Five Methods That Will Help Independent Gyms Compete With Chains When Offering Corporate Gym Memberships

It is a story we have heard from independent gym, fitness club and studio owners up and down the country.

“I’d like to offer corporate membership, but I don’t know where to set it up”.


“I’d like to offer corporate membership, but I don’t know how to attract interest from businesses in the area”. 

They are frequent concerns, and the reasons are not unfounded. Up until recently, corporate gym membership schemes had seemed like the domain of only the ‘larger’ chains, with the infrastructure, prestige and reach necessary to not only make the deals, but maintain them.

While this may have been true in the past, it is an orthodoxy that has become outmoded and outdated for a variety of reasons, many of which we will explore in this article. 

We will be looking at why it is a fantastic time for independent gyms and fitness clubs to start seriously looking into corporate memberships schemes for their fitness facilities. 

We are living through a perfect combination of desire and means, supply and demand.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, the trend of safeguarding employee well-being and fitness has been compounded. Already a growing concern prior to 2020, it has now become one of the top priorities for corporate decision-makers and business owners alike. 

One of the many lessons learned during that trying time was that a healthy, productive and engaged workforce was more than able to justify their price tag. This compounded a trend that had already been established across many studies, espousing the virtues of fitness on employee productivity and reduced absences. 

In addition, it helped feed into the growing narrative that a job in the 21st doesn’t just exist to pay a wage but to ‘enhance a lifestyle’. It isn’t a statement that everyone will agree with, but it is a sentiment that has gained significant purchase across the workforce, especially as Millennials and Generation Z become the predominant and rising demographic of gym members across many independent gyms and fitness clubs. 

What Is Corporate Gym Membership?

So what do we mean when we talk about corporate gym membership in the context of independent gyms and fitness clubs?

Well, it is important to specify we don’t just mean a discount for belonging to a certain organisation, though that is a type of corporate agreement that we have covered on this blog before.

No, we are talking specifically about a fully paid gym membership that is either subsidised or fully paid for by the employer of the member in question. Usually this will either be taken out of their salary (called salary sacrifice) or will be provided as a benefit.

It has proven an increasingly popular employee benefit in recent years, even in the wake of the 2017 reforms that saw the definition of a benefit and the associated tax breaks reduced and clamped down on.

The reasons are simple enough: gym members, especially for a local or independent gym, provide a good counterpoint to the usual corporate office engagement. Inactive, office based (or increasingly working-from-home based in the wake of Covid), the gym membership is a way to encourage a physically idle workforce into a form of exercise. 

These memberships are usually born from either the business or the gym approaching the other party to arrange a series of discounts, offers and material regarding the corporate gym membership scheme, to the mutual benefit of both. 

It is a win that makes the employees feel valued and increases their standard of life quality at a comparatively meagre price point compared to other employee benefits. From the perspective of the C-suite, it is a chance to give back to the employees in a constructive and mutually beneficial way. It is also a very topical and progressive solution to several modern ills, increasing everything from productivity to lifespan.

It also doesn’t hurt that it looks very good in a yearly employee satisfaction and wellbeing policy report, by the by. 

Methods for Independent Gyms and Fitness Clubs to help launch and sustain corporate membership schemes with businesses in the area

1. Plan the approach, understand the business in the area

Before any business is approached, it is important that any independent gym or fitness club looking to construct a corporate gym membership scheme understands what they are offering, who they are offering it to and how they are going to offer it.

We will go further into the creation of a corporate scheme later in significant detail, so for now we will focus on the latter two. Planning the approach and understanding the area.

Both are equally important for any independent gym serious about approaching businesses with corporate gym member offers. Unfortunately it isn’t as simple as just walking up to an office or sending an e-mail to the first e-mail address that can be found on a website. 

It is important to understand not only who to contact at every company that is approached, but also what information they will want to know in the introduction and what questions they might ask.

While the person or department in charge of employee benefits (and therefore the funds necessary to fund a corporate gym membership) will vary from company to company. It is therefore vital to understand who will be responsible, interested and engaged when it comes to striking new corporate membership agreements.

No matter how good the value of a corporate gym membership scheme is, if it lands in the wrong inbox the chances of hearing back become very slim. 

