A club joining fee or initiation fee has historically been a one-off fee that “got you into the club.” In recent years, it has suffered due to budget clubs removing it, as it presents a barrier for people joining.
But, the club joining fee still has a number of merits for gyms today. It acts as a way of gaining commitment from the person and also improves retention. If your club offers a front loaded onboarding process, then this joining fee will cover some of the costs associated with this. For other clubs, the joining fee is a valuable source of income and without it, they might struggle financially.
It can act as a way of slowing down sales at certain peak times to stop the club from getting too busy. It can also create a level of exclusivity, which is a sales tactic that actually encourages people to buy.
If you do have a joining fee in your club it is important that it is sold and not dropped like a bomb at the end of the price presentation. It needs to be explained and justified as early on as possible. If not, it will become an objection at the point of sale and could prevent the prospect from buying. In sales this term is called pre-empting, and it avoids a possible lost sale. Many gym employees have a problem selling the club joining fee, as they feel uncomfortable about it. If not fully understood by employees or if they are not trained to sell the joining fee, then opportunities are wasted.
If you do you have a club joining fee you should ask yourself why. Whatever your reason for having this fee, this should then be used as a justification to the potential customer. Some clubs will bundle the fee with a welcome pack for the customer. In this pack, the new customer is given everything they would need to get started at the club. For instance, it could contain a club t-shirt, sweat towel, water bottle and heart rate monitor. Obviously, all of these items would have the logo of the club and act as a source of marketing. It also gives the new customer a level of confidence knowing they have all the gear they need to get started. Other clubs I have seen use the joining fee to pay for a personal training session to get the new customer into the gym and set up with a program.
Whatever the reason for the club joining fee, the sales person will need to still sell it. If you are giving something back in return, then it is slightly easier to sell. But if not, you need ensure that it is discussed early on and not pushed to the end of the tour.
The joining fee also offers the salesperson an advantage, as they can discount it if necessary. It can be used as a tool to gain the sale if the customer is unsure. A small discount may be enough to complete the sale.
Paul Conway is the owner of Crown Fitness and is also a consultant with Retentionetix, which is a consultancy that trains fitness clubs in how to improve sales and retention. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.