How To Control Fitness, Yoga, Wellness Freeloaders

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Selling health and wellness is a lot like selling premium chocolate. Give folks a sample—and they’re hooked. Customers for life. Yet some people line up over and over again for samples, without ever buying:

  • Folks who take every free yoga class you offer—but never buy a class card.
  • HR managers who attend all your free employee wellness webinars—but never hire you to do lunch-and-learns.
  • People who take every free fitness and health assessment your health club offers—but never join.

Here’s how to minimize freeloading—or turn it into an advantage!

1. An ounce of prevention…

Instead of offering free “come-one, come all” yoga or fitness classes, distribute coupons for free sessions. Have people fill in their names on the back. It discourages abuse without scaring off genuinely interested prospects. Some businesses drop free sessions altogether and offer a short-term trial membership or pass instead.

2. Isn’t that special?

Let’s say you teach yoga classes. Instead of allowing potential students to attend any one class for free, create a special class just for potential students. Options to consider: make it 30 minutes instead of an hour. Use the same content every time, rather than changing it up frequently. For freeloaders, that removes a lot of the reward from continuing to attend your free session.

3. Marketing vs instruction

Perhaps your health club offers a free fitness class every Wednesday, but the same people always attend—and they don’t want to buy anything. Consider dropping the free instructional class and substituting a marketing-oriented session. For example, a “success stories” presentation where you share stories about customers who have successfully stopped diabetes without medication will appeal to potential clients but probably won’t attract freeloaders.

4. Rope ’em in!

Rather than trying to push them away, capitalize on their interest. Use them as your assistant during the group fitness session, to hand out equipment or forms, put supplies back up, remind you when it’s time for a break, or to demonstrate an activity.

5. Cash isn’t the only way to “pay”

Sure, you need paying customers. But if you’ve got a freeloader who loves what you’re doing and just can’t afford it, they can still bring value to your business in other ways.

For example, encourage them to post online reviews about your wellness center, ask them to write a testimonial or reference about your personal training staff, and encourage them to invite their friends and coworkers (if they’re in your target market). Or write them up in a case study to to demonstrate your weight management program’s effectiveness. We’ve also seen smaller businesses barter with these folks—they get services in exchange for providing services, like administrative and clerical work or cleaning.

6. If you can’t beat them…

Keep offering your free “come-one, come-all” session. However, use it as a promotional opportunity. Start holding it somewhere with lots of visibility, like a popular mall or shopping center. Let your local paper know that you’re offering a free class every Saturday morning and everyone is invited, even if they’ve been there before. Of course many of them won’t ever buy from you, but since this is all about publicity, that’s perfectly OK. And tactics like “We’re shooting for 100 participants this weekend!” will definitely draw attention!

7. Give-back vs giveaway

Most of our clients place a priority on giving back to their communities. So, try thinking of your free services as a give-back, not a giveaway. View it as an investment that benefits your entire community either directly or indirectly.