Shrugged Collective

Barbell Business – Stay on Top of Fitness Marketing w/ Jeff Sherman

On This Week’s Episode of Barbell Business, we interview Jeff Sherman to discuss:

  • How to get prospects to know, like, and trust you
  • How to create and curate content
  • How to create an effective advertising funnel
  • The best tools for online marketing right now

How do you make your gym stand out when every other gym in town offers the same services and specials? I mean, we know your gym is the best, but how will your prospects know? We asked killer marketer Jeff Sherman about how to make a connection with your clients before you even meet them.

In this episode, we talk to him about what in the wide world of social media marketing is worth our time, what trends to let go of, and why it’s necessary in order to get our potential clients to know, like, and trust us before they become members.

Meet Jeff Sherman

We know Jeff’s a marketing genius because he was able to nail down the domain fitnessmarketer.com. His area of expertise is keeping on top of marketing trends and getting the most relevant information into the hands of fitness companies. He’s co-founder and CEO of Tech Sweat, and he’s impacted over 5,000 fitness businesses in six countries, and his marketing systems are airtight.

Top of the Show: Welcome to Fabulous Chino Hills!

Our thanks to the great Joshua Baumgarten for letting us work out, hang out, and film the show at his box in Chino Hills, California.

2:08 – How to Form a Connection With Your Clients Before You Even Meet Them

Get on social media and be authentic. Jeff says that most of our potential clients consider themselves to live boring lives, and look to us to see how we live our exciting lives. It can sound like a lot of pressure, but we all have our Insta-worthy moments of the day (hopefully). Because we’re people who work in the fitness industry, we’re “creating content” every day; we just have to record it. Here are some examples of things that are totally fine (even encouraged) for you, as a fitness entrepreneur, to broadcast all over the internet:

  • Advice you just gave a new client
  • What you’re eating
  • Where you’re going
  • What your workouts consist of
  • Where you’re going on vacation
  • How you train up your kids to be healthy
  • Your dog
  • Your new running shoes
  • Whatever

Every different glimpse you allow of your personality is an opportunity for a different kind of person to connect with you. If you show a picture of your dog, everyone with a dog who sees it will think, on some level, “Oh! That person’s like me!” If you show a picture of your new Nike running shoes, everyone who owns a pair of Nike running shoes will think, “Oh! That person’s like me!” This is true of just about anything you want to post. People are looking for ways to connect with you, and you have to let them in.

All of this leads to an important theme that Jeff touches on throughout the episode: Each time you connect with this audience, your clients get a chance to know, like, and trust you. Once they know, like, and trust you enough, they’ll take you up on your offer.

3:08 Making Your Ads and Offers Effective

Markus asks Jeff how ads play into the bigger context of a marketing story. We’ve noticed that a lot of people run ads that go straight to their homepage, and then they wonder why they don’t get conversions.

One of the most common errors that Jeff sees is that gyms will run offer after offer after offer. It burns out the audience quickly. Even if the offer changes, people will not believe you when you build in the scarcity for special discounts. They know that some other deal is just around the corner, and they can put off their membership until later.

And for brick-and-mortar businesses, every box in the neighborhood is running ads to the same people. That Facebook ad in the sidebar becomes static when everyone’s trying to sell you on the same deal. Jeff says the easiest way to handle this is to put something in front of the deal. If you run ads that lead people to an article on your blog, for example, and the offer is behind a hyperlink within the article, your audience will have found something valuable. Besides that, after reading the article, they’re a little bit more indoctrinated about your product — they’re that much closer to knowing, liking, and trusting you. Which means they’re closer to joining your gym or signing up for your personal training.

4:33 – What used to work for marketing, but doesn’t work anymore?

Fitness advertising with Jeff Sherman

Jeff mentioned an advertising process he used to use every month on potential clients, but that he now views as insufficient:

  • Week 1: Send the prospect straight to the ad (because people get paid this week)
  • Week 2: Send the prospect to an opt-in
  • Week 3: Send the prospect straight to an offer (because they just got paid again)
  • Remainder of the month: Content

By pixeling the potential clients, Jeff’s able to re-target them week after week. Jeff still uses this same basic recipe, but now everything is front-loaded with content.

Another tactic that hasn’t worked that well since about 2009: Putting an ad for your gym in the back of a fitness magazine and calling it a day.

6:04 The Affiliate Model

Fitness marketing affiliate programs with Mike Bledsoe and Jeff Sherman

This was the first tactic that Jeff used to launch his business, and it’s a model that still works: You find noncompeting businesses with the same customers as you, and give them a percentage of sales to help you recruit and market. He teamed up with Bedros Keuilian, who created his affiliate program. (Bedros is great. You can listen to him drop all kinds of knowledge on us in Episode 168.)

In the Jeff’s case, his first stop was a local gymnastics center.

“I took that program to them and was like, ‘Hey I have a way for you to raise money for uniforms, or for camps, or new equipment. And all you have to do is send out these three emails, and I’ll give you 100% of the money that comes in.’ And they sent out the email that was $47 for 14 days. A 14-day Fat Furnace. Gave them 100%, but I had almost 60 some people come in for that offer. So they made a ton of money.”

It would have taken the gymnastics center like a billion carwash fundraisers to make that kind of money, so they were thrilled by the deal. Then all Jeff had to do was convert these 60 new prospects into members. By this point, they’re already in the door and already getting to know, like, and trust Jeff. Conversion to regular membership is now a piece of cake.

Even though Jeff busted these moves out before social media marketing blew up, it’s still a great, replicable marketing strategy that can cut through the noise.

7:43 When Ads Go Stale

Jeff Sherman of fitnessmarketer.com

We’ve talked about how people will start to tune out if they see the same kinds of offers over and over. What a lot of fitness entrepreneurs do to fight the fatigue is to change up the offer frequently, but Jeff says that’s a losing strategy.

