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Transcription – Sue Zimmerman & Josh Leve Show 101

Chantal:               Sue B. Zimmerman is the Instagram expert, creator of the online Instagram course Ready. Set. Gramme. She’s a popular Creative Live instructor, powerful speaker on prominent stages like social media marketing world, and she’s a highly sought-after business coach.

Don’t forget. Sue first joined us in show 98, so it’s just a few weeks ago. If you missed that show, make sure you go back and listen to it because it’s part one of today’s interview. By the way, make sure that you also listen out for the challenge that she gives us at the end of today’s chat. Plus, right at the end, she also tells us how we can get hold of her free Instagram guide, so I definitely recommend that you get your hands on that.

We’re going to be kicking off today where I’ve just asked Sue how fitness business can and should use Instagram influencers.

Sue B:                   Yeah, great question. If you have someone that’s coming to your gym who has a lot of followers, and has a good personality, and could absolutely help you get some engagement on your Instagram account, maybe it’s worth giving them a couple of months free membership or bartering with them if you don’t want to pay them to get the influence of their account to your account.

My daughter, Lilah, @FreshFitAndFearless, she’s a vegan, so she’s been a vegan since her senior year in high school I think almost two years now, and she’s been diligently posting inspirational photos with no intention other than because she’s passionate about it. Then, I brought her on stage with me when I taught on stage at Creative Live. She was the youngest person ever on stage, so she got like a thousand new followers that day, and she now has 17.8 thousand followers, but Lilah does an Instagram story all the time.

I think your audience would love looking at her account because Lilah is an influencer. She gets paid by these awesome companies in Sydney like Sprout Market. She’s getting paid by Sprout Market to be an influencer. She’s getting paid by Vanessa who is in charge of the Salon Coaches to help do webinars, and she gets free products all the time. People send her free products all the time, and she never says yes to anything that doesn’t align with who she is and what she does, but she not only gets products, but she also now gets paid to post on Instagram.

Now, if you look at her feed, she has this model-esque way of her. Obviously, she’s in clothes all the time, and she looks adorable, and she’s not showing like half-naked photos, which as her mother, I’m pretty happy about. Occasionally, she’s in her bathing suit, but that’s okay.

The point is she’s an influencer. She got the attention of so many brands like Crazy Richard’s Peanut Butter, Oat My Goodness. They all give her free product and they’ve hired her for different things because she is an influencer. She is literally the target market of who they’re trying to attract, and that’s the point. If you’re going to be influencer and you’re going to try to get paid or get free products, you’re going to want to make sure that it matches up to who you are. Again, going back to your core business values.

Chantal:               Next up, I asked Sue, “Should influencers always be located near our facility?” and we chat about community-based hashtags.

Sue B:                   If your goal is to get more clients at the facility, absolutely focus on local collaborations and not global because what’s the point? I mean, if your endgame is to get your membership up, that is … Absolutely, I would leverage everything around you. You can do hashtags that are community-based hashtags.

Chantal:               Yeah, absolute … but when you said that, you meant things that are like the suburbs that surround you or the areas that surround you?

Sue B:                   Yeah. Yeah, like what’s trending in your area. For example, Only In San Francisco. Only In SF. They were on the brand panel once for me at social media marketing world, and that’s their hashtag, Only In San Francisco, and so they get a shit tonne of user-generated content because everyone that goes to San Francisco takes pictures and knows to use the hashtag “Only In San Francisco.”

What does that do? That creates user-generated content that they can then share on their Instagram feed, so often, what they do is just grab photos from other people. They don’t even have to spend time looking for their own photos. They’re giving shout-outs to people in their community. For those of you that just are challenged with getting good photos, create a custom hashtag for your community. Tell them to use it, and you can have great success bringing people together in Instagram stories.

Chantal:               Yeah, that’s a great tip. As a matter of fact, when I was in Santa Monica, the hashtag is “SAMO,” I think it was, and so I started hashtagging that on all of the gym visits that I did, and it was amazing how many local businesses started following my account.

Sue B:                   Yeah, exactly.

Chantal:               Now, take a listen to Sue’s advice around how a fitness business can best use Instagram stories.

Sue B:                   Instagram stories, I love. I’m doing an active story every day. Yeah. You can at-mention any of the businesses that we talked about in and around your area because they’ll get a notification, but teach something every single day like what are the questions that people ask you all the time like, “What’s the best protein drink and why?” and, “How many glasses of water should I have?” “What does lemon do if I put it in my water, and what’s the value of cinnamon?” Like all the questions that you get asked and, “How many reps should I do?” “Should I do the triceps first or the biceps first?”

I don’t know, but that become stories and that become … When you teach something of value, people will want to come back to your story over and over again. I get about a thousand people viewing all my stories. I get a lot of people that consume it, and like you, they’re like, “Oh my god, you’re so funny. I love watching them.”

