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In a recent survey we conducted, over 50% of gym owners viewed “Attracting more members” as one of their biggest challenges. So we asked several thriving Triib gym owners what works for them in growing their membership. We broke down their advice into 4 proven strategies to attract more members to your gym below:


1. Offer Free Trial Classes

Whether you are a new, young, or established gym, offering free trial classes to your network (think friends, family, even your first few members) is a no-brainer for attracting new members no matter what stage your business is in. All of the gym owners we spoke with offer free trial classes at their gym either once a week or once a month, depending on the turnout. Be sure to follow these three steps our gym owners recommend in promoting free trial classes effectively:

  • Promote internally to current members by announcing the free trial classes before and/or after workouts. Many gyms call the event “Bring a Friend Day” to signify to current members that they should invite their friends and family.
  • Additionally, make sure to promote externally to your local community at large. Share the news on your website, social media, and distribute fliers around town and post on community forums.
  • Lastly, once you do get those referrals in your gym, don’t be afraid, or forget to follow upPJ Massey, Co-Owner of CrossFit Rail Trail, admits that he learned the hard way “not to just expect people will come back” after a trial class. Once PJ started reaching out to member leads directly, CrossFit Rail Trail increased their membership by 30-40 members in one year.


2. Develop A Referral Program

Looking to reach a milestone membership number quickly? Want to get your first 50 members, or to get over the first 100 members hump? Incentivize your current member base to bring members to you by developing a referral program. PJ and his partner Mike Burnes, Co-Owners of CrossFit Rail Trail, offer a referral program they call “Friends With Benefits”. Here they reward existing members with 1 free month of membership for each successful referral they make who stays active at the gym for at least 3 months. Additionally, they run a monthly giveaway raffle for each member who made a referral. The investment in creating a referral reward program is small in comparison to the pay-off of a new membership.

While you’re busy developing your referral program, don’t neglect the importance of organic referrals. Amanda Ellis, Co-Owner of Shockoe Bottom CrossFit, believes that simply offering a good product helps her earn referrals to her gym, “I don’t want my members to send me referrals just because they will receive something in return. I want them to refer my gym because they believe in our product and want others to get the same experience.”


3. Network In Your Community

Networking is essential for any gym looking to attract new members in their local community. David Cardenas, Owner of CrossFit Windrose advises, “Unfortunately, gyms are not one of those businesses where if you build it they will come, especially amongst a neighborhood of established gyms.” Partnering with neighboring business can be a low-cost, high-return way to drive more awareness and attract new members into your gym. The gyms we spoke with have had success running events with schools, breweries, restaurants, neighboring fitness businesses, and charity organizations. Active outreach is proven to further your gym as a business leader in your community. Which in turn, will attract new members directly from the client list of anyone you choose to partner with.

One proven networking tactic to attract more members is to partner with local businesses to gain access to their employees. LJ Dicarlo, Co-Owner of CrossFit TILT, was able to do this by “offering free outdoor classes in the business parking lots and following prospects up with a corporate rate discount that was roughly 16% off.” Alternatively, you could host an open house exclusively for employees of local businesses at your gym. Get the word out by making flyers, and asking the Human Resources departments to disperse them to their employees.


4. Develop Retention and Loyalty Reward Plans

Once you reach your membership goals, you’ll want to stay on top of maintaining those numbers. Attracting new members to your gym is certainly a feat, but keeping them can be something more of an art. Customer service is a critical component of not only attracting new members but retaining them as well. You’ll want to keep your members happy and loyal by developing a solid, perhaps even rewarding retention plan so your business doesn’t become a revolving door.

Offering your first, or “founding”, members special treatment is one effort that can promise long-term retention from members. David Cardenas, Owner of CrossFit Windrose, kicked off his gym opening with a special offer for gaining and retaining members called “The Founders Club”. David limited the offer to the first 40 members and promised them exclusive deals to motivate participation.

Already an established gym? Austin Maleollo, Head Coach of Reebok CrossFit One and Co-Owner of One Nation Fitness, runs a “Committed Club” program, based on attendance at his gyms. You can easily track member attendance through your gym management software. Then, reward members who have the best attendance record with a prize or even a shout out on your website. Member satisfaction is essential to maintaining membership numbers, as the cost of customer acquisition is 5x higher than customer retention. So, although this strategy is last on this list–if you’re looking to grow your membership, be sure to invest within first.


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About the author:

Luke Handley