Free Gym Trial Memberships vs. Discounting: Which Strategy is Better?
Many membership-based businesses try to attract new members by either giving out free trial memberships or by discounting memberships. While free gym trials may help you get more people visiting your gym, this can devalue your offerings and negatively impact your current customer base. Discounting, on the other hand, can help alleviate some of these negatives but you won’t get as many people coming in.
Both of these strategies have advantages and disadvantages. By thinking carefully about the pros and cons, you can decide which strategy will work better for your gym or fitness centre.
Many large, successful gyms have free weeklong trials. The great thing about these trials is how effective they are at bringing new people in. They're “no strings attached,” it's non-committal, and they have a chance to see if your gym is the right fit for their fitness lifestyle. However, free trials may attract the wrong kind of clientele, especially if you have a smaller gym that caters to high-end clients. Additionally, a free trial can also devalue your brand’s offerings over time; if you have higher-end fitness classes, this won’t be a good option.
Another thing you’ll have to think about with free trials is how your existing clientele will be affected. A sudden surge of new prospective clients may increase wait times for machines or equipment for your existing base. Negatively affecting the customer experience of your current customer base may not be worth the influx of new prospective members. Lastly, a free trial — just like a Groupon ad — can bring on customers who are not loyal and just looking for a deal.
One other thing you’ll have to watch out for is the customer trying to use multiple free trials to avoid paying for a membership. Making them provide identification when registering for a free trial can help deter this behavior. Finally, make sure you have someone on your sales team set a meeting for trial users to convert them to ongoing members.
Discounting, instead of giving away trials, can also help bring in new members, while mitigating the negative effects of free trials. While you may not get the same response from prospective members, those that do come through the door will be more likely to be loyal customers who are interested in your services, since they’re paying to be there from the start. You’ll also maintain brand value and lessen the risk of overcrowding your gym.
One suggestion is to run a 3-month special that is only eligible for new members. For example, if your fitness membership costs $60 per month, you can sell a 3-month membership for $120. Why a 3-month special? According to James Clear, it takes on average 66 days to form a new habit. This gives your members ample time to absorb your fitness regimen into their lifestyle for good.
So Which One?
The best strategy will depend on the kind of business you run. Think critically about who your target demographic is and how that target demographic would react to either strategy. If you run a higher-end, smaller or innovative gym, a free trial would likely attract the wrong kind of clientele. A discounted, referral-based trial may be better. If you run a larger gym that is meant to be affordable and approachable, a free trial may be the best way to go. Can’t decide? Try running an A/B test, to see which one of these options works better for you. Make sure you have a good control set up, so you know you’re really tracking what you think you’re tracking.
Want to improve your fitness facility’s marketing even more? Check out Xplor Recreation’s fitness management software, to boost your marketing, tracking abilities, and manage your members, while improving your gym’s efficiency and profit.