8 Ways Fitness-Focused Businesses Can Get Customers Back After the Pandemic

Especially when it comes to gyms and other in-person locations, the health and fitness industry has faced a challenging couple of years — to say the least. Of course, on-site fitness facilities nationwide almost completely shut down when COVID-19 made its unwelcome arrival in 2020. And just as the pandemic started to ebb, along came the omicron variant — which just so happened to be spreading at its near-top speeds in January, which is always a critical month for fitness-focused businesses.

The good news: Once omicron left the scene, gyms and other in-person fitness facilities bounced back big, with monthly customer visits even topping pre-pandemic levels in February through June of 2022. So how can gyms and other in-person fitness facilities keep the momentum going through the rest of the year to produce an outright epic 2022 (especially considering the circumstances)?

Consider these eight tips for attracting customers back into your gym after an all-around tough couple years:

1. Better understand your returning audience

It’s a pretty safe bet that the facility members who are already back in the gym are also members of your business’s ideal target audience — and there are more consumers out there like them, many of them sharing similar traits. If you don’t already have it, find ways to collect some demographic data on and/or media preferences of existing in-gym customers. Then use this valuable information to create a handful of typical customer personas, which can be key to finding/attracting look-alike consumers. One idea: Send out a survey to existing gym members offering some sort of perk for filling it out, such as a free month’s extension on their existing membership or a water bottle featuring the business’s logo.

2. Offer added incentives for loyalty

The customers who have already returned are also the last ones you want to lose — so it’s clearly in the gym’s interest to let them know how much you value them. Doing this can be as simple as telling them in person or sending a sincere, heartfelt email thanking them for their business. To ramp up the display of gratitude, you could also reward those who are already back in the gym with offerings like a complimentary month’s membership, gym-branded gear, or a free personal training session or nutritional-coaching consultation. Either of those could also offer you opportunities to upsell.

3. Add new class offerings

In the wake of a couple straight years of maintaining a pandemic exercise routine, fitness enthusiasts have grown used to working out on their own schedule. And to maximize customers’ involvement with classes, your gym should do its best to accommodate an in-facility continuation of such highly flexible scheduling. One way to do this might be found in the high-intensity interval training (HIIT) trend. By offering multiple shorter HIIT sessions (with a duration of 20 to 30 minutes each) spread throughout the day, you’ll make the sessions easier for customers with busy schedules to catch. Many of today’s fitness-seekers are also interested in total wellness and well-being programs, especially in the wake of the pandemic — providing gyms with an opportunity to attract them by offering new classes focused on areas such as meditation, yoga and breath work.

4. Entice at-home workers

The pandemic also ushered in a work-from-home wave that left many members of the U.S. workforce in permanent remote-work roles. And after a sustained stretch of not leaving the house as much as usual, many of these hybrid workers are looking for ways to get out — and to get fit. Further, many of these workers are also now on much more flexible schedules than they were during the days spent primarily at the office. To attract these consumers, consider offering a reduced-price membership for gym-goers who primarily visit the facility during off-peak hours, when many gyms are sparsely populated anyway. Offering classes throughout the day in addition to the usual peak times (such as the shorter-duration HIIT sessions mentioned above) could also serve to lure in some of these work-from-home professionals with flexible schedules.

5. Consider the kids

The pandemic also left many parents looking for ways to get their kids off the screens and into fitness-boosting activities. To tap into this potential new market of members, fitness facilities could consider offering classes geared specifically toward the younger demographic — such as ones incorporating dance moves and popular music — or family-fitness classes that encourage participation by Mom, Dad and the kids.

A prime example of this business-growth opportunity can be seen in Brandon fitness-industry client Elite MMA, which operates a chain of jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts facilities in the Houston, Texas, area. By offering a collection of classes geared specifically toward kids, the martial arts school has been able to boost its business and attract a sizable segment of paying members who would otherwise be unlikely to join — in addition to pleasing a lot of customers.

