Fitness Networking 101: How to Get Out and Grow Your Gym, Studio or School

Network in the industry to help your business grow.

Network in the industry to help your business grow.
I know two coaches who, a few years ago, weren’t so happy with their current gigs in personal training. They met at a MoveNat fitness seminar, realized their vision for creating an adventure-based fitness center were pretty much the same, and ended up started the gym I’ve been going to for the past three years. They met their first hire and a nutrition consultant they partner with the same way.

Many fitness professionals would agree that their connections have brought value to – if not changed the course of – their business. And that includes competitors. Just because you’re vying for some of the same members doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from building relationships with all fitness professionals.

The benefits of fitness networking are innumerable, from generating awareness of your business to positioning yourself as a thought leader to sharing knowledge. Part of the fun is that you can’t predict who or how these connections may come into play later, and with so many fitness networking opportunities happening nationwide, you have a ton of options. Here are a few ways you can get yourselves out there.

Fairs and Fundraisers

Generate more awareness by attending fairs and events in your community. Don’t limit yourself to just industry specific events. Look for parallel industries – ones that target a similar local audience to yours. Once I went to an early education fair for my daughter, when I did a demo run by a local Pilates studio owner. The Pilates instructor had little to do with early education, but she knew that a big group of preschool moms was her target audience. Smart move.

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You can also attend or donate to a fundraiser or auction (a kickboxing gym donated money to the same school’s new playground fund), another way both give back and to gain exposure without investing a ton of time.

Tradeshows and Conferences

Now is a good time to search for conferences that are a good fit for you and get them on your calendar for the coming year. IDEA World’s annual convention is described online as epic – which is pretty accurate. It’s a huge annual fitness industry conference with about 14,000 attendees. Best yet, you can volunteer in exchange for a free or reduced registration. Whether you host a booth, speak at a seminar or attend events, don’t forget your stack of business cards.

Special Events and DIY Events

The same two coaches that met at an event and started their own gym had a cool networking idea last summer: they hosted a competition and invited owners and members of gyms in our region to compete. Each winner got two monetary prizes – one to keep, and one donated to their home gym. Yes, even to competing gyms.

Concepts like this send a positive message of mutual respect, support and collaboration. Now that gyms are friendly, they can collaborate in other ways, like co-hosting rock climbing trips or attending one another’s special events.

There are tons of ways to plan a mutually beneficial networking gig. Invite industry professionals to go in on a day volunteering to build houses for Habitat, or take a ski trip together, do a guest lecture swap. An affiliate gym could invite a yoga instructor to talk about stretching techniques for weightlifters, then the affiliate gym could go talk about how to incorporate weight resistance into a yoga practice. These types of two-way exchanges gain business exposure, teach you something, add value for you members and lead to business opportunities.

If you don’t want to create the event yourself, make a point of searching for meetup groups, scanning an Eventbrite calendar and signing up for continuing education classes.

Getting yourself out there talking to people, presenting your knowledge, taking classes and being part of your professional community is a win-win. You position yourself to better serve your members and students, and you gain credibility as a thought leader in your industry.

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