Are Free Trials Worth It?

3 min read
Apr 2, 2024

Most gyms offer free trial periods with the goal of attracting people into their facility in order to see what they have to offer, enjoy their experience and ultimately commit to a membership. From the prospective member’s viewpoint, why not commit to a free trial? There is zero commitment and a chance to see if the prospective gym space is the right fit for your fitness lifestyle. While it may seem like a no-brainer opportunity for gym owners, are they worth it? Let’s take a deeper look…  

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The Positives

As stated above, free trials are a great way to attract new members who may be hesitant to commit to a paid membership. What better way for a gym owner to sell their services than by having you participate firsthand?  

A marketing opportunity

If you’re providing a positive experience, free trials can generate word-of-mouth marketing and make it a lot easier to sell memberships. After all, we are selling a service and not a product.

A great way to generate leads

Free trials provide an opportunity to tie conditions in with your promotion, such as a post-trial survey to understand the participant’s experience of your gym. This gives you a clear idea of what factors need to be addressed in order to improve your gym. Plus, by getting their contact information, you can continuously follow up with upcoming events, competitions, new classes, etc. to not only inform the potential members but also keep them thinking about your gym.

The Negatives

While free trials may get more people visiting your gym, there are some downsides.

Financial burden

A free trial costs you your most expensive asset- your time. If your gym is struggling, you need front-end cash. If you’re not able to convert your trials into memberships at the end of the month, it essentially feels like a waste of time. There is also a high possibility that the free trial member is only interested in the discount and has no intention of signing up in the first place.

Can attract the wrong kind of clientele  

This can especially be an issue in boutique or smaller gyms that cater to certain individuals. If you have a bunch of free trial members testing out a yoga studio who have never taken a class before, it could potentially disrupt the class flow.  

Could negatively impact your existing members

Wait times for machines or equipment may increase with the surge of new prospective members. If you have a ton of free trial members testing out a yoga studio who have never taken a class before, it could potentially disrupt the class flow and frustrate your current members.

A Better Alternative?  

Typically, with free trials, gym owners are looking to convert new leads into long-term members right from the start. This can lead to the prospective member feeling pressured, which leads them to go elsewhere. Below are some alternatives that could provide a more positive impact with bringing in prospective members.

Fitness Challenges

Creating fitness challenges (ex. 6-week weight loss challenge, Fitness kickstarter challenge, etc.) can be a great way for prospective members to gain a glimpse of what your gym is all about. If you can get someone to commit for 6+ weeks and get them incredible results, then you’re chances of converting them into a long-term member are high.

Discounted Memberships

Discounting, instead of giving away free trials can bring in new members while mitigating the negative effects of free trials. While you may not see as high of a response from prospective members, those who do come will be more likely to be paying members since they are paying from the start. This will also limit the risk of an overcrowded gym that supports your current members.  

So… are they worth it? 

As much as we hate hearing this answer, it really depends on the kind of business you are running and the type of gym you are operating. As a gym owner, you need to think hard about your target demographic and think critically about how they would react to either strategy. If you run a higher-end, smaller/ pricier gym, then a free trial could likely cause a lot of the negatives listed above. If you are operating a larger gym that is lower in price and more affordable to the average person, then a free trial may be the best route. 

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