sms marketing

3 out of the box ways to use automated text marketing in fitness

I’ve written in some of my previous blogs that text marketing has been making a comeback as a reliable marketing channel.

The rise of the Cozy Web

The primary reason text message marketing is making a comeback is that the last three years has seen a huge shift in how people consume content and interact on the internet. Public timelines such as Facebook and Twitter are becoming less relevant, and more people choose to interact inside Facebook groups, chat groups on messenger or WhatsApp etc. This is called the Cozy Web. The main characteristics of the Cozy Web that you need to know as a business owner are:

  1. People you communicate with have given you permission to get in touch with them – this may be by signing up for your newsletter, being part of a Facebook group or being a member of your club.
  2. You get to be more personal and targeted in your messaging in the Cozy Web. You don’t have to be like brands on Twitter that try too hard, you can produce content and information that gives value to the user interacting with you.
  3. It is harder to get metrics on how well you’re doing. This remains a problem inside Coz Web, one for which there are not a lot of existing solutions

Text message marketing is a channel that fits this criterion well, and you should be using it to make loyal fans out of your customers and users

Does automated text marketing work?

Our users in the fitness industry such as Planet Fitness have had a lot of success with automated text marketing. They have used it to promote their premium plan upgrades and seen an increase of up to 72% in conversion with targeted messaging.

We made a small case study video for this:

These kind of automated text campaigns are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what you can do with text messaging. Let’s talk about a few other ideas that you can experiment whether you are running a gym, a wellness center or pilates club.

Promote your valuable content with text message marketing

Facebook and YouTube has been seeing a decrease in organic reach for a while now. Other channels such as Snapchat, TikTok or Twitch are not very friendly to brands. But you still want your content to go “viral” or atleast be seen by people who care about your business. I can understand if your first tendency is to take your customer list and bombard them with email newsletters that inevitably get drowned in the endless sea of email. But, what about all the phone numbers you have collected from your customers?

Sharing links has become progressively easier over the last couple of years. The link unfurls to display a preview and some chat apps such as Messenger load the link within their own browser.

Use text messaging to reach out to your members and customers and share content that would help them built a relationship with your business. These can be fitness tips, blogs that you wrote, fitness podcasts that you created/loved, those personal training videos that you have been uploading on YouTube.

You may feel that this is a small group of people to share content with but these are people who care about your business, and it is more likely that they will share your content when compared to the people who see your content in a public timeline on Facebook or Twitter.

Use Shortcodes to book and track reservations

Some of my clients have mentioned a couple of times that they find it hard to fill personal training sessions or special sessions hosted occasionally. A big reason for this may be that not everyone has heard about it or you may not have hit the person enough times with the right message to nudge them towards attending the event.

Short codes have existed for a long time but their overuse by brands led to most customers ignoring them and this lead to lower conversions.

You should take your lessons from this and design more personal messages with shortcodes that nudge users to attend the event you are hosting. For example: If you are doing a special session on how to look good in the summer, design an automated text campaign that looks like this:

  1. Narrow down the target audience – if you run a club with a large member base, split your messaging into two types. One for members who attend regularly and another for members who have been absent for a while
  2. Run a 3-4 touch campaign with adequate time between the messages. You can use your intuition here, a message every day would annoy your members, but a timely personalized set of messages is more likely to help you convert them
  3. Use incentives based on actions that your customer has taken – give discounts to members who have not attended in a while, give reward points to redeem to members who are regular
Driving referrals with SMS marketing

Use two-way texting for better customer experience

Make it easy for your customers to reach you. Making the customer email you or make a phone call is going to make the feedback process much longer than necessary. The customer feedback loop is essential for you to keep innovating and to keep your customers happy. If you don’t address them as they arise, it is quite likely that they will end up being Yelp and Google reviews.

