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Why the Fitness Industry should stop marketing 1 day guest passes.

At Apollo Gym Software Solutions we've spoken to many Gym Owners about the issue with 1 Day Guest Passes for Health Clubs and Gyms in the past. A lot of the time the conversation isn't particularly favourable. However those who have listened, have certainly reaped the rewards.

The problem may have been that we weren't getting the message across in the right way. As former Operations and Regional Managers of Health & Fitness Clubs across the UK, I believe it's our duty at Apollo Software to offer help and advice to all owners and operators of Health and Fitness Clubs and Gyms, based on our combined 35+ years of experience. Especially when the advice is going to make a positive impact on your business in 5 ways;

1. Increase the uptake of Guest Passes

2. Increase the conversion rate from Passes Requested to Passes Used

3. Improve conversion rates from Used Passes to Joined Members

4. Increase Retention

5. Reduce Expenditure and Increase Revenue

To continue any further we need to first identify the objections to having a Guest Pass that is longer than 1 day; as it's common for us to hear several reasons as to why it shouldn't be longer. Rather than go through a list of the objections, we can go through the number one reason that we hear, and the rest should fall into place as they are all fairly well connected to this.


When a 3 to 5-day guest pass is suggested, the number one rejection we hear is that it will cost the Health Club more money to offer extra days. So, let’s get this out the way now as this is just 100% incorrect and this is why.

You have certain fixed costs that can't be avoided relating to offering guest passes and some of these are as follows.

1. Cost of implementing a Referral Scheme or similar at the outset

2. Marketing such as Referral Posters, Digital Media, Print, Advertising and so forth

3. Staffing such as providing a member of staff for the duration of the 1st visit

The important thing is that these 3 costs will always be there, and they won't increase based on offering a further 3-4 days. You only need to fill the forms in once, such as Par'Q, and you only have to show them the equipment or provide a short programme to follow on the 1st day. Their bum wearing out a bike seat for a few more minutes each day is hardly worth worrying about. A little water and electric is irrelevant as this could be more than offset against what they may spend in the Cafe if you have one. Or against the fact that they have a higher chance of joining the club ultimately.

So that’s the number one objection addressed, let’s look at the original points 1-5 above and go through the supportive evidence that backs these up.

1. Increase the uptake of Guest Passes

Unfortunately, as human beings many of us are pessimistic - and we also aren't as naive as you may think. We know a 1-day pass isn't going to be 1 day, it's maybe a 2 hour visit. Plus, how many people have a whole day spare to hang about in the gym? If they have then they are probably not in need of persuasion to join in the first place. With our software system, Social Referral Online; we have access to thousands of guest pass stats that are sent out along with feedback on how many are requested and then used. Every time a club chooses to go with a 1 day pass the uptake is lousy. Why?

Because people talk themselves out of it as the offer of a 1-day pass/visit is actually going to entail the following and they know it. Go all the way to the gym to fill out forms and then spend an hour being shown equipment with someone. Hardly really get an experience that is pleasant and then have someone try and sign me up for a year. This sounds negative and is, because it is pretty much the reality and quite a few people have been exposed to it once or twice and don't wish to go there again.

To overcome this just offer 3-5 days. Simple as that. You will then get more people requesting a guest pass.

2. Increase the conversion rate from Passes Requested to Passes Used

You need more people to come in and use the pass that they actually downloaded or signed up for. The above in point 1 applies directly to this stage as well, so we can map that across. So follow point 1 and you'll already be on course to increase this part without having to do any further effort.

3. Improve conversion rates from Used Passes to Joined Members

This is the part that every club is hoping to get right. You spent all the money getting them to the Gym and now you need them to join after having the trial. If they don't join now, then the moment is lost along with all the cost in getting them to this point.

Let us ask you a question, which we're then going to propose an answer to ourselves. Why do companies like Netflix offer a month’s trial instead of a day or two, or maybe a couple of movies? Surely they must be concerned that people will just watch it for a month and then not bother signing up?

No, not at all. They would be more concerned about this if they offer a lesser trial and so they should be. Because they know that all of the above we've mentioned applies to them as well. They know that people need to build a pattern into their lives. This is the Psychology part. They want you to develop a pattern of behaviour if you may, a gradual change, that soon becomes part of what you do. You'll then just keep doing it. To get me and you to sign up for Netflix it needs to become part of the routine and that happens over the month that I can use Netflix as much as I like. The barrier to sign up is almost non-existent as it's now what I do.

Health Clubs and Gyms are no different. I'm not going to build up a lifestyle pattern nor feel comfortable in this environment within an hour or two on a guest pass. Those you sign up like this were probably going to join anyway, or you're lucky and they just can't say no - until they appear on your cancellation list that is.

If going from a non-exerciser to a full time committed exerciser were that easy, then we'd have 15% of the population not taking part in Health and Fitness and 85% taking part. The pyramid would flip upside as we know it.

So, give me 5 days on the guest pass and you increase the chances of me getting a better experience in the Club, building up a pattern and wanting to join.

4. Increase Retention

This is super short. We've taken this from an article we wrote a few years back:-

"Take a look on the Internet and you will find a study conducted by the Goethe University Frankfurt and the University of Pennsylvania, on referral programs and customer value. In summary, the study found that referred customers were more profitable and loyal than normal customers. Referred customers had a higher contribution margin, a higher retention rate and were more valuable in both the short and long run."

So, your current members want to refer friends? Well, the best way to get them to do this is by letting them try out your Health Club. And the above supports what we all know.

5. Reduce Expenditure and Increase Revenue

So, if you continue to offer 1 day passes the results will not be as effective. The acquisition cost is going to be higher as you will need to get more through the door due to reduced uptake, usage and conversion to membership.

So, it costs less by offering a longer pass length and the conversion rate is also higher which will increase revenue.


If all the above is correct why would we still offer a 1 Day Pass? That’s simple and can be summed up with the following:-

- People don't like change, we offered a 1-day pass years ago and we just keep doing it. It does get a result so most don't focus on the horizon they just look at the bottom line, with a fear of doing something outside of what has been done for ages.

- So, if you're not seeing a growth in your membership numbers but you're too scared to change what you've always done, then just carry doing the same old thing... But like the words of Albert Einstein, "to repeat the same actions over and over again and expect different results, is insanity".

Contact Apollo Software today if you are a new gym owner looking for a Membership CRM system that offers lead generation, class timetables, sales forecasting, member payment collections, and above all is simple to use.



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