membership pricing

“Don’t Be the Discount Gym”: A Lesson about Gym Membership Pricing

Setting your gym membership pricing can be tricky. Here's one owner's story of how it didn't go as planned, and the lessons learned that can help you!

Emily Beers
March 6, 2024
“Don’t Be the Discount Gym”: A Lesson about Gym Membership Pricing
Setting your gym membership pricing can be tricky. Here's one owner's story of how it didn't go as planned, and the lessons learned that can help you!

It’s March Madness once again at PushPress! We’ve asked our community of fitness business owners to share their craziest stories. With every story comes a lesson that the gym owner learned the hard way so that you don’t have to. Today, we’re talking about gym membership pricing, so sit back, relax and enjoy the shenanigans!

Terri Rosen got into gym ownership because she wanted to help people through fitness. It’s a story that many gym owners can relate to. And her heart was in the right place. She wanted everyone to be able to afford it.

Gym membership pricing for growth
Terri Rosen leads a self-defense class in her newest gym location. (Photo credit: Terri Rosen)

But that goal led her to bending over backwards to accommodate every person that walked through her doors. Before she knew it, setting gym membership rates that low had attracted the wrong people. And her business was suffering because of it.

The Early Stages of Opening a Gym.

Rosen’s gym ownership days started in Ohio, where she used to own two CrossFit affiliates. Today, she and her wife, Melissa Blayman, own CrossFit OKM in Rotonda West, FL.

In those early days, Rosen started by setting her gym membership pricing really low. The unlimited membership was only $95 per month. On top of that, she recalls starting to offering discounts to everyone so they could afford it.

“Military,” she began. “Broke college kid. I only want one class a week. You name it. We’d offer just about any discount someone could come up with. It got to the point where everyone was paying something different. And we made a deal to keep every potential member who walked in the door.”

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How Membership Rates Affected the Community.

The result of the discounted gym membership pricing was problematic on several levels. First, it became a financial issue in simply covering expenses. And second, Rosen explained that she suddenly had “a bunch of members who totally didn’t fit the vibe we actually wanted for our gym.”

Her dream gym turned into a less-than-ideal gym community.

CrossFit OKM gym community
Members of the CrossFit OKM gym community. (Photo credit: CrossFit OKM)

“We had the smelly guy who shows up late in his pajamas,” she said. “The girl who was always fifteen minutes late, and then wants to ask a hundred questions about the stuff she missed. And the creepy old dude who enjoys it way too much when he gets partnered with a woman. All because we wanted an extra seventy-two dollars a month.”

Ultimately, some of the newer clients started to cause frustration for the loyal members of the gym community. When a few of those longstanding members got fed up and left the gym, Rosen and Blayman knew something had to change.

The Turning Point in Gym Membership Pricing Mindset.

When it all reached a head, the turning point actually occurred outside of the gym’s walls.

Rosen and Blayman had begun offering some fitness seminars for the United Way. After teaching a handful of them, they sent an invoice and received a shocking response. They were called into a meeting in which their mentor at the United Way. She said, “If you send me one more invoice like this, I’m firing you. Please, the next five seminars you book, triple your price. Trust me.”

At that moment, the gym owners realized the error in undercharging for their services. First, it was devaluing their seminar services. And second, their gym membership pricing was hurting their business as they struggled to retain members.

“Then we started thinking,” said Rosen. “We have been running ragged trying to do so much and get all the people. Maybe it’s because we charge too little everywhere. If we can teach fewer seminars for more money, maybe we can also have a high-quality membership if we raise our rates too.”

Terri Rosen and Melissa Blayman
Terri Rosen (left) and Melissa Blayman (right), owners of CrossFit OKM. (Photo credit: CrossFit OKM)

When they listened to the advice and increased their rates, a surprising thing happened.

“Nobody balked,” Rose said.

The Lesson for Gym Owners about Gym Membership Pricing.

The most beneficial outcome of raising rates didn’t actually have to do with the gym’s finances. Instead, the increased gym membership pricing helped to bolstered the couple’s confidence. Rosen and Blayman finally realized that they were worth more than they were charging.

“We stopped offering free seminars,” said Rosen. “We stopped doing discounts. And we finally had a business we enjoyed, that actually paid the bills.”

That was six years ago. Today, they offer training for individuals and semi-private groups. They charge their clients $100 to $150 a week. For those keeping score at home, that’s up to six times more than when they were first starting a gym.

“But I never could have considered doing that without having gone through the experience (of devaluing my service),” Rosen noted.

Therefore, her tip for other gym owners is, “Know your value and don’t be afraid to charge for it. Not everyone will be willing or able to pay it, and that’s okay. You don’t need everyone.”

Pro Tip: Need help raising your rates or figuring out what to charge? Check out the Gym Owners’ Guide to Effectively Increasing Gym Membership Prices!
Emily Beers

Emily Beers is a health, fitness and nutrition writer. She has also been coaching fitness at MadLab School of Fitness in Vancouver, B.C. since 2009.

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