At the moment, one unwieldy option that exists are the social media comments. Most brands have a long list of comments or reply tweets from customers asking for help. Two ways these are not so good for business:

  1. It’s hard to manage conversation threads like these and they are easy to miss out
  2. It’s not a really good advertisement for your business if people are complaining on Facebook comments.


Two way texting makes it easy for you engage real time or asynchronously with your members. It’s no secret that people prefer texting to phone calls or emails threads. Modern text message marketing software makes two way texting possible and quite easy to do. So put your customer success hat on and engage with users and get instant feedback from them on how your business is doing.

I’m making a small video series on campaigns that have helped fitness businesses like your retain their customers. Sign up for the email newsletter below to get the occasional update and new material

sms marketing - business text messaging

How To Do SMS Marketing Easily | Is It Still Effective In 2019?

The average knowledge worker ‘checks in’ with communication tools every 6 minutes say research done by RescueTime. As a small business owner, this means that people are tuning into communication channels – email, IM or messages every 6 minutes.

We also know that email open rates peak at about 24%. What about IMs and SMS messages? A whopping 85% of text messages are opened within 5 minutes of receipt. And unlike email marketing, it is much easier for your customers to opt out of SMS marketing than it is for them to opt out of email marketing

What this means for you is that SMS marketing is not spammy as it used to be a couple of years back.

What kind of SMS Marketing is effective?

Unlike paid advertising channels such as Facebook and Google, with SMS marketing, you know the person whom you are targeting with your message. It’s likely that the person is an existing customer or filled out a lead form and you have more information on them. This means you can personalize your messaging to appeal to them and where they are in the customer journey.

Upselling to current customers using SMS marketing

Planet Fitness uses automated SMS marketing to promote its premium plans to existing users. They make the user experience for this very easy. Text with a shortcode (such as PF UPGRADE) to a specific number and the user starts the process to upgrade to a premium plan.

Franchise owners, we talked with say that members prefer text communication much more over other channels. Our pet theory is that with the increased nuisance of robocalls and emails being overloaded with newsletters and promos, text messaging offers a noise-free channel that the user can opt in and opt out of easily.

Driving referrals with SMS marketing
Driving referrals with SMS marketing

Get Permission before promoting to cold leads

An example of an opt-in message: Eg: Please reply YES to receive updates from Example Company. Std. msg&data rates apply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel.

One of the main tenets of SMS marketing, also one that you should follow to put yourself on the right side of the law, is getting the permission of your customer before you start sending more promos to them. Make it clear in the first SMS what your ask is and what the user can get by giving you permission to text them.

Since the response to this email usually boils down to a ‘Y’ or ‘N’, your response rates would be much higher than that for an email. Also, you are able to qualify your leads much more quickly.

Make it stand out by including rich media

Driving referrals with SMS marketing

Check out the SMS messages in your inbox that you have ignored. There’s a good chance that you ignored those messages because they failed to stand out from the crowd or were too repetitive. Apart from writing good content, another good way to make your messages stand out is to add rich media in them – a picture, a link to an article or a video.

Make sure that the rich media you are adding, adds value to the customer. Think of this as a way to hook the user into your content so that you can make bigger asks later on.

A couple of fitness studios who work with Gleantap use the rich media feature of SMS marketing to send fitness and diet tips to their customers – sometimes these are links to videos they have produced or articles that they have written on their blog.

Use the 80/20 rule

SMS is a very personal marketing channel – This is a double-edged sword. if your customers start feeling that you are misusing their attention, they may start to unsubscribe. Misusing attention can take forms of

  1. Sending a high number of explicit marketing content or upselling them without adding any value
  2. Having a very high frequency of messages sent.
  3. Selling user data to third parties without the permission/consent of the user.

Instead of sending a constant barrage of marketing messages, send them content that adds value to their relationship with you. As earlier mentioned, these can be tips, articles you have written or content that you think they may like. As always make it very easy for them to unsubscribe from these SMS’es as well.

Sent messages that add value to the customer