May 30, 2024

How to Do Paid Ads for Your Gym, Studio or Wellness Business in 2024 with Shane Troy

Shane Troy, Growth Marketing Expert, talks about how to do paid ads for gyms, studios, and wellness businesses in 2024.

How to Do Paid Ads for Your Gym, Studio or Wellness Business in 2024 with Shane Troy


Shane Troy, a marketing expert, shares insights on paid advertising for fitness and wellness businesses. He emphasizes the importance of starting with a deep understanding of the target customer before choosing advertising channels. Shane recommends conducting research and talking to real customers to determine how they found the business. He advises businesses to optimize their online presence, such as Google Business accounts, before investing in paid ads. Shane also highlights the significance of selecting the right keywords and creating competitive offers. He suggests starting with an experimentation budget and gradually scaling based on customer acquisition costs. Additionally, Shane emphasizes the importance of investing in high-quality landing pages that are fast, relevant, and provide social proof. He encourages businesses to seek expert help and to start small and targeted.

Key Takeaways

  • Start with a deep understanding of your target customer before choosing advertising channels.
  • Conduct research and talk to real customers to determine how they found your business.
  • Optimize your online presence, such as Google Business accounts, before investing in paid ads.
  • Select the right keywords and create competitive offers.
  • Start with an experimentation budget and gradually scale based on customer acquisition costs.
  • Invest in high-quality landing pages that are fast, relevant, and provide social proof.
  • Seek expert help and start small and targeted.


Chris Alto (00:01.515)
This is Chris and the Zippor Podcast. Today we have Shane Troy, who is a buddy of mine. He spent a few years at Google working with small businesses to help them with paid, then spent some time at a startup where he led marketing and now has found his own market agency. He's going to come on and chat with us a little bit about paid advertising and how to think about that if you are a fitness or wellness business.

And maybe you're looking to improve that or get started. Shane, thanks for coming on.

Shane T (00:34.734)
Yeah, thanks for having me. Excited to chat.

Chris Alto (00:36.715)
Sweet. Yeah, amazing. So I guess to kick it off, for folks who maybe they own a gym or a yoga studio or like a chiropractor clinic, and they might not have thought about running ads yet, but they are looking for ways to grow, how would you recommend thinking about putting together that strategy and going about starting to invest in paid?

Shane T (01:06.958)
I did a lot of this for small businesses when I was at Google and did it for my own business at the startup and now I'm back to helping companies of all sizes at my marketing agency. I think it actually starts with or away from the channels that you want to launch on. And by that I mean,

Don't just jump in and say, I want to do Google or I want to do Facebook, Meta, Instagram, whatever you want to call it, or even Tik Tok for that matter. Don't start with a network. Start with an understanding of your customer and go from there.

It's slower, but it is very helpful and will ultimately yield better results on the channels that you do end up launching. When I say start with your customer, I mean, literally spend an hour or two writing out who this person is coming up with your ideal profile. Where do they spend their time? Where do they look for your kind of service? Who do they talk to in their network about it? How old are they? Where do they live? Like, you know, all of these things. When you do that.

it makes it much easier to approach multiple channels and come up with a more cohesive strategy. If you start at the end and say, I'm convinced Google is the best, you might be wrong. And you might not give it enough time to work. So start with an understanding of your customer. And from there, go find or experiment with certain networks.

Chris Alto (02:42.059)
Makes a ton of sense. Okay. So building out your persona would be the first step. And then from there, it sounds like part of that process is going to be where do these people hang out or where do I want to make my bets after I've built out this persona and what channels do I think makes sense? Is that the next step once you've built this persona out?

Shane T (03:02.094)
I think so, and part of that should be talking to the real people involved here. So come up with your own persona, but go talk to the real individuals that you already have in your business. If you're starting from scratch, I think it's even harder because you can't go get that qualitative feedback from people you already have in your business, but there's probably a way to go do that.

Chris Alto (03:26.091)
And so what questions would you recommend asking these folks? So let's say I own a yoga studio, I want to start using paid, I have a lot of great relationships with my members. What sort of questions would you ask them as you're starting to think about the strategy?

Shane T (03:40.302)
Most obvious one is how did you find us? And I'm guessing most people are already doing this.

Asking these people directly is great. Going and you know, you are the owner of a studio, a physical location or multiple locations. Get in there and talk to these people. I think that's always the most valuable thing that I bring up and a lot of people forget to do is just ask questions directly to the people that you're trying to serve.

The other way to do this is to try to standardize. So you think about your website, if people are visiting it, are you asking them for that information? And are you collecting that in an easy to interpret way? So you can actually quantify, say if you're on one channel, you're on three channels, or you want to know the percentage of referrals, whatever it is, you can actually go back and see how these things change over time. A mistake that I have seen pretty frequently.

