#021: How to Create an On-boarding Program for your New Members

#021: How to Create an On-boarding Program for your New Members

This week on Gymwright LIVE, we teach you how to design an on-boarding program that will turn every one of your new gym members into raving fans. We covere the pros and cons of the 3 most popular on-boarding models (group vs. 1on-1 vs. none), pricing, content (both inside the gym and out), duration, and more . . .

This show was recorded live on Gymwright’s Facebook page on Friday, March 2, 2018. 


  on-boarding programImage Credit: CrossFit Active Performance

01:10 6 Elements of the Marketing and Sales Process

Do you know the 6 elements or stages of a marketing and sales process? These are some important steps to know as it’s the process you and anyone else goes through to make a buying decision. Most of these stages happen before someone comes in but the last one is what we’re going to be talking about today.

We thought it would be important to give you a quick overview of the decision making thought process so you can make the best decision about how you want to proceed with your on-boarding process – or lack there of if you decide it’s not for you at this time.

Stage 1: Becoming aware of a problem 

This is the stage in which someone realizes they have a problem. In this context, it might be when someone has finally had enough with the sausage pants situation and decides the excess body fat is actually a problem now.

Stage 2: Assess priority & solve

Once someone identifies their problem, they then assess how much of a priority the issue is. If it’s something they want to fix, they’re then going to figure out their options for solving it. In this stage, people like to group things into simple categories:

  1. I could do nothing
  2. I could get a gym membership and figure it out myself
  3. I could get a trainer

There really isn’t a category in most people’s minds to place functional fitness gyms yet. This is also the stage in which people look for options online searching for “Personal training near me,” or “best gym in Orange County.” They start to look at websites to see which speak to them the most.
This is why we always suggest that on your website and during your 1:1 consultation, you show them that they are not just getting a gym membership, they’d be getting coaching. This is an important step so they don’t compare you to the globo gym down the street, rather they compare you to what it would cost to get a personal trainer or a coach. 

Stage 3: Prove your value in a 1:1 fitness session

In this stage, you’ve gotten this person into your gym and now the in-person experience begins. During this portion of the sales process, you have finally some control of the situation – take advantage of it. Ask about their fitness goals or challenges which they identified in stage 1, take them through the full sensory experience of being a member of your gym. They want to get a thorough feel for who you are and what your gym prioritizes to empower them for the next stage.  

Stage 4: You’re evaluated – Pt 1

The point of the stages before this one is to empower your prospects to make a knowledgeable decision. This isn’t trickery. This is you showing them exactly who you are and what you’re about. But structuring it in this way ensures that you’re working with the way they make buying decisions – or any decision really – so the process is smooth and flowy and the only reason you don’t get the sale is because they’re really not a good fit for your gym. During this stage, they are comparing the experience with your gym with other fitness options they’ve come in contact with.  

Step 5: Purchase

In this stage, the person makes the purchase and becomes a new member. The sales process extends to this stage because you need the sign on process to be easy and as flowy as the rest of your process so far. Because . . .

Step 6: You’re evaluated – Pt 2

In this final stage, your new members are in an evaluation mode again. They’re on high alert looking to see if they made the right choice. Don’t let them down. They are sensing how comfortable they are in class, they’re judging your coaches, they’re measuring or at least observing results, and they’re subconsciously looking to see if what you promised on your website, during your 1:1 and other interactions is actually true.

In this 3-6 month phase, people are deciding on the future of the relationship. It’s so important to continue to communicate and prove value most specifically in the on-boarding program which is the most delicate time for them.


on-boarding programImage Credit: CrossFit Active Performance

18:12 Group on-boarding programs: Pros & Cons

Group on-boarding programs are the most common introductory course structure implemented by functional fitness gyms today.


In general, group on-boarding is more efficient in terms of scheduling staff and is more cost effective for the gym to run. The group environment also appeals to most new members – especially those who are interested in functional fitness performed in a group environment. They’re looking for community and that can be done in an awesome way as they graduate with a new group of friends.

Group on-boarding programs can also be recreated as seasonal 6-week challenges as a secondary revenue generating lead source that also becomes an extended on-boarding program. If you teach the same content throughout, you can use your recycled group on-boarding program as a great tool to bring people in based on a specific macro goal like New Year’s resolutions or bikini season. When they’re done with the challenge, they’ll be excited to know they can jump right into the group fitness classes.


Group classes are less personal which can be an issue especially for groups with higher-needs new members (those who require more attention). The group program is also much less flexible from a scheduling standpoint and can become very complicated trying to reschedule people for days they’re missing. It can also cause unwanted friction in the process as in certain cases people have to wait or the next group to start to begin.

on-boarding programImage Credit: CrossFit Active Performance

24:27 Personal training on-boarding: Pros & Cons

Offering personal training sessions as your on-boarding process can be lucrative for you the gym owner and a great experience for your new members – if they can afford it.


When you offer personal training to on-board your new members you have the opportunity to create a very strong relationship during this delicate time in their evaluation of you and this new hobby of theirs. It creates higher perceived value as it’s more personalized from a training and education standpoint. Another great benefit is that you have more flexibility for the athlete regarding scheduling.


