It's a simple question: How Long Should Your Intro Offer Be?
But the real answer requires a much larger discussion.
Because it's the wrong question...
This is a question that I continually asked when I owned my studio, and I address this topic with all the yoga and wellness businesses that I work with both onsite and online.
The truth is, the industry standard and consumer psychology regarding intro offers have changed a ton in the past decade – even the past few years.
When I started practicing yoga 15 years ago, the studio’s intro offer was a free 2nd class, then you had to buy a pass to continue.
When I owned my studio, our intro pass started at 1 week, then increased to 2 weeks, and then to 1 month, which is the current industry standard for an intro pass.
I’ve even run the full gamut, testing the results of offering 60 day intros and 90 day intros as well!
Beneath the discussion of “how long should my intro offer be?” is the quest for a magic solution. We want a clear cut answer: if you have a 2 week, or a 1 month, or a 3 month intro, or whatever, then your intro sales will increase, your conversions will go up, and you’ll ultimately increase your revenue.
Choosing the length and price point of your intro offer intelligently will of course affect your business in a positive way.
But it’s so much more complicated than this.
There is not one magic answer that will solve all of your problems! Simply asking “how long should my intro be” is in fact the wrong question altogether!
We need to consider factors external from the intro itself.
It’s not how long your intro should be. It’s what are you trying to accomplish with your intro pass that matters.
The most important detail is to first define the purpose of the intro.
In the yoga world we often look at the intro as a chance for students to “try us out”.
Many of us have caught onto the fact that we are also trying to get our students to take a certain number of classes so they develop the habit of practicing at our studio.
In line with this, Mindbody Online’s statistics state that if a student takes 13 or more classes during an intro month they are retained 75% of the time.
The reality beneath this stat is that the average student only practices under 2x per week.
In fact, a recent report states that hot yoga students practice on average 1x per 8 days.
So getting students to practice at least 13 times should probably not be the sole purpose of your intro.
Your intro pass should serve 3 primary purposes:
- A low barrier of entry for newbies (low perceived financial and time commitment)
- “Buys” you time to create rapport, educate students into your culture, and demonstrate some level of transformation (gives you time to deliver value.)
- Serves as the gateway to convert to your memberships
To sum up these points, the main purpose of your intro is conversion!
If a yoga studio increases its intro to membership conversion rate by only 5%, the year end revenue usually grows 50% +!!!
How likely is it that you can move someone from a single class drop in to an autopay membership? Pretty unlikely.
So to decide on how long your intro should be, you first have to consider what you need to do to help convince an intro student that your membership is an incredible option:
- How many points of contact do you need to have with them?
- How many classes would you promote them to take?
- What specific message do you need them to understand?
- How intense can you be without deterring them?
- What systems do you have to contact them?
- How automated are the systems versus how much manual time will be required to have sufficient contact with them?
The answer to some of these questions depends on your specific product. For some studios that offer multiple styles of classes, students may require a certain amount of time to try out all of your offerings. And the business may require a minimum amount of time to communicate messages about all of the product offerings.
Your ideal intro timeframe should be based on the optimal time required to convert them to your membership.
What are the most important factors for conversion in the yoga or fitness studio?
1. TRANSFORMATION. This is the most important factor. People go into a wellness business because they want to solve a problem, improve something about themselves, or in other words, transform from one thing to another.
2. COMMUNITY. This is widely known, but an often overlooked aspect of conversion. As humans, even the most introverted of us still want to feel like we belong somewhere. And educating your students on your studio culture is how you make them feel a sense of belonging – something they can’t get from a fitness app in the same way.
3. STATUS. Wellness business owners hardly ever discuss this, but it’s a big one. We understand the concept, but seldom attempt to create it strategically. The subconscious mind is always attempting to reconcile the question: will this increase or decrease my status?
Essentially, your intro needs to be long enough to demonstrate some level of positive change and insinuate the potential of major transformation if they keep going, as well as make them feel part of your community and convince them that by participating in the community they will increase their status.
With all this in mind you might think that a longer intro time frame would be better. But the final factor to consider here is the “romance period.”
One of the defining factors of humans is the development of the frontal lobe of the brain.
The frontal lobe is the area of the brain responsible for cognitive function such as emotion and communication.
As a result, as humans we often seek frontal lobe stimulation. The number one way to stimulate this area of the brain is through novelty.
This matters in terms of your intro pass because if you give so much time that your classes and environment are no longer new and exciting, the student may opt out to try something else that is.
This also means that it’s a good idea for you to know at which point in time the average drop off of students at your studio occurs.
Currently in the yoga industry the 10-15 day mark is very common.
So where’s the sweet spot?
Here are some of the pros and cons of the different intro offers that I’ve personally tried while running my studio, and that I’ve encountered during my years of being a traveling teacher and business coach.
