn’t space for anyone new. But from what we have seen and experienced, gyms that master what we call the “three legs concept” can truly break through. These gyms are not only sustainable in the long term, but become profitable over a short period of time.

What is the Three Legs Concept?

The three legs concept in marketing focuses on:

1) Community Involvement
2) Client Referrals
3) Dynamic Web Presence

Download our free 10 Step Marketing Guide for Gyms to take your current marketing strategy to the next level.

In this two-part blog series, we’ll take a more in-depth look into each leg and explain how it can benefit your affiliate gym specifically now and going into the future.

Community Involvement

A lot of affiliate gyms have taken it upon themselves to head out to a local park with a couple of dumb bells, kettle bells and rings to spread awareness about their brand. While this can prove to be successful for some, you can save a lot of time and increase your chances at spreading community awareness in a more lasting way by identifying and then leveraging specific centers of influence.

The “Friend” Referral (And How to Avoid the Fitness Commodity Marketplace)

You’ve heard about word-of-mouth marketing before, but we have a unique story to share that shows just how well it can work for you and your gym.

A friend of mine began competing in Ironman triathlons, leaving himself with half a year to train, no knowledge of swimming and no bike in his possession. Fortunately for him, he had the finances available to hire one of the best swimming coaches in Southern California, who was able to train him to swim the arduous 2.2 miles necessary to complete that leg of the triathlon. After discussing my friend’s fitness goals, the swim coach asked one pertinent question: “Do you own a bike?” He didn’t, at which time the swim coach referred him to a cycling store that caters to the best cyclists in the area.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Unlike the typical cycling shops with billboard-esque signs and flashing lights, this store had a single sign hanging above the door of the shop in an industrial park that simply read “Bicycles.” Trusting the swim coach, my friend stepped inside and began trying out bikes. As he rode on a stationary ride, the shop owner began asking small talk style questions, but in truth he was gaining intel on my friend.

By understanding what my friend did for a living and who his swim coach was, he calculated my friend’s approximate income. With that, he could make a wise decision on which bikes to present to my friend, effectively pre-qualifying and increasing his chances of making the sale. The shop owner, knowing my friend’s swim coach, saw my friend as a trusted source. He allowed my friend to borrow the $10K bike over the weekend, and ultimately made the sale.

But this is where the true beauty of the plan lies: after my triathlete friend got his hands on the bike, he asked his swim coach how he knew the shop owner. His response was that they had lunch a couple times a month and went golfing four times a year. The clever bike shop owner understood where his target market was and tapped into that resource by befriending top-level coaches from around So-Cal. He did this because he knew they would refer their high-income clients to his bike shop. So at the expense of a few rounds of golf and a couple of nice meals each month, he is able to remove himself from the competition and sell high-end, expensive bikes that are easily worth ten times the cost of run-of-the-mill bicycles.

This very same method can be applied to affiliate gym memberships. Aim high, and you will go higher. By having a gym membership at $100 to $300 per month, you’re targeting a specific demographic with a higher income who—you guessed it—are friends with other high-income earners. Nurture those first few important relationships and you can be creating profitable repeat referral sources for the next several months or years, as opposed to attempting to slowly build your business one customer at a time.

Other Potential Sources

Around Town:
Identify where your target demographic is hanging out, and make your presence known. This can include:
• Respected supplement and nutrition stores
• Nutritionists/Dietitians
• High school and local college strength coaches
• Nearby restaurants and eateries (choose those that complement a fitness lifestyle)
• Local fitness product retailers

Some of these businesses will gladly share your information in good faith, while others will be less than eager. Turn it into a win-win situation and offer a trade. By sharing your business card or putting up a poster advertising your business in their supplement store, for example, you can promise to refer clients of yours to their store and promote special products.

At Events:

CrossFit® is incredibly diverse, meaning you can show up and advertise at a number of different competitions, meets and races without being out of place. Find out which events your community is most actively involved in and tap into those resources first.

In the Fitness Community at Large:
Networking is the name of the brand awareness game. By being actively involved in fitness trade groups, you can foster relationships with some of the industry’s key influencers who can easily become a hot referral source later on.

In our next post, we’ll talk about how you can build up client referrals from key influencers, how to create brand ambassadors and how you can create a web presence that will crush your competition online.

Interested in learning about additional ways that you can effectively market your gym? Get your copy of our free 10-Step Marketing Guide for Gyms.

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Muscle Up StartupBen Rudman & Geoff Eliason
Guest Posting from: Muscle Up Startup