Fitness Center and Gym Membership Text Messaging
Text messaging is necessary for your fitness center to gain and retain members. Here's how gyms, trainers, and other fitness professionals leverage texting to grow their business.
This playbook can apply to fitness centers of all sizes and with multiple locations, but we have studios with 10 to 20 employees in mind.
5 Essentials Before Your Fitness Center Starts Texting
1. A contact list of gym members.
Collecting member phone numbers is probably already a part of your onboarding process. If not, all it takes is adding a section for phone numbers on your sign up form.
Ask current members for their numbers after a workout, or request them via email. Some of your coaches may already communicate with members using their personal cell phones, and you should gather those numbers from them.
Since these members have a pre-existing relationship with your gym, texting their numbers with a software, like Text Request, is compliant. That said, your coaches may still want to give members a heads up, so they’re not caught off guard by a new number reaching out to them.
We’ll cover how to add coaches to your Text Request account later, so they no longer have to use their personal devices to text members.
2. Tech stack for coordinating with members.
We have integrations that will import existing contacts from your other software into Text Request. That way you’re ready to roll from the start—and you make the most out of the contacts you’ve already collected.
These integrations can also help you create SMS automations to make you and your coaches’ lives easier.
3. A referral program.
Word-of-mouth is the lifeblood of local fitness studios like yours. Why not provide incentives to get your members talking about you?
Host everything from “bring a new member for free” weeks, or offer discounts and coupons off membership pricing for the folks who get their family and friends to sign up.
SMS can play a role in fostering your referral program later, but having an existing system in place will help.
4. A review platform.
Your community can’t find you if you don’t rank in local Google searches. There are many different ways to rank organically, but one of the fastest ones is increasing your number of online reviews.
You also need reviews in the first place to make a good impression on people looking you up for the first time. Below are the platforms we recommend your gym be listed on.
Google My Business: A must for ranking in local Google searches
Facebook: Potential new members will enjoy seeing how you interact with current members on social media
5. Guides and routines for members.
Stay top-of-mind with members by being helpful to them even when they’re at home. Digital resources do just that.
Have everything from workout guides, stretch routines, nutritional facts, and more available on your website for members to refer to. Resources like these establish you as an authority members can trust, plus keep them embedded in good habits that encourage them to come back for more classes.
Most of your resources can take the form of a blog or PDFs that you regularly post on your website. You’ll text these resources as links to members later to keep them engaged.
5 SMS Tools to Increase Your Gym Membership
1. Add SMS Chat to your website.
New members are excited to start working out. SMS Chat gives them a way to reach you immediately.
It’s a widget new members can use to text you directly from your website. Any replies go to their phone, and you get to keep their number for follow ups.
The sooner you make contact with them, the more likely they are to choose you over a competitor’s fitness studio.
2. Create quality onboarding processes.
New members don’t want to go through hurdles just to walk into your gym. Incorporate SMS into your onboarding process to make signing up easy. Text everything from waivers new members need to complete, to directions for how to sign up for their first class.
You can also stay in touch with members easily over the first 30 days with drip campaigns to keep you top-of-mind. A drip campaign is an automated workflow, or in this case a pre-written set of texts, intended to send to members over a period of time.
You can schedule these messages for new members as they come in, or create a series of triggers via your CRM integration.
Week 1: The new member gets a text welcoming them to the gym, including a couple recommendations for their first class.
Week 2: The member gets a text recommending some membership benefits they haven't used yet.
Week 3: The member receives an encouragement text congratulating them for keeping at it.
Week 4: The member is invited to bring a friend to receive a discount on their membership.
Week 5: The member receives an upsell recommending some gear that could improve their overall experience.
Week 6: The member gets an upsell inviting them to try the next tier of membership at a discount for the first month.
This kind of text message marketing embeds new members into how you work and what you have to offer.
3. Share review links with members via SMS.
Remember those review platforms we talked about earlier? Now we’re going to request feedback for them via SMS.
Text your review link, and members will know exactly where they need to go to leave a review. All it takes is a short and sweet message like:
“Hey, Tim! We love watching your weight lifting skills grow. google.com/fitness-brigade/review If you have a sec, tell us about your experience and what’s working for you using that link.”
Members are always more likely to leave a review when you request it directly.
4. Promote SMS discount opportunities for members who bring their friends.
Members are more likely to participate in your referral program if you remind them it exists. One message is all it takes:
“Don’t forget you can bring someone to a class for free all next week!”
