Expert Interview Series: Mike Arce of Loud Rumor on Marketing For The Fitness Industry

By Aaron Eisberg

Mike Arce is the CEO and founder of Loud Rumor, a 7-figure marketing agency for fitness studios, and host of a top fitness business podcast The GSD Show.  

Loud Rumor is one of the largest fitness marketing firms in the world. How did you get started with marketing fitness products and services, to begin with?

Before these past 2 years, Loud Rumor used to do marketing for a variety of small businesses. But during one of our team's year-end retreats, we took a hard look at our numbers and realized that our most successful customers were fitness studios. We were breaking records for these guys - I'm talking hundreds of leads a month, 60+ leads in 24 hours ... it was something we couldn't ignore. So we developed our program called Fit FLAVER and went all in; we niched Loud Rumor to focus solely on fitness studios and independent gyms. Since then, we've continued to break records with our customers, reaching up to 503 leads in 1 month, and 2,425% ROI.

What was it about the fitness industry that made you passionate enough to start Loud Rumor? Also, what did you feel that the other fitness marketers were overlooking or getting wrong, that you hoped to fix?

I've always had a passion for the fitness industry, that's what my background is in. Before Loud Rumor, I was a personal trainer, fitness director, and owner of a fitness business. But in 2009 when I found out my wife was pregnant, I wanted to dive into the online world to be more accessible for my family. That's when Loud Rumor was founded. Eight years later ... here I am, combining my love for both marketing and fitness into one incredible company. I also don't think other fitness marketers are doing anything wrong, we're just doing things a little differently. My hope - more importantly, my company's mission is to help 100,000 start a healthy lifestyle through fitness. So when we get the fitness studios we work with more paying members through our marketing campaigns ... those new members go toward our 100,000 mission. Our goal aligns very very closely with the goal of our customers, which is a game changer.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced, when you were first starting Loud Rumor? What do you wish you knew about marketing for the fitness industry when you were first starting out?

I faced a lot of ups and down when I first started Loud Rumor in 2009. At that point, I had one child and another on the way. To say that money was tight was an understatement. I started Loud Rumor in my garage with my wife. To put things in perspective, we put everything into the business. My family's livelihood depended on this success. We lived off ramen, I faced eviction, my car was repossessed twice. Things weren't easy. But then I got my very first coach and mentor - the CFO of Cold Stone Creamery. He took me under his wing, gave me tons of books to read, and along the way I learned the power of coaching. That's something I wish I knew from day 1. Having a coach or mentor is a must.

What were some of the mistakes and misdirections you've made, in your journey to becoming a 7-figure fitness marketer? What did you learn from those mistakes?

I've definitely made a few failures while growing Loud Rumor. One of the biggest has been hiring too quickly. Something I hate, like all entrepreneurs, is having to fire people who you like as a person but who are no longer good fits for your company. And this usually happens because of a poor recruiting and hiring process. I knew there were a lot of holes in ours. Since then, we've revised our hiring process. I always ask my team members, partners, and EO members if they know of anyone when we're looking to fill a role. I trust their judgement and their recommendation carries a lot of weight. During the interview, I've learned to be really transparent in setting expectations. We also have everyone we interview complete a DISC assessment, which is a personality profile, to better understand how social, analytical, focused, and nurturing they are.

One challenge that many fitness marketers face is finding the RIGHT potential new clients. Do you have any advice on how to find legitimate leads in whatever niche a fitness center is in?

Fitness studios are always looking for more new members. But what they really want is more of their ideal customer. This is someone who's exactly in their target demographic. This might look like a woman in her late 20's who makes $X annually and lives within a 5 mile radius of their location. Whoever your ideal customer, make sure you cater all of your fitness studio's content to that audience. If your perfect member is a new mom, create blogs, social media posts, and email copy that talks to someone who wants to get back to their pre-pregnancy body. Your message is a huge aspect of reaching the right people. Then push out that content to wherever your audience lives. This includes online magazines they read, websites they visit, podcasts they listen to. You need to get your message out to all of these places. Then for direct lead generation, we love Facebook advertising.

On that note, can you share any tips on how fitness marketers can decide what their brand IS and DOES? How can knowing a brand's image and feel help fitness marketers find new clients?

