Many health club and fitness studio owners believe that everyone should belong to a gym. And of that vast pool, anyone in their area should belong to theirs. While that may be true and a noble goal, knowing who makes up your target audience is essential to building your business plan and, more important, marketing your club. Building personas of your target audience can help you attract, engage, and retain them by knowing what drives them to exercise and what they are looking for from your facility.

While not every persona will be a fit for your club—that would be simply any person who can afford your dues—here are a few personas to think about so that you can send them the messages and build an environment that will make them be a perfect fit for your club.

Sporty Steve

Steve is a young professional, is 25 to 35 years old, is not married, and is a former athlete. Looking to fill that void left from his high school and college days, Steve enjoys working and competing in groups and being pushed to his physical limits. He enjoys the journey more than the results. Being on the lower end of his career path, Steve is also looking for more bang for his buck when it comes to fitness. Social aspects are also important, as he is still expanding his circle of friends and looking for a partner.

Healthy Heather

Heather, like Steve, may have been an athlete, but she is as likely to be following the latest celebrity diet or fitness trend as she is to be worrying about improving her 5K time. She is between 23 and 35 years old and is busy building a career, although often not in the field she received her college degree in. Heather is more likely to be in a relationship than is Steve but is comfortable being single as well. While she is most likely to be found in the cardio area, at the advice of her trainer, she will venture into the free-weight area to be healthier and leaner. Group exercise classes are a draw for Heather due to the social aspect and support they provide while delivering the results she seeks.

Stressed-Out Sam

Don’t be fooled by the name—Sam can be either a man or a woman. Sam is a hardworking professional in management in his or her mid-40s to mid-50s. He or she is married and has a family that is active in youth sports and other activities. He or she tries to squeeze in exercise when he or she can, which usually means early mornings at the gym. He or she is prone to work with a trainer to help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of his or her workout. Stress and overall health are big drivers, and he or she is also looking for the balance of mind–body exercises and meditation. Nutrition is also an issue, as stress eating and meals at the rink or in the car are normal as he or she shuttles kids to games, practices, and recitals.

Bored Barbara

Now in her mid- to late 40s, she may be a stay-at-home mom or may work in a support role at a private company or for the government. Barbara has exercised for years with mixed results. The gym is a necessary evil, and she goes because she “has to,” not because she “wants to.” She is typically one of the more vocal members, often complaining about cleanliness, crowds, and her lack of results. When at the gym, she can usually be found in a class with her friends or on a piece of cardio equipment next to a friend or talking on her cell phone, if allowed. She will try new things if she thinks they will work, but she is also quick to give up and move on—be it from a class, a trainer, or a health club.

Bodybuilder Barry

Barry is in his 50s and has been training for 30 years. He is motivated by being bigger, leaner, and stronger now than he was in his 30s. On his second marriage and with grown kids, Barry has time to put in long workouts that may not have changed in 20 years. Barry is a business owner and uses his discretionary income and time for the finer things in life. He also is willing to spend his money on the hottest supplements that will help him stay strong and feeling young.

What personas are most common at your health club?

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