VERY SHORT INTROS
Studios running intro passes 1 week or shorter often experience decent conversion rates, but the quality of the conversion is often low (ie. they convert to a 5 class pass). The other issue with short time frame intros is that unless your drop in is priced extremely high, the intro sale rate is often lower than I’d like to see it. Ideally you need to be selling your intro 70% or more. If you ever drop below 50% intro sale rate to newbies it’s an emergency!
So what about long intros like 60 days for $60?
My experience has been that these longer intros are super easy to sell, but also struggle with conversion. With such a long timeframe, there’s very little urgency for the students to practice a lot to get their money’s worth, or for your staff to convert these students to another package. Sometimes these students get lost in the mix of things. 60 days is also long enough for people to leave the “romance period” and instead of converting to a package after their intro, they feel like they have tried it and want to go try something new again to trigger the novelty complex.
One of the largest mistakes in yoga studios currently, during an intro, is how much they massively under-contact their intro students. The game has changed and you need to have a high frequency in order to stay top of mind. For a long intro, you have to create a large amount of content to keep your frequency high enough otherwise there are huge gaps between your contact points.
THE 1 MONTH INTRO
This is the current industry standard and primary recommendation from Mindbody Online and MBU.
If priced correctly, the 1 month intro is very easy to sell, gives you enough time to have some serious contact points, enough time for your students to experience the beginning of some real transformation, and is short enough that your staff won’t struggle in keeping them a top priority.
But, in the last year or two we’ve seen some interesting indicators of consumer change with the 1 month intro.
Although the sale rate of this intro remains high, the conversion rate of these students onto another pass is troublesome.
The lowest conversion rates seem to be in purist Bikram Yoga studios, where the average retention rate from the intro is only 13%. Hot Yoga in general usually sees 18-20%. Boutique studios with multiple offerings are often at a solid 20%. Some of the strongest retention rates in the industry are 20-30%. I can literally count on one hand the number of studios I’ve seen who have achieved a retention rate of 30%+ -- and that’s after 10 years in the industry and over 2 years of travelling to hundreds of studios.
This means that if 100 new students enter a yoga studio in 1 month, even if 70% of them buy the intro, and 20% of them convert to another pass, out of 100 you’re still only left with 14 people who stick around.
When you consider attrition rates from existing members, it’s a fine line between being net positive or net negative in your memberships.
There are many reasons why it is difficult to convert from the 1 month intro onto another pass:
- The romance period. Modern consumers are trained to expect almost instant gratification and access to constantly changing offerings. A great example of this is the current trend in fitness regimens that are highly dynamic (HIIT classes). To ask a modern consumer to stay excited about their new yoga practice for a whole month of time, is often asking too much for the current consumer psychology.
- Especially in big cities, most students don’t need to purchase memberships anymore. Between Class Pass, Gym Pass, Groupon, Mindbody Dynamic Pricing and the like, unless a student is a high use user at only one studio, it often seems like there’s very little advantage to purchasing a membership.
- Because the 1 month intro is so common, the price of the intro has been driven down (30 days for $30) and the result is that its perceived value is low so people sometimes don’t take advantage of it by practicing enough to truly experience benefits. It also has the potential to create unqualified leads.
OUTSIDE THE BOX INTRO #1: THE GOOD OL’ 2 WEEK INTRO
There is mounting evidence that intro passes reverted back to the old industry standard of a 2 week timeframe are better for conversions.
Intros in the 10 day – 15 day range MAY BE a new sweet spot.
Well as previously stated, the average drop off point of brand new students is the 12 day mark. Students often come in more than once in the first week, once in the second week, and then bounce never to be seen again L .
Intros that end right at or just before this point accomplish a few important things:
- The slightly shorter time frame helps to incentivize students to take action and get their trial classes in faster.
- The conversation about their next pass starts BEFORE they potentially experience the hugely detrimental, personally perceived “failure” of not making it in for a week or only for 1 class.
- They are more likely to still be in the romance period. They are making the buying decision while excited about the potential future outcome but before they’ve had a chance to feel like they’ve “done that”.
- There is still time for them to take enough classes to experience some sort of improvement or mini-transformation. An easy example would be a hot yoga class where it’s possible that in the first class a student may only do a small portion of the class, whereas by the 3rd or 4th class they can probably do (to some extent) all the postures.
But running a 2 week intro pass does come with some draw backs:
- The shortened time forces you to work quickly and more intensely to convert them.
- It may also lower the quality of your conversions. (But this can be solved with a fantastic pricing strategy and funnel!)
- If your sales team or teachers are not properly trained to sell your intro, the 2 week option even at a killer price may lack some perceived value on its own.
Nowadays, as you’ve surely experienced, time is the #1 excuse you’ll hear as to why a student will not or cannot commit. The 2 week intro is on the borderline for many students in perceived time to value ratio as they may not believe that in 2 weeks they can take “full advantage” of the pass.
