Case Study

Membership Franchise

Case Studies — Membership Franchise


From Shotgun Marketing To A Personalised Funnel

After 36 months of changing the way they acquire new members, now 40% of this client’s leads end up walking into one of their locations. They’ve experienced constant year on year growth at each stage of their opt in process, by providing a consistent personalised experience for each of their prospective members.


I helped them do this through a marketing funnel and lead generation strategy centred around marketing automation. It’s reduced periodic downturns in leads during winter, provides a consistent member acquisition and onboarding process across their business and has allowed them to get hundreds of active sets of feedback about their 14 locations that they’ve been able to utilise to improve their service.

A quick glance & results

The Overview

This Melbourne based franchise were invested in marketing, they knew they had to do it, but had a heavy leaning to methods focused around traffic generation – doing SEO, advertising, radio ads etc.

As with most businesses they were overlooking a critically important step. How to turn those leads (which were really just website visitors) into actual people walking in their door, and then, paying customers. 

Most businesses don’t have an issue with generating awareness or attempting to do any marketing around ‘lead generation’. It’s the first area of the marketing funnel that’s worked on. Driving conversions, however, is a completely different story.

This client ended up moving from hoping prospective members would just ‘turn up’ (ie convert) to enticing, nurturing and encouraging them to do so. This has completely changed the way they do business.

Before we could implement the processes however, we had to determine the most significant hurdles that their prospective members had to overcome to walk in the door. We came up with the idea to implement not only a free class offering, but an entire automated marketing sequence that would encourage those who signed up and nudge them to attend. Because, there was a physical hurdle their prospects had to overcome – they actually had to make the effort to drive and turn up.

After putting a customer acquisition marketing automation process in place, 40.2% of registrations walk in the door and the individual franchisees converted between 20-70% of those into new paying members. The list that we generated in the process has been used to sell hundreds of pre-paid classes at strategic times throughout the year – adding additional sources of revenue they hadn’t had previously.

where we started

The Client & Project

This client are the largest and leading provider in their industry in Australia. As a franchised business they have hundreds of members across their multiple locations and provide members access to a weekly classes, events and professional training. 

I started talking to them as they had been focusing on brand awareness and SEO and found that they’d hit a road block in their existing marketing. 

They had tried:

  • SEO to increase their rankings (and traffic) – which appeared to have run its course (couldn’t get anymore out of it). 
  • Adwords to increase traffic –  but weren’t sure if these was turning into customers. 
  • Traditional marketing (offline) such as radio ads, letter box drops, and other advertisements – but had minimal positive feelings about the effectiveness of these.
  • Social media advertising at a basic level – which seemed to somewhat work and was at least appearing better than the highly costly offline advertising. 

So they weren’t for a lack of trying. They had to drive new members for their franchisees and were attempting to do this in every way imaginable.

Our engagement started with a plan to look at alternative ways to generate (new) traffic and put the processes in place to effectively track marketing results. This included social media advertising, content and email marketing and setting up a marketing tracking and reporting process of their digital activities. 

I soon quickly realised however, that more traffic wasn’t going to help them get the sales and member growth that they needed.

They didn’t have a traffic problem – they had enough website traffic from their previous SEO efforts and Search (Google) advertising. Yet that traffic wasn’t equating to people walking in the door. They needed something that made prospective members want to make the effort and overcome the obstacles in their way of converting.

We ended up identify the main challenges they faced – which was far more than the awareness problem we initially planned out to solve. 

  • how do we get potential members to make the effort to turn up?
  • how do we overcome the barrier of having people pay for a class before they even know what it’s like?
  • how do we ensure that each of their locations provide a consistent experience to each potential member, before they become a paying one?
  • ultimately how do we get people to go from knowing about us, to experiencing us, to wanting to pay to stay around (ie become a monthly ongoing full time member). 

All these challenges centred around one marketing problem – nurturing leads to drive conversions. 

But that wasn’t going to be a small change. We needed to change the way they brought new potential members into the business. Because up until now, it was simply an activity of awareness, and letting each location deal with their own leads/walk ins – when they happened. 

I helped them change that. 

the full digital acquisition plan

The Funnel

To a trackable, measurable new customer acquisition.

The culmination of our efforts was the marketing process (customer acquisition/funnel) mapped shown – one that covers the entire journey of the prospective new member, from first contact point, to walking into a location, to following up with them and even continuing the personal engagement during their first 8 weeks as a new member – to help ensure retention.

Now, no matter where the new lead comes from, and which location they actually attended, their interaction, follow up and engagement was a process – and not a matter of relying on people to remember to do certain things. The automated systems aren’t their to replace their people. But to enable them to provide a consistent experience to every prospective member that engages with their business.

Marketing automation funnel
The marketing pieces to the funnel

The Details

The center piece of their location agnostic marketing

Email Marketing Automation

We used email automation throughout the entire customer acquisition process. We encouraged web visitors to sign up for a free class, which would put them into a marketing automation sequence. This allowed us to follow up with them until their offer expiration (genuine scarcity). We implemented not only reminders, but also took the opportunity to address potential concerns they had about attending as a new member. This gave them the opportunity to engage with the business before they attended, and began to build a relationship with one of the owners, and not just an ‘anonymous corporate entity’.

We also implemented automation around multiple other points of their new member journey. 

  • If the prospective member never booked in to a class, we followed up to ask why and gave them a chance to extend the validity of their voucher – capitalising on the warm subscriber.
  • We used an online class booking process to register them at a location, which allowed us to send reminders about their class and follow up if they didn’t turn up – to reduce drop offs and increase attendance.
  • We put in place a feedback tool after they attended to help drive business improvement across the locations, in a completely impartial way to their head office offering feedback based on verbal comments.
  • We also used this to follow up with students to nudge them towards returning and converting – again addressing their fears and concerns, or with a final short term, limited time offer. 
  • When they eventually would convert, they continued to be nurtured during their first 8 weeks of being a member. This ensured that the new student never felt as though everything before was simply in place to sell them into the membership, but that the organisation truly cared about their presence (as they genuinely do).

