A Lesson learned from giving away free tape

We used to provide athletic tape for free to all our clients.

Because it was free, nobody valued how expensive it actually was—meaning half a roll was used on a hand with a small rip. Then partway through the workout, tape was re-applied with no regard for the “use sparingly” instructions we gave our clients. 

At the end of 2012, as we went through our variable costs—things like whiteboard pens, chalk and tape—we discovered we had spent, and our clients had consumed, more than $2,500 in tape that year. It was pretty clear it would be more valuable to use that money toward a new rowing machine and a bike, and let our clients purchase their own tape.

So, we started to sell tape for $4 a roll in a vending machine.

The entitled outcry that ensued was quite shameful:

What? We have to buy tape? $4 for a roll? Seriously.”

“Yes, we spent $2,500 on tape last year alone because people were devouring it like water.”

The complaints, however, only came from long-time clients—from people who had been living it up in the free tape world. New athletes reacted with:

“Oh good, you sell tape! Does the machine take credit card? I don’t have any cash.”

“Yes, it does,” to which the person happily purchased a roll, which usually lasted them a couple months or more. 

Two concepts about human nature can be taken away from this:

  1. People don’t value things that are cheap or free

  2. People don’t like paying for something that was once cheaper or free

Despite this, the fitness industry continues to violate human nature, much to the detriment of the clients, the coach and the business. Think free weeks for newbies, or a discounted first month, but then the price doubles after the first month. 

Or how about this one: $200 for 8 fundamentals, and then all of a sudden you flip the switch on them and try to convert these clients who paid $25 a session into personal training clients who pay $75 an hour. A tough sell: Usually they react like the long-time clients did about the $4 tape…

Instead, try this: $1,000 for fundamentals (one-on-one personal training) to properly prepare the client for group classes—almost like a buy-in where they put some skin in the game and earn their stripes.

Then, once they’re properly prepared for success in class, a hybrid membership of group classes and a personal training session with their personal coach once a month or once every 6 weeks for $275 a month. $275 a month will feel like a deal after dropping $1,000 for fundamentals, and the value they place on it will be much greater.

The point: You can’t give away free tape for two years and then expect people to be happy to pay for it suddenly, and it doesn’t work to offer cheap memberships up front and then trick people into paying more later.

To learn more about what the top 1 percent of gyms do to maximize revenue, keep clients for life and pay coaches a professional wage, DM MadLab Group on Facebook the code BEERS for a completely free video training series. (https://m.me/MadLabGroup) 

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