Open weekends are one of the most popular, most effective ways to promote your gym or health club. They’re a great way to get your brand out in the local community and attract new members.
But they’re not without challenges.
Holding an effective open weekend needs a big commitment from all your team. It takes time to prepare, to arrange everything ahead of the event and on the weekend, and to follow up.
When it comes to open weekends, there are both pros and cons. But do the pros for growing your membership base outweigh the cons of preparation and effort? Could you overcome potential risks with the right approach or the right tools?
Let’s take a look.
Open weekends are a great way to market your gym
An open weekend is an ideal marketing tool for all your advertising efforts.
It gives you a point of focus for your online campaigns and your outreach in the local community, a specific date where your facilities can be trialed for free.
They’re an effective way to encourage referrals
An open weekend gives you a focus point for your marketing to current members. It’s an event you can promote to encourage referrals.
Although referral campaigns should be run all year round, holding a big calendar event will give you a specific date to encourage members to bring along friends and family.
Open weekends are easy to plan ahead
When you know when you’re going to have a big membership drive – with a specific date for your open weekend – it’s easy to plan around it.
Bring in extra team members for that weekend to help welcome guests and show them around. Schedule maintenance and cleaning in advance so everything is ready for the big weekend. Optimise new member joining processes to take advantage of digital online joining technologies – avoiding the hassle of managing paperwork on the day.
And they help you keep your activities focused
Instead of having promotional activities spread over multiple days, an open weekend helps you focus everything into two days.
It means you can get all your personal trainers onto the gym floor offering free taster sessions. You can bring in your top instructors to hold free taster group fitness classes. And you can offer free food and drink samples to everyone that visits.
You don’t need to make different plans and arrangements for promotional activities over multiple days – which can easily get confusing and stressful. Instead, you know you’re going to go big for one specific weekend.
Most importantly, an open weekend should see a big bump in your membership base
The main reason to hold an open weekend – and the biggest pro – is to get a large number of new members signed up in a short period of time.
If you want to see a surge in your membership base ready for the new year, then an open weekend is a great place to start.
Of course, not every open weekend is as smooth and simple as that. You might face challenges like:
A disappointing turn out
It’s very unlikely, but if you don’t promote your open weekend well enough, then you could find that few people know about it.
The key here is making sure you focus on your marketing. Start early and keep up the marketing campaigns right up to the weekend itself and you’ll get the word out.
If you have gym management software and referral programs in place, it’ll be easy to promote the open weekend to your existing members and attract friends and family for guaranteed footfall.
Use features of your software to capture registrations for classes and activities so you know how many guests to expect for each session.
Or overcrowding with too many guests
The flip side of a free, open access weekend for anyone in the local area is that it becomes too popular, with everyone wanting to use your facilities.
It’s not a bad problem to have, as long as you can manage any potential overcrowding and prevent your club from getting too busy – especially for existing members who are paying to use it!
Tell your members in advance that the open weekend is likely to be busier than usual, and then they’ll be prepared for crowds. You can also use your gym management software to take bookings for sessions.
Promote advance bookings as part of your open weekend promotional campaigns, to “guarantee” visitors access too. That sense of scarcity – if classes fill up – is always a good marketing tool.
No time for one-to-one tours
Many gyms and health clubs rely on tours to convert a prospect into a paying member. An open weekend where everyone can visit could mean your team are not available to give tours.
Here you just have to trust that your facilities will sell your club, when prospects get to try them out first.
You can also make sure you have extra team members on hand to talk to guests as they enter and leave your club, with self-service or online joining options so your staff don’t need to spend time signing up new members.
You don’t get any new members
Finally, the biggest risk from any open weekend is that it doesn’t lead to any new member conversions.
Though if you have planned ahead, put effort in and made it easy to sign up, this is very unlikely to happen.
But if you want an extra safety blanket here, then all you need to do is make sure you focus on data collection ahead of and during the weekend. An open weekend is about getting prospects into your database as much as converting them on the day.
So if you make sure all guests register with you when they visit for your open weekend, membership management software will make sure all that information is securely stored and easy to access. You’ll be able to remarket to them when you want, inviting them to visit again and converting them at a later date.
Holding an open weekend is an effective way to grow your membership base quickly
It’s clear that the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to open weekends. And with the right planning, management and software, it’s easy to avoid potential cons.
So if you want to increase your membership base, start planning an open weekend now.
Article by Xplor Gym
First published: 01 November 2021
Last updated: 31 October 2023