In order for any business to be successful with their marketing and brand, they need to pin down their messaging first. This is huge. One of the biggest mistakes I see fitness studios make is not having a clear understanding of who they are. This prevents them from being able to articulate how and why they're different from anyone else in just a few words. You want your customers and fans to be able to quickly describe who you are and what you to do their network without any confusion. So a few tips on getting there -first, identify your studio's message in 1 - 2 sentences. Then make sure your entire team knows it, and implement it on your website and all other content. Then identify your ideal customer. This way, you get your message and brand in front of the RIGHT people. Be specific when you identify your ideal customer, including their age, income, interests, where they live, and so on.

Another challenge that many fitness providers face is having the right team. How can fitness marketing be used to also serve as an HR/recruitment tool, and why is that important?

A huge part of building the right team happens during the interview process. You need to ask the right questions, and give the right assessments. But first you need to find people to interview. You can do this through several different marketing avenues including Facebook ads, social media posting, and building unique landing pages for certain roles where it's easy for people to apply. When interviewing, it's important to be transparent and set expectations right away. Outline what's expected of this person's role, what metrics they'll need to meet, and culture standards. We also put all of our interviewees through assessments based on the role they're applying for. So writers go through a 30 minutes writing and editing test. Videographers go through a 30 minutes video editing test, and so on.

Businesses need to constantly be growing and thriving, or else they're dwindling. What are a few particularly effective ways to drum up new clients in the fitness industry, whether that be customer referrals, special promotions, etc.?

Once you create an incredible service and experience for your fitness studio members, they're bound to talk about you. They'll want to tell their family and friends about where they workout. But what about people they don't talk to? You'll want a strong marketing program in place that constantly generates new leads and attracts new people through your door. After working with hundreds of fitness studios and independent gyms, we've figured out how to get up to 503 unique leads in 1 month. And it's through Facebook advertising. This is a great hub for fitness studios to explore. It's where a huge part of their target market lives, you just need to create the right offer - 1 free week is what we love promoting for our fitness customers - and content to lure them in.

Can you share a quick tip or two as far as coming up with the best possible visual identity for a fitness brand? Are there any tools or resources you'd recommend for creating great logos, web graphics, photo editors/filters, etc.? Also, why is it important for fitness brands to look their absolute best, to attract the right customers?

First, it's important that you create all of your images, logos, etc. to cater to your ideal target audience. So if you cater to new moms in their 30's who just had a baby and want to get back into their pre-baby body, don't show images of young fit models in their early 20s. Same thing here - if your target audience is women in their 50's who want to prevent arthritis and other threats to their body, don't show men and women in their 30's lifting heavy weights. It's important that your entire brand and messaging reflects your target audience so that they instantly relate to who you are and what you do. As far as coming up with these best visuals, I recommend that you stay away from any and all stock images. If necessary, hire someone for a day to come into your studio and take photos. That way it's completely organic and relatable. In terms of photo editors, my team and I use a variety of tools including PicMonkey, Canva, Keynote, and more.

Your goal with Loud Rumor is to help as many people get fit as possible, to look and feel their best. With that in mind, why is it important for gyms and fitness products and services to be ethical and inclusive in their marketing, to reach the widest slice of the population and, again, why is that important?

Yes, our mission at Loud Rumor is to help 100,000 people start a healthy lifestyle through fitness. So we generate leads for fitness studios and independent gyms through our marketing campaigns. When those leads then visit our customers and decide to buy a membership, they count as another person that's jumpstarted a healthy lifestyle through fitness. In this sense, our goal really does align with the goal of our customers. 

Another one of our goals, then, is to help our fitness studios provide the best service possible to their customers. The more inclusive they are, the better. So rather than solely offering workout classes, we also encourage them to offer nutrition education since that's a huge part of their member's success. If they can become the one stop shop for people, they'll retain a lot more. 

In terms of reaching the widest slice of the population, we actually encourage our fitness studios to work with the right people who they know they can and that fit their niche (we're big on niches). A great way to expand this, though, is by opening other locations or even franchising. We love hearing when the fitness studios we work with want to expand because they're getting so many new paying members. 

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