Chantal:               I love watching them because you’re so real and you just tell it how it is, and I find that fascinating.

Sue B:                   Yeah, I do because I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks about me.

Chantal:               I love it. I love it. That’s what we need to think about. We need to be thinking about education. As a matter of fact, a couple weeks ago, we had a man by the name of John Bellamy on the show, and he was talking about utilising LinkedIn to market your fitness business. One of the tips that he gave in regards to content, and I assume this applies to Instagram as well, and that is he said, “Go to your customers and ask them what are the questions that they most want answered.”

Sue B:                   Right, of course.

Chantal:               Those questions is content for you.

Sue B:                   Right, exactly.

Chantal:               Yeah, so simple, right?

Sue B:                   That’s what I teach all the time. Yes.

Chantal:               I love that.

Sue B:                   That’s exactly what I teach.

Chantal:               I love that.

Sue B:                   Yes.

Chantal:               Okay. Speaking about what you teach, if any of our listeners want to work with you, they want to develop an Instagram strategy, they want to follow you, what do they need to do?

Sue B:                   Yeah. First, I want to be bossy because I live in Boston, and I get to be bossy. I want you guys to all come over to Instagram and say hello to me. Don’t be shy. Come on over to @theinstagramexpert, @suebzimmerman and say hello. Let me know that you came over from Chantal’s podcast. Do you have a unique hashtag, Chantal?

Chantal:               Yup, so it’s “FBPFamily.”

Sue B:                   Okay, so use that hashtag, and say hello to me, and let me know your biggest takeaway from this interview. I know what to do more of based on your comments and what you guys like and learn, so I would love to hear from you, and I’m going to give you all a challenge. I want you to do the #SueBMadeMeDoit challenge. I want you to write this out, Chantal. S-U-E-B. SueBMadeMeDoit. That’s all one hashtag. If you look at that hashtag, hop on Instagram, there’s like a thousand people that took the challenge, so you guys all have to take the challenge.

The challenge is to share a photo of you. It can be a jet ski. It can be a selfie. I just want you to share something on Instagram that it represents you, your business, or your brand that I can go and see. Okay? I’m putting the hashtag hub right here for you, Chantal, in Skype so you can look at some of these cooks and what they’re doing.

Chantal:               I love it. I love it. I’m going to do that straight away.

Sue B:                   Yeah, and make it fun, you guys. I’ll see it. Tag me, and then of course, come on over to … Grab my free Instagram strategy guide. It’s That will get you my free Instagram guide. It’s 17 pages long. People say, “OMG, I cannot believe that that was free,” and that’s what you want to have happened.

Then, as Chantal said, I’ve got a kickass YouTube channel. Hundreds of videos. You could spend days listening to me, and what I like to say is if you’re going to watch my YouTube video, please leave me a comment on the video. Let me know what you learned. If you liked it, share it. Tweet it. Share to Facebook. Then, on my website,, obviously, I have blogs for days that you guys can go and read. Again, I say to comment.

Here’s my final note to all of you. The more you engage in other people’s content, really engage on Instagram, on YouTube, on Facebook. The more you leave comments and show up in the comment thread, your avatar, your face, your name, people will start to see you and say, “Oh my gosh, that’s Chantal. She’s everywhere. She’s always commenting on Sue’s stuff. I need to click in and see her,” because my community is gold and my people know that my people are your people, and so the more you guys are actively, not passively engaging, and lurking, and not … Don’t just scroll through an Instagram photo. If you like it, double-tap it, like it, and comment. I am telling you. The more that you do this for other people, the more they will do it for you, and that is what I like to end these interviews with.

Chantal:               How good was that? I have put all of those links that Sue mentioned in the show notes for today, so jump over to to grab those links, and don’t forget. If you missed her first interview, just head over to the website. Type in her name in the search bar and check it out. She’s on show 98.

Our second interview this week is with Josh Leve, the founder and CEO of the Association of Fitness Studios. Josh Leve is the founder and CEO of the Association of Fitness Studios, and last year, they conducted a study called “The 2016 Fitness Studio Marketing Best Practises Research Report.” Josh, thanks for coming on the show.

Josh Leve:           Thank you for having me.

Chantal:               Now, before we actually chat about the report, can you first tell us a little bit about AFS?

Josh Leve:           Yeah, absolutely, so the Association of Fitness Studios. It’s really the only association out there that is solely focused on the business elements for all the fitness studios and really the entrepreneurial fitness professionals that are working in a health club, or YMCA, or something like that and are looking to take that next step in their career. What AFS does is really compile all the benefits, all the research, all the data, all the best practises that is going to be necessary for all these individuals.

