Strategies for Effective Free Trial Membership Campaigns

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If you do a quick Google search for “how to save on a gym membership” or “Cheap Gyms,” you may be surprised at how many results come back touting how to take advantage of free trials at gyms. Much like serial Groupon users, there are several people out there that will use your gym for a day, a week or a month on a free trial pass and then move on to the competition’s offer. Depending on the number of gyms in your area, this can go on for quite some time.

However, this does not mean that the tried-and-true marketing tool should not be in your bag of tricks. Here are a few strategies that can take your free trial to the next level.

Promote your free trial

While it may seem counter-intuitive to spend money on something you are giving away, it is essential to promote your free trial offer. If you tuck your free trial offer away on your website where nobody will see it, it is not a very effective tool. Promote it on your social media channels. Utilize Facebook retargeting ads to get people that visited your website to visit your club. Set up one of your Google ad campaigns to promote your free trial gym membership.

Follow up and keep in contact

Often when someone comes in for a free gym trial, they give the postcard or other material to a person at the front desk, sign a waiver, and they are on their way. And if that is the level of interaction, they are probably on their way to use the free trial offer for the gym down the street. While some of these people are just looking for a free week or two, others may be the “hottest” leads you can imagine. They have taken the time to come to your gym — which is what all of your marketing hopes to do. Your free trial has worked. Now it is up to you and your entire team to convert them into a member.

Try these follow-up steps to take to help convert those free trials into paying gym members.

  • Track trial member usage and don’t let them fall through the cracks.  Get them into your CRM/membership system. Make sure they are checking into your gym every time they show up. Track what classes they are attending. The more data, the more you can communicate with them.
  • Email trial members a thank-you immediately after they sign up for their free trial.
  • Offer a complimentary orientation, fitness assessment or training session – treat them like a member and they may be more apt to become one.  These appointments ensure they are connecting with your team. The more positive interactions they have, the better the chance they will join.
  • Call trial members within 48 hours to get their first impressions, check their comfort level, and see if they have any questions.
  • If it is a two-week or longer trial, send them an email or text before the halfway point of their trial. Invite them to try a class or to bring a friend. A trial that isn’t active is one that will not convert.
  • Call them a couple of days before the trial ends to see if they are enjoying the health club; if they haven’t used it offer to extend the trial by a week to get them in.
  • Call them one last time to ask them to join
  • If they join, great. If not, don’t write them off. Get them into an email drip campaign for trail members that keeps you in touch and top of mind when they are thinking about their fitness club needs

Have your free trial convert automatically

Many software as a service (SaaS) companies, utilize this strategy to bring in new users. These companies will offer a limited or full-use version of their software for a limited time [typically one month], with the understanding that the trial will convert to a paid membership at the end of the trial. They take the user’s payment information at the time of trial and then put the onus on the user to cancel—and more on themselves to deliver a superior experience. This method can easily be transferred to your health club’s trial strategy, especially if you and your staff can deliver the experience that will make that prospect roll-over to a membership seamlessly. To sweeten the deal, offer to waive your club’s initiation fee when the membership converts.

While free trials are common, if done correctly, you will see results that will boost your membership numbers.