When it comes to retaining clients at your studio, it’s critical to consider the balance between using a platform that will automate your efforts, and pushing up your sleeves to do the work manually.
With automation - the notion that a studio can trigger ongoing communications to its clients is attractive and relatively easy to implement. A few clicks and presto: you’re sending important messages to a variety of clients at a regular cadence. But when it comes to the subject of retaining clients - rather than creating awareness around your promotions - is automation the right way to go? While 71% of studio owners report using marketing automation for their business, client retention continues to be the industry’s #1 challenge.
So what about manual outreach? Writing personalized emails, asking instructors to engage with clients outside the classroom, making phone calls and interacting with clients at the studio before or after class? Well, that’s a lot of work. But more to the point, how many managers or instructors have the time to realistically contact all clients on an ongoing basis? Probably very few, which is where the retention paradox exists. So should you automate or personalize your retention efforts?
That is the framework around which we’ve written our top 5 tips for increasing your studio’s retention:
1. Offer curated experiences that are unique to your business and bring out the best in your studio
Clients absorb and evaluate everything about your business before deciding to return - the facilities, check-in, interactions with managers and the class itself. To keep clients coming back, give them an experience that’s unique, personalized and feels special.
The client experience is driven by 3 categories:
- Facilities - Everything from layout, colors and artwork to the towels, showers and toiletries.
- Managers - The people and personalities that greet clients. It’s important they make each visit feel special.
- Instructors - Having the largest impact on a client’s experience, they must be knowledgeable, authentic and compassionate.
Automation/Personalization Balance: Your managers and instructors should make all check-in, class and post-class interactions as personal as possible. Knowing clients names and major life milestones (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) help increase retention.
2. Develop repeatable programming and curriculum designed to keep clients coming back
Though your studio may offer a wide array of classes, most studios fail to realize the valuable role that routine can play in retention. Creating recurring programs designed to force regular behavior motivates clients to keep working towards new goals and thus, coming back to your studio.. These 4 types of offerings can help:
- Challenges - 30 Day challenges, 4x a week plans or similar
- Programs - 12-20 week courses with milestones and completion dates
- Routines - Specific exercises completed on a per class, per month and per year basis
- Workout of the day - Keeps clients coming back for a new daily activity
Automation/Personalization Balance: Developing programs that appeal to a wide audience, yet have enough self-customization that clients can find a mix that’s right for them.
3. Build a community: clients are more likely to come back the more connected they are to the other people around them
Creating community at your studio is one of the most beneficial things studio owners can do to keep clients coming back. Having a strong community can be extremely effective in retaining clients, and this effort begins with instructors connecting with clients.
- Have Instructors Send Follow Up Messages - Sending a follow up messages is a powerful way to let your clients know the instructor cares. The FitGrid Pro app sits in the perfect middle ground between automating and personalizing these messages.
- Ask Questions - Sending a follow up message such as “Good seeing you!” isn’t enough. Instead, asking questions like “what goals do you have?” or “how are you feeling after class?!” or “see you next week?!” should elicit a response, and engagement is the foundation of retention.
- Be Genuine - Hiring staff that sincerely care about the well-being of their clients will naturally help the authenticity of their messages. If instructors are simply going through the motions because they have to, it’ll show.
Automation/Personalization Balance: Using a technology like FitGrid Pro allows automating messages that look and sound authentic with the flexibility of personalizing them when the situation calls for it.
4. Having a “linear touchpoint timeline” communication strategy will make sure you’re touching base at the right times
Most studios use a variety of technology platforms to communicate with their customers. However, many are over-communicating because there is confusion about which platform is sending each message. For example, the touch points a new client might have with your business include:
- Welcome Email
- Pre-Visit Call/Email
- First Visit Follow-up
- Third Visit Follow-up
- Final Week of Intro Offer Front Desk Check-in
- Last Day of Intro Offer Phone Call Check-in
These common touch points for a new client at your studio have a person, platform or technology to help facilitate delivery, yet few studios set forth a linear touchpoint timeline that assigns each to a person or platform. Failure to outline this process often leads to mixed messaging.
Automation/Personalization Balance: Using a mix of technology, people, automated messages and one-to-one touch points will create the perfect blend of messaging that should help retain clients.
5. Holding clients accountable to their goals is the most fundamental retention strategy of all time
The new client on-boarding process should always include a place to document the goals of your clients. Whether they are aiming to lose weight, increase strength or improve their overall sense of well-being, these should be noted on their account. Then theoretically, holding clients accountable to their goals should influence their behavior
Three popular accountability techniques include:
- Setting Expectations - It’s important to provide clients an understanding of what’s needed from a client in order for them to achieve their physical goals
- Provide Feedback - Let clients know how they are doing early and often with actionable feedback, both positive and negative
Automation/Personalization Balance: Holding clients accountable in a training environment is deeply personalized and relies heavily on frequent interpersonal communication.
Sending automated messages that contain personal content is the ultimate healthy balance between your convenience and your clients’ satisfaction. Finding the perfect middle ground between automation and personalization not only saves time for instructors, but still thoroughly communicates to your clients that you value and appreciate them. Show clients they matter by using FitGrid to thank them for their attendance and effort every session, and keep them coming back for more.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vice President of Client Services at FitGrid. Previously Chief Technology Officer and Marketing Director Bode Yoga, has been recognized as a leading expert in MINDBODY software and is an ambassador at Y7 Studio.
FitGrid is a community management system designed for boutique fitness studios to engage clients on a personal level