Popularized by large commercial gyms like Gold’s, Planet Fitness, and Anytime Fitness, the concept of a free gym trial has been around for a while. And as 2020 accelerated the growth of digital fitness, the free (online) trial has become more valuable than ever for gyms and fitness studios.
But succeeding with a free trial is not always as simple as “get your first class free!” Every fitness business is unique, and depending on what services you offer, there are lots of ways you can incentivize potential customers. Just like the service you provide for existing members, the main goal of providing a trial should be to show prospects the value they get from joining your gym.
Here, we’ll take a look at the benefits of offering a free trial in the digital age of fitness. We’ll also explore a great example of a free trial that converts 50% of its prospects into full-time members. Skip ahead to:
- The Pandemic Has Transformed the Free Gym Trial
- How Do You Create an Offer That Converts?
- How Fiit App Added Value to 'Free' and Increased Conversion Rates by 50%
- How to Deliver Maximum Value With Your Free Trial
The Pandemic Has Transformed the Free Gym Trial
Online fitness has opened up plenty of opportunities for both members and gym owners. Whether they’ve always enjoyed exercising, or are totally new to it, working out has become a significant source of relief for many people throughout the pandemic. And aside from providing people with a sense of structure and routine, the convenience and flexibility of online workouts make joining a new gym easier than ever. Below are a few of the ways that online workouts have created new opportunities for acquiring new members.
1. Trying Out a Class for the First Time Is Less Intimidating
The majority of gyms and digital providers, big and small, now offer some form of free trial to attract new members.
Online fitness is now hugely competitive, and the reality is that offering a trial is your chance to get in front of a prospect who could be trying a few different options online. It’s an opportunity to show the community, expertise, and accountability that your gym provides and why this sets you apart from the competition.
Going to a gym for the first time is often intimidating for people. But online workouts remove this barrier: working out is much less intimidating when you’re doing it from the comfort of your own home.
There’s a big plus here for gym owners, too; previously, there were concerns that each free trial could be a space taken up by a “trial hopper” rather than paying members. But with online classes, there’s no limit to attendance, and paying members can still attend alongside those on a trial. Consider keeping this as an option once your facility opens back up. Studio space will still likely be limited for a while due to attendance restrictions, so make sure your paying members jump to the top of the queue for your in-studio classes, and potential members can try out the online experience.
2. Attract a Previously Unreachable Audience
Online fitness allows you to cast your net wider, and access to a free online class gives people from all over the world a chance to see what to expect from your gym. Before this, your membership base was likely made up of people who lived or worked in the local area. Now, however, consumers are no longer confined by location when choosing a gym membership.
This also opens up your referral marketing to a previously untapped audience. You likely have loyal, long-term members that would love to bring friends and family along to your studio. Pre-pandemic, your location may have been a blocker on this. But now, your members can bring in referrals from far and wide. Try offering incentives and prizes for each person a member refers to your business.
3. Provide Flexibility for Members
Les Mills CEO Jean Michel Fournier told Forbes last year in a podcast that there has been a shift in the industry. Before, gyms and studios dictated where and when their members worked out. With everyone spending the last 12 months mainly working out from home, behaviors and expectations have changed. Gyms and studios need to be ready to meet the consumer where they are, and a hybrid fitness business is the way to achieve that.
Pre-pandemic, it was more difficult for people to work the gym into their schedules. Now, your gym can offer convenience and flexibility with a hybrid offering. It creates a win-win situation for your members from the moment they’re interested in a trial to the moment you sign them up. For the classes they’re able to attend, they can come into the gym. For the ones they need to work into a busy week – there’s always your online offering.
Now we’ve covered the benefits of offering a free trial in our transformed industry; we’ll talk about tailoring an offer that actually converts people into loyal, paying members.
How Do You Create an Offer That Converts?
As we mentioned in the introduction of this article, every fitness business is unique. When it comes to your free trial, this means what works for your gym might not work for another.
It becomes a case of trial and error to see what makes your conversion rates soar, but the ultimate focus needs to be on value. This advice is echoed time and time again by the industry experts we’ve welcomed onto The Fitness Founders Podcast. When co-founders of Hot House Yoga Christopher and John Yax came onto the show, they shared some great advice based on their 15 years in the industry, with insights from their experience on valuing your services right:
During the episode, Jon points out that offering a free trial doesn’t necessarily incentivize prospects to stay long-term:
“Free literally has zero value. And so it doesn’t compel people to stay. It doesn’t compel people to perceive what they’re getting and the value of it. They don’t increase that perceived value at all.”
So the question is, how do you add value to ‘free’?
