The retail industry’s busiest season just concluded, which means it’s now time for all things health-related to take the stage. With adjusting for holiday excesses and New Year’s resolutions in full swing, fitness studios are at their busiest. So if you run a yoga studio, pilates studio, boxing club, gym, or any kind of fitness center, I’m betting you’re pretty overwhelmed right now!
But are you doing everything you can to tap into this peak season? Are there opportunities you’re missing? This is a good chance to make some resolutions for your business, too, and really dive into achieving your business goals:
- Attract new customers
- Fill capacity where most needed
- Get customers to keep coming back, eventually becoming totally loyal
Here are several marketing tips for fitness studios to help you do so!
Facebook Ads can be the workhorse for almost any business, and Instagram is a great fit for fitness studios, too. I’ve seen some really great results, including getting people to show up at a time and a place. So for folks hoping to finally get in shape, now is the time to grab their attention!
A huge key to Facebook Ad success is targeting. Sure, it’s possible that almost anyone in your city could be interested in going to your studio, but that doesn’t mean you want to advertise to all of them. Think about who is most likely to come to your studio. Is it a certain age group? Professionals? Moms? People who live within a few miles? And why not ensure they’re already interested in your niche (yoga, pilates, boxing, cycling, etc.). Really, really zero in. The more targeted you can get (without Facebook saying your audience size is too small to run ads), the lower your cost per click (CPC) will be, and thus your dollars can stretch further.
Target New Audiences
Your current customers may have a certain profile, but for many fitness studios, the largest untapped market for customers may simply be the opposite sex. Yoga studios: gear your ads at men! Karate dojos: gear your ads at women! With the right messaging and the right welcome, you can make major inroads with a new audience and boost your customer base. Maybe you can advertise a class with an instructor of their same gender to help them feel more comfortable in new territory.
Hold Orientations for Newbies
Many fitness classes seem to expect newcomers to just dive in. Once I went to a cycling class that was so baffling – with no one trying to help me – that I never returned. I also did boxing classes for a while, and why I did enjoy that, getting started there was also difficult. Not only did I have almost no idea what I was doing (how the heck do I tie on handwraps?!), the class was several levels above my current fitness. I struggled to keep up and was sore for days. In retrospect, it’s a wonder I went back for more!
If you do not currently have orientations or beginners’ classes, I think you are hurting your business. Newcomers will feel more confident coming in for the first time knowing they’ll be making fools of themselves along with other newbies, rather than being embarrassed in front of veterans. Then, they will be more more likely to stick around. Here are some more tips about launching 101 classes:
- You can teach newbies the ropes, guide them through any equipment or terminology (I’m looking at you, yoga), and most importantly, help them learn how to avoid straining or injuring themselves. Injuries are probably most common for newbies and would make them way less likely to return.
- This beginners’ class should be less intense than your regular classes. For anyone who hasn’t been off the couch in a few months, you can help ramp them up before they take a regular class, rather than exhausting, embarrassing, and discouraging them if they jump into a regular class.
- Assign your friendliest instructor to the beginners’ class to help welcome newbies. It’s probably not a role for Hank “The Tank” Turner. A warm introduction will make new customers want to come back.
Beginners’ classes could be offered a few times a week. Maybe less frequently if you already have a solid customer base, or more frequently if you are looking to attract new customers or recently added a new offering. Don’t have room or space in your schedule? How about just a 15 to 30 minute orientation chat for newbies that can take place in your lobby before a regular class? Something is better than nothing.
I recently got an email out of the blue from a fitness studio I hadn’t been into in years. I was pleasantly surprised to hear from them, but it was very obvious they didn’t have a solid email marketing strategy. It seemed like more of an afterthought.
Are you not gathering customers email addresses? Or do you have an email database but are underutilizing it? There are so many possibilities in this realm. Especially right now, when all sorts of health businesses are clamoring for consumers’ time, money, and attention. Building a strong email program takes effort, but it can be very, very effective. You also want to balance garnering interest with not spamming folks too much. But overall, you can stay top of mind, communicate with a base that is already interested in what you offer, and tailor your strategy to your goals.
Here are a few groups to consider when structuring email marketing campaigns:
- People who have expressed an interested but who haven’t actually attended a class yet. Tying back to newbie orientations, you could build a series of emails that help acclimate them before they even come in.
- People who have come in but dropped off. Ideally, you would have attendance data in place to be able to automatically send these emails a month or two after they go MIA. The email could ask for their feedback and if there’s anything you can do to help as they get started. For example, have you noticed people with Groupons tend to get their value but not return when it expires?
- People who were customers a long time ago and could be enticed back. Sure, some people have probably moved away, but some might just need a small outreach to get back in the saddle.
If you’re getting started with email marketing, 1. I highly recommend Mailchimp, and 2. make sure to honor opt-in preferences. If you haven’t explicitly asked in the past if folks want to receive emails from you, your first email’s call to action should be a “Opt-in to keep hearing from us” rather than planning to keep going if they don’t opt-out. And going forward, make email opt-ins clear, like on initial forms, so you can keep growing your email list. Email inboxes are pretty intimate, so emailing people when they don’t want to hear from you is a big no-no: it can even lead to legal trouble. Also, see if you can sync your POS/attendance data with your emails, as touched on before. Building your emails on these insights can be very powerful.
Your early morning and evening classes are probably the fullest, so how about getting more folks to attend one of your typically emptier classes, say in the afternoon? What if you advertised a drawing for a free month’s membership for people who attend that chosen class?
That would have the immediate benefit of getting more people to a class that has capacity, then the longer-term benefit of getting someone to stick around. Or, perhaps the person could win it for themselves OR win it for a friend! This would have three benefits:
- Your customer gets to feel generous!
- Your customer’s friend will likely come in, since word of mouth is so strong.
- Both are more likely to stick around since they’re going with a friend!
Of course, over time, giveaways, Groupons, and discounts can make people less likely to pay full price – you train them to look for the deals. So there has to be a balance. I think the least harmful way to give things away is to do so through your customers, like giving them a free month to then give to a friend.
So here’s a way to do a giveaway where you aren’t giving anything away! So you know those multi-level marketing people who sell Shakeology or different cleanses or nutritional supplements, like how people sell Mary Kay? We all have at least 10 Facebook friends who do something like this. How about working with one (or many) of them? They would be eager to sell their wares, and you could get more traffic to your studio. Heres how it could work:
- You work with a seller to set up shop in your studio, maybe in the lobby, with free samples available after the class or classes you want more people to attend.
- Advertise or communicate to customers that they could get free samples of X product if they attend the class. Tantalize with lingo like “limited space available” and “while supplies last”
Then the seller gets some interest, your customers get freebies, and you get more traffic without spending anything! Your arrangement with the seller could be a one-time deal or an ongoing partnership, but if you’re part of a national brand of fitness centers, you may have to make sure deals like this are okay by Corporate.