Whether you’re a cash-strapped studio that is just starting out or a seasoned entrepreneur looking to cut back on costs, we’ve got some inexpensive and (relatively) easy marketing tips for you. The upside of having a small marketing budget is that it forces you to be creative and laser-focused on achieving results. With time, effort and minimal dollars, these options are just a few cost-effective ways to get your studio or gym some much-deserved attention.

Free Ways to Get Started

If you don’t have a Google My Business account, you need to set one up. This is how anyone searching your business on Google will find accurate information regarding hours, telephone number, website URL, address and more. And any edits you make—like holiday or weather closings—will update instantly. It will also enable your business to appear on Google Maps and Google+.

Another way to gain visibility is adding a Yelp listing for your business. We understand the hesitations around exposing your business on Yelp, but as we’ve talked about before, reviews can be a powerful marketing channel—and it’s free to boot.

The last free thing we recommend doing is commenting as much as you can online. Comment on blogs and social feeds you follow and sites that fit a similar niche, or engage with the people you want to attract to your studio. If a new smoothie shop opens on your block, comment on its Facebook announcement to share that it would be a great spot to check out post-workout at your studio. Most importantly, spend some time on what you’re writing. Leaving consistently thoughtful and insightful comments is a great way to get noticed by the people you’re following, and their followers. The more often you do it, the more likely someone is to click on your profile to learn about you.  

Find Your Inner Blogger

You’re off to a good start since you have a website. But if you don’t have a blog associated with your URL, then you should strongly consider adding one. Partnered with your social media feeds, a well-rounded, robust blog will go a long way in proving that you’re an expert in what you’re selling.

The cheapest blogging option is writing the content yourself—stories can be short and to the point, but they should offer value to your clients. And they should do more than just promote your business. Check out other fitness blogs to see what they’re writing about, and then consider how you could put your spin on it. Crowd source in your classes, too—ask your students what they’d be interested in reading and/or learning about.

Remember: Content is king, so the more you have, the more online traction you’ll gain.

Posting photos and videos from your classes, having trainers and clients contribute guest posts, pulling in your social feeds—all of these elements will contribute to a vibrant, authoritative blog. Remember: Content is king, so the more you have, the more online traction you’ll gain. And considering that most prospective clients will visit to your website before they visit your studio, getting your blog up and running is a worthwhile investment.

Become the Expert

While blogging is one way to underline your expertise, another step beyond that is promoting yourself to others. First, come up with a quick pitch as to why you’re a) an expert, b) relevant and c) more interesting than your competitor. (Your blog and social feeds/followers will spell this out as well).

Next you want to pitch yourself as a contributor to local or national fitness sites and magazines, send them links to your stories and offer to write for them for free—as long as your studio’s name and URL can be linked out at the top of the story. (Note: Advertising in these publications can cost thousands of dollars, but contributing an article is free!) You should also sign up as a source with HARO (Help A Reporter Out), which is a free site where national media outlets like Time, Mashable and The Wall Street Journal head to when they’re looking for sources for their stories.

Local TV and radio shows are also always on the hunt for new (and camera-ready) experts to perform on-air demos or give advice, so it’s smart to reach out to their PR departments and offer your services. Public speaking is a great way to boost your presence anywhere from a local middle school symposium on healthy eating to the national speaker circuit.

It will also behoove you to think outside the box when it comes to promoting yourself and your business, especially on a local level. Does your town host a farmers market in the summer? Contact the organizer to see if you can offer a free class as part of the series. After all, what goes better with a locally-grown kale stand than some free yoga? Another idea: Co-sponsor an event or contest with other like-minded businesses in town.

Customers First

None of the above efforts are worth anything if the product you’re driving all these people to isn’t excellent. First and foremost, your customer service needs to be on point. You didn’t spend all this time and effort getting a prospective client to come into your shop, only to have an unenthused front desk staffer blow the deal. Everyone on your team should regularly be reminded that in addition to their main tasks, they’re all responsible for being enthusiastic, helpful and engaging with every single client that walks through your door. This is what will land the sales you need to stay afloat.