The continued (automated and personalised) contact and emails were about nurturing and guiding the members through their journey into a new activity. Becoming a member was simply part of that process for those that wanted to continue. 

We eventually implemented segmenting based on member type and customized their post conversion follow up depending on their first purchase (casual, short term or full member). This meant we had a segmented list of people that we’d later use to promote promotional campaigns to, which ended up selling hundreds of pre-paid classes. 

Overall, this process centred around marketing/email automation, has changed the way this client attract and drive prospective members to walk in the door at their multiple locations.

It isn’t reliant on luck and hope that people will simply decide to attend, but is a process of guiding a prospective member through nurturing, to overcome the hurdles we identified that stood in their way of become a new paying member. Because of how these email sequences are structured and the relevancy to the reader, they’re consistently achieving high open rates with all their email sequences (30-70%).

Augmenting traffic with Google and Facebook / Instagram Ads

Paid Traffic Acquisiton

Google is a great source of traffic. The downside (if there is one), is that it typically drives traffic from people who are actively looking for services or products (at the most basic level). Since this client offered physical classes, there was a segment of the general population that could be interested in giving it a go, without being active in seeking it out. And, this was a segment we were interested in accessing, to help drive member numbers up.

We therefore took to Social Media Advertising to get to this audience and implemented Facebook/Instagram advertising in a number of ways:

  • To re-target web visitors who didn’t originally join our email list (and enter our marketing funnel).
  • To reach people who may have an interest in their activity, but weren’t actively looking for it. 
  • To test the waters with specific demographics within the general population with targeted messages on trying something ‘new’. 

This resulted in another channel of people entering the automation process to drive them into the locations and augmented the traffic from Google Ads and search.

The key to constant improvement

Marketing Reporting/ Tracking

Reporting is crucial to any successful marketing. But to do it well you need to have the tracking tools in place to measure every stage of engagement across the marketing funnel/customer journey.

This client had previously used other agencies and had relied on them to provide their SEO/marketing reports. However, the metrics being tracked were only the start of the equation. As they were focused entirely on driving traffic, the reporting was focused on the agencies activities only and not set up to track the entire new member acquisition journey. 

Once we had the automation process in place, we connected critical stages into Google analytics and the custom reporting dashboard, so that we could track activities and revenue month to month and over a rolling 30, 90, 180 and 360 day period. We integrated all marketing activities from their paid advertising (Google Ads and social ads) to metrics across the email automation process, not only for the entire business, but across each individual location as well.

They (head office) then used this to see who was getting leads, who needed help in improving sales processes and where we needed to focus efforts to drive more lead generation in specific locations (difficult markets). They also finally had the ability to track new sales generated directly from the implemented marketing acquisition process and so were able to attribute direct return on marketing spend and understand their acquisition costs at each stage of the process, from sign up, to booking, to attendance and conversion

User Interface

The Outcome

An automated customer acquisition that works independent of their locations.

We ended up extending the above automation process across other areas and services of their business. The client now have an email list that they’re able to actively market to for promotional activities and can provide a consistent and reliable process of getting people in the door, following up with them and leading them to become a member for all their franchisees.

They’ve had over 5,000 people go through their automation acquisition process and over 1,700 new students walk into their locations. This process will continue to drive new prospective members into the locations and can now be ‘fed’ additional traffic sources and future marketing efforts. They’ve finally been able to leverage all the marketing work they had previously invested in, but were underutilising without a marketing-sales process in place. 


What The Client Felt

We’ve used agencies before to help us with our digital marketing and the biggest concerns we had as a franchisor, is understanding what exactly are we paying for. Not only that but having it put in a tangible way that we could understand. What is the end result for our members, on a business sense, in our industry?

Michael explained how his services related to us and what the end result actually was. It wasn’t about being page 1 on Google, which is nice and all, but (in my experience) traffic doesn’t generally equate to members walking in the door.

He made us focus on measurable results, made us look at our customer flow, both before they got to our door and once they did. It made us focus on equipping (prospective) members and tailoring their expectations before they purchased our membership. This really opened our eyes to that process, which we had never thought of before.

Every agency says they can optimise Facebook or Google ads, but they aren’t big measurable changes that affected our business. Even as a leader in our industry, working on our pre-customer experience (as I’d call it), has changed the way we now do business. It’s better equipped our franchisees to know when they are going to get a new customer, so they are more prepared. It’s also enabled us to adjust our procedure to have the right services in place to cater for them. It’s literally streamlined our conversion process of getting people to sign up.

We thought step 1 was getting them to rock into a location, but we weren’t aware that was step 5, until Michael showed us everything we weren’t doing that needed to be done before it. Now they get tailored ideas about what to expect, and by the time they get to a location, they are well equipped with more than enough information that it makes the conversion easier. While we don’t have the full data yet, those clients seem to be more genuine long term clients. Before we implemented the email marketing to now, we’d say on average it would be double the number of people walking in.

I would certainly recommend Michael and his process, for all the reasons above. In every other part of business, specialist people are required and online marketing is no different. I think people try to act like they know more than they know. If you can admit you don’t know what you don’t know, you can find someone to help. I’ve learnt that online marketing is a huge area, not just ads, SEO and content, but that it’s also important to improve the customer experience, or rather the pre-customer experience. Especially when it comes to driving conversions.

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