Back To Top skip to Main Content

7 Marketing Tips For Leisure Operators 

To get (and keep) the attention of the communities you serve, you need a marketing strategy that helps you stand out. If you can grow your leisure brand, you’ll successfully be the leisure facility of choice and help more people keep active.

According to the LeisureDB State of the UK Fitness Industry Report 2023 there are 6,998 gyms, health clubs, and leisure centres in the UK. 36% of those are public sector leisure operators. Competition is tough, especially for leisure operators.

To stand out and attract more people to your leisure facilities, you need a robust approach to promoting your offering. Follow these 7 tips for success.

1. Start with strategy

Your marketing strategy will help you get the most from your marketing investment. It should detail marketing goals that are aligned to your organisational goals. And show what you need to achieve those marketing goals.

In your leisure marketing strategy include:

  • Your marketing goals
  • Budgets
  • Competitive landscape analysis
  • Segmentation, targeting and positioning
  • Campaigns & objectives
  • Marketing channels
  • KPIs for success

Once your strategy is in place, you can create your marketing plan. That will detail exactly how you achieve your marketing strategy and cover details of tactics and timings.

2. Take advantage of email marketing

Email is a very effective way to reach prospects, members, and visitors. It’s a marketing channel that leisure operators have most control over. You get direct access to an audience who have chosen to hear from you.

To supercharge the success of your email campaigns, make sure you:

  • Take a targeted approach to ensure your emails resonate with each recipient. Create segmented targeted lists using your leisure management software. Typical segmentations include membership type, journey stage, age, gender, goals, and visit patterns
  • Personalise the messages you send to boost open rates and increase campaign revenue. Adding a name to your emails can increase open rates by 5.2%. Use the data in your leisure management software to meaningfully personalise your messages
  • Write a subject line that gets the reader’s attention to stand out and encourage opens. Make it concise to avoid cropping. And consider your brand and audience – if appropriate inject humour, carefully use capitalisation, or add a relevant emoji
  • Send at the right time to maximise open and read rates. Research shows that in the UK, emails sent at 9am are most likely to be read

3. Get social

Social media marketing is a non-negotiable for most leisure centres. If you’ve neglected your social channels, it might be time to step up your presence.

Success on social media will look slightly different depending on the platforms you use. Generally, there are two key elements to focus on:

  1. Content – you need to post regularly and have a plan that aligns to your marketing strategy
  2. Community – the goal for social media is to create a community rather than a following. Dedicate time and resource to engaging with your community (ideally everyday)

Choose which social platforms you use based on who you are trying to reach, the most popular for leisure operators are:

  • Facebook – most popular with older professionals aged 25+
  • Instagram – most popular with Millennials (born 1981 to 1996) and Gen Z (born 1997 to 2012)
  • TikTok – most popular with younger people (26% of UK active users are aged 18-24)

4. Show up with SEO & the right website

Consumers are more tech savvy than ever and expect your website to be easy to find and use.

Think about your member journey and the role your website plays. It needs to be easy to join online. And existing members need to easily find timetables and other information, as well as logging into your digital self-service area to make bookings, update their details and more.

SEO – search engine optimisation – is essential for operators. It’s second nature for most consumers to turn to Google when looking for products and services. That’s true for leisure activities too.

SEO is not as complicated as you may expect. If you follow these 5 tips for success, you’ll show up and stand out whenever people are searching for facilities and activities in your area using Google and other search engines.

5. Work with the right partners & influencers

Make the most of the marketing opportunities that exist with other organisations and businesses in the areas you serve. And consider partnering with local influencers to grow your business.

Perhaps you have partnerships with local retailers, newspapers, cafes etc., that you could team up with to reach a wider audience through their marketing channels. Make the activities reciprocal to benefit both parties.

An influencer is someone who has a loyal following (typically on social media) and can influence the decisions of their audience.

As a leisure operator, you could look for local influencers who have a specific audience you want to target. For example, parenting influencers who have a family audience.

6. Employ the power of word of mouth

Word of mouth marketing is highly effective. 88% of people trust recommendations from people they know more than any other type of advertising according to Nielsen research. And 77% are more likely to go onto buy after receiving advice from someone they trust.

You can even attract higher value members to your fitness business when you use word of mouth marketing. Research suggest that those who have received a recommendation will spend two times more and go on to make two times as many referrals themselves.

Effective ways to use word of mouth marketing include:

  • Referral programmes – encourage members to refer you to a friend, relative or colleague in return for an incentive when the referred member signs up
  • Guest passes – another way to encourage members to bring a friend is to offer free guest passes. So, members can introduce friends, relatives, or colleagues to your facility in an easy way
  • Reviews & success stories – ask members to review your facilities on Facebook and Google (do this regularly, including during your onboarding process). Share these across your marketing channels. You could also work with individual members to create ‘success story’ testimonials that show the impact you’ve had on their health

7. Measure success and refine your approach

Few organisations have unlimited time and budget to invest in marketing. So, it’s important to track and measure the performance of your marketing activities to make sure you are achieving the goals set out in your strategy.

These are some of the ways you can track and measure success:

  • Website performance (sessions, conversions, time on site etc.)
  • Email (& SMS) open and click through rates
  • Social media reach and engagement
  • Memberships (new joiners, retention rate, average length of stay etc.)
  • Return on investment (ROI)

By tracking performance, you can dynamically adjust your marketing approach to focus on the areas that are getting you closer to achieving the goals you’ve set.

Set your organisation up for success

To compliment your marketing strategy, you need the right software. Putting an effective, all-in-one leisure management system in place will free up time to focus on your marketing efforts. And help you create standout member experiences that make marketing your facilities easier.

Request a demo to see the value that Legend can bring to your leisure organisation.