Keeping attendance rates high is the bedrock of a solid fitness and wellness business of any size.
This means growing a client base that is the right size for your business and also suitably resilient.
Typically, businesses run into trouble in one of two ways.
The first scenario is a business that hits a ceiling on attendance. For a range of reasons it just seems impossible to raise class numbers above a certain level.
The second is a business that sees major fluctuations in class numbers. Classes become full and over-booked for weeks or months, and things look great. But then there’s a slump: you lose regular clients and numbers take a major dip and out of nowhere you’ve got a rebuild job on your hands.
This article offers some tips on how to fix both of these issues so that you can operate in that Goldilocks zone of high, consistent occupancy.
How To Retain Clients
Retaining a client is as good as recruiting a new one. What’s more, retaining clients is easier than recruiting because you’ve already got that relationship.
It might sound counter-intuitive but it is imperative that you build retention into your sales plan. This means regularly auditing your client base and spotting the red flags such as a client who is dropping off in attendance or perhaps losing a bit of enthusiasm. If so, get in there and find out why. The reason could be logistical, emotional, confidence, social – and quite possibly something you can help with.
And for clients who seem fine – check in with them too. You might find that there’s something that could turn into a problem before it becomes one.
Social Groups & Star Clients
You should also keep regular track of the networks within your client base. Can you draw a spider chart of the social groups in your cohort? Are you heavily reliant on any particular clients for the social cohesion of your classes? Is there a client that books and brings groups of friends? If that star client stops coming, will others follow?
If you do, and it is likely that you have at least one contact like this, you need a two-pronged strategy:
First, try your best to keep your star clients happy. Second, mitigate their influence.
The first of those is obvious and is just a case of giving that client a bit of close attention. The second, the mitigation, is because ultimately, whether that star client keeps coming is out of your control. But what you can impact is how many other people stop coming.
Some tactics to help keep these satellite clients are to act as a social conduit. Introduce these clients to other regulars so that they aren’t reliant on the star. Get the satellite clients to book their own classes. If your star client does the booking for the others, stopping when the star stops will become the default position. Give those satellite clients some particular attention so that they don’t feel like a plus-one.
How to Attract New Clients
There is an old expression that sailors use which goes something along the lines of there being no favourable wind if you don’t know where you’re headed.
This is the starting point for a good sales and marketing plan. Know where you want to go.
There is no formula for sales and marketing which you can carbon copy and implement and be assured of success. What you do have at your disposal is a tool kit that you can dip into once you are clear on your goals.
Ask yourself the basic questions: what are you selling, how many clients do you want, what does a client look like, what spaces – real and virtual – do those clients occupy?
Hopefully, the answers to those questions will be pretty straightforward but those answers are vital in honing a sales marketing strategy that will work for you.
Sales and Marketing Strategy
Your sales and marketing will likely involve social media and it is possible that your sales and marketing will be entirely social media based.
For 95%+ of fitness instructors and personal trainers, a website will be a waste of money. Well maintained social media pages and an online booking system will, in the vast majority of cases be more powerful, less admin and cheaper than building your own website.
For your website to provide value it needs to be SEO optimised to a seriously high standard and then, because of Google’s dominance in the search space, you need to spend money. The days of gaming google by hiding search terms are long gone. So as a marketing tool websites can of course be effective. But you need to be operating at a serious scale to make that worthwhile.
Otherwise, you’re spending time and money on a website which people will only find through your social media pages. And if your website is then just where you want clients to book and takes clients to a booking system, you are probably better off ditching the website and concentrating on the social sites and a booking system.
If you are selling something that really requires a website or your brand is at a stage where you really need a website, then that’s a stage where that step is worthwhile. But you’ve got to commit to the ongoing SEO costs to make that worthwhile.
Services advertising themselves as class listing services are also notoriously ineffective. It simply isn’t how the vast majority of people buy fitness services so don’t be caught by services making the comparison to the platforms that let you book takeaways. The reason that doesn’t exist in fitness and wellness is that that isn’t how people want to buy fitness and wellness.
Word of Mouth
Your clients are your best sales advocates. Empower them within your tribe. Give them discount codes that reward them for inviting new clients along and for amplifying your marketing messages.
Testimonials and positive comments on your social pages and website are just as important as anything you say so don’t be shy of asking or too modest to publish and republish it.
Think too about merch. Clients love that team feeling so branded outerwear and bags – the things that are visible as a top layer when the client is outside of the class provides great local advertising. You don’t even need to make any money on selling the merch – sell it at cost and get it in the community.
If your business is largely in person, keep physical marketing in mind. Your client base will be from a relatively small area. Where are the physical spaces that your clients will be? Local shops, schools and community centres will likely be among the places where your clients are. So think posters, banners, sponsoring community events.
Automating Your Sales & Marketing
Think about engagement and automating some of these tasks. Scheduling, reminders, automated notifications all help maximise attendance and flexible booking and payment options provide easy-to-use and intuitive booking apps. With a booking software like Gymcatch, you can conveniently and professionally manage your schedule, bookings, payments and customers with the ultimate fitness class booking software.
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Carly Wilko says
Great post. Trying to fully embrace my time off but already scratching my head over what on Earth my offering is going to look like after Easter – I’ve a feeling it’s gonna have to look completely different to pre pandemmy and pandemmy days in order to survive at a sustainable level!