When I say a studio, that’s anyone from about 500 square feet that’s a small Pilates studio that’s got a couple reformers up to a small gym. Anyone that doesn’t consider themselves a big-bucks health club, they belong with ASF, so we’re not consultants. We’re not anything from that nature, but we are an association of community that really provides the benefits out there that no one else has, and I know this day, we’ll talk a lot about the research that we do, which is a key component of what AFS is all about.

Chantal:               I think that that does take into account a large percentage of our listeners, which is why I wanted to get you on today. As you mentioned, let’s have a chat about that report because in relation to this report, I was wondering if you could perhaps share with us three key insights from that 2016 marketing best practises report.

Josh Leve:           Yeah. No, absolutely. It was tough to pull just three, I’ll tell you that.

Chantal:               I can imagine.

Josh Leve:           Yeah. It’s a big report. The reports that we do on annual basis, the marketing best practises one was one that we did last year, and we’re really excited about it. Chantal, you’ll know. You know this business just like we do. The top two things that this audience is always requesting. Number one is marketing. It’s always marketing best practises. What’s working? What are other people doing? Things of that nature. Number two is finding quality instructors and trainers, so we really took that to heart, and listened to our members, and wanted to do a research report all around marketing.

Some of the key takeaways that we were really able to find. The first one was we just asked, “What differentiates yourself from the traditional clubs? What is it that you’re doing that really sets you apart?” The data that we found was interesting. 67% is an intimate physical environment. 65% of those respondents say they provide personalised coaching and instruction. 57% have a tribal-driven community, and that was interesting because in this market, you’re talking constantly about personalization and customization, and you ask yourself … Well, one of the key components to that is differentiation. Why is differentiation so important?

In a highly competitive marketplace such as the fitness studio space, you can just walk down any urban market, any street in any major city, and there’s a yoga studio, a Pilates studio, a multi-discipline studio, a cycling studio. They’re everywhere, and so when you ask yourself in such a competitive marketplace, how do you have a value proposition that’s unique, or for those listening and someone, why would someone join you over the competition?

That can really be the difference between thriving and struggling, and so when we did the research, our objective was to really find out what these studios are doing to stand out among the crowd and be able to communicate those points of differentiation and be able to understand really the difference between selling your benefits and your features.

One of these KPIs or key takeaways that we found from this research was one of the things is making sure you’re not selling your features and making sure you’re really focusing on your benefits, and so you might ask, “Well, what are features?” Features are those factual statements about a product or service that’s being promoted.

For example, you might say, “Well, we offer great personal training with the best trainers.” That’s a feature. That’s not going to really get someone to join. A benefit and a great way to think of your benefits, benefits are results, so a benefit to that statement would be, “What do I get from personal training?” To sell it, you would say, “You’re going to feel better about yourself. Reduce stress, depression, anxiety. You’re going to sleep better, have more energy. All that stuff.”

Another example is I’ve seen studios say, “Participate in our dynamic group exercise classes.” That’s not a great way to sell. To market yourself and to get people to come in, you want to say what the benefits of that are, so what do I actually get from those group classes? What is the result? The result is exposure to a social and fun environment, a safe and effective workout, consistent exercise schedules, no prior exercise knowledge necessary. It’s those kind of best practises that we really try to hone in on when we do a lot of our research, so that was one key takeaway.

Another really interesting key takeaway, and this one shocked us, was that when we asked, “Does your studio have a marketing plan?” we were shocked to find out 57% did not, so now you …

Chantal:               57%? Wow, wow.

Josh Leve:           57% don’t have a marketing plan, so when you break that down, of the 43% that actually did, we found out that 88% of those facility owners, those owners are the ones that are in charge of executing that plan. When you really look at the data, 57%, how do you plan to be successful if you don’t know where your marketing is going, how much to be spending, what your strategies are? We asked, “What is one of your biggest strategies?” We’ll get into that one. That’s my third big takeaway, but when you asked, Facebook is not a strategy. It’s one element. That’s one thing to do, but breaking it down to understand what you’re doing on Facebook or how to generate referrals from word of mouth, things like that are really what we try to hone in on this report. When you look at that data, 57% didn’t have it.

What we also found, and this is a really good nugget of information for those listeners out there. When you talk about, “How much should I be spending on marketing?” once you put together that plan and hone in on exactly what you’re going to be marketing, we found in the report that roughly, fitness studios and not average those that were part of the report were about 4,000 square feet. I think it’s about 4,300 just so listeners out there can get an understanding of the size, square-footage-wise, of some of the respondents, but we also found that they were spending about 6% to 7% of their gross revenue on marketing. Of course, these were the 43% that did have a report or did have a marketing plan.