And I have quite a few friends that own their own small businesses is that they come to me for marketing help and they say, when I go through this process with them and ask them, they say, yeah, I know this. I say, how do you know it? They're like, I just know it. I'm like, do you have any data to support that? And the answer is no. And I'm like, well, we should go collect that. Frequently, what you'll find is that there is a discrepancy between their point of view and reality as determined by the data that you would go and collect.

I think that's the kind of insight that can really inform how you take those next steps.

Chris Alto (05:13.099)
Makes sense. OK. So collecting that data, an example of that might be something like if you have a Contact Us form on your website, simply adding a How did you hear about us field. Any other tips around collecting that data? Yeah.

Shane T (05:28.398)
Yeah, it sounds super rudimentary and in many ways it is, but just check the box. Make sure you're doing it. It's an invaluable data point.

Chris Alto (05:39.083)
Great. Okay. Cool. So first step, build your persona. Second step, try to figure out how they're finding you today, how they might find you, try to collect data if possible. Now that you have that, where would you recommend focusing next? So as you know, for a lot of small businesses, they don't have a massive marketing budget, so they have to be very smart and intentional with where they want to test their ad spend. What would be the next step after that that you'd recommend thinking about?

Shane T (06:09.422)
I think it's probably helpful to make this more tangible. So let's say that we go through that process. We put a persona together. We have the information, the data points we need. And we hear a lot of people are finding us via Google, but we're not running any Google ads. That's probably a good indication that you should. It's also a good indication that before you get into paid, you should check the boxes on all things Google. As an example, are you optimizing your business account?

Like there are boxes that you can check that I've seen a lot of small business owners not check that can improve your visibility before you run ads. That will help you with a more sustainable paid approach. So let's say we do that, we launch or we determine that we want to go and launch Google ads. Then it becomes this process of researching where and what.

to market around. So where, I mean literally, where are you located? And making sure that you're really tight with your geographic targeting so that you are only putting dollars towards regions that you actually serve. I can't tell you how many times when I was at Google we would work with these small businesses and see a plumber in Indiana showing ads in California.

If you're breaking that rule, if you're not just serving ads in the region that you serve, you're never going to win because Google is too big. There is too much reach for it to be useful if you aren't fine tuning that way as a small business. So that's the where and then the what this to me is a combination of ads and keywords.

Chris Alto (07:54.539)
I guess since like, me and Carrie were talking about for a while and then...

Shane T (08:03.278)
Again, this stuff is building blocks, but if you aren't really tight with your keywords, if you are a plumber and you don't think about...

Chris Alto (08:11.179)
And it's tough because like...

Shane T (08:13.934)
you know, the first three keywords that you want to buy and you just say, I think here's a decent list of 10 and I'll just go buy these and I'll spend a hundred dollars a day. Your budget's going to go away immediately and you won't get any returns and you won't get any valuable insight to drive the next version of your paid approach. Cause you have to keep experimenting, iterating together, right? It's not going to work on day one.

Chris Alto (08:25.675)
Thank you.

Chris Alto (08:32.587)
to take David's role, please. Because the communication channels are just likely wired.

Shane T (08:36.526)
So thinking very critically about the kind of keyword that you want to use. Also, there's something that as a business owner, you may or may not have heard of called keyword match type. There are more.

Chris Alto (08:46.123)
I think he understands that and he says, I have a big feeling. We need to be on the same page, less than a year to the stop because this isn't working right now and it's not.

Shane T (08:49.966)
Restrictive versions and there are less restrictive versions those go from broad match as the least restrictive to Exact match as the most and phrase matching between those I would start with exact or phrase I would not go to broad in spite of what Google might recommend you do

Chris Alto (09:10.411)
It just feels like there's always happening to me.

Shane T (09:10.862)
Be really, really strict. Start small. It's better to be small. It's better to be exact so that you don't waste your dollars out of the gate. And the last thing is as I had said, you need to be really careful with how you write these and ensure that they map very closely to the keywords that you've selected.

Chris Alto (09:23.627)

Shane T (09:41.358)
Also, and I guess this is getting away from the keywords and ads tactics and thinking more strategically about your business, but.

You don't compete in a vacuum. You do have different businesses that users are evaluating. So you have to understand what the competition is doing. If there's someone looking for a plumber in Indiana and they've never used a plumber before, don't bet on your brand name winning if all they're doing is going to Google first.

you need to come up with a competitive offer. I think to bring this back to the fitness space, if I think about what I look for when I'm going to evaluate a new gym or an impersonal trainer, yoga studio, whatever it is, I'm looking for a free first class or I'm looking for a discounted first week. I don't want to put my credit card down and I'll go to the gym that satisfies those things and has good reviews.

Chris Alto (10:44.043)
is more of a play.

