In “normal” times, gym operators have a host of options for marketing their facilities, from participating in community events to sponsoring sports leagues. But during COVID, the very thing that makes these marketing tactics appealing—a large potential audience—is mostly off-limits. Additionally, gyms have to counteract the public’s potential concern about indoor activities, including workouts.

“Your No. 1 path to success in reaching new members will be building consumer confidence,” says World Gym Chief Operations Officer Jarrod Saracco. Here are five ways to get new and existing members back in your building by appealing to what they need now.

Gym Member Checks In with Safety Protocols

A member at World Gym Oxnard checks their temperature before entering.

Enlist your members to share why they are back in the gym.

People are less inclined to believe a message from a business than their own personal contacts, Saracco points out. “Hearing testimonials from their friends and family is what builds confidence.” He recommends walking around the gym floor and capturing your members on video (with their permission, of course) so that followers can see the social distancing and masks and hear firsthand what it’s like to be at the gym.

“Just ask your member, ‘Hey can I have two minutes of your time to tell our audience why you love being back at the gym? Encourage them to share what it’s like to work out in a mask, or how safe they feel with the new sanitation practices in place.” Then repurpose the videos on all your digital platforms, from your website to your social media channels, and encourage your members to share it themselves and hashtag your gym.

Document how you are prioritizing your members’ health and safety.

Yes, your members are your top marketing ally, but you still should use your own video to explain what you’re doing behind-the-scenes to keep members safe and healthy. “Show and tell how you strategically have added sanitation stations, promote social distancing and brought cleaning staff on board to do extra overnight work,” Saracco says. “Combined with the members’ testimonials, you’ll have a great story to tell when you detail these enhanced protocols.”

Explain why exercise is more important than ever.

As people focus even more on their health, it’s important to connect exercising at the gym with all the ways it promotes physical, social and even mental health. (Check out this blog post which offers background on why gyms are essential, now more than ever or this blog post on how exercise boosts your immunity.)

If you have members who have lapsed or frozen their memberships, this is an ideal time to call them up and talk to them about their reservations, if any. “Personally invite them to take a tour so they can see how safe it is and regain their gym habit,” suggests Saracco.

Promote youth options.

With many youth sports put on hold, kids are losing out on their training, and even just all-around healthy physical activity. A recent survey finds that kids are spending just 7.2 hours per week playing sports, down from 13.6 hours before the pandemic. “Gyms can reach a whole new potential group of members by creating youth programming for different ages that will appeal to those who just want to burn off some steam, as well as those who want to keep their fitness levels high,” points out Saracco.

Seek corporate memberships.

In the new virtual workforce, many people are more stressed than ever, and companies are looking for new ways to provide perks that will help their team avoid burnout. Make a list of every local business you can think of and create an appealing email offer that explains the importance of exercise as a way to boost employee productivity through physical and mental health. Offer trial memberships in person or a subscription to streaming classes to help ease them back into the workout habit.

“As communities begin to reopen, people are eager to return to or start a fitness regimen, but might need a little extra support,” Saracco says. By focusing on the safety of your gym and the benefits of exercise, you can reach new members and reinforce your importance to existing ones.