Fitness Studios that want to run their businesses more efficiently and effectively have hundreds of digital tools to choose from, including marketing, email, waivers, scheduling, and booking tools as well as others for retention, business insights, instructor management, and accounting.
If you’ve got a problem, chances are there’s a tool that can help you solve it quickly.
That doesn’t mean you should jump in and buy every new business app you come across—far from it. It’s important to choose the right software for your specific business and get the most out of it. In fact, I tell my clients that the tech foundation of most studios can be built with just four core tools.
How much should I spend on tech tools?
I get this question a lot. Before we dive into the four tools, let’s first talk about budget and evaluation. A studio’s profit margins and operating expenses vary greatly depending on size, location, and other factors. Nevertheless, one of the most effective ways of evaluating the features and benefits of a particular tool is to figure out what the return on the investment will be. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have the time or desire to do these tasks manually myself?
- How much would it cost me to hire someone to do these tasks?
If the answers to those questions are “no” and “more than the cost of this software subscription,” then the real question becomes: Is the potential positive impact of this tool greater than the cost?
Tracking key performance indicators in your business and regularly re-visiting tool costs can help you make informed decisions. Still, it’s often hard to directly tie tool costs to specific outcomes because several marketing activities typically contribute to each sale. This Tech Tools Decision Matrix can help you evaluate ROI in a big-picture sense.
Use this as a framework to filter current and potential new tech tools. The four tools I mention below all land in the “High Impact Zone” of the matrix. Your studio’s size and budget will determine placement on the cost scale.
Here are the 4 kinds of software each studio needs:
1. Scheduling software
Great scheduling software is the foundation of any successful fitness studio business. While having a studio scheduling software subscription may be a no-brainer, utilizing all the “below the surface” features that are often included in the subscription price but easily missed is a huge value-add to your business. MINDBODY is the industry leader in scheduling software for all the right reasons. In addition to easing massive administrative headaches by tracking class packs, processing payments, and managing membership expirations, MINDBODY:
- Makes it easy to manage your team + payroll
- Offers responsive widgets so you can embed key booking and buying features right on your website
- Tracks key business numbers to help you get the information you need quickly to make smart business decisions
- Displays your business booking functions on the MINDBODY app (nope, you don’t need to develop your own app!)
- Has an excellent learning hub with business-growth videos you can access anytime
I often get asked about MINDBODY alternatives, and although there are some, for class-based fitness studios there’s a reason everyone uses MINDBODY.
Potential positive impact: Reduce admin hassle, client confusion, and paper tracking. Present more professionally to clients, and track key data points more effectively.
2. Your studio website
If your scheduling software is the core of your business, think of your website as the front door. It’s incredibly important, as it’s often the first impression potential clients have of your business. Your website needs to have clear messaging, be easy to navigate, and also be customizable enough in design to portray the true vibe of your studio.
One big thing to keep in mind when you’re choosing a website platform is how it’s going to work with your studio scheduling software. MINDBODY’s scheduling widgets are built responsive—this means they adapt automatically to show the best viewing experience regardless of screen size. If your website is not responsive (i.e., has a separate desktop and mobile design), there’s a fundamental mismatch and things won’t work well.
Investing in a solid website can also help you get found online! Google and other search engines look for key indicators of what your business is all about: who you are, what services you provide, and where you’re located. If your website is written and optimized with search in mind, you’ll go a long way in helping Google show you to people searching for what you offer.
Squarespace is my pick for a user-friendly platform that allows you to create a beautiful website that works well with MINDBODY. Its starting templates are well-designed, and even the most “tech-challenged” of my clients feel comfortable updating text and photos on their website. You can learn more about integrating MINDBODY functionality on your Squarespace website in this webinar training.
Potential positive impact: Reduce front desk workload, make info and booking capabilities available 24/7 to new prospects, improve visibility in search, and convert more social media followers to clients.
3. Email marketing platform
As organic reach on social media continues to drop, email remains the cheapest, most effective way for you to communicate with your community as a whole. Email marketing, however, has gotten more sophisticated in recent years. Traditional newsletters still serve a purpose, but personalization, segmentation, and automation are now at the core of a successful studio email marketing plan.
Things to look for in choosing an email platform:
- Integration with your scheduling software. Always choose your email platform after you’ve chosen your scheduling software. Not all platforms integrate, and you’ll want to make sure the two can “talk”— sharing not only information about your clients’ subscription status, but key data points about their buying and booking activities as well.
- Deliverability. How long has this company been around for? Do emails end up in inboxes? Can I clearly see what emails are going to what clients and if they are opening/clicking on them?
- Onboarding support. How easy will it be for me to get up and running with this software? Will I be able to customize my mailings and automate emails to fit my sales process? Are there easy to follow support videos or concierge set-up included?
NamasteLight is my platform of choice for solid email marketing plus automation capabilities for MINDBODY-powered studios. It’s monthly subscription fees are lower than most, it has a great integration with MINDBODY and world-class deliverability rates.
Potential positive impact: more control over who gets specific messages, can automate emails to support the sales process, improved customer response.
4. Retention management tool
With industry retention rates sitting around only 30 percent year-over-year, improving retention is likely the best and easiest way for you to grow your studio business. But keeping track of each client, and remembering to reach out appropriately, is hard to manage—and more often than not, gets lost in the daily task lists of busy studios! A retention management tool can help you automate outreach, while still keeping the personal touch your business was built on.
FitGrid is my retention management tool of choice. What I love about FitGrid is that it leverages staff more effectively and improves relationships across the studio community—between clients and instructors, between instructors and owners, and between the studio and clients. It’s not hidden behind the scenes—it helps the day-to-day operations of your business by increasing productivity and customer loyalty.
FitGrid can help you:
- Identify at-risk clients and determine when and how to reach out to re-engage them
- Get valuable feedback on your instructors so you can understand the effectiveness of your team to mentor and grow your studio’s culture
- Connect your staff and instructors to clients in a safe and supportive way, fostering a community
Potential positive impact: Keep better track of at-risk clients, strengthen your community, help analyze and manage your staff, improve retention, and increase membership revenue.
Using these four tools as the digital foundation for your fitness studio will massively streamline your day-to-day operations. That means you have more time, energy and mental space to get back to doing what you do best — enriching and improving the lives of your clients through fitness.
The new year is a great time to evaluate what software subscriptions you’re paying for and determine if those costs are paying off. Use the matrix above to review your existing software costs in conjunction with FitGrid’s Profit calculator, and you’ll go into 2020 confident that you’re poised for growth.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connie Holen helps fitness and wellness studio owners tame the tech of studio ownership. She’s a Certified MINDBODY Business Consultant, Authorized Squarespace Trainer and the owner of Pixality, a web design and digital marketing agency. Connie is committed to helping studio owners create seamless online experiences so they can run more efficient, profitable, and stress-free businesses. Her specialties include web design, email marketing automation, search engine optimization, and Facebook Ads.
FitGrid is a community management system designed for boutique fitness studios to engage clients on a personal level