2. Understand the product, use that understanding to craft and engaging offer.

Too often when we talk through this process with  independent gym and fitness club owners, they have given no thought to the product they are offering beyond the concept of ‘gym membership’. 

In the world of justifying corporate budgets, that isn’t enough. That isn’t the language that they speak. It is important to craft a concise but engaging pitch for why this corporate gym membership is not only going to bring tangible benefit to the company, but how those benefits can be presented. 

It is a case of ‘doing their job for them’. If the person responsible already knows exactly how to advocate for a corporate gym membership scheme, they are that much more likely to successfully pitch and convince the necessary people within their business structure. 

As with any initiative in a workplace, it lives and dies not only on the strength of the idea, but the willingness of those championing it. 

Independent gyms hoping to secure such enthusiasm should not scrimp on details, an e-mail with a series of numbers might give all the information that is technically required but it will not set anyone off on a campaign.

Focus on benefits that will really matter to the office or corporate structure, and then also the members that the independent gym will be trying to attract and keep. This can be simple things such as equipment, very specific things to the area such as distance from the office, or associated benefits like PT sessions and other perks.

It is important that any independent gym attempting to implement and convince businesses to adopt a corporate gym membership benefit scheme understands that it isn’t a matter of convincing a single individual, but rather understanding the audience at every stage of the process. Giving the right individuals the tools to make the right pitches at the right time. 

3. How can independent gyms build a meaningful relationship with their corporate partners?

Our third point is an often overlooked part of the process.

As with many aspects of business, a corporate gym membership benefit scheme is a partnership. A partnership that will require regular, scheduled contact to sustain itself and endure.

In our experience, the corporate gym membership benefit schemes that endure are the ones that forge meaningful, useful relationships on each side of the deal early on.

All it requires is a point of contact on each side that is enthused, engaged and knowledgeable about the process. 

As we covered in the previous section, the success of the partnership will determine the ability to enthuse people, which makes the setup of this process all the more important. If it is set up haphazardly and in haste, or without proper care and attention given to the working relationship between independent gym and company, the success of the scheme will most likely suffer. 

4. How can an Independent gym show their competence and sophistication while striking a corporate gym membership benefit scheme deal?

It is a question we hear a lot. How can we put our best foot forward? How can we show that we are as professional and competent as the chain gyms?

There is some good news and some bad news when it comes to the answer to these questions.

 The ‘bad’ news is that there is no way around it, independent gyms do have to be as competent, sophisticated and professional as chain gyms to stand out in the eyes of potential corporate clients looking for gym benefit membership schemes.

The good news? It has never been more attainable or affordable for an independent gym to go toe to toe with the chain gyms when it comes to offering corporate gym membership schemes. 

And that is due to the rise of the next generation of gym membership management software. 

While not every gym membership management software company on the market offers the service, it has become an increasingly desirable selling point to have gym membership management software that allows independent gyms to set up corporate membership schemes as quickly and efficiently as ‘the chains’. 

This has led to a new and exciting phenomena of independent gyms ‘punching above their weight’ in the corporate gym membership benefit scheme arena.

No longer held back by infrastructure and procedures not fit for large-scale transactions, with the right gym membership management partner, independent gyms have an incredibly valuable tool at their disposal for attracting and retaining corporate clients looking to start employee benefit schemes. 

 And in addition to gym membership management software helping to grease the wheels of commerce when it comes to setting up corporate membership benefit schemes, they can also allow independent gyms unparalleled data to help build the case as to why they are the right independent fitness facility to partner with and service their employee base. 

 The importance of gym membership management software for independent gyms when attracting corporate clients cannot be overstated.

It is important to remember that the first thing that the correspondence on the business-side will see, whether it is a HR representative or a member of a workers council, won’t be the facility itself but the pitch and the digital infrastructure. 

If this seems archaic, unintuitive or hard to pitch to the rest of the company, the chances of that corporate gym membership scheme seeing fruition just drastically decreased. 

5. Maintaining the relationship between independent gym and corporate client.

And finally, perhaps an obvious entry but nonetheless very important. Do not let the relationship that has been fostered between independent gym and corporate clients wither and die. 

While a good portion of this relationship will run on automatic once it has been successfully set up, there is a significant vested interest for the independent gym to stay in contact. Whether it is staff visiting the office, dedicated event days or merely a coupon/voucher/leaflet drop, there is always something to be done.