Entice members with discounts on their membership for following through.
5. Use keywords to bring in more new members.
Aside from reviews and referrals, the third fastest way you can attract new members is by capturing their attention with keywords. Keywords are words you advertise to members as a way for them to opt-in for more information related to a specific topic.
Display keywords on your website, social media, digital ads, and brick-and-mortar location with a message like:
“Text CROSSFIT to try your first class for free!”
Members who text the keyword are then added to a keyword subscriber group that you can message again and again with updates. It’s the ultimate SMS marketing tool to bring new members to you.
3 SMS Strategies to Retain More Members
1. Make sure people show up.
The biggest enemy of retention are missed classes. Schedule class and appointment reminders in advance to keep no-shows from happening, plus prevent your members from losing progress on their fitness goals.
You can also fill class slots from the start by texting links for members to schedule. We have an entire guide dedicated to helping you master SMS appointment scheduling, but the gist is to create a cycle that keeps members coming in and out your doors:
Text a link for the member to schedule their first class
The member uses the link to pick a slot that works best for them
Text the member a reminder a day or few hours before their scheduled class
Resend the link for the member to reschedule their class
The cycle continues!
Much if not all of this can be automated, depending on your tech stack. And of course you can always do it manually if you're staying lean.
The easier you make it for members to sign up and remember their classes, the more likely you are to retain them. SMS helps streamline that process.
2. Promote new classes, equipment, and general upsells.
Fitness businesses run on upsells. Get new offer notifications in front of members via text, including:
Gear or swag
Personal training options
Access to additional machines or sections of the gym
The more members invest in their membership, the more likely they are to stick around. So not only are you creating short-term revenue opportunities by texting upsells, you’re also increasing your long-term retention rates.
3. Send encouragement and digital resources.
Retaining members means keeping an open line of communication with them. Let them know when you see their progress, or check in when they miss a class.
Members join your gym because they want accountability and to feel like they’re part of a community. Regularly reaching out the way they most prefer to communicate—texting—will give them that experience. It humanizes your coaches and creates a direct line that keeps your fitness studio top-of-mind.
5 Steps to Implement Text Messaging into Your Gym or Studio’s Process
1. Make your current number textable.
You already advertise your fitness center’s business phone number everywhere. Making it textable saves you the hassle of updating all your current marketing collateral with a new number.
You can also add as many users as there are coaches on your team to your Text Request account, that way they can each text from your business line instead of their personal phones.
2. Tell members they can text you and your coaches.
Advertising members can text you needs to be an ongoing effort for your gym. Members won’t message you, if they don’t know they can. So have call-to-actions (CTAs) everywhere from your:
Website (the SMS Chat widget we talked about earlier is great for this)
Physical ads, including your brick-and-mortar location
All it takes is a nudge:
“Text us to attend your first class for free!”
The keywords we talked about earlier can also be a great way to entice clients to reach out via text.
3. Set up your user permission levels.
It’s great to have your gym’s entire team messaging, but it doesn’t mean you necessarily want them to have access to all the same texting capabilities—especially if you run multiple locations. Your user permission levels can reflect the amount of responsibility you give to each staff member at your gym:
Administrator: Have access to everything and can control changes to what your account is charged. Best for founders or gym owners.
Manager: Can access everything that doesn’t involve charges to your account. Best for more senior level staff members, like studio managers or team leads.
Customer Service Rep (CSR): Can only send and receive messages. They cannot change settings, edit contacts, or make changes to what your account is charged. Best for junior-level coaches or personal trainers.
Every staff member at your gym will be able to text at a level that fits their expertise.
4. Create text message templates for common questions or reminders.
Templates, or the Text Request version of saved messages, are your ticket to creating more time. They give you a way to streamline common messages that you send every day, like:
Class schedules and reminders
Short descriptions of classes
Which membership levels have access to what
Start by compiling a list of the most common questions your coaches get asked, and then save your responses as templates. Having the same response every time will also help with consistency and keeping coaches on the same page.
5. Give coaches their own lines to stay in touch with members.
Creating bonds between your staff and members increases retention rates. Coaches will establish individual connections with your members when they have their own personal lines.
Features like signatures can add a personal touch, so members know who they’re messaging. Coaches can also introduce themselves by sharing their headshot, so members know who to look for even before they go to their first class.
It’s personal touches like these that highlight your gym’s welcoming culture and help you stand out in the fitness industry. SMS is the thread that will keep your gym tethered to its members.