Just like there are many ways to skin a cat (as my dad says), there are many different ways to market your fitness business.

You can utilize traditional “paid” external marketing, internal marketing, word of mouth marketing, guerrilla or grassroots marketing, and Internet marketing. Like I said, lots of ways.

But what kind of sales model do you have built that complements AND maximizes your marketing efforts?

I advocate what have coined the “Slippery Funnel” model. The theory is simple. Do whatever it takes to get someone in the door, do it.Give complimentary trial memberships away, sell short program memberships, host free events, implement consistent referral programs, become a drop off point for donations. Whatever it takes to get someone introduced to your business, do it.

Your goal is to get them to the funnel, get them to take a step, then make it slippery as hell as they go through your various programs and products. Once someone buys once (and you deliver), they’re more likely to buy again and again.To make sure more of those people buy depends on your sales team. But the goal is to get as many people as possible to buy something…anything. The front end membership sales are obviously important, because that is your forecastable revenue that allows you to cover expenses.

The difference between a break even gym and a profitable gym are the back end profit centers purchased by existing members.

For example, let’s say someone comes in as a friend of a member to work out. You start over delivering right away. Spend some time getting to know them, remember their name, send a staff member or two over to welcome the new guest, provide them a bottle of water, and be sure to ask them to join. If they don’t join that day, be sure to send a thank you card, call them the next day to see how they’re feeling, and follow up with the member who brought them to remind them of your referral incentives.

Maybe they’re not quite ready to become a full paying member.  That’s okay!  Keep the funnel slippery and keep them involved with a special 21 days for $21 or some other smaller price item.

When they do decide to become a member, at the point of sale make sure you offer a special priced one-time-only quickstart personal training package. Give them some complimentary passes to try bootcamp or small group training. If you sell nutritional supplements, give them a trial of something you feel they would likely buy from you later.

It is important to get them involved in other programming right away. The first 30 days of a membership is the most important time to develop their loyalty and commitment.

Not only that, but the sooner you get them seeing results, the more they’re going to feel dependent on their trainer or on their small group, or on their bootcamp as the reason for their success. It will be much easier to get them to pay for these programs long term if they get results.

And don’t forget the fun factor. The social aspect of group exercise is what keeps many people coming back month after month. If someone tries out your bootcamp three times a week for the first two weeks of their membership, they will not want to stop.

You got them into the funnel, made it too slippery to get back out, and they ultimately spend more with you…and they’re happy about it!

Another example would be to allow non-members to buy supplements from you at cost or utilize your tanning beds at a much lower rate than tanning salons in the area. Allow all friends of your members to get a special “Friends and Family” discount from you instead of shopping at GNC, or tanning at the tanning salon up the street.

If you provide smoothies, give them a couple of smoothies. If you sell water, give them a water their first few times in. It will become habit so that when their freebies are up, they’ll continue to purchase.

Though you may not be making a lot of money from the people who first step into your funnel, they are being introduced to your services and are becoming familiar with paying you. Combine that with the fact that their friends and family are already members and you’ll find that the funnel gets slippery very quickly.

These are just a few ways to make your funnel slippery. You have your own various products and programs that you offer. Think of how each can lead to the next and how to appropriately position each so that with each purchase, a member is also introduced to the next tier of service or another product you offer.

Just remember that membership dues are not as important as getting someone involved in your programming and purchasing from your various profit centers. Most gym owners constantly focus on bringing in as many members as possible. And while I believe it is very important to always be marketing your club, it is more important to focus on getting current members spending more money and getting more involved in your programs.


How slippery is YOUR funnel? Do you do a good job of getting members to buy more? 

    20 replies to "How Slippery is Your Funnel?"

    • Aron

      Good one Curt.

    • Great Post

    • Curtis,
      I agree with much of what you said. But do you feel it’s devaluing our services to discount membership just to make someone a member? I totally believe your model is correct once they’re IN the funnel, but to get them in the funnel, I just don’t want to devalue by offering discounts or whatever it takes to get them to spend money with me. Curious to know your thoughts.

      • Lewis

        I don’t think he was saying to discount heavily. He was just saying to have low barrier to entry programs at a lower cost to get them in. Or like he said, let friends of members buy supplements from you at member prices or tan or whatever you have there. You don’t have to do crazy discounting to offer a great deal to let them try it out. Sorry if I speak out of place!