Shane T (10:44.526)
This stuff's pretty intuitive, but you'd be surprised at the number of business owners, the number of gym owners, personal trainers, you name it, that aren't really thinking about that first offer and how good their value is relative to the next person for an uninitiated user that has no brand recognition for that business. So you have to be competitive. You have to show value and put that in your ads and think about it on your landing pages, website, da da da da.

Chris Alto (11:15.563)
Makes a ton of sense. Okay. Cool. So yeah, no, it's great. So location and then think about your differentiator and then think about your keywords. When you are thinking about keywords to go after, how would you recommend doing research on that? Do you have any favorite tools or any tactics for understanding?

Shane T (11:18.542)
That's a lot.

Chris Alto (11:42.699)
Okay, I want to rank for this one versus this, or this is too expensive versus this one. How would you recommend thinking about the keywords?

Shane T (11:47.538)
Yeah. There are a bunch of different versions of this. The fun one that I'm sure most gym owners already do is Google their competition, see what they're coming up for. That is, I think, a baked in habit I've seen a lot of times. The version that I use is, why I guess it's multiple, but free things like Google's Keyword Planner.

That gives you a ton of insight. It's a very easy place to start. It will tell you how many people are looking for the term. It will tell you what the estimated cost per click is for any term, et cetera. Doesn't cost you anything. More robust versions of that tool are things like SEMrush and Ahrefs, where you can go and get really deep in the weeds on your category, on your competitors, on your...

keywords that you think you should run for. There are so many different directions you can go to build out your approach to paid media. So look at what your competitors are doing, use a free tool like Keyword Planner, or double down and go and get a subscription to something like SEMrush or Ahrefs. Those will be really helpful.

I can specifically recall an instance in my past where we used one of those tools to reverse engineer a competitor's approach to Google ads. And that ended up driving over half of our.

sales at a certain point in the company, in the company's life. And it worked extremely well. We were young, we were a small team. We had to be scrappy. We were basically like, okay, let's just go copy paste and see what happens. They're bigger. They've presumably done more experimentation. We did it and it worked.

Chris Alto (13:41.739)
Okay, so first off, check out what your competition's doing. Second off, do some research. There are free tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Ahrest. You can check those out. And then how would you recommend thinking about a budget? So I have my persona. I have the channels I want to test out. I have some keywords that I think I want to go after that are like maybe three or four bucks a click. How would you think about allocating budget towards paid?

Shane T (14:11.182)
Yeah. I think about budget two ways, or I guess you could say in two stages.

The first is when you're launching your strategy. Do not think that you're going to click a button on day one and immediately see really efficient business return to you. It's probably not gonna happen. So the first stage is experimentation budget. What are you comfortable spending to learn more so that you can invest more and grow the channel over time?

For me, that number is probably some multiple of my customer acquisition costs. So if I know that I can spend $10 to profitably acquire a new gym member,

I would want to be able to see.

from my campaigns, what's working and what's not. So let's say I would be okay with 50 to $100 a day because it's five to 10 times my customer acquisition costs. That means that even if things are highly inefficient, chances are I'm probably going to be able to see a couple of sales come through and I can then use that initial data to inform the next version of my paid approach. That gets back to something I mentioned earlier, which is experimentation and iteration. So that's the...

Shane T (15:38.128)
the first phase. The second, once you get out of testing, is scaling. You need to figure out with certainty what your customer acquisition cost is, what your payback period is, so that you can actually ramp your budgets and grow your business accordingly.

So I have also seen that quite a few businesses, gyms, yoga studios, Kairos, all included, don't actually have a great handle on what their customer acquisition cost is or what it should be. So that isn't a Google specific thing. You're going to hear me say a lot of this stuff. Like don't start with the channel, but like you start with your business persona, customer acquisition cost, payback period, et cetera.

If you don't have this stuff, the channel is never going to work because you don't know what success looks like. So go through the experimentation phase, figure out what your customer acquisition cost is, set your budget as a multiple of that, fine tune your approach, and then start to scale.

Chris Alto (16:43.435)
Makes a lot of sense. Okay. Great. And then, so you touched on giving away value for free. So whether that be a free class or a consultation or whatever, any best practices to think about for when someone does click that ad and then land on someone's website, landing pages are hard, but anything that you would recommend that are low -hanging fruit for folks to maximize their chances of a click.

becoming someone who wants to get in touch and becoming a lead.

Shane T (17:15.79)

Landing page quality is essential to running any channel. We're using Google for this conversation to make it more tangible, but the importance of a landing page doesn't change. If it's Google, if it's Facebook, whatever, you need to invest in your website. This is another common mistake we see small businesses make, which is that they go in, turn on an ad campaign and say, it's not working.

