Why Free Trials Don’t Work

Why Free Trials Don’t Work

This post may contain affiliate links. Read about our privacy policy.

Come try a free week!

90% of you have attempted this, I’m sure. It seems like a great deal…get them in the door and let your services sell for you.

The problem is that consumers are different than they were ten, five, even two years ago. They are more out of shape and less aware of what and how fitness is being offered.

Call it a cultural shift, the pandemic pounds, or Netflix over news, people are not the same.

The same goes for the “free trial.” In the past, the free trial was synonymous with the sales process and gyms and studios used it regularly to reel in new clients. And it used to work fairly often (except maybe for gym hoppers and sale shoppers).

Now, these free trials are doing three things:

  1. Showing potential clients how out of shape they really are
  2. Creating no incentive to purchase immediately
  3. Taking the sale out of your hands and into the waste bin

If you are offering a free trial, chances are you are filling spots in regular classes or open gym times that you have anyway. The logic tells you that this will create more energy in class and give the clients a herd mentality…however, what happens in these scenarios is that the new client gets left behind a bit. They begin to realize that they are seriously out of shape, and then they begin to doubt whether they can continue at all.

By offering a free trial, you are setting up the precedent that your services are not worth money and with that comes a crazy sense of entitlement. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and offer a free trial for one month. The following month, see how many people come in demanding a free trial because their sister’s cousin got one last month and you should always offer them free blah, blah, blah. Then watch the negative review hit on Yelp. Sad, but true.

A free trial used to start the conversation into the sale, but for whatever reason, many trainers and gym/studio owners are now using this method as a crutch to avoid the actual sale. So many of my staff have said they are not good at the business side—not good at the sale—and that’s just something we tell ourselves in an attempt to understand why our methods are failing.

You are not bad at sales! You are just bad at understanding what a sale is. The moment you think you are being “salesy” is the moment you are coming off that way. Instead, try to see the sale for what it really is—a way to help your client. They need what you have. Now help them get what they want! Sell them your service!

And stop selling yourself short! Charge what you are worth and be proud of your pricing. If you are undercharging you will constantly feel like you are undervalued. If you are overcharging, you will feel guilty for asking for the sale and it will show. Be fair, be honest, be assertive. You and your services are worth it.

What to Offer Instead

So, what do you offer instead of a free trial? There has to be some way to entice new people into your facility, right? Of course!

I am a big fan of the discounted class pass that you give out at special events, or to existing clients so they can invite close friends (people who are already in your target market), or as incentives or prizes. That, at least, gives you a little control over who gets this access and gives some monetary commitment on the part of the potential client. Even if it’s only five or ten dollars, get these newbies to commit something, and give them a finite expiration date. They should be using these discounted cards within two weeks of receiving them.

Another excellent (and free) way to attract new clients is the free consultation. I love the free consultation! It gives you a chance to meet new people and form connections, because it’s the connection that will solidify a long-term client.

A consultation should contain the following:

  • No sweat…aka no free workouts, baby!
  • Gather their information (email, phone, name…I usually have them sign a waiver, etc)
  • Start a discussion. Ask them how they heard about you, why they are here, what’s their story? Get to know their pain points.
  • Make a recommendation based on what they want (and maybe a little what they need, but don’t want). It’s really important that you listen to the client’s needs and offer suggestions. You want them to enjoy coming to you and to work at their level with like-minded people. This will not only benefit the client, but also you as you foster your new relationship.
  • Look at their calendar and sign them up for class/sessions, even if they don’t initially pay (I try not to take up a paying spot to a non-paying customer, but this is a case-by-case situation. Generally, if they took the time to show up to a consultation, they will show up to the class, especially if you have reminder software working in the background).
  • Reinforce the process. Introduce them to the class on their first day. Include their favorite song on a playlist. Praise them and praise some more. Check in on them during class and especially after class.
  • Sell them again. If they didn’t commit fully to the plan on your first meeting, try now. Their endorphins are high and this is the best time to lock them in to a lifetime of health and wellness.
  • Check in again in 30 and 90 days. Where are they in their goals process? Do you need to reassess their weight, measurements, class goals, etc. You are building a relationship. Find out what they need!

Stop offering your hard-earned time, energy, and skills for nothing! Start building authentic connections and a solid sales process!

Never thought of it that way? Believe me, there are so many tactics I tried and failed at before I found the ones that consistently succeeded. I’m here to help if you want to see your business grow in every way possible.

Check out my free playbook to Grow and Scale Your Fitness Business HERE.

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.

Previous Post
How to Market Your Fitness Business When You’re Broke, Part Two
Next Post
Why a Clean Gym is So Important


You must be logged in to post a comment.