What do you think of when you think of rural people and exercise?

Or maybe a better question might be…do you think of rural people and their fitness
routine?

We get it. There are a lot of reasons to discount the idea of rural residents being part of an ideal target audience for gym membership. But while we’re here together in this moment, lets challenge a few myths and highlight some valid concerns gym owners have about targeting residents outside metro areas. Afterall, if we can discover ways to appeal to more potential members, wouldn’t it all be worth it?

Myth #1 – Rural residents don’t need a gym because they work outside on their farms or do a lot of manual labor

Sorry but couch potatoes are grown all over the country – even in small towns.

Not everyone is doing manual labor. Not everyone is getting the level of fitness they
need.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity prevalence was significantly higher among adults living in rural counties (34.2 %) than among those living in metropolitan counties (28.7 %). If everyone in rural parts of the country was getting enough exercise, personal training, and guidance on proper nutrition, the disparity would not be nearly as significant.

There is a need for fitness options for rural residents – and being outside all day isn’t always the answer or the reality.

Millennials are 45% more likely to have exercised at a gym in the last 12 months than their parents, the Baby Boomers.

Myth #2 – Rural Residents are too old and set in their ways to go for gym membership

Although there is a bit of truth here, since rural residents do tend to be older and more set in their ways, we’re putting this one in the myth basket. The reason why is because it overlooks a key fact – there are young adults in rural geographies who go to the gym and the numbers are growing.

In fact, rural Generation Z residents, who are college-aged adults, are 26% more likely to have exercised at a gym in the last year than their parents, Generation X.

Rural Millennials are 45% more likely to have exercised at a gym in the last 12 months than their parents, the Baby Boomers.

So, while it may be tempting to write off rural residents as unlikely candidates for gym membership-don’t. Consider nuances when you formulate your targeting strategy and recognize that everyone is different and has different needs and desires when it comes to their fitness routine.

Myth #3 – Rural residents won’t want to drive more than just a few minutes to the gym

Again, another myth with a grain of truth. No, they won’t prefer to drive to drive a long distance to your gym – at first.
But just like anything, people will forego convenience if the reward of driving to your gym is worth it. We’ll give you a few stats that are not fitness related but say a lot about willingness to extend drive time.

Rural females, 25-34, are 47% more likely to say they’re willing to travel up to an hour or more to shop at their favorite stores. Their male counterparts are 14% more likely.

By contrast, urban women in the same age group are only 12% more likely than average and their male counterparts less likely than average -10% less likely.

Although these are retail shopping stats, they shed light on the mentality of residents and how men and women in rural areas are not going to let something like geography get in the way of what they want. The challenge to gym companies is to give them what they want – and formulate a strategy to reach out to these residents to get them in the door with an offer they can’t refuse.

61.2% of fitness club or gym members have responded to an ad or coupon in their mailbox in the last 12 months.

Attracting Members to Your Gym With Direct Mail

We’ve mentioned a few common myths we’ve heard but you may be reading this thinking of your own questions when it comes to attracting business from small towns surrounding your gym. If that’s the case, let’s discuss. There are many tools at our disposal to get a better sense of where your ideal customers are and how to best reach them. We can certainly identify the residents who would be more inclined to make the drive to your facilities. We can assess geographies you have in mind and let you know if it makes sense to target these areas. Once we have identified geographies to target, using direct mail to reach them is a great choice. In fact, 61.2% of fitness club or gym members have responded to an ad or coupon in their mailbox in the last 12 months. These are the kinds of people who are going to be receptive to your direct mail campaigns and, with the right targeting and messaging, will be more inclined to do business with you.

We’ve helped fitness clubs all over the country increase membership and drive sales with our data analysis capabilities – and we can help you do the same. Check out our latest success stories for inspiration.

Sources:
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 2019
NHCS Adult Study, 2019
AudienceSCAN, 2019

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