Whether you’re ready to open your doors as a new gym owner or you're trying to build your current member base, getting new members can be quite the mission. While you may be tempted to throw out discounts on membership packages to get those new members in your doors, it's totally possible to get new members without offering discounts.
Sure, everyone loves a bargain. However, discounting memberships can devalue your time and your brand. Alternatively, by implementing membership standards early on , such as a no-discount policy, can help your gym attract quality leads, attain max profitability, and prevent you from financial troubles at the start of your business venture.
The problem with low barrier offers
All it takes is one early financial mistake like too many discounts or a bad offer to set your business up for failure down the line. Moreover, the wrong types of discounts or offers can attract the wrong types of members that won't stay with your business. For example, low barrier offers tend to attract low-quality leads.
For reference, a low barrier (or LBO) is generally considered to be an offer that is less than 30 days long and costs less than $100, such as "Only $99 for your first month." Similarly, the following list of common membership discounts can also backfire later down the line in the same manner as LBOs:
- "Lifetime", "Grandfathered", "Founding Member" or otherwise locked-in membership rates.
- 6-Week Challenges.
- Groupon deals.
- Bartering free or discounted memberships in exchange for other services.
- Discounted tier packages, ex: "Buy 1 class for $20, Get 3 classes for $50."
Think about it, if you are offering $1 memberships and free pizza night, you might get a lot of people to sign up at first, but will they be motivated to stay at your gym without the commitment that comes from making a financial investment? When you offer low barrier deals, you run the risk of attracting members who are just looking for a deal.
Furthermore, you also chance that these "deal-hunters" will tell people in their network who are similar in nature and not qualified leads. The LBO method might get a lot of members in your door at first, but your churn rate will be high because when they have to buy a full-priced membership package, or your rates increase, many of these members will inevitably leave your gym to find the next deal.
Trying to lure members to your gym may not seem like a difficult task if you're offering discounts, but you must then figure out how to keep them in order to avoid the revolving door dilemma. You can avoid this by adhering to your membership standards and avoiding discounts overall.
You can avoid this by adhering to your membership standards and avoiding offering any discounts at all.
Alternatives to offering discounts at your gym
So if you don’t offer discounts you might be wondering, how do I get new members in the doors of my gym? Savvy gym owners know how to offer so much value that they don’t need to discount their memberships because they have people knocking down their gym doors through the following incentives:
1. Issue a no-commitment policy.
The biggest argument in favor of offering LBOs is to convince members to join who are afraid of making a financial commitment such as a year-long contract, or cancelation fees. Avoid this by implementing a commitment and cancelation policy-free membership policy. The benefits of no-hassle memberships will also save you headaches down the line when it comes to membership management
2. Host free trial classes.
Letting someone try a group class or two for free is not going to cost you a thing. This type of try-before-your buy offer is a similar form of sales psychology as LBO’s, however, with a free trial class you have the opportunity to prove the value upfront at no cost to them or to you.
3. Offer feeder programs.
Otherwise known as “lite” or "intro" programs, memberships for these programs come at a lower price point than your core packages and serve as a segway to get paying members in your door while also making a financial commitment. The intention being that these members will love your product so much they will eventually upgrade to higher membership offerings. An example would be offering "sweat" or "bootcamp" class memberships that feed into your main, higher-priced CrossFit membership.
4. Promote personal training sessions first.
Generally, someone who purchases pre-paid sessions isn’t going to stop coming after their first few classes. They made a financial commitment that they are going to see through. Once they see your value, and the results, they will be more likely to stay and commit to a membership.
5. Partner with fitness marketplace programs like ClassPass.
ClassPass is a monthly fitness membership that provides users access to local studios, gyms, and wellness offerings. As a gym, you'll never be charged a fee to be listed as a partner on ClassPass. In fact, they pay you for reservations.
Tips on maintaining your membership standards
Implementing a strict no-discount-policy may sound counterintuitive to starting and marketing a business, but keep in mind that manipulating your price is not a sustainable business approach. Here are some simple tips that will help you maintain your membership standards while adding value to your gym, and bringing members to your door:
Over-deliver on results:
Offer an unbeatable product. Hire knowledgeable, reliable and enthusiastic staff. Put all of your energy and efforts into making sure that you are offering the best of the best. If you succeed in doing this, your reputation will attract new members to the gym itself.
Instead of lowering your prices, provide added value incentives, like free clinics, seminars or fitness assessments. Choose offerings with relatively little incremental cost and a high-perceived value to engage member satisfaction and drive loyalty. Another low-cost, low investment strategy is to offer giveaway items like branded t-shirts, water bottles, etc.
For many, the gym can be an intimidating place, and by creating a sense of community at your gym, it will ensure that clients keep returning. Make sure that each person who enters your door feels like they are a member of a family and not just a gym.
Tell don't sell:
Provide high-quality free content. Think fitness tips, motivation tactics, success stories, and healthy recipes. Share this information on your social media pages or create a free book that you provide to new members.
Offer incentives for referrals and reward loyalty:
Rewarding your loyal members is a proven strategy for attracting new members and a far better investment than offering a discount to someone just because they walked in your door. Remember, it costs more to acquire a new member than to retain a current member. As such, once you start building your membership base retention should always be your primary objective. Plus, long-term members are more likely to refer family and friends that will stick around.
Did you have a positive experience offering deals when opening your gym? Or do you wish that you had attracted new members without discounts in hindsight? Share your comments below!
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