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Focus On Sales/Marketing

Winning Promotions to Get New Members

If you are very, very lucky, prospective members will just walk through your door. Chances are, however, that you'll have to work for them like everybody else. So how do get potential members to visit your facility?

That's simple--use good promotions.

The tough part is finding promotions that work for you and your facility. Most club owners depend on trial and error to find what works best for them. You can do the same, or you can read on and adapt some of our best promotions to your club.

Three Weeks for a Friend

During the “Three Free Weeks for a Friend” promotion, a current member receives a free T-shirt just for filling out an inquiry sheet about a potential new member (usually a friend).

An interesting twist: We type up a note on plain paper (not letterhead) from the member to the friend, and sign it. The envelope is also plain, and is handwritten, rather than typed. This results in almost 100 percent readership because the letter is viewed as a note from one friend to another.

The potential member receives a free T-shirt simply by coming into the health club and signing up for his three free weeks. Therefore, the final cost for a fair-to-good-quality lead is two T-shirts, a stamp, some paper and a few minutes of staff time.

Fish Bowl

We put an empty fish bowl up at the front desk. People drop their business cards into the bowl. At the end of the promotion, three or four business cards are drawn. Every single person at a winner's company receives a free two-week membership, compliments of the fish-bowl winner. At larger companies, this means several hundred employees receive two-week passes.


This is a member referral program. We reward a current member with a gift, such as a bathrobe, pullover or shirt, for referring a new member. This is the only promotion that is run continuously every month. However, the premium changes each time, so the member could receive a different gift every month.

Equipment Turn-In

This is a one-day special, not to be missed! A local radio station broadcasts from the club for one day only, an event that's called a live radio remote. The people who hear the radio remote are encouraged to bring their old exercise equipment to the club, no matter its condition.

When the people come in, we credit them the price they paid for the equipment with or without a receipt toward the purchase of any club membership. In order for the equipment donator to receive the credit (which we limit to $500), he must sign up for a membership the day of donation.

$1,000 Bond

The $1,000 bond promotion is another member referral program. When a current member refers a friend who signs up for a membership, the current member receives a 30-year, $1,000, zero-coupon bond.

This promotion costs the club $130 to $150 to purchase a $1,000 bond.


Our club buys a list of households who meet our demographic: incomes over $30,000 and within a seven-minute drive of our club. We hire three telemarketers to call these households between 4 and 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The telemarketers invite the people to use the club for free, as our guest, for the next two weeks.

Scratch and Win

“Scratch and Win” is a direct mail piece. We send the scratch card to households that have the same demographic as the telemarketing promotion.

The scratch card is just like a lotto ticket you scratch off a circle to reveal your prize. The prize can be anything from a free joining fee to a reduction in monthly dues.

Charity Fund-Raisers

Once a year, we host a Cystic Fibrosis Challenge at our club. We raise money for a local charity through teams of people performing in fitness-oriented events. The catch: We recruit new members by requiring the teams to consist of both members and nonmembers.

Fit Study

We sent out two direct mail pieces: one that used a “Try before you buy” approach and the other a “Wanted: 50 volunteers for a fitness study” approach. Which do you think was more successful?

If you guessed the volunteers approach, you are correct. The volunteers piece produced 151 leads and 42 memberships, while the “Try before you buy” piece only produced four leads and one membership. The whole idea: The volunteers piece had never been used before, so it touched a nerve with our non-exercisers. Also, the idea of a fitness study evokes medical credibility.

Weight-Loss Study

The weight-loss study is very similar to the fitness study, only the focus is placed more on aerobic exercise and losing weight. The goal for this study is to lose 1 pound per week.

Charley Swayne is an internationally known speaker, author and club consultant. He may be reached at Valley View Fitness & Racquet Club, 3939 CTH B, La Crosse, WI 54601, (608) 781-4614 or

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