According to ukactive, compared to 2021 levels, energy bills for the leisure sector will increase by up to 240% in 2023 and some public leisure centres are already facing increases of between 150% and 200%, largely due to the high energy consumption of swimming pools.

Unless financial support is provided, nearly all fitness and leisure facilities may need to increase their prices at some stage over the next 12 months, but how does this impact both the acquisition and retention of members who are all facing the same cost of living crisis?  

Author: Emma Kapur

Emma Kapur

During a recession, consumers are often forced to make some modifications to their spending habits, and for some people a gym membership might be the first cut they look to make, especially if they aren’t making use of their membership or aren’t seeing the value in it. A drop in retention rates might also be combined with a drop in new membership sales, with fitness becoming less of a priority through the winter months and consumers looking to save money where they can.

However, with some careful operational planning, a robust community and some tweaks to your marketing messages, your fitness business can still continue to thrive. Putting operational challenges aside, in this article we are going to focus on some top tips for winter-proofing your fitness business through marketing tactics and member communication.


Maintain a Healthy Marketing Budget

Most fitness businesses will look to cut expenses over the winter months and, as a result, marketing budgets might be reduced. However, it is important to maintain brand awareness and keep consumer confidence by maintaining a presence both online and offline. If you cut back on marketing spend and rely on organic marketing channels, you run the risk of your business losing visibility and reducing your numbers of both leads and sales.  One of the main reasons for business’s cutting back their marketing budget is that they can’t justify the investment and don’t measure ROI throughout the year.  If you knew for certain that your marketing activity was driving enquiries and sales would you ever reduce it?


Be Transparent and Flexible

You need to instil confidence in your prospects who are now more conscious than ever with how and where they spend their money. It might be tempting to focus on marketing your highest priced membership options for maximum income, but it is important to also showcase your cheaper and more flexible pricing plans which might also include off-peak,zero-contract and pay-as-you-go options. Although these bring in less income, they might help increase your membership numbers as they appeal to members on a lower budget or who are less likely to commit to long term contracts. Plus, if you can convert a cancelling member onto a lower priced membership plan, you can at least retain them for now.


Show Your Value

If your gym is seen by your prospects and members as just a facility, or an unnecessary spend, then you are much less likely to gain and retain members. You need to show value through all of your marketing by showcasing your USPs and ultimately by demonstrating the problem that you are solving. If members aren’t seeing value in their membership then they will likely look elsewhere for a cheaper alternative that offers the same solution, so you need to create a reason for them to join, or stay at, your facility. Often this is through building and showcasing your incredible community, social events, member success stories and added membership benefits to differentiate your gym from your competitors who are likely to be offering a very similar service, e.g. the same quality of equipment, classes and price points. By being authentic, consistent, and transparent in your messaging, you can show your value.

User-generated content (UGC) and testimonials also help to attract new clients by acting as social proof – let prospects hear it from your members themselves rather than just from yourselves as a business. The end result from user-generated content is usually more traffic, higher conversion rates and more engaging organic content.


Focus on Health-related Content Marketing

Members need to see the gym as a necessity rather than a luxury and understand the importance of prioritising their health. Through content marketing, social media and other communication methods you can continue to reinforce this message and encourage members to see exercising as a vital part of their day to day lives, to improve their health and wellbeing both physically and mentally. Try to encourage your members to make spending cuts elsewhere, for example cutting down on the number of coffees bought on the weekly commute, reducing the number of subscriptions such as Netflix, or the number of takeaways per month.

This type of marketing activity will also reach large groups of your local community who are thinking about exercise but haven’t started the process of actively looking yet (precontemplators).  Positioning yourself as the go-to brand for fitness and health will reap the rewards when they make the decision to join a local facility.


Don’t Forget to Thank Your Members!

Address the elephant in the room and let your members know that you are aware of the rising costs of living and thank them for their loyalty. Offer loyalty rewards that don’t break the bank and maintain regular communication to your existing members through various channels such as email, SMS, social media and even printed newsletters. If your existing members feel informed and valued then they are much less likely to leave.  COVID has presented the opportunity to start afresh with your membership base and you will likely have less sleeping members than back in 2019.  Most membership cancellations come from this sleeping pool of members so keep it to a minimum by engaging consistently with your customers.

For more information on how TA6 could help and provide advice on your membership growth plans just visit and check out our list of services, or get in touch below.