It may be relatively easy to attract new clients to your fitness studio, but the most difficult aspect of the sales cycle is getting clients to come back regularly.
First-time visitors to your studio are a prime opportunity to expand your community, gain insight into the needs and preferences of your client base, and leave a lasting positive impression that will encourage them to return. Though it can be tricky to navigate the ins and outs of welcoming new faces to your studio, your first interactions with them are vital in their decision to come back or not.
Boost your retention rates with these tips for making a new client’s first experience at your fitness studio an excellent one.
Take a Casual Approach
When welcoming new faces to your studio, the goal is to appear laid-back, sincere, and helpful — not pushy or “salesy.” Give first-timers that comforting personal touch that will make them feel more included in a typically intimidating environment. Introduce them to your instructors before class, if possible, and let them know that it is the client’s first time at the studio. Have instructors provide any first-time tips to keep in mind that will make their experience go more smoothly.
Train your front desk staff on proper client onboarding techniques, such as casually explaining your studio’s core values or philosophy, classes offered, and packages available. Give a tour of the studio while chatting, and if possible, offer to allow them to pay after their first class. This allows you to check back in with them after class to see how they liked it, and to introduce them to deals that will encourage them to come back.
At the end of their first session, make the client aware of your package deals, but don’t pressure them to purchase right away, as that can scare them off. Instead, encourage them to come back a couple more times to see how they enjoy the studio, and offer to help them find the right membership plan after that. Facilitating more interactions during a client’s first visit strengthens the sense of community they will feel at your studio and can help increase your retention rates by attracting them back.
Pay Attention to Detail
In the age of technology, it can be easy to get consumed in the ease of automation and forget about the value of face-to-face interactions, but they are often the most important part of anybody’s first visit anywhere! Attention to detail for each individual client is appealing since many first-timers have a preconceived belief that it’s easy to get lost in the crowd during a group workout. Showing them that you truly care and will go out of your way to deliver a great experience from the start, strengthens their trust in you and can foster a strong connection that encourages them to stay.
Ask clients about their background or experience in similar workouts to see if there are any ways to accommodate them based on their expertise. Ask about their fitness goals, without putting them on the spot, so you can provide the best resources and advice to help them succeed! Have instructors give newcomers a special shout out during class to welcome and support them, and advocate for the other students in the class to chime in. Even a simple “Hi, *client’s name*!” can be enough to ease the pressure of their first time in class. It’s the small details like this that really make a first-time visit pleasant and memorable.
Touch Base After Class
When the class ends, casually check back in with the client once they exit the room (don’t chase or smother them!). See how they liked the class, and prompt them for any feedback on their experience. This provides an opportunity to gauge your instructors’ abilities to effectively engage new clients and allows you to receive initial feedback face-to-face instead of (possibly) through a bad online review or an angry email.
FitGrid’s Instructor Feedback Surveys gather quantitative and qualitative data about the client experience at your studio, for an accurate view of each class through the eyes of the clients taking them. Once a month, clients receive a survey regarding their session with each instructor they visited. This gives clients the opportunity to rate their instructors on important skills such as their teaching style and level of engagement, and allows them to give anonymous feedback. Instructors only receive anonymous tips from clients that can help them better engage their classes, and as an owner or manager, you will receive both the feedback and instructor ratings. Ratings allow FitGrid admins to benchmark their instructors and see how their performance relatively compares. Feedback in the form of instructor ratings and personal comments provides a glimpse into your studio’s ability to meet the needs of your members, and encourages instructors to constantly improve through constructive advice.
Integrate Social Media
Social media is a great tool to familiarize new clients with your studio. Recommend them to follow the studio for updates, events, and to get to know the faces they are likely to see around. This translates the community feel from your real-life interactions right to the phone they pull out after class so that the studio is always easily accessible. Whether verbally or through a poster near the sign-in area, promote the studio’s social media handles to everybody at the studio — not just new clients — to strengthen the overall connections clients have that will keep them coming back.
If your studio has a photogenic corner or wall, welcome first-timers to take a photo in front of it after class to celebrate. Urge the class instructor and any other nearby staff to hop in, to promote even more community and introduce the client to the many people that are around to help them out. Make a habit of posting these photos either on your feed or through the stories feature on social media every time, to personally recognize each new face and to keep regular clients or followers engaged. You can even create a new client hashtag to use on your studio’s posts. Every photo opp is a win-win situation: the studio gets more exposure, and the client has official memorabilia of their visit!
Follow Up to Win Back
Touching base after class can make all the difference between a client losing motivation to return, and being eager to attend their next class. Have your instructors reach out to the students that attended their class through personal follow-up messages, to show that their attendance is valued and deliver the personal connection that makes group fitness fun. The FitGrid Pro app allows instructors to send quick, personalized messages to clients in each of their classes with a few clicks — they can even add their social media handles to their message signature to gain exposure! Sending these messages is proven to increase the feeling of community and even boost retention rates. Adding the right personal touch to your client communication (versus automated messaging sent from a generic studio email address) is the perfect way to show appreciation for clients, and gives your studio a competitive edge over others.
Bonus! Get Back in Touch
If a newcomer (or any other client) has not returned for a while, you can use FitGrid’s Win-Back feature to follow up strategically. Win-Backs are messages strategically timed to reach out to clients after a certain amount of time has passed since their last visit to your studio. The FitGrid system determines the best sender for each message, based on the contact person at the studio that each client interacts with the most — such as their most-visited instructor. A promotional deal or offer can be included in Win-Back messages, to entice clients with declining attendance to book their next class or upgrade their membership.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marketing Intern at FitGrid, Strategic Communication & Marketing student at Rowan University.
FitGrid is a community management system designed for boutique fitness studios to engage clients on a personal level