Pricing your gym memberships or fitness classes isn’t just a means to make money, it’s a way to position yourself in the market and encourage members to book your services—and keep booking your services.
If you’re wondering if you should offer a free trial, how your prices should compare to the competition and whether you should charge an enrollment fee, you’re in the right place. (By the way, Wix Fit can help you manage your online scheduling and payments.)
Here are the smartest pricing strategies from finance, fitness and marketing experts.
01. Offer the ideal number of pricing plans
Three is the magic number when it comes to pricing plans. “Three options empower people with a choice but not so many that it’s overwhelming, confusing or difficult to decide,” says Joyce Marter, a licensed psychotherapist, yoga teacher and author of The Financial Mindset Fix: A Mental Fitness Program for an Abundant Life. “Think of Goldilocks and offer one that’s too high, another that’s too low without enough perks and something in the middle that is just right.”
Marter says the highest plan should be uncomfortably high in price. If you create a high benchmark, your other prices will appear reasonable in comparison. In that top-tier plan, you’ll also want to include some bells and whistles that won’t appeal to everyone (say, discounts at the café, extra guest passes and a few free personal training sessions).
Make the middle plan the one you want most people to choose. “It should be your ideal price point and offer comprehensive benefits, so people see real value in it,” says Marter.
As for the cheapest one: “The lowest price point shouldn’t be much lower and should exclude some benefits that people are going to really want.” As a result, the package priced in the middle feels like a good deal, but customers also feel good about not paying the premium price. See? Sweet spot.
02. Create a smart free-trial program
You want to tap into the power of habit, without making your free trial so long that people lose steam and decide that a membership isn’t worth it. “How many people actually follow through with consistent workouts throughout a month?” asks Marter.
That’s why Marter likes a seven-to-10-day trial to capture potential customers at the height of their excitement. This way, she says, people will have enough time to go to your facility at least three to four times, muster up some motivation, embrace the good vibes and sign up before they drop off.
03. Stand out from your competitors
It’s not just about being cheaper. “Your price should be in line with your competitors’ but provide more perks and better facilities,” says marketing expert Jon Buchan. “If your competitor charges $50 a month, you should set your price at $45 to $55 and offer more at that price.” For Buchan, the most important thing is to make customers feel satisfied with what they’re getting.
Buchan stresses the importance of paying attention to what your competitors don’t offer. If nearby yoga studios charge for mat storage, then offer the same thing for free. Or, if a local gym charges an introductory rate for personal training sessions, then offer three free personal training sessions just for joining. You can do the same thing digitally with complementary one-on-one video consultations or workshops.
This all ties back to providing customers with a great value proposition, which matters more to most clients than saving $10 or $20 a month. You want them to have a positive experience every time they interact with your business.
04. Charge a fee at enrollment
The real reason you should have an enrollment fee: “It’s a well-known and super effective marketing trick,” says Brett Downes, an SEO and marketing expert, who was a health club manager, personal trainer and swimming instructor before moving into digital media and founding Haro Helpers, Inc. “Its purpose isn’t to get additional money at the start of the membership; it’s to reduce turnover of gym members.”
Downes points to research showing that nearly 30 percent of surveyed gym members straight up said the joining fee was instrumental in their decision to extend their gym membership.
And it makes sense: “Those who paid an initiation fee might have a harder time cutting ties since they know they’ll lose out on the money they paid upfront,” he says. “It’s easier for someone to cancel a membership when they’re only paying a monthly fee.”
Downes adds that this specific strategy works better for smaller, boutique or non-franchised health clubs. People know large chains run promotions, so they can simply wait for the next “no sign-up fee” special if they want to re-join.
05. Be clear about your charges
Everyone likes to know where their money is going. If your membership costs $36 a month, and $30 covers gym use, $5 covers cleaning and maintenance, and $1 is an admin fee, explicitly spell that out for the customer. You can offer a similar breakdown for digital subscribers, too. What are they getting for their money, exactly?
06. Team up with a charity
Swap your enrollment fee for a charity donation. Example: For the Easter holidays, Downes asked new members to bring an Easter egg—which they donated to a local children's Easter egg hunt—instead of paying a joining fee. “Our tours and gym membership conversion rates would double every year for that month,” he says.
07. Give your members monthly coupons
First, include some coupons as part of a standard new membership package. To keep clients happy and engaged, continue to offer quarterly or monthly coupons for different services: personal training, nutritional consultations or special programs like bootcamps.
One more thing: Marter recommends including an expiration date on your coupons to incentivize action. “The expiration date creates a sense of urgency so people don’t forget about the offer,” she says.
08. Plan a few giveaways
Gift your customers low-cost swag. “Members feel like they are getting something free, even though the costs can be included in your business model, and the items serve as marketing when people use them out in the community,” says Marter. Branded hand sanitizer or face masks may be particularly timely freebies. Read more: How to start a fitness clothing line for your gym or studio