How To Convert Trials into memberships

By asking the right questions during trial offers you can move prospective members and clients along the ‘stages of change’, from considering your services to signing on the dotted line.

The fitness marketplace is more diverse than ever, and with so many different offerings available, it can be daunting for those unfamiliar with exercise. What’s the difference between the big chain clubs and that little 24-hour club around the corner? Between that ‘training studio’ and the ‘CrossFit box’ you’ve heard people talking about? For the uninitiated it can be hard to know what to do. Trial offers are a great way to allow these people to experience what you have to offer and gain an understanding of the culture, atmosphere and service provided at your fitness facility.

Trial offers can range from a two-session F45 pass or a personal training session at Fitness First, to a seven-day pass at the local leisure centre or three complimentary classes at a yoga studio. You can promote the trial through a variety of marketing channels, from Google Ad Word campaigns, lead boxes, letter box drops and local alliance networking, to downloads from your own website, Facebook offers or referral promotions.

When you get a bite to the bait on the hook – which is essentially what a trial offer is out there for – you need to understand where the person is on the ‘stages of change’ model. People need to move away from pain and towards pleasure to be able to make significant changes in their lives – and starting a regular exercise program is a big change for most people. They don’t want to sweat, they don’t enjoy puffing and they certainly don’t want to give up the foods and things that give them so much temporary pleasure but are realistically doing long term damage to their health and wellbeing. When someone is attracted to your business from a trial promotion they are on the second tier of the stages of change model, contemplation. According to marketing guru, Philip Kotler, the stages of change model, when used by social marketers for the health industry, would look like this:

  1. Precontemplation: the person is in denial, not recognising they have a problem
  2. Contemplation: the person knows they ‘should’ do something about their issue
  3. Preparation: person takes steps towards changing
  4. Action: the day they join your facility or sign up with you as a client
  5. Maintenance: when the person has been exercising for six months or longer and adopts the change permanently.

So how do you get someone from contemplation down the stages of change into preparation and then into action, allowing them to trade in their trial pass and get started immediately? By following this seven-step process:

STEP 1: Book the prospective member/client in for a tour or consult at least 20 minutes before their free trial.

STEP 2: Use a guest register or series of questions to ask about their goals, history and current needs.

STEP 3: Ask them what their number one health and fitness goal is at the moment.

STEP 4: Ask them why this is.

STEP 5: Ask them what specific date they want to achieve this goal by (make sure they give you a date, or exact length of time that allows you to assign a fixed date).

STEP 6: Recognise that, if their goals are bigger and the date is passed the trial time, by giving them the trial you will be prescribing them the wrong solution – just like cough medicine for a broken ankle. Instead, tell them that you have another offer that will suit them better and meet their needs.

STEP 7: Present them with a trade-in offer, e.g. for a ‘two free personal training sessions’ trial, if they join today they will get four sessions free. If they have a three-day pass, allow them to exchange it for 30 per cent off the joining fee and a free first week’s membership.

Following these seven steps will help you identify what the prospect specifically needs and by when. The trial offer serves as an ice breaker – an invitation for them to walk through the door and enquire more. Having the trial speeds up the enquiry process, and by asking specific questions about what the prospect wants to achieve, what getting fit means to them, how it is measurable to them and by what date they want to reach their goals, you are helping them to lock in the commitment to their training before you have even delivered the price presentation.

By the time you get to the price presentation you have moved them along the stages of change model and the question in their mind isn’t ‘Do I want to join?’ but rather ‘Which option is best for me?’

Tempting though it may be to do so, you shouldn’t be too hasty in sending people into trial classes, onto the gym floor and into free PT sessions without the accompanying process outlined above. Doing so will probably just validate to the prospect why they aren’t exercising already: because they don’t like it, it’s hard and it’s uncomfortable. The only way you will get regular sales from trials is by identifying what the prospect’s problems are and then providing a long term plan to solve them. The type of class, the trainer or what they do in the club can be prescribed later on: your job now is to sell long term results rather than workouts. By doing so you’ll improve both the sales experience, and the fitness outcomes for your new member or client.

Amanda Bracks is the director of Bracks Consulting. She has sold over 20,000 fitness memberships and personal training packages. Watch more of Amanda’s training tips at