You recognize the importance of a trial membership, but it may not be as easy to determine how long it should be
You've seen anywhere from 1 and 3 day trial memberships up to a full month or more. But have you determined how long is the optimal time for your members to try your club for free before they make a decision?
Let's discuss the maximum time you should ever have for a trial membership. It is 30 days. There is no reason you should ever give more than 30 days on a trial membership. You can give a new member multiple months for free, but they need to be on a committed term membership that begins billing them automatically after the trial period you have allowed them.
But is 30 days the optimal length? Is 7 or 14 days better? The answer is…it depends. Every market is different. You must consider what your competitors are offering, you must consider the time of year, and a variety of other variables.
If you competitor is offering a 30 day trial membership, yet you only offer a one day pass, chances are good that many of your prospects will ultimately become members of their gym and not yours. You have to remain competitive at all times in terms of value. BUT, you don't have to do a 30 day trial membership. If you offer memberships at half the price of your competitors, chances are good that many price conscious prospects will choose your facility over your competitor, regardless of how long your trial membership is. But if you compete directly with a club with very similar offerings, you should consider either matching their trial period, or adding more value to your shorter trial.
For example, let's say you offer a 14 day trial membership and your competitor offers 30 days. They win, right? But what if during your 14 day trial, you offer two sessions with a personal trainer, unlimited tanning, and a free bottle of water every day they work out. Now you win! It's not always the length of the trial membership, but rather the amount of value the member feels they are receiving.
Let's consider the time of year. If it is summertime, do you want to give the students in the area a full 30 days of free access to the facility? Many times they are only home for two months anyway. Instead of a 30 day trial membership during this time, offer a special summer membership for students and offer a summer-for-free program for others who make a commitment to a year or more.
For most clubs, 30 days is probably too long
You can certainly offer any length of trial membership you want, but one thing to consider is that health clubs survive off of the fact that the majority of members don't use the facility after their first month. It is a sad truth, but it is also vital to the success of your health club. If you have 1,000 members, and all of those people showed up after work every day at the same time, it would be a madhouse! We know that most new members work out their first month and never return. So if you offer them a free 30 days to try it out, and they lose interest like most people do in their first month, you have gained nothing. They will not join because within 30 days they realize they are not that motivated.
If you do offer a 30 day trial membership, you need to have some incredible incentives to get the prospect to join earlier in their trial membership. For example, if at the point of sale you offer them a 30 day trial, but allow them to exchange it for a huge list of incentives to become a member that day. Let's say they choose to take the 30 days, because they are not yet convinced they want to commit to you. Explain to them that for each week they use of the trial, the incentive list becomes shorter and shorter. Have a tiered incentive approach. If there are 10 first visit incentives, allow them only 6 if they trade in their pass within the first week, 4 by the end of the second week, 2 by the end of the third week, and none if they wait until their trial membership expires. You will want to follow up with them regularly during their trial period.
Also, regardless of the length of the trial membership, you have to provide unbelievable customer service, prompt follow up, and you must do all you can to keep them excited and motivated. If they receive a 14 day pass from you but they never visit the club and never hear from you, you have lost the sale.
All things being equal, a 3 day pass or a 7 day pass is more than enough time for someone to decide, and most people are still excited the first week they begin working out. But you should test to see what works best at your club. For one month, provide half of your prospects a 3 day pass and provide the other half 7 day passes. Record how many of each join your club. Once you find a clear winner, test that pass against a 14 day pass, then again against a 30 day pass. You must constantly test and retest to find what is the most successful in your market.