I feel like my ads are good and I feel like my keywords are good. And then you'll go and look and they're right. They are. And then you look at their website and it's web 1 .0 and hasn't been updated since 2010. That's going to fail. So when I think about your website, this is the face of your business. It's how people find you, where they get important information. It's where they discover this new experience.

It has to be a core of a primary investment that you make. Otherwise these digital strategies aren't going to work. So more specifically, I think about two different opportunities, categories for improvement on landing pages. One is the technical underpinnings of your site. Without getting too in the weeds, it has to be really fast.

Google and Facebook.

Shane T (18:51.406)
will penalize you if your site is slow. That penalty comes through in the form of a higher cost per click. There's a direct correlation between your customer acquisition cost and your cost per click. Higher CPCs equate to higher CACs. Lower CPCs, lower CACs. So think of it like a tax. You can launch ads, but you're going to get taxed unless your site is good.

Same rule applies for ads and ad group and keywords for what it's worth. But yeah, that's one. So really fast site, invest in that. Think about channel, campaign specific, even keyword specific landing pages if you can make that kind of investment. And the second opportunity is the actual content itself. So is it relevant?

Does it map back to the keyword, to the ad, to the campaign? Did it speak to the persona that you've done the work on, that you've, you know, that we talked about at the beginning of the call, you've written out, you've spoken to these people, you know what they want and the hierarchy of their needs. And you think about how that translates to a landing page.

You talk to 10 people and they all say, the thing I care about most is X. Do you start with X on your landing page and then go to Y and then go to Z? Being very thoughtful with how you present information, the order in which it is presented. And then what you brought up, what I brought up, which is the value.

So knowing that you're launching these ads to acquire net new customers, it's not enough just to explain your business. You have to stay competitive. You have to provide the kind of value that a new customer wants. You have to meet their expectation. So if you are a chiropractor, will you offer a free consultation? If you're a Jyoti Studio, will you offer a free first class? Because chances are,

Shane T (20:57.838)
nine out of 10, maybe 10 out of 10 of your competitors are doing those things. So you could have the best ad campaign in the world, but if the value that you are providing is falling short or irrelevant, is irrelevant to the user, you will never win.

Chris Alto (21:14.859)
Yeah, makes a ton of sense. I think one other thing too that we've talked a lot about is showing social proof too on these landing pages. Any tips or tricks around that?

Shane T (21:24.526)
That's a great call out that is just as important and that is classified under the content piece. Yeah, that's social proof really works. Challenge anyone listening to this to go and pick out their favorite direct to consumer brand and find the landing page that doesn't heavily emphasize social proof. I always think about hims and hers. This is a highly successful direct to consumer cash pay telemedicine business.

that is known for having a crack growth team, specifically paid. If you go and look at their paid funnels, you will see that all of their landing pages have great social proof. Another place to go do this is to go to the app store, look up any of your favorite fitness apps and look at the first picture on their...

App Store listing. Chances are it's going to have something like 1 million reviews, 5 stars, or extremely happy users. This stuff is there, not randomly. All of these big companies are experimenting, they're A .V. testing one page against another and have learned that social proof adds value, so they do more of it and make it very visible. That's a great call out.

Chris Alto (22:40.619)
Go get reviews and go get testimonials and get those on your website.

Shane T (22:43.534)
Absolutely. Yeah.

Chris Alto (22:49.003)
Amazing. Any last pieces of tips or common pitfalls to avoid in this area?

Shane T (22:57.198)
Start small, start targeted, start away from the channel, understand your customer, understand your business and what success looks like so that you have a really good framework to evaluate the success of the channel once it is launched. So that's the biggest piece of advice I can give. Everybody wants to jump right in. Don't, don't make that mistake.

Come up with some key metrics, know the tests you want to run, take the time to put a thoughtful strategy together, and then launch. Also...

I think I must've talked to over a thousand small businesses when I was at Google. I really do think it helps to have an expert on your side. Someone who's lived this, who's worked in these accounts, who's launched these small business plans. These are complex systems. Google ads has been around for coming up on three decades. Meta probably coming up on two. I don't know the specifics.

You know, you guys are business owners, you're not digital marketers and being an A player in digital marketing is really hard and time consuming. Finding someone in your network, formally or informally to help you, I highly recommend it.

Chris Alto (24:23.883)
Thanks a lot. That's cool. All right, Shane Troy, where can folks find you? Do you have any areas that people can get in touch with you or follow you or any of that good stuff?

Shane T (24:33.582)
Yeah, you can shoot me an email. It's j .shane .troy at Gmail and reach out to me personally. And let me know if you have any questions.

Chris Alto (24:46.187)
Amazing. Cool. Thanks for all these tips. This is super helpful. I'm sure a lot of folks are going to get a lot of benefit from this. So thanks again for coming on, man. And we'll talk soon.

Shane T (24:58.51)
All right, to your own.

Chris Alto (24:59.659)
All right, see ya.

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