By Katie Zacharkiw, Special AFS Contributor

Running a gym means being pulled in a lot of different directions. You’re teaching classes, managing vendors, maintaining your staff, tracking data, and constantly trying to think of new ways to bring in more clients and grow your business. Sometimes it’s exhausting and you just want a little help. That’s where automation comes in.

There are many areas where you can automate your business operations, from attendance tracking to payroll management to reporting. But this post will focus on email marketing. Automating emails takes a bit of work upfront, but saves you hours of administrative time in the long-run. More importantly, email automation improves client retention by maintaining consistent communication with your members and reaching them with the right content at the right time.

Keep reading to find out how to use marketing automation to improve the member experience at your gym:

The Types of Emails You Should Be Automating

You won’t be able to automate every email your business might ever have to send, but there are a few types that are perfect for a “set it and (mostly) forget it” automation strategy.

Your Welcome Email 

The first email you can automate is the very first email that clients receive when they first sign up for a class or membership at your gym. Send new clients a message welcoming them to your community and directing them to any resources that your gym has, from the class schedule to your social media channels. This is an important email, as it sets the tone for the rest of your online communications, so use automation to make sure every new client receives it.

Transaction Confirmations

When a client takes an action, like signing up for a class or submitting a payment, they look for confirmation that their transaction was successful. Sometimes there’s an on-screen message that confirms the action worked, and almost always there is a follow up email that serves as a receipt of the transaction. This ‘receipt’ is what you can automate.

Set up automated emails that thank clients for their payments and confirm that they went through. Confirm class bookings, changes to their account, and anything else considered administrative. These emails reassure clients that administration is being handled efficiently by your gym and eliminates any confusion about what has or hasn’t been paid for. 

Lead Nurture

I’m sure you’re familiar with potential clients who express interest in your gym but haven’t yet taken the step to actually book a class. Ideally, you’ll have collected their email address when they expressed initial interest, which allows you to put them into an automated lead nurture workflow.

Lead nurture emails are meant to entice the potential client into taking the desired action, which in this case is signing up for a class. Create a few emails that lay out the benefits of joining your gym, suggest classes that are great for newcomers or the most popular among your current clients, and highlight any perks available to new members. Then, schedule these emails to be delivered to leads on a set timeline–for example, once a week for a month. The automation allows you to keep focusing on your current clients while still marketing to potential new ones.


Reminder emails are an effective way to improve class attendance rates and keep clients engaged. Set up automated emails that go out to clients 24 hours before a booked class. The reminder lets the clients know that you are looking forward to seeing them, which makes them more likely to show up. It’s as if the email sets the expectation that they will be there, and they don’t want to disappoint you.

Milestone Recognition

One way to give your marketing efforts a personal touch is to reach out to clients on milestone events like a birthday or anniversary. Acknowledging the day shows your client that they are a valued member of your community and strengthens your relationship. That, in turn, fosters loyalty in your client and leads to increased retention rates.

Setting up automated emails to send on a client’s birthday or on the anniversary of their first visit is relatively simple to do. You could also set up milestones unique to your gym, such as celebrating your client’s 100th visit. Make your client feel even more special by including a special gift to celebrate the event, such as a $20 gift card or a small swag item on their next visit.

Check-ins with Inactive Clients

“Out of sight, out of mind” can be a powerful force. This is why you’ll want to check in with any clients who haven’t been by your facility or booked a class lately. Set up an automated email to reach out to clients who have been inactive for 30 days (or however many days you decide is best). Let them know that you miss them and suggest a few classes for them to sign up for. Often, this little nudge is a client who needs to get back into the habit of taking your classes.

Tips to Optimize Email Performance

The nice thing about automated emails is the “set it and forget it” strategy behind them. But that doesn’t mean you should forget about them entirely. You’ll want to keep an eye on open rates to make sure your clients are actually reading the emails and finding them helpful.

Here are a few quick tips to keep open rates up:

  • Have a Clear Subject Line. Most people receive a lot of email throughout the day, so make sure your messages are standing out. Your subject line should set clear expectations about the content of the email and then meet them. This clear communication builds trust between you and your clients and will increase overall open rates over time.
  • Keep it Short and Simple. The most effective emails are short and get right to the point. Use straightforward language, especially for emails like transactional confirmation and event reminders. For milestone events like birthdays and anniversaries, you can have a bit more fun with things like imagery and emojis.
  • Make the CTA clear. If you want your client to do something, like update payment information, say it very clearly. This is especially true for any payment reminders; the client should know immediately upon opening the email why they received it and what they need to do.
  • Use personalization where possible. Most email providers today will support ‘tokens’ which allow you to personalize your content. For example, use a First Name token to have your email say “Dear Katie” instead of “Dear Friend”. Setting up personalization tokens makes writing effective emails a lot easier and a lot faster, not only for automated messages but for stand-alone messages too.

Automating emails and setting them up to be personalized does take some work upfront, but the hours of administrative time you’ll save in the long run makes it worth it. More importantly, you’ll be able to focus more on your in-person interactions with clients because you’ll have peace of mind knowing that digital communication is being taken care of.

Ultimately, using marketing automation doesn’t just improve the member experience at your gym. It improves your owner's experience at your gym, too.

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Katie Zacharkiw is the Content Marketing Manager at Pike13, a scheduling software company located in Seattle, WA. She has more than seven years of experience in content strategy and marketing

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