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Online vs. Offline Fitness Marketing: Which is Better?


Once you’ve identified your ideal member, it’s time to identify the channels to reach them. While your member profile and persona will help you understand the places your customers frequently hang out, it’s not enough to use only a few select channels to talk to them.

Marketing, like getting fit, doesn’t rely on just one method or workout to see all of the results. Consistent, varied stimulus, coupled with diet and exercise, are key. Thus, the most effective marketing plans combine online and offline approaches.

offline vs online fitness marketing

What is Offline Vs. Online Marketing?

Offline is traditional marketing. It’s the frontline interaction between your brand and the real world. Offline marketing helps establish trust, put a face to a name, and connects you to your member.

Offline marketing, includes:

  • Direct Mail
  • Radio
  • Print/Newspaper Ads
  • Local Event and Team Sponsorship
  • Flyers

Online, or digital, marketing is virtual. It’s the interaction and engagement that happens on the internet - your website, a social media site or a search engine. For example, it’s what your prospective member encounters when he or she sees an inspiring image overlaid with a promotional code to your classes on an Instagram feed.

Online marketing, includes:

  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Content Marketing
  • Digital Ads
  • Social Media: Paid and Organic
  • Email Marketing

Digital channels have increasingly become a vital part of the buyer’s journey, whether researching solutions to a problem on Google or seeking recommendations from friends on Facebook. According to Nielsen’s Harris Poll Online, 82% of Americans seek recommendations from family and friends when making a purchase. (Source: 2016, Business 2 Community) It is now a part of everyday life. Therefore, it is equally as important to be represented online as offline for local businesses.

Online and offline both bring something different to the table, which is why using them together is the recipe to attract and convert prospects.

Which One’s Best?

Strengths of Offline:

  • More tangible. Prospective members can see the product or services, ask questions, and meet the trainers.
  • Quicker decision-making. Build trust quickly and tailor solutions on the spot.
  • Builds brand awareness. Think of the old marketing adage that suggests that it takes seven touches for a customer to remember you. A member who hears your commercial, sees your banner, or drives past your building is more likely to choose you.

Challenges of Offline:

  • Often more expensive than online. Physical space and resources have a price tag.
  • It’s more difficult to measure and track results. You don’t know if a commercial brought someone in unless the customer tells you.
  • One chance to convert customers. One poor face-to-face interaction or a flyer typo can ruin your shot.

Strengths of Online:

  • It’s less expensive to start and maintain than offline.
  • Able to have multiple touch points working together, such as your website, social media, and email campaigns.
  • Ability to follow-up quickly and easily because the interaction isn’t limited to a conversation at a gym open house.
  • More targeted, you can specifically target your message to the right audience.
  • More trackable, thanks to the technology available. Gold’s Gym SoCal switched to Digital and increased memberships by 61%; mailers are more difficult to measure.

Challenges of Online:

  • Takes more time to build awareness and trust.
  • Can be additional work to setup and maintain. You can automate to some extent, by using services like WindForceFIT and scheduling tools, but it takes time to keep up your online presence.
  • Need some technical know-how to manage digital platforms, such as a website, and to optimize SEO.

Online + Offline = Results

The two work together to fill the pipeline. A conversation at an expo that allows you to capture information or interest from a prospective member, such as a Facebook like or an email address for your distribution list is one example. Another is a prospect who reads your online blog that helps answer questions about a fitness plan and then sees your logo on an event banner. Think, seven touches.

While it’d be nice to do it all, the reality is that whether it’s a workout or a marketing plan, you only have so much time and energy (or budget). Strike the right balance between your online and offline marketing strategy based on the results you want. Remember, you build awareness offline that you can turn around and capture as leads online. And, those online leads and call-to-actions develop into customers who will then recommend you.

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Kapidia, Amity. (2016, March 12.) “Numbers Don’t Lie: What a 2016 Nielsen Study Revealed About Referrals.” Business 2 Community. https://www.business2community.com/marketing/numbers-dont-lie-2016-nielsen-study-revealed-referrals-01477256#zHDvHrR9e6gU6i1y.97

Unfried, Josh. (2018, April 29.) “How Gold’s Gym SoCal Doubled ROI and Grew Membership by 61%.” Hubspot. https://www.windfarmmarketing.com/blog-fitness-marketing/how-golds-gym-socal-doubled-roi-and-grew-memberships-by-61-percent

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