Offering discounts can be an effective incentive to get new members into your fitness studio — especially when you first open for business. But at what point does giving discounts start to cheapen your brand, and start cutting into the profits you’re making? Not to mention, if you’re not turning the new customers that discovered your business through a discount into return clients, is it worth it to be offering them at all?

To get to the bottom of these questions and more, we asked a few experts for their take on how often you should be promoting discounted rates at your fitness studio. Read on for what they had to say about walking the line between effective promotions and giving too much away.

Give promotions that allow members to stay on track

Whether you’re charging your clients based on monthly memberships or on a class by class basis (or both), Jillian Dreusike, founder of Allongee says scheduling promotions in a way that allows your clients to continue coming on a consistent basis is a great parameter to use when deciding discount frequency. “Boutique fitness is expensive,” she admits. “Keeping motivated is difficult enough even without your gym burning a hole in your wallet. We like to think of discounts as more of an incentive for our customers to develop their healthy habit. Our studio offers discounts, rewards and challenges to our members and non-members on a regular basis as part of our own internal marketing.”

Base discounts on “Time to Purchase”

“Time to purchase refers to how long does it take for you to convert a visitor to a customer,” explains marketing innovations consultant Diana Koshedzhiyska. “Depending on your industry and niche, it can be different.” While you don’t have to do a deep dive into each and every member acquired, taking a sample size of about 20 or so members and looking at the length of time between their first visit and first purchase will give you a baseline to work with. “If you want to shorten that period, you could offer a discount halfway through it,” says Koshedzhiyska. “Best results could be seen when you discount the product a little after the average time to purchase — that way you’ll have the most interested people grab it first and you’ll be offering a discount to those that are not quite sure yet.”

Offer promotions during down times

One way to create an uptick in class sign ups during your less busy hours of operation? Tailor your discounts to the classes that aren’t typically filled to capacity. “Discounts are a great way to bolster quieter class times,” says Rebecca Weible, founder of Yo Yoga! “For instance, offering an ‘early bird’ discounted package for morning or mid-day classes. They can also be used to reward regular clients such as offering a discount on an upcoming month unlimited or class package after attending a specific number of classes.” However, Weible does caution against running these promotions too frequently. “Constantly offering an array of discounts devalues your brand and will make customers wonder why they should ever pay your actual rate,” she says. 

Provide incentive-based promotions

One potential danger of consistent promotions? As Jeff Kear, head of marketing at Planning Pod points out, your clients start expecting them — and hold out on making another purchase until you do. “Offering frequent or regular discounts trains customers to wait for the discount or sale and to never buy anything at full price,” he explains. “Instead, you should offer discounts only to incentivize customers to take a specific action that will benefit your business. For example, if you want more referrals, giving your customers a discount or a cash-back reward is a great way to incentivize them to refer new customers.” Consider running “bring a friend” deals that give existing members a free class in exchange for introducing someone new to your business. It’s a win-win.

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