Consider just a handful of the positive reviews Elite MMA has been able to generate as a result of offering a selection of classes just for kids:

“My 11 year old son has been training at Elite MMA since he was 5 years old and I cannot recommend it highly enough. He has grown so much in his time there. In addition to the physical skills that he has gained, he has also become more confident, disciplined and respectful. He has made lasting friendships and considers his classmates and coaches to be a second family. He takes a lot of pride in his training and looks forward to his twice weekly classes. As a mom of two children, I have invested quite a bit of time and money in extracurricular activities over the years, and I would have to say that our time at Elite MMA has been the best time and money spent.”

Sami V.

“Love Elite MMA! They are wonderful with my son and the rest of his class. Coaches are truly amazing with the children, and they learn so much more than martial arts. The class has helped him with his self-confidence, respecting others and pursuing his goals. Highly recommended!”

Amanda J.

“Elite MMA is the perfect example of a well-run Martial Arts gym. It is organized according to the principles it espouses and has an amazing staff that demonstrates those principles through example. Before joining Elite MMA, our children had never participated in a sport or martial arts program. They went from shy and unsure to outgoing and confident with the classes in such a short time. The instructors were patient yet firm, and taught our children the importance of self-defense and self-respect. Coming here feels like coming home to an extended family with the support and encouragement provided. 
The school also has done so much to help the community, including lending a hand to hurricane survivors in the cleanup to teaching self-defense principles to children in local schools. This business is the perfect example of a conscious enterprise not just concerned about the bottom line, but also with giving back to the local community.”

Jennie B.

“This is an amazing school! Both of my girls have attended for the past 6 months, and they have learned discipline, self-control, respect and how to defend themselves if needed. The professionals that run this gym are top-notch. It’s well worth the time to make sure your kids get the best there is to offer.”

Amanda P.

6. Remind them of the power of camaraderie

For many fitness-minded consumers who have yet to return to the gym, it’s safe to say that the at-home workouts are likely growing increasingly boring by now — and in all probability, they’ll only continue moving further in that direction. To create a sense of nostalgia and longing for the good ol’ days in the gym, consider adopting messaging in your marketing assets that remind them how much more fun workouts with gym friends can be, in addition to how much more effective one-on-one instruction and nutritional coaching can be for many people, as opposed to the go-it-alone regimens that the pandemic forced on them.

7. Kick up the cleanliness, and spread the word

Facility cleanliness has always been important to many gym members, and the COVID-19 era has only reinforced these feelings. To ease these consumers’ minds, institute (or continue to maintain) high-level gym-cleaning and -sanitation routines, as well as in-facility distancing protocols, and be sure to share the details of your extra efforts with existing and prospective customers. As many hotels and other hospitality-industry businesses have done during and in the wake of the pandemic, your gym could add a page to its website regarding the extra efforts it is taking to maintain cleanliness and limit customers’ exposure to any potential health risks. And to further the cause, the same language could be incorporated on gym signage and in marketing materials such as brochures and other handouts.

8. Offer hybrid experiences

The pandemic saw large numbers of fitness enthusiasts purchase fitness equipment for their homes and center their workout routines around this equipment. And while these consumers may now be returning to the gym, that doesn’t mean that their at-home equipment has to start collecting dust. If your gym offers personal training and professional fitness-routine creation, consider crafting special fitness plans for these members that incorporate their at-home equipment into their overall fitness routines. With both their at-home equipment and in-gym visits contributing, they’ll be more likely to maintain well-rounded fitness regimens — and the effectiveness of your gym’s fitness guidance will rise.

Looking for expert help getting your health & fitness-focused business back on track after enduring the challenges of the pandemic? At Brandon, our team of marketing experts has the fitness-industry knowledge and experience needed to understand what motivates today’s health & fitness consumer — and we’re here to help. Contact us today to discuss how we can help your health- or nutrition-focused business grow.

Scott Brandon

Scott Brandon

Chief Executive Officer

Scott has led the growth of Brandon into a Southeastern powerhouse with over 120 employees in four offices across the U.S. As a highly sought-after strategist and business-minded visionary, he has helped develop and grow brands such as YETI Coolers, Southern Tide, CresCom Bank, Williams Knife Co. and Fish Hippie. Always on the forefront of technology, Scott’s focus is on data-driven marketing and developing growth minded strategies and tactics. Although he has an endless passion for marketing, Scott is happiest when he is outdoors hunting and fishing with his family.

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