Really, to break that down quickly for the listeners, when you talk about 6% to 7% of your gross revenue, if you make easy numbers, say, $100,000 for the year, 6% of that is six grand. Six grand divided by 12 months of the year. You’re looking at $500 a month on marketing, so you might think, “Oh my gosh, well, that’s a lot.” That’s typically with the ones that are being really successful in marketing their business and getting traffic to come in are doing, so it can be a variety of different things. It can be leveraging your network. It can be on social media. It can be on direct mail, which I don’t necessarily recommend just because a variety of different reasons, but there’s a variety of ways to really leverage the data and get a good understanding of how to execute a plan to move forward with that.

Then, the last key takeaway and of course, it’s the one that everybody wants to know, what actually works. What marketing strategies prove the most effective for this audience? By far, in a way, the top two that we found were client and member referral programmes and social media, not surprisingly. When you’re talking about this environment, high-touch, results-driven, very much a communal feel, I like to call it. It’s an environment like cheers without the dears and where you can really go and everybody knows your name. You need to leverage, and they go hand in hand, client or member referral programmes and social media.

Just to give some of the listeners some ideas of what’s contained in the report and some ideas that the respondents of the research gave, some of them provide $50 of what they call “studio bucks” for clients who brought in someone to the studio after they’ve joined, so they give them $50 to buy for smoothies or apparel, whatever it may be if your facility offers that.

Another extends a complimentary month privileges for each referral. Some offer a discount up to 50% off the first month access for guests who brought in a client via a referral. Another one does a complimentary private training session to clients who offer someone, and this one was really interesting. This is a studio that … very, very, very profitable facility in the San Diego area. They offer a VIP 30-day membership card that is only given out for a specific person who has a client who actually mentions a client.

What they do is they hand them a VIP membership to the client, but says, “Hey, I heard how close you are with your sister, Susie, and I was just thinking how great it would be if Susie could come in and work out with you. Here’s a 30-day VIP pass for Susie.” They hand it to them, and it’s something tangible, and they bring in their sister, friend, or whoever it may be.

Without a doubt, there are so many different ways to leverage the people that are already utilising your services. Really, what I call … I call them the “talkers.” These are the people that when they leave your facility are going to talk about the experience they had within that 60 minutes, or 90 minutes, or 30 minutes, whatever it may be. These are the people you want to leverage, and anyone out there listening, you know you’re talkers because these are the people that seek you out. These are the ones that have seen results. These are the ones where you might know a little bit more than you might want to about their personal lives, but these are the people that really love what you do and will tell their friends, and so you really want to leverage that.

Chantal:               Josh, I love all three of those insights, and what you have made me realise is that if more than 50% of fitness businesses out there don’t have a marketing plan, then that’s a topic that we’re going to need to explore on the show in the next few months I think, and that is one of the key elements involved in a marketing plan so that everyone should be on board and making sure that is a part of their overall annual strategy for their business, so thank you very much for sharing that insight with us.

Josh Leve:           No, my pleasure.

Chantal:               Now, I’ve got one more question for you, Josh, and that is based on the report and based on the insights that you got from that report, what would you say is the most important action that every fitness business owner should do based on that information?

Josh Leve:           Without a doubt, in this market, it’s a very different market. Those listening, and studio owners, and gym owners, their number one passion is to train and those relationships they build with their clients. I tell everyone when I speak around the country and stuff as well in the States that when you put your name on a lease, when you actually sign off in an LLC or however your business is going to be formed, like it or not, you are an entrepreneur, and that skillset is going to be incredibly different than the skillset that you’ve had almost your entire life of training, and so whether you’re running a facility or studio now or thinking about it, I always tell people the biggest takeaway is to know your market and to know the numbers that go into operating a successful business.

The marketing stuff, everything from an operation standpoint, building in systems, if you don’t know how to do it, seek out someone who does whether it’s a mentor, whether it’s just doing a target market analysis to understand your market, what others are charging. Of course, you’re going to want to get the research that AFS provides.

That’s a key element of what we do is to provide this audience with an understanding of the numbers that are going to be so beneficial in their business to understand you should be putting 6% of your gross sales towards marketing. Things like that that are really key takeaways that you can take. Marketing spend on a monthly basis, retention rates, how much revenue you should be generating based off your square footage. You really want to know those numbers and want to leverage what others have done in the past to get those best practises to really accelerate your business, and we’d like to call it minimalize your risk and get to success faster.

Chantal:               Josh, if people do want to get a copy of the full report or to check out more information on the Association of Fitness Studios, where do they need to go?

Josh Leve:           Yeah, absolutely. They can go to our website. Everything is in our store and all over our site really. It’s That’s A as in apple, F as in Frank, S as in Sam, Everything can be found there, and it should be pretty simple to find as well.

Chantal:               Excellent, and needless to say, we will also put a copy of that link in today’s show notes. Josh, thank you very much. I found that very insightful, very interesting to hear about some of the findings from your report, so thank you so much for taking the time and joining us on the Fitness Business Podcast.

Josh Leve:           Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

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