In this article, we explore what the September rush means for you and your business. We start by breaking down why there is a September rush and what customers are looking for at this time of year, and then we'll take some examples of marketing and promotions from the bigger gym groups and studios to give you ideas of how to make the most of this period for your business.
First off, let's take a look at why there are increased numbers of customers looking for your help in September.
Why is there a September rush?
There's a big boom in the industry twice a year. January, otherwise known as the time when people are revived and motivated by New Year's resolutions and September, the time when fit-goers are ready to shed summer's extra fun and get back into shape. We see these times as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start again, and gyms and studios can use this to their advantage.
January seems obvious, but why is September popular too?
Back to school
The summer is drawing to a close so kids are back to school and the return to a daily routine is normal. After a few months of kicking back and taking some much-deserved downtime, parents start to see the "back to school" period as a chance to get back into fitness and to work off those weeks of slowing down, lounging around, and eating and drinking to their heart's content.
And it's not just mums and dads - everyone has a back to school mentality after enjoying their summer.
Christmas is coming
You're probably sitting there thinking, "are you really talking about Christmas? In September?!" Sorry, but there's no getting away from the fact that the most wonderful time of the year is coming, and Christmas waits for no one. The festive season involves a lot of socialising, drinks parties, visiting family, and catching up with friends we haven't seen a lot during the year. It's not too surprising then that people want to look their best.
Why September 2021 is particularly important
Think back to a year ago. We were still experiencing Covid restrictions and were being hit with news such as:
September 2020 represented a stressful time for everyone. Fitness goals were being missed and there was a lot of uncertainty about the future.
Fast forward to September 2021 and there is still a lot of stress, but we've turned a corner.
This is now the perfect time to gain more clients and members. After a more normal summer compared to that of summer 2020, people have made the most of being able to enjoy themselves and so the September rush this year could well see record numbers heading to their local gym, yoga studio, or group PT sessions.
So what does this actually mean for your business? Well, now is the time to start thinking about how to entice people off the sofa and to turn them from prospective customers to fully signed-up members.
Who is your target clientele?
The September rush is the perfect opportunity to target specific market areas. A lot of people stick to their fitness goals all year, but now's the time to target those who have stepped away for the last couple of months.
Here are some examples of people to aim your marketing towards:
The back to school contingent
Back to school for the kids means back to school for parents as well. They've spent the summer enjoying time with their kids and that's probably involved a lot of running around in itself. But parents have more time during the day to focus on themselves now. Getting back on track and chasing their fitness goals is a motivator in encouraging parents to join your classes.
The returning summer reveller
For people who have spent months working on their beach bodies, it's a "back to school" mentality as well. They've had fun soaking up the sun and now they have to go back to work and their daily routines. You want to make going back to your classes and sessions as attractive as possible for them so they're ready to go again and get ready for those Yuletide parties and events.
Keep reading to find out how large gyms promote their businesses for the September rush
How to attract new clients and members - what the bigger businesses in the sector do
Now you know who your target clientele is, how are you going to make sure that your gym, studio, or box stands out against the local competition? Much like New Year or summer sales, the September rush is a good time to come up with some appealing offers. The best examples of these come from the bigger businesses. While they work with larger budgets and they aren't necessarily right for you, they give a ton of insight into which customer groups are being targeted and what appeals to them with messaging.
Discounting features heavily with bigger businesses, but they have the cash flow to absorb these promotions. We generally recommend against discounting as a primary promotion - something we explore more in this article about the 5 most common pricing mistakes. That said, knowing that your local competition is offering these types of deals is an important reference point.
For a business like yours, the most important thing you can do is focus on the outcomes of what you offer and your community. People do not become loyal members of your business because of pricing, they stick around because of the results they get, and how they feel when they are in your sessions.
Let's dig in deeper into how the bigger businesses entice new members and some ways you can utilise the same approaches:
Dropping sign up fees for new members
It's not uncommon for people looking to get into fitness to think twice about committing to a membership, because while the monthly rate may be reasonable, the idea of paying double to sign up can be off-putting. Seeing that September sign-ups don't have to pay a sign-up fee to franchised fitness businesses stops people from thinking twice and instead, they just think once and join.
In April 2021 when gyms were reopening in the UK after lockdown, Gym Box employed this as a strategy to encourage new members to make the most of the return of gyms, studios and fitness centres and to sign up without having to worry about paying extra sign up fees. Using this as an autumnal offer is sure to get people interested in some post-summer fitness.
Giving potential clients a taste of things to come
Transparency is a virtue that many businesses can overlook, and a good way of allowing new members to see what a gym or studio is all about is for them to offer taster sessions. For fitness businesses offering classes like boxercise or Zumba, offering a one-off discounted class is a great way of giving people new to the activity a chance to see what it's all about. Anyone who hasn't tried out a class like that before is less likely to sign up for a class package or membership straight off the bat.
Talk Active has done exactly that. They want their prospective clients to come and join the fun before committing to a full membership. Business owners don't want to have people paying for a full membership without knowing what they're actually signing up for and quickly dropping out of classes. It's chaotic and disheartening for everyone, so offering a free taster class is a great way of letting people make sure it's what they're looking for and reducing the barriers that prevent new customers from getting their foot in the door.
Offering short term memberships: the try before you buy approach
A good middle-ground for gyms, a short term membership might be just the thing to entice people to commit to your business. For anyone who'd prefer to go to the gym to just workout, taster classes wouldn't be enough to see people sign up long term. Gyms need clients to see the benefits of returning to workouts and that takes time.
