For many fitness professionals, lead generation has always been something of a mystery. Done either by the health club or studio you work for or leads have “magically” shown up by referral or just blind luck.

However, today — especially if you are working as an independent trainer, instructor, or are opening your own health club or fitness studio — generating leads may be the number one skill to turn your fitness business into a success.

There was a time that leads were primarily generated outside the club via health fairs, retail lead boxes, direct mailers and other static methods of collecting interested consumers’ information. Usually, that information was collected in exchange for a free pass, trial workout or discounted membership (usually in the form of a reduced or waived enrollment or joining fee).

While those methods are still used by many fitness businesses with varying success, the Internet has changed the dynamics a bit. Studios still collect information from those interested in them, although the method of collecting them, and the return for that information has changed a bit.

Sure, free trials, etc. still motivate some to give their contact information (usually those closer to making a joining decision), but more potential members are willing to exchange an email address and maybe a phone number for insightful information, education, and advice.

Perhaps in today’s marketing environment—especially with the rise of marketing automation—the number one piece of contact information a fitness professional can obtain from a lead is his or her email address. In fact,  91 percent of people check their email on a daily basis, a whole lot more than the percentage of people who answer their phones after seeing a number they don’t know on the caller ID. You can then add these emails to one (or several) email lists, allowing you to use the information to engage with those prospects in a methodical manner that eventually leads them to become a personal training client or health club member.

Here are 7 online methods of getting leads to find you and give you their email and other contact information:

1. Start Blogging

If you are not blogging on your website, you are missing a great opportunity to develop leads. Setting up a blog that delivers content that educates, informs and entertains can boost your ranking on Google and deliver people that are interested in what you do to your front door (or at least your email list, by asking them to sign-up for blog notifications).

2. Get Social

You are probably (hopefully) on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or wherever your potential members may be hanging out—and that can change from week to week. If you make sure you are using it to engage with your audience, make it a truly social experience. But, while it is a great way to communicate, use it to not only generate likes, shares, and followers,. but also ask them to sign up for your email list.

To amp up lead generation, consider paid social advertising. In addition to your helpful posts, you can link directly to lead-generating offers and sign ups. Plus on social media, you can target very specific demographics such as age groups, geographical locations, and even specific hashtag usage.

3. Write an eBook

Sure it sounds daunting. You are a fitness professional, not a writer. Odds are, though, you know a whole lot more about fitness, nutrition and overall health and wellness than many, so it is just getting that information onto a page. Whether you write it yourself or invest in a ghostwriter, eBooks are one of the best ways to get those searching for answers to find your website and give you their contact information.

4. Write a One-Page Report

OK, maybe you are not ready to write a whole book. But, you do have loads of information to share. Try a quick one-page report on healthy summer BBQ tips, 10 exercises to boost your biceps and other things you know your target audience is looking to learn more about. Make them pretty with pictures, save them as a PDF and ask for some contact information to gain access. You now have a new lead.

5. Be a Viral Video Star

Writing not your thing? Videos are everywhere today. Take a look around any gym and people are videoing themselves (often doing exercises incorrectly). While you will probably want to use something a little higher quality than your smartphone, with a small investment of time and money, you and your staff can quickly develop videos that not only show off your expertise, but help you build authority with people, and ultimately, your number of leads.

6. Make a Checklist

Maybe the only thing people like more than Top 10 lists are checklists. Think about things you have told people to do before or after coming to a personal training session and create a checklist. If you run a specific class such as yoga, make a checklist on how to evaluate a yoga studio or what to bring to your first class. These are quick, easy and people will benefit from the information and give you their contact information for it.

7. Don’t Stop There

Effective marketing is about reaching the right audience with the right message at the right time. But when offering downloadable content in exchange for contact information, not every person you reach is ready to make a purchase decision right away. In fact, it’s likely that most of your new leads will want to do some additional research on their own before speaking to you or signing up for membership or services. This is where all of your blogs, eBooks, reports, checklists, and other content work together over time in a lead nurturing process. When you create and deliver content that keeps people engaged throughout different stages of the buyer’s journey (Awareness, Consideration, and Decision) and effectively segment contacts by the stage they’re in, you can ensure that your leads are receiving the right message at the right time.

Software that helps you and your sales team track and nurture leads is essential. It can give you the ability to segment your leads and send personalized, targeted emails as part of an automated campaign. It also takes some of the day-to-day workload off of you and your staff—freeing up time to focus on other aspects of your business.

There are plenty of other online and offline ways to build leads. What are your favorites?

Guide to Lead Generation for Fitness Businesses