February 05, 2013
Case Study

Email Marketing: 98% conversion rate of qualified leads thanks to email education drip campaign

SUMMARY: To save resources, including the valuable time of its five full-time staff members, Iron Tribe Fitness built a website and a series of 11 emails both focused on educating prospects about its niche service.

With a combination of email marketing and staff personally qualifying leads, Iron Tribe was able to cut the amount of people with whom they conducted in-person consultations to 53% of prospects, converting 98% of those to signing a contract.
by Courtney Eckerle, Reporter


Iron Tribe Fitness was interested in conserving its resources and cutting down the time the team needed when converting a prospect into a customer and when determining if a prospect was the right fit for its premium product.

When Iron Tribe was founded in 2010, more than 80% of its leads came from offline sources. Most had almost no information on the service provided before inquiring in person or over the phone.

"They came in pretty cold," said Jim Cavale, Chief Operating Officer, Iron Tribe Fitness and Iron Tribe Franchising.

Cavale refers to these prospects as "the tire kickers." His staff was spending much time explaining the service to many people who had no interest in the value of the product.

"In 2010, the opportunity was clearly in the fact that while we acquired a great deal of new clients, we were getting most of them to actually convert when they sat down across from the table in a consultation," said Cavale.

While that worked at the time, Cavale said it was clear Iron Tribe needed to "scale our model … to depend less on the person [who's] doing sales at that consultation table."

The objective, he said, was for ideal prospects to come in already sold on the service.


Iron Tribe is an intensive fitness gym and program that requires a substantial time and monetary commitment, and only a niche customer is willing and able to give both of those things.

Iron Tribe limits its locations to 300 members. It also keeps a full-time staff of five people that allows customers, or "Iron Tribe athletes," to have a "one-on-one relationship with the staff that’s empowering them to reach their goals and achieve their goals and exceed their goals," said Cavale.

To consult only highly motivated prospects prepared to commit to the service, Iron Tribe set out to create a "prospect-centric website" that would focus on informing about its service.

Upon signing up to receive information from Iron Tribe, prospects are sent 11 emails over the course of 18 days featuring information about the fitness program as well as testimonials from Iron Tribe athletes.

The emails encourage the prospect to call into Iron Tribe, where an employee will qualify them through a script for an in-person consultation.

Having only highly motivated people sign an agreement allows Iron Tribe to keep all of its limited slots for truly committed customers. These customers not only fulfill their time obligations, but also renew their contracts time and refer others.

"The lifetime value of a client isn’t $2,000. It’s actually $8,000 because they refer friends, who sign up for $2,000 and they renew," said Cavale, adding that after implementing this campaign, there was a 97% retention rate in 2012.

Step #1. Map out the lifecycle of the customer

In 2011, Cavale said Iron Tribe began wondering how to market in a way that would "take a little stress and pressure off of the actual sales process that the human being is doing at that consultation table."

They did this by purchasing a high-quality CRM to monitor the lifecycle of a lead into "becoming a prospect, to becoming a client, to becoming a renewal, and so we called that process the ‘perfect athlete lifecycle.’ So in 2011, the first step we took was just mapping out this lifecycle for the athlete," said Cavale.

Cavale said creating this "perfect athlete lifecycle" enabled his team to begin thinking through the different scenarios. Additionally, the team envisioned "the different marketing pieces needed within those scenarios to handle the lead to becoming a prospect, sitting down a consult, to signing a contract."

Even farther past that, Iron Tribe was envisioning the newly signed-up customer becoming an athlete through its programs and classes, purchasing different products during their journey with Iron Tribe, and referring friends along with renewing their own agreement.

Step #2. Build a prospect-centric website for lead capture

Iron Tribe built a prospect-centric website, which Cavale described as "a place where all of our advertising could send leads."

The website features content such as multiple video interviews with Iron Tribe athletes, links to social media and multiple prompts to input area code to "Find your nearest location."

After inputting their area code, the lead is prompted to select the location nearest to them. After selecting, a page for that location gives the address and contact information of the branch, as well as a picture and short bio of the manager.

A form inquires if they "Want to know more?" and asks for first name, last name and email address. Beneath, it says, "Get more information. No sales pitch. No obligations. Just true, inspirational stories from our Tribe members!"

To submit the information, a button proclaiming "Transform Yourself!" must be clicked. On a "Thank You" page after submitting that information, the prospect can opt to fill out more information and will receive tangible marketing materials from the manager of that location.

Step #3. Send emails to interested prospects

By filling out a form to receive more information, prospects are automatically sent a series of 11 emails over the course of 18 days. The objective of these is to introduce and educate consumers on the service and its value.