Village Health & Wellness Club offer several short-term offers to give potential customers the chance to see what they're all about. With a one day pass, week-long pass, and even a no-obligation three-month membership, prospective clients can see what is on offer in terms of both classes and facilities. The three-month membership is perfect for people to see what they can achieve over a short period and is the perfect time frame to encourage them to keep going beyond that.
Discover some great ideas you can use to promote your business and bring in clients during the September rush
And other strategies that are perfect for you
Beyond discounting there are a ton of interesting and creative ways you can market your services. You won't necessarily be able to compete with the offers being made by those big named gyms and health clubs, but what you can offer is you. By creating a variety of unique programs and challenges, you can start to build your own fitness community within your local area. As we said before, your clients keep coming back for you and your classes, not your pricing.
Get creative and set specific challenges
Newcomers to fitness quite often don't know what they want from a training program beyond knowing they want to get fit. Creating achievable programs such as shedding the summer pounds, or a "kickstart your fall with a 30-day booster" program takes away the dilemma of them having to figure out a training routine for themselves. Instead, they can sign up for your classes and know they're on their way to achieving their fitness goals.
Clare from Feel Good Health & Fitness is a great example of a fitness instructor setting up a September-based challenge. Leading ladies' fitness classes near Nantwich, UK, she has been promoting her business for the post-summer season with a "September Slayer Challenge" to inspire her clients to chase their fitness goals. This month-long program is the perfect way to target both mums and summer revellers who are looking to get back in shape after a summer of much-deserved fun and relaxation.
Invite all new clients into an exclusive “back into fitness" group
Not only does this give you a chance to get to know new clients and fast track them to their goals, but it also creates an "in it together" mentality. You're more likely to see sustained attendance with a group like this as it makes clients accountable to each other. They want everyone to succeed and will keep each other motivated both in and out of classes.
Offer a new membership to include one on one appointments
All these group classes are a great way to introduce people to the fitness community, but no clients are the same. So why not meet one on one to find out their specific goals? Think of it as a “back to school night” with weights and a nutrition plan. With TeamUp's new Appointments feature, your clients can book a short consultation with you to plan out fitness goals and strategies. One to one face time with clients also helps to build a rapport between trainer and client, and your members will appreciate the extra effort you're putting into their fitness goals.
Mix things up with an outdoor class
Just because summer’s over doesn’t mean we have to retreat indoors. Offer something for existing customers to enjoy too. The autumn sun will still be shining, so getting a workout session going in a park or local sports field is the perfect way to mix things up. For clients who spend their day to day working indoors and in offices, the opportunity to enjoy a workout outdoors is really appealing, especially while the weather is still relatively warm. A change of scene can keep you and your clients motivated. Besides, if it does rain a bit, some muddy workouts are still fun and offer you and your clients some great photo ops for your social media accounts.
Create local and online marketing strategies
Once you've decided on your target market and how you're going to make your business appealing to prospective clients, creating a marketing strategy is going to be so much easier with a specialised approach. You'll have a better idea of how to gauge your language and which platforms and channels your target audience frequent most. From using local advertising strategies to getting social media to work for you, there are plenty of ways to get your business' name out there.
Build your online community through social media
If you have a Facebook group or social media pages (which you should) don’t forget to invite new members to engage with your community. Class is in session and it’s time to make new friends. A Facebook group for your current members helps you start to build an online community, and it's ideal for your new members to see why people keep coming back to your classes and sessions.
It's also the perfect platform to set some challenges. Summer might be over but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep enjoying our fitness goals. Get your members to cook a certain amount of healthy meals in a week, or switch up their workout area and take things outdoors, swapping a run on the treadmill for a run in the park. Also, get them to share their photos on your Facebook page to show their participation and encourage their workout classmates.
Keep your hashtags relevant
Instagram posts are equally important for promoting you and show clients what to expect in your classes and sessions. Using Keywords Everywhere can help you to add relevant hashtags to your posts. It can be tempting to add hashtags galore to catch the eye of all and sundry searching on Instagram. The problem with that is you run the risk of your post getting lost in the ether of other posts using less relevant hashtags and users just scrolling past your post. If for example, you run a CrossFit box, keep your hashtags relevant to CrossFit and the workouts it involves.
Engage with the community
This isn't as difficult or as time-consuming as it may seem. This time of year sees charity runs that are the perfect opportunity to get your name out there. Leafleting an event or setting up a stall where people can talk to you is an effective way to get your name out there with people who might otherwise not have found your business.
Show your passion and share your story
Reminding people that we all have to start somewhere can help to inspire people who think they can't achieve their goals to get off the sofa and have a go. Reach out to local news outlets, get your name in to local newsletters or even get in touch with local radio, and get your name circulating with your reasons for getting into fitness. You can also share your story on your website. When prospective clients find the "About me" section on your website, a short article explaining your own fitness journey shows them that achieving their fitness goals is possible, no matter their own fitness history.
Start your September revival now
The September rush is the perfect time to breathe new life into your business. People are looking to get back into their routines and with a few simple marketing strategies in place, you can make the most of that. Make your business appealing by offering deals they can't say no to and enjoy seeing your business grow.
For more tips about growing your business through marketing, check out our marketing guides here:
- Why marketing is important for your fitness business
- Grow your business using your TeamUp marketing tools
- How to make your gym stand out
- How to quickly generate some additional revenue for your fitness business
Thanks for reading!