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Why the Trial Membership Works

Most of you are now working on your marketing for next year. The core element I still recommend; primarily because it is still such a successful tool, is some form of the trial membership. Here are the three main ways to use this tool and why it works:

The 21-Day Risk Free Trial

This is the tool that could be used by mainstream fitness facilities that do not have a lot of competition. Do not forget that all marketing is supposed to do is to get leads in the door. Many rookie owners get upset that people show up but no one signs up. That is a sales problem, not a marketing problem and the marketing worked if someone comes through the door.

In this trial, the guest would get full access to the club and should be part of the group personal training or small group offerings. Remember that if you treat them like members they become members.

This also replaces the older 14-day trial we used to recommend. The 21-day is a smarter version that has proved to attract more leads and has more perceived value. Do not use this tool to attract potential members, get leads into the door, and then drop close the person the first visit hard. Trial works because people expect to get a few visits in before they decide to become a member. Lying to them by promising them a trial and then banging them hard once they are in the door will work against you over time.

I still believe in offering incentives, such as a kick ass messenger bag and a free month, if they sign up by day 10. Incentives still work if they are positive and you should be thinking carrot not a bull whip on the ass, which is what the old take away drop the price today and today only close is.

The Paid Trial Membership

If you are a mainstream club, run this at half your monthly. For example, if you charge $39 per month for one member then run a paid trial for 30 days @ $19. If you are in a super competitive market, then you might try 30 days @ $9 to mess with the low price guys down the street.

Training clubs should be in the 30 days for $49-89 range in most markets except in New York or other major metro areas where it could be as high as $129. Again, most trainers fight this concept because they are afraid they have to train too many people too cheaply, but put everyone into groups if you can and give yourself a chance to get some new blood into the business.

Most training clubs average about 4-7 new sales a month but you canít grow until you average 15 or higher and you canít do that if you donít get leads into the door. Also remember that you can be too elite and many of you slowly starve your business because you are so worried about offending the 20-30 clients you started with your first few months.

Closing rates for all trial memberships of any kind should be about 60-65% of everyone through the door over a 30-day period of time. If someone starts at the end of month, just count that person in the month they sign up and donít go back to the first month. All we are looking for here is gross average and the number of new members you get over a 30-day period.

The Extended Paid Trial

I like an extended paid trial that allows the guest to get fully involved over a longer period of time almost as a course they would sign up for at a community college. Phil and Michelle Dozois and Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove both do forms of these quite successfully and we have had huge success in our womenís-only club on Cape Cod using versions of the Biggest Loser to attract women we now know would have never shown up through any other marketing.

You can call this program NewYou60 and it is targeted at the person who is not experienced in fitness. It is an extended trial for 60 days and includes everything you can offer, such as nutritional guidance, full training, full classes and anything else you can throw into the mix.

Pricing for this depends on the market but you can be aggressive here. If you are using it as a true trial, keep it in the $69-99 range. If you have the stuff and team to add value, then price it in the $149-249 range and include items such as workout journals, team weigh-ins, tee shirts, etc. that give it a course feel.

This would work well in markets where you have competition but you also have been marketing for a while and need a new tool to pry out those leads that havenít responded to the paid trials.

Use one of these for your marketing starting in January and stick with that tool for at least 90 days. You can mix these and follow one, 90-day period with another using a different tool since each one is designed to target a separate potential member.

Remember that "to know you is to love youĒ and that trial marketing is designed to get leads into your club for an extended period of time where you can prove your patience and caring attitude. As always, you are still looking for a 60-65% overall closing rate, or conversion into regular members, no matter what trial you use.

Market well and kill it next year.

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