Cavale said many people are interested, but "kind of confused on what our program is, and so this is a chance to educate them."

The emails cover nine core movements of the program, with the title of he first email being, "In the future, these nine overlooked exercises will help you lose fat faster than anything you have ever experienced."

The emails then feature a testimonial from a current Iron Tribe athlete, so that it not only teaches the subscriber "what the movement is, but also shows them a client who understands the movement, loves doing the movement and can testify to a total transformation because of the movement," according to Cavale.

For instance, the second email features the story of Iron Tribe athlete Teresa, and invites the prospect to view the embedded video demonstrating "the #1 most overlooked, fat burning, butt toning and leg sculpting movement you will ever learn."

Cavale added 40% of those who opted in to receive the emails committed to a consultation after the third email.

Email frequency

After testing, Cavale said they decided on the email frequency – 11 emails over 18 days – because "we wanted to make sure we spaced it out, but didn’t space it out too much."

Cavale said that approach to frequency felt right after they first discussed sending the 11 emails over 11 days, as well as sending the emails over 40 days.

"We felt like the middle was kind of a sweet spot," Cavale said.

Step #4. Qualify prospects for an in-person consultation

"Everybody can’t afford it or even understand the value and life-changing fitness program, but if they do see the value and they are ready to take the next step, then they come in for a consultation," Cavale said.

Cavale said before any in-person consultation, an Iron Tribe staff member must qualify the person through a script. The prospect is made fully aware of the time and financial commitment, and must express their ability to meet both.

This is so that by the time prospects finally come to sit down for a consultation, "it’s kind of decision day," he said.

The script used to qualify consists of questions about:
  • Current fitness

  • Fitness goals

  • Why are you interested in Iron Tribe?

  • How did you hear about Iron Tribe?

"From there, we tell them a quick two-minute bid on how the program works, what a group fitness program looks like, what the intensity looks like, and then we tell him the prices," Cavale said.

He added prospects are always qualified with the first month fee of $350, "because from there their agreement is going to be priced between $230 and $310 a month based on how many days a week they commit to and how many months they commit to."

After committing financially and to showing up "four or more times a week to really see results," Cavale said, "from there, if they are still on board when they sit down, it’s a lot easier to convert them to sign an agreement."

This is a more stringent change from Iron Tribe's original system, where staff spent valuable time speaking with people who had little to no knowledge of Iron Tribe, many who were not ideal for the niche service.


Leading into the future of this type of campaign, Cavale said Iron Tribe wants to increase the number of people who are approved for an in-person consultation rise.

"We are going to start experimenting with the process and sitting down with more of them because we think it could convert even higher on the financial side," he said.

This would involve bringing in more people who are "on the fence on whether they can afford it or not."

He said they are willing to sacrifice the high percentage of people who are signing an agreement after a consultation if it means more prospects are able to see the facility and understand the value better.

Currently, Iron Tribe has found the following results:
  • 53% of those who opt in to the emails qualify for an in-person consultation.

  • 98% of people who qualify for a consultation sign an agreement.

  • Average agreement signed was for 8 months, worth $2,000.

  • 40% of those who opted in committed to a consultation within the first three emails.

  • 97% retention rate for those who sign an agreement.

However, Cavale said he would be fine with seeing the number of those who sign up for the service after a consultation go down to 90% "because we sat down with some more people that may or may not have qualified all the way."

Cavale believes many prospects who are on the fence, and otherwise might not qualify, will fully understand the value upon viewing the facility and speaking further with staff.

He wants to bring up the 53% of those who opt in and qualify for a consultation to around 70% to encourage this theory.

"In the old days, we said, ‘Well, that’s OK.’ We were willing to push them away because if you are looking for something like Gold’s [Gym] … it’s probably not going to work," he said.

However, Iron Tribe's ideas going forward are "maybe some of those folks, once they see the facility and they sit down for a consultation, will understand the priceless value of a transformation at Iron Tribe," Cavale concluded.

Jim Cavale will be speaking at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013 in Las Vegas, February 19-22, in a session titled "The Top Three Equity Drivers to Build Value for Any Business."

Creative Samples

  1. Iron Tribe Location Page

  2. Email #1

  3. Email #2

  4. Email #3


Iron Tribe Fitness

Related Resources

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Content Marketing: Content-rich emails to prime your prospects (video)

The Content Marketing Tipping Point: Marcus Sheridan’s magic number is 30, what is yours?

Inbound Marketing: 5 tips for cultivating user generated content

Content Marketing: 3 tips for producing engaging email content

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