      • That’s correct. You don’t need to offer massive discounts. But if you have a client who you think would get more results from small group than they do bootcamps, then let them try a couple sessions with you for free or at a special intro rate. Though getting people to the funnel is important, this article is more about what to do once they’re there. Once you sign them up for something, make it easy for them to upgrade to the next level, then the next, and so on.

    • Great blog! But I really miss your show!

      • I miss it too Brittany. After the third video editor flaked, I just couldn’t handle the stress of it any more. If something causes you more stress than pleasure, remove it from your life. It will be back, I promise. So many new things on the horizon right now, but the show relaunch is always on my mind.

    • Awesome Curtis! At Kardia we do a great job at upselling members through the use of fitness coaching sessions. Coaching sessions are complimentary two times per month for all members and are used for accountability and guidance. The nice thing for business is that the advice is also being provided that makes it really easy for them to get involved with personal training, semi-private training, nutrition programs, and even buy heart rate monitors!

      • I know you do an awesome job Scott. You’re in our coaching family!! lol I am a fan of all that you do there at Kardia.

    • Good stuff, Curtis!

      I was once taught that giving away free trials and the such would devalue the product. And I once followed that advice. Then my thinking changed.

      If you were to buy a car, wouldn’t you want to test drive it? And cars can be a hefty purchase. I see training the same way…especially people who are blind to what I do.

      Unless they experience it, they have no idea how to value it or what it should be worth. And they have no personal experience in what makes my service different from the businesses down the road.

      I have been able to raise my rates over the years because I have offered free trials. After a taste test, people see the true value in it.

      • I couldn’t agree more James. With so much noise and so many options in the world, people really just don’t take action simply because it’s overwhelming deciding whether or not it will be worth it. Letting someone experience your awesomeness is the best way to make their decision to invest in you an easy one.

    • Glen Rothes

      Got this by email and assumed “how slippery is your funnel?” was a reference to a wet vagina!!!! Need to be careful with those headings!!!!!

      • Too funny Glen. Gotta get your mind out of the gutter!

    • Two week trial and a free upgrade to a training session has been king!

    • Lamont

      I feel like I do a pretty good job of keeping my funnel “slippery”. From the moment a prospect walks through the door, I’m planting seeds in their mind. Getting them excited about all the possibilities. At the point of sale, I give them giftcards (Thanks for those mr Mock!) to try out small group training, bootcamp, or one of our evening workshops. Depending on my inventory, I have been known to give someone a bottle of vitamins and follow up with them to see if I can get them another bottle the next month. I send them a thank you card with another gift card to give to their friends. Everything I do is based on moving them to another purchase, or making them happy that they made the current purchase. Good article, hit home

      • I think you’re on your 50th order of http://www.fitnessgiftcards.com my friend. No one orders more than you do! I’m impressed with how diligent you are in distributing them. Many gym owners probably shelve them, waiting for the “right time” to use them. Hell, if you just make one sale for every 500 cards you distribute, the cards pay for themselves.

        And I didn’t know you were using the cards for your various profit centers and upsells also. Great great idea. Your 2012 numbers are definitely going to blow 2011 away.

    • George Holloway

      Good article. I too thought the subject line was going to lead me to a totally different topic lol. But a slippery funnel is a perfect analogy for what I should be doing. I feel like I do okay, but I can always do better. We do lots of freebies, and cheapies to introduce people to other products we offer. I’ve never tried offering free supplements, but maybe that’s not a bad idea. Worst case scenario I’m out $30 if they don’t buy the supplement the next month, but chances are they’ll be more loyal to me for giving it to them and they’ll be a client longer, more than offsetting the loss.

      • That’s a good point George. Maybe you get someone to try out your bootcamp for a couple weeks, and they don’t care for it. Just the fact that you were nice enough to let them try it is enough to set you apart from your competitors. Your client knows you care enough about them that you let them try something for free. I have to assume that will give you some loyalty points for sure. Thanks for the comment!

    • Liz

      My gym opens in two weeks! It should have opened 10 months ago, but that’s a whole other story. Is there one thing that you recommend that is better than all the other ways of making the sales path slippery? Thanks Curtis!

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