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The Point of Pre-Sales


From wall colors to how many pieces of equipment to include in a space, there are a lot of things to consider when your club is opening a new location. However, one major thing to decide is if you will offer pre-sales or not. 

According to Donyel Cerceo, the marketing director of Merritt Clubs, an active pre-sale office works best because people like to see what they are purchasing, but having a clear pre-sale plan can help your club sell before even building.

“Make sure you are offering a great incentive for those joining during the different stages of construction,” said Cerceo. “I set up different phases of sales pricing; the pre-construction phase happens before the foundation is poured. This phase offers the best pricing. Make sure you have your final pricing set so you can show the new member exactly how much they are saving.”

Merritt Clubs has a variety of phases where they offer membership sales. The second phase is the construction phase where there is a discount on membership, but it’s not as good as the pre-construction phase. The third phase is pre-opening, again with a discount on membership, and the final phase is the grand opening.  

Cerceo said when possible to bring prospects to the site. Provide hard hats so you are able to give prospects tours of the new facility while it is being constructed. “Make sure you hire knowledgeable staff who can really paint the picture of what the club will look like while giving tours,” she said. 

Jon Brady, the president of Midtown Athletic Clubs, said pre-sales as the industry knows them are rapidly declining in value, because so many customers now know what to expect from a gym or club. Having these customers purchase a membership prior to opening requires a very beneficial offer of some sort.

“Most people are happy to wait until the gym is open and then go take a look around,” said Brady. “People have become used to pay-as-you-go methods with the boutique studios, so they have alternatives to use in the interim period where they are not locked into a contract.”

According to Brady, the only way pre-sales are impactful is if the financial offer is so beneficial potential members are prepared to take a chance without seeing it, or they feel if they don’t join early they may miss out. “So, you play on either scarcity or cost,” he said. “Using scarcity only really works when the product being offered is special, different or unique and may have limited space available.”

However, Brady said if your club does choose to do a pre-sale, think of it as a marketing campaign. “People want to see what they are buying into,” he said. “Use virtual reality (VR) if you can. You can build the club in virtual reality and take someone on a tour using the VR goggles or even on an iPad. But, make sure the build out looks like you promised them in the VR tour.”

Cerceo agreed digital marketing is key for pre-sales. She recommends having a 3D video of inside the club ready to show potential members and having renderings of what the club will look like on all pre-sale marketing you have.

Another marketing tactic Cerceo recommends for pre-sales is having a countdown on your website or landing page. Have it show prospects how many memberships are remaining at the different pricing levels to create scarcity. Additionally, push all of your Google ads, social ads and any mobile ads you have to this landing page. She also recommends having a lead capture form. And as your club gets closer to opening, Cerceo said you should start using radio ads.

“It’s also a great idea to have a media night prior to your grand opening,” said Cerceo. “Invite local media to come experience your club. Make the event really special so they will want to come. It’s great to get free media coverage. Have an unforgettable grand opening party. Get people talking. Make sure to remember you are now part of this community, so even after your opening, continue to make your club a staple of the community.”

Brady agreed your club should use lots of omni-channel, small blasts of content with the purpose of getting noticed. 

“I would advise people to make heavy use of social media and to lean into small but often easily digestible content blasts,” explained Brady. “The process generally begins when you sign a contract for a site and agree on the design and planning. You can then start letting local businesses know you are excited to be moving in and you look forward to working with them to continue to grow and support the local neighborhood.”

As your club is a month or so out from opening, Brady recommends sharing content about the offerings, the interior of the facility, the team you are bringing on board and why you are different. Explain your core purpose and what you will offer people in terms of your values or behavior. Most importantly, why should they trust you with helping them in their fitness journey?

While pre-sales and their value have changed over the years, they can still be a very helpful tool in building up your membership. However, Brady doesn’t think you should rely on them heavily. “I wouldn’t lead with an offer of discounted membership — let your product do the talking,” he said. “Let you be the reason they come in.” 

Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is the assistant editor for Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com

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