January Membership Campaigns

The Flat Year

January Marketing

Each year our firm helps almost one hundred YMCAs with their digital and print marketing campaigns. This year, we decided to complete our own post January review of client campaigns including membership metrics, digital ad spends, and website traffic analytics.


As you can probably tell, our 2016 findings showed that overall our Y clients had a flat month of membership sales. From our discussions with Y clients, most attempted the same promotions from the past…”no joining fee”.

The outliers, the ones who did fantastically well and the ones who didn’t, had quantifiable reasons we’ll discuss.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Before we hit you with metrics you will probably quickly scroll through, we’re going to share success and train wreck stories.

The Good

The use of the “no joining fee” promotion has been a mainstay of January campaigns. Our “success” story client ended up stacking promotional benefits onto the no joining fee and successfully marketed the stacked promotion.

The results: they exceeded their membership goals, increased website traffic by 91% and traffic to the membership page by 310% (versus January 2015).


The stacked promotion included:

  • No Joining Fee (up to $100 savings)
  • $100 YBucks Credit
    (Can be used for Programs, Personal Training, Nutrition Services, 10 weeks of camp, afterschool, or summer day camp!)
  • 8 Week Weight Loss Support Program
  • 60 Day free trial of virtual membership software
  • Biometric Screening Session with the YMCA Healthcare Partner
  • Free Community Supported Agriculture Membership

The stacked promotion is well thought out and includes a number of secondary benefits that not all new Y members will use. But, the sheer number makes the offer seem really good.

I can hear it already, the blowback from your program directors about reduction of their revenue. We have Y clients who have generated the member to program discount ratios and the break even point is very low.

The Bad

We don’t know if we should call it bad, but some of our clients focused on pushing membership reciprocity during January. While not a bad thing in general, reciprocity doesn’t have the draw as other promotions.

Prospects don’t join your YMCA because they can go to some other YMCA. There’s a reason they walked through your doors and not some other Y’s.

Reciprocity is a nice added benefit, but not a major draw.

The Ugly

A client opted to complete a website redesign in Nov./Dec. 2015 (not designed by us). The new site didn’t include membership information, rates, or any promotional call to action for membership. Additionally, the user experience of the new site was lacking.

The results included a whopping 32% decrease in website traffic in January 2016 vs. January 2015.


Search Results


In January 2016, search for “fitness” and “gym” keywords were slightly higher versus January 2015. Search for “ymca” was flat.

The takeaway is that prospects were looking for fitness solutions as much as they were in 2015 and exterior forces such as the economic pressures didn’t come into play.

Website Traffic


We track web traffic of approximately one hundred YMCAs. Overall, 60% of Y clients saw January website traffic increase over January 2015. The average increase was 5%.

The only Y clients with huge traffic increases were clients who had large ad buys and pushed traffic to their sites. Organic search traffic was fairly flat vs. January 2015.

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing continues to garner more ad budget each year. With the addition of the Google Grant Adwords funds, we see a number of clients increasing their Regular Adwords Budgets for Display and Remarketing, plus adding local website ad buys.

The average client ad buy for digital ads in January was $2,500.

Choose Wisely

Make sure your promotion is going to be appealing. Making ad buys and driving traffic to a landing page with a mediocre call to action will result in a high bounce rate. Note that 75% of this YMCA’s paid Google Adwords program resulted in a one page visit.


Conversion Tracking

Most YMCA clients have an ops software that onboards members. The ability to track a digital ad to a membership conversion isn’t possible, but there are workarounds.

You can track the conversion of a button click, meaning the user can click a display ad, be delivered to a YMCA page and then click the “Join Now” button that leads them to your ops software. The button click is a trackable event.

Making It Better

Doing your own post campaign analysis and sharing your ideas with your YMCA peers is a great way to increase campaign efficiency. We love the idea of the stacked promotion and judging from the metrics, it paid off.

Plan early, plan wisely for your next January campaign!