Beverly Hosford by Beverly Hosford

There is no shortage of websites and social media gurus claiming to have the latest and greatest ways to market yourself and your health and fitness business to prospective customers. While many of these approaches can work well for some, they’re not for everyone, especially those who don’t want to spend a considerable amount of time online.

Fortunately, while an online presence is important, there are also traditional—yet still effective—options available to you. Consider investing your energies into these four time-tested marketing methods, which can serve to enhance your overall marketing plan.

1. Business cards

A business card, which everyone seems to have these days, is a great icebreaker for building relationships. A business card can help open the door, but you have to walk through. Think of them as trading cards—when  you give one away, be sure to get something in return, such as a card, phone number or email address.

Following up is key. Call and invite a prospective client to a class or offer a free consultation. Take the pressure off by saying something like, “Come see what I do, so you can help me spread the word, but there’s no pressure to buy anything.” If you traded cards with a colleague or referral source (such as a physical therapist), learn more about the source by visiting his or her website. Then check in and connect. Share what you like about the source’s philosophy. Invite him or her to a class, ask if you can do a trade or make a plan to get together for coffee.

2. Fliers

Unfortunately, hanging fliers on random bulletin boards rarely leads to good results. The best way to maximize bulletin boards is to build relationships first. Become a frequent visitor to coffee shops, juice bars, natural grocers and athletic clothing stores before you hang fliers. Get to know the staff and the other regulars by visiting the same day and time each week.

Work on your marketing plan while you sip a cup of tea or a smoothie. View it as a marketing expense and your golden ticket to network. Interact with other people when you’re there—be a friendly and familiar face. When it’s time to hang a flier, it will have more meaning if you’ve built relationships. Spending time in places you naturally enjoy puts you around other like-minded people with similar interests, so the benefits go beyond the flier.

3. Can you hear me now?

You’re not the only one who’s tired of having a full email inbox, so why not do something radical and unexpected and pick up the phone to connect with people? While some people prefer a text, many appreciate a phone call to confirm appointments, check in after a new workout routine or to reconnect if they’ve drifted away from the gym.

Doing things differently and making the call can help set you apart from other professionals. Even a voicemail is better than an email or text, because it shows that you care and that the person is worth your time.

4. Word of mouth

The strongest referrals come from those we know, like and trust. People are more likely to choose a gym or hire a personal trainer based on a friend’s recommendation as opposed to viewing a flier. Trying saying this to your clients: “I really like having you as a client and wonder if you know anyone who would benefit from a free session with me. I have a few openings in my schedule this month.” This choice of words helps you sound generous instead of needy.

Remove the pressure by offering a free class or a group hike so your clients can comfortably invite people to experience what you offer—without obligation. You can ask your clients what would motivate them to recommend you—a gift certificate for a friend, a free class pass, a workshop or something else? Your clients know you’re running a business, so it’s perfectly appropriate for you to have a candid conversation about this every once in awhile.

Whether you’re marketing online or in person, the key is to build relationships and make people feel important. These foundations are essential. Making relationship building a habit and practicing it consistently is a simple and effective path to success in the fitness industry.