Once the idea is struck and the corporate membership scheme is in place, the independent gym knows a set location where a portion of the membership is likely to be. They would be remiss not to utilise this space for engagement and research. 

It is not enough to seal the deal between corporate client and independent gym, it must be maintained and understood. Work with the client to understand what has gone right and what has gone wrong. Incorporate this process into the next corporate offering. 

If done correctly, this will create a positive feedback loop that will help drive and maximise profits across the gym, but also provide valuable feedback across a variety of different operational areas.

Important selling points and attributes for any successful Independent Gyms corporate membership scheme and pitch

Just before we reach our conclusion, we are going to use this section to make a checklist of important selling points that will attract the corporate client liaison or representative when an independent gym makes a corporate membership benefit pitch.

1. Cost/Budget

One of the most important pieces of information that any HR department or corporate liaison will want to know regarding the corporate membership scheme of an independent gym. We do not recommend hiding the price behind a glamorous pitch. If they are not in the market for paying the prices a gym desires, no amount of prose will change that. 

3. Research

If the information is readily available, an independent gym can make large strides towards securing corporate clients and corporate gym membership schemes by researching the companies they are approaching.

Whether it is the aforementioned demographics and the company ethos or more basic criteria such as office locations, any information that can be included in the pitch will help signify to the representatives that the independent gym has taken it seriously. 

2. Broad Appeal

Corporate offices are not mono-cultures. There will be a variety of different people and demographics in any office and these people will have different forms of fitness that attract them.

Demonstrating a strong variety and depth of exercise is key for an independent gym to distinguish itself. While it may be a given for large chains, an independent gym must show that it will have enough of everything to appeal to the denizens of the office.

If the corporate client goes to their flock with a substandard offering, the chances of the corporate scheme getting off the floor for the independent gym becomes increasingly slim.

4. Membership Sign-up Process

It might not sound like the most intuitive final item to include in a list of how independent gyms can make a good first impression, but all the more reason it is top of the list.

Having talked extensively to people on the corporate side of the equation, one of the key concerns when being approached by an independent gym is ensuring that the sign-up process is sleek, professional and low-effort. 

Businesses are often caught between two conflicting desires. They want to provide high quality benefits to their employees, but these initiatives cannot be too time-intensive for man-hour strapped departments. 

As such, we believe the single most important thing an independent gym can do to put their good foot forward is to demonstrate how effortless and efficient the sign-up process can be.

If this is a cause for concern, then as we said above, an independent gym should look no further than approaching a new gym membership management software partner. With the help of the right gym membership management partner, the process can be made easy and effective. 


And speaking of gym membership management software! If you have been reading this and don’t believe that the independent gym or fitness club that you manage could provide a slick and effortless sign-up process for your corporate partners then look no further.

Because here at Ashbourne, we don’t just write guides for independent gym owners, we actively utilise our twenty five years of experience in the fitness industry to help our partners maximise profits and results. 

With our lightweight and powerful gym membership management software, we have helped hundreds of partners in levelling-up their operation. Whether it is working towards streamlining the sign-up process, harnessing data, access control integration or website and app development, we are confident we have the solution for an independent gym willing to put in the time and effort. 

Interested in seeing what Ashbourne could do for your independent gym or fitness club? Then contact our demonstrations team today here and start working with them to understand where Ashbourne can assist with and elevate the day-to-day operation of any fitness facility! 

Get your club in shape.

Want to discover how? Let us show you.

Simply select your preferred timeslot and we’ll be in touch to have a chat about your health club,
the goals you want to achieve, and how our system can help you.

Get your club in shape.

Want to discover how? Let us show you.

Simply select your preferred timeslot and we’ll be in touch to have a chat about your health club, the goals you want to achieve, and how our system can help you.

Get your club in shape.

Want to discover how? Let us show you.

Simply select your preferred timeslot and we’ll be in touch to have a chat about your health club, the goals you want to achieve, and how our system can help you.

Member of a gym? Simply text "HELP" to 60777 and we'll help you.

Member of a gym? Simply text "HELP" to 60777 and we'll help you.

Member of a gym? Simply text "HELP" to 60777 and we'll help you.

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