This is something we’ll explore with the example of Fiit App. The brand has recently changed its free trial structure and has tapped into a recipe for success.
How Fiit App Added Value to ‘Free’ and Increased Conversion Rates by 50%
2020 is the year that sent digital fitness providers into the spotlight, but Fiit App has been known as the ‘Netflix of Fitness’ long before the pandemic.
The brand provides a large selection of live and on-demand workouts led by high-profile instructors, and users have always been able to choose from a free or premium subscription.
Back in its earlier days, the free version gave users access to 75 classes, while premium offered over 600, as well as more than 20 training plans, and the ability to connect with a heart rate monitor to track progress, connect to leaderboards in group classes, and view live stats.
The Customer Engagement Playbook for Your Fitness Business
The free version of the app was always intended to act as a stepping stone for members: it would give just enough of a taste to get people invested and realize that a premium subscription offered even more.
But in reality, this isn’t very incentivizing. This original version of a ‘free trial’ was one free workout after another. Essentially it was an entirely free service that people viewed separately from the paid version. Users wouldn’t benefit from the full Fiit experience – but they knew that when they chose to download the free version of the app.
For a moment, put yourself in their shoes: why would you want to start paying for something when you’re essentially already getting it for free?
In January 2020, the brand rolled out a new concept and upped its game. Fiit App introduced a 14 day free trial of Premium, something free members hadn’t been able to experience before. After using the free trial, over 50% of its users signed up for a 12-month membership. And so, from October 1st 2020, the brand made the free version of the app obsolete, choosing to focus its efforts on improving the premium offering.
The Key Takeaway From Fiit App’s Success
Focusing on the premium offering is a growth-focused move that does exactly what a free trial should:
- Shows people exactly what to expect from the service.
- Incentives them to continue.
- Provides value.
And in the long-run, it means higher conversion rates for the business and more members. When it comes to finding the best free trial for your fitness business, Fiit App proves that it’s never too late to experiment and innovate.
The brand had the free version of its app for years before realizing the opportunity to create something that would be better for members and better for business.
How to Deliver Maximum Value With Your Free Trial
It’s easy to see from Fiit that the more value you provide, the better your conversion rates will be. Let’s look at this in more detail by applying a ‘before and after’ example to a fitness business.
Before: A Standard Free Trial Experience
The Offer: You offer each new member the chance to try their first class for free.
The Process: You’ve perfected your signup process using lead capture on your website. Every person who lands on your homepage is prompted to enter their details and book straight into their first free class.
The Member Experience: The leads are rolling in! Once they’ve had their free class, your sales team is straight onto them, discussing different membership options. They work through any objections by tailoring what your gym can offer this specific person. Perhaps they have some wiggle room to offer a different class trial if the member is still hesitant.
The End Result: In a nutshell, this will go one of two ways. They either sign up for a membership, or they don’t.
The Problem: There’s nothing wrong with the structure of this free trial or the actions your team follows up with. But in reality, you can make it better and increase your chances of conversion.
With the example we’ve laid out, the offer is one free trial class, and perhaps the scope to try another one if the sales team thinks that would convince the prospect to sign up. But what can someone really get from one class? At the end of the day, it’s just a free workout. And you can offer more.
After: A Free Trial That Showcases Your Value
The Offer: Instead of a couple of free workouts, you offer each new member a 7 day trial.
The Process: This is the same as before; leads are prompted to sign up for their trial as soon as they land on your website.
The Member Experience: This is the important part. Offering a 7 day trial shouldn’t just mean 7 free workouts. It’s your chance to bring someone into your community, get them involved, and show them everything they can expect. What exclusive benefits do your full-time members get to access? How can you get this person involved in your community for that week? Whatever you have to offer, you need to make sure this person is getting the most out of their trial and experiencing everything you have to offer. Think along the lines of adding them to a private WhatsApp group with other members, getting them involved with your weekly events, socials, or exclusive talks with your expert trainers.
It’s a given that a lot of gyms provide members with great workouts. Your gym does this and more, so make sure potential members know it.
The End Result: This will still go one of two ways; they either sign up for a membership, or they don’t. But by giving them a week-long experience where you actually show them the exceptional value of a membership at your gym, they’re much more likely to convert.
Enticing members and incentivizing them long-term is about more than just offering a few free classes. It will be a case of trial and error, but you need to figure out the best way to show prospects your value.
How will your gym specifically help them reach their fitness goals? And what will you include in your free trial to show them this?
One thing’s for certain; whatever offer works for you, your trial is the first chance you have to show a potential member how you’ll meet and exceed their expectations.
So don’t waste it!