This has been a hot topic of discussion for many years now. Truth be told, I have taken advantage of many free gym trials precisely because they are free. That being said, one size certainly does not fit all, especially given the environment. This is one of those rare topics where I actually do not have a definitive answer because truthfully, it depends on a few factors. Whether it is free, $1 or more, every gym offers something to try to capture more leads and eventually convert them into members. Let us dive into what the differences are between a paid and free trial, and shed some light on what you should be offering.
Having been in the industry for 30 years, there is one factor to consider first: nothing beats a great customer experience. One frustrating aspect in the fitness industry has always been the museum tour — you know, when the sales advisor walks you around the entire gym, but you just really want to see the weights area.
So before we talk about paid versus free gym trials to get people in the doors, remember that once you attract them, you need to keep them. Your experience needs to be sound, and you need to know how to give a customer a call to action. As an owner and/or manager of a fitness facility, it is important to identify a few areas so you can best come to a conclusion as to what to offer your potential members.
Type of Customer
This is probably one of the most important factors to consider and one that very few managers think about. Do you feel like a customer is really committed to hitting their fitness goals, and do you view it as an investment or just trying to take advantage of an offer? Yes, gym hoppers do exist. At the end of the day, thinking about attracting more customers who are committed members can have a profound effect on the success of your business. We know a more committed member is one who stays with you longer, giving you better retention.
Therefore, someone who is willing to pay for a gym trial by nature would be considered a more committed member because they are willing to take their credit card out and use it. So, it would make sense that everyone should offer a paid trial so you can attract a more committed member. That, however, doesn’t always hold true and leads us to our next factor.
Type of Facility
The type of facility certainly plays a big factor in what you should and can offer. The main reason is simple: volume. If you are a more traditional big box gym, chances are you are getting a lot more members and can afford to offer a free trial because you have more numbers. Even if you only convert members between 20% to 30%, you are doing it at a higher volume. Conversely, if you are a boutique fitness studio, you do not need thousands of members to be profitable by nature. Your focus should be a more committed member and offering a paid trial is something you should consider.
One thing is for sure — great brands do two things better than anyone else. First, they absolutely believe in their product/service. Secondly, they aren’t afraid to charge for it. The question is do you consider yourself a great brand?