One of the potential issues of personal training on-boarding is that can seem intimidating. Most people have had bad personal training experiences or at least have actively avoided having those experiences. In addition, the trainer running the 1:1 session may just not jive well with the new member on a personality type level.

One of the most important things to consider is your growth goal. From a logistical standpoint, if you’re selling 10-pack 1:1 sessions and you need 10 new members a month (and actually work to achieve that goal), you’ll be doing 100 personal training sessions a month! Design the program to suit your goals. This is usually not the best fit for a gym wanting or needing to grow rapidly.

 on-boarding programImage Credit: CrossFit Active Performance

29:40 No on-boarding program?

Most group functional fitness style gyms should have an on-boarding program – but there are exceptions to the rule.


Not having an on-boarding program is obviously the fastest way to get someone started. From an efficiency standpoint, it’s the most simple to manage as there’s nothing to manage.


When your gym doesn’t have a proper on-boarding program, your service appears less valuable compared to your competitors who do offer one. The absence of an on-boarding program also requires significantly higher coaching quality all around. High-needs clients can detract from the more experienced athletes during class which can cause some major friction in your customer delightion strategy.  

on-boarding programImage Credit: CrossFit Active Performance

37:07 How an on-boarding program should be structured

Your on-boarding program should be much more than teaching movement. Movement is just the minimum. Consider adding a Topic of the Day (TODs) during every class. This increases the perceived value of your course especially when you supplement it with a version they can geek out on at home.

The Platform’s New Member Campaign automatically sends your on-boarding members TODs and movement standards, but other options are to set up your own email nurturing sequences with Infusionsoft, Aweber, or any other email marketing automation software so you don’t have to do this manually. You can also opt for printed handouts. Choose topics that address what most people want and need to know in order to be successful.

43:33 Here’s an example of how we would structure our TOD’s:

  1. Day 1: Technical – What is CrossFit?
  2. Day 2: Practical – Nutrition and recovery
  3. Day 3: Emotional – Mental Toughness
  4. Other topics: What’s going to help them overcome any challenges
    • Intensity vs duration
    • SMR
    • Your gym culture
    • Supplementation


on-boarding programImage Credit: CrossFit Active Performance

59:50 Pricing out an on-boarding program

Pricing out your on-boarding can be one of the most thought-provoking aspects of creating this program. You have to consider the kind of image you’re looking to portray and if that will be financially realistic for the audience you’re trying to target.

In your coach’s heart, you may think people should be getting a big number of sessions before they go in, but your business brain is reminding you that you’re also running a business which needs to strategically price this out so it’s affordable for your community.

You’re getting into difficult territory if your on-boarding program is more than 150% of what your monthly membership is.

If you’re brand new, you may want to start with quantity before quality to build up your gym. After you hit your numbers to ensure you’re securely in business, then you can focus on quality with 3-6 sessions for 1-2 weeks. That’s usually the sweet spot for both group and personal.

Consider attention spans. Keep the excitement high. Don’t spread it out too much so they can get into the group classes in a timely manner. 

on-boarding programImage Credit: CrossFit Active Performance

1:06:54 How to brand your program

Here are a few ideas to make your on-boarding program more enticing to 1) help the sale and 2) to get your new members excited about this introductory course:

  1. Give it a name so it has more personality and feels more official, and therefore more valuable
  2. Create high-quality certificates signed by the owners with their names printed on it upon “graduating” from their on-boarding. Get their photo taken and share it on your social pages. You have a great opportunity here to make your new members feel like they successfully accomplished something that’s worth it.


on-boarding programImage Credit: BoxLive Magazine

1:10:00 Q&A from Facebook Live

James M.: What are your thoughts on having a rolling on-ramp. i.e. run MWF for 2 weeks but someone can jump in at any time and just need to complete all 6 sessions before graduating. Upside I see is someone coming in on a Tuesday of the first week doesn’t have to wait a week and a half to start. Downside I see is that people coming in randomly might diminish the small community feel of the on-ramp where everyone started at the same point.

Answer: Partner this person with the most sociable person in the group and use this person as the example in movements so they feel like they’re a major part of the experience and never like an outsider from the cliques that may be forming in that community.

Eric K.: Are you just emailing them about the topics discussed or actually bring it up in class or both?

Answer: Both. Have everything written out on the whiteboard beforehand – warm-up, topic of the day, workout, cooldown etc. Then send them the written content that’s in line with everything they learned for that day.

Don’t just email them and not do it in class. Unless you’re making it a thing in class, most people aren’t going to care about it. If you give life to the email during class and sell it, that’s when people care.

Make sure you have some kind of automation system set up nurturing sequences to make sure people are revisiting these things. You can also do it manually with printed documents. Whatever works for you.

Jessica Depatie About the author

Jessica is the marketing maven here at Gymwright. She's a business consultant and holistic marketer for fitness businesses. She specializes in the decision-making psychology of what makes everyday people want to optimize themselves. She dives deep into how people seek out growth in the pursuit of living happier and healthier.

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