So, how often do you need to change up your offer?

If you have a good offer, you can keep it rolling basically forever. Change your free content that leads to the back-end offer all the time, though. More blog posts, Facebook Live videos, Instagram photos, etc. give your audience more chances to (that’s right!) know, like, and trust you. That way, when they do encounter the offer, they’re ready to accept it.

Wait, do I need to be doing Facebook Live videos?

Yup. Even if you suck at them. Maybe even especially if you suck at them, because you’ll get better every time, and because this is a good platform for you to be both unpolished and authentic. These kinds of interactions are way more valuable to audience members at the top of your marketing funnel than a polished video. It’s a way for them to see the real you, which is what they need when they’re not yet committed to joining your gym.

We don’t usually recommend this, but if you need a confidence boost, go check out Episode One of Barbell Shrugged. We’re not going to link to it here, because it’s frankly not that good. But that’s where we needed to start in order to get better and build our audience.

How often do I need to do a Facebook Live video?

Every day. Sorry, dude. I know that wasn’t the answer you wanted, but it’s a free, effective, basically risk-free tool. It’s probably your lowest-hanging fruit for brand awareness, and it’s new enough that your potential audience isn’t sick of it yet. And, again, it’s okay if you suck at it. You’ll get better.

12:06 – The Bigger Story

Markus Gerzi and jeff Sherman talking about gym marketing strategy

We’ve heard a ton of people tell us that they tried Facebook ads, and that they just don’t work. What they usually mean is that they threw $100 at an ad that took people straight to their homepage, or straight to their free trial offer, with no other information. Inevitably, these ads don’t convert customers. As Markus asks, “How is it woven into a story?” When everyone else in town has the same offer or better, you can’t just sell someone on your products without first allowing them to buy into your narrative.


If you’re launching a new product, for example, plan to spend the 90 days prior in pre-launch, building up to the reveal and priming your audience with Facebook Live videos, giving people a chance to (say it with me) know, like, and trust you.

Take this time to reach different segments of your audience, in order:

  • Those who are not yet aware of the problem you’re offering the solution to
  • Those who are aware of the problem, but are unaware of any solutions
  • Those who are aware of some solutions generally, but unfamiliar with your solution and why it’s better.

Before You Buy an Ad

We’re just gonna quote Jeff here directly, because he says it best.

“One of the first things people do now that when they see your ad in the newsfeed, they click on your fan page, and if you have 100 likes or 45 likes, they’re gonna think that you’re brand new or you’re not relevant. They’re probably not gonna trust you… Then they’re gonna look at your content, and if the last time you posted was like six months ago, they’re gonna be like, ‘Are these guys even opened still?’ You already lost them before they even got to your ad.

If they go to your fan page and see that you have a few thousand likes, some really good content, some great recipes that they want to go try,  they get excited about it. They see a success story on there, like ‘Wow I could really see myself in that person.’ And now they’re gonna go back to the ad, click on it and take you up on the offer.

Just managing your fan page properly will put you in front of half the people out there that are doing Facebook marketing.”

Fitnessmarketer.com company Facebook page

16:05 – Content Creation vs. Content Curation

How often do I need to post content?

Doug Larson of Barbell Business

Five times a day. DON’T FREAK OUT. You don’t have to write five articles a day, or produce five videos a day. If you post other people’s useful content to your fan page, your audience still gives you the credit for leading them to it. (Do you link to Barbell episodes you like? You could. Just sayin’.) It takes two seconds to share something you like, and for most of the content you push out, that’s enough.

Doug likes Tim Ferriss’s 5-Bullet Friday as an example of content curation that works. Ferriss sends out a weekly email of the five coolest things he encountered over the week, and people love him for it.

Jeff recommends tools like BuzzSumo for content creation — you can type in keywords there to find the most shared content on any topic, and post whatever you find that you like.

19:20 How to Connect With Prospects

What tools should I be using to connect with prospects?

Barbell Business podcast episode 174 crew talks with Jeff Sherman

MiniChat and Facebook Messenger. Because Facebook Messenger ads work really well, this is a great tool for automating the front-end of that process. Unlike emails, which hover around a 12-18% open rate, Messenger ads have a 98% open rate. And MiniChat is cheap, like $10 a month.

It’s important to note that these are what’s good right now, because the market isn’t saturated and people aren’t sick of them yet. (Read: Don’t drag your feet on these.)

The principles of human interaction and connection are still the same. These are just some good tools to get that interaction started.

Minichat Logo

Get on as many channels as possible.

For stability in the market, make sure that you have a presence in as many places as you can handle: a strong Facebook fan page, a robust email distribution list, a well-rounded Instagram feed, you name it. Because if, for example, you’ve got a killer Facebook fan page and nothing else, if Facebook breaks (or goes away or changes its terms of use), you’ve got nothing. Diversity is stability.

Besides the possibility of the nature of the tools or the market changing, different people have different preferred channels. You want to be present everywhere there’s a potential audience. You want to reach the “I don’t believe in Facebook” guy and the “I get all my information from Twitter” gal. Meet them where they are.

29:00 – The Nitty-Gritty

In the last leg of this episode, Jeff gets into the nitty-gritty of content creation. Listen in here for more ideas about what you can post to Instagram, for example, that will get people to (all together now) know, like, and trust you.

Our tremendous thanks to Jeff for joining us on the show today and sharing his marketing expertise!



Instagram: @barbellbusinesspodcast

Facebook: /barbellbusiness

Want help creating and executing strategies and systems to grow your membership, dial in your analytics and strengthen your gym’s community? Learn more about our individualized business coaching program, Barbell ETHOS and get on our waitlist for the next opening.

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