On a slight tangent, problems like this can be helped significantly with intelligent policies in your studio. For example allow students to do your intro pass even if it’s not their very first visit.
OUTSIDE THE BOX INTRO #2: THE “SUPER” INTRO
This intro is very seldom tested. Half the time studios do try it, they fail to back it up with a trained sales team and retention strategy, which affects its overall efficacy.
Where it does certainly work though is for a “re-intro” campaign to lost clients.
Okay but what the heck is it?
The super intro is 90 days (or 3 months) for $90-$99.
If you’re thinking this sounds crazy… you’re right.
And if you’re currently saying right now, but I thought you said the 60 for $60 is a dud for conversions? You’re also right.
But like everything else in your yoga business, the difference is in the details.
There are two main reasons you may consider running this program:
- The price.
- Easier retention (?)
Imagine if the minimum payout from getting a new student in your studio and onto your intro was basically $100! #awesome right?!
As long as your sale rate can stay in the 60-70%+ percentile this can be a massive in terms of covering your initial marketing expenses.
And even if you don’t convert to membership, you’ve made a minimum threshold probably above that of your current 1 month intro.
Finally, the hidden price benefit here is that it can allows you to increase your drop inprice as well! If you’re running a 3 month for $99 intro I would highly recommend your drop in be in the $25+ range.
This is not a guarantee but if your retention strategy / funnel / pipeline works, your conversion to membership should be a piece of cake.
The basic idea here is that by the end of the three month trial the student will know whether they can make this a part of their life or not, they’ll know whether they like it or not, and they’ll know whether it is transformative for them or not.
And by the end of the 90 days you will have had ample time to create some real and pretty deep rapport with them, making them feel like they’re part of the community.
So if you’ve convinced them they’ll have little reason not to roll on to your Autopay membership.
But be warned… this also leaves it open to the possibility that they will NOT experience all of these things and you’ll lose them. What’s worse in this case, is that they will be exceedingly difficult to win back because they may have proved that they don’t like your product / studio / teachers / you (uhg!).
So basically, you need to be confident in your product, retention strategies and sales staff to run this one.
But as I said, this can be a great option as part of a re-intro / win back campaign.
Email this offer to anyone on your list without a current membership, who has previously purchased your intro, and who hasn’t taken class in over 1 year. Because they’ve purchased from you before, they’ll have a better understanding of the value you’re offering. And as they didn’t convert before, this may also be a great opportunity to indoctrinate them into your community.
Which leads us to a another note, and a question you’re surely now asking…
Should you run 2 intro offers simultaneously?
In EVERY studio I’ve worked with that offered multiple intro offers, intro sale rates struggle in more ways than one. This is also backed up by industry statistics from Mindbody Online and IKizmet.
First it has been shown many times over in like a bazillion case studies (like this one (Link) ) that the more choices you offer in any call to action, the likelihood of any action at all goes down. When people do take action, they opt for the lowest or middle commitment level.
In the case of yoga studios and a few pilates studios who were running multiple intros, their intro sale rate was often much lower than we would want (often below 50%!).
They also experienced the majority of people going for the cheaper option if they did do an intro.
And if you’re thinking “but I sell them one intro then upgrade them later to the larger one, then sell them a membership after that” – no. For each time you have to sell someone something you’re gonna lose a percentage of them, often even half.
A clear, single, high value (read no brainer), intro offer will always perform best. Simplify.
To wrap this up there is one last thing to consider:
The longevity of your intro pass.
Unlike almost every other pass, your intro “special” is just that – a special. This means that you can change it!
Yes, you can switch up what your intro is even every quarter if want and it will probably not upset the balance of things. For example, if you regularly experience a January boom it might make sense to run a 2 week intro to try to speed up conversion to membership faster. Whereas later in the year, you may run a 1 month intro to be sure your intro sale rate stays high.
The discussion around the intro pass is exemplary of so many other factors in your yoga business. It highlights that success is the accumulation of smaller, thought out details, and a clear plan of attack, not some magical singular thing that you just haven’t heard of yet.
So whichever intro structure you choose to implement, be sure you put systems in place to support it:
- An intelligent pricing structure that makes purchasing your intro pass and autopay membership no brainers and deters your students from purchasing low-commitment passes
- A well-thought out funnel for your intro students to add value and educate them on the culture of your studio (email campaign, phone calls, desk convo, etc)
- Highly trained teachers and front desk staff with sales scripts for your intro and conversion to membership
When it comes to the prices you charge, or the length of time you offer on your intro, it’s so much deeper than just what your competition is doing or offering as many options as possible in an effort to accommodate all of the special cases in your business.
It’s all part of your holistic strategy for success in your unique business.
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