For months now, fitness studio owners have been asking themselves this question: “Should I be promoting my ‘virtual’ fitness business during this moment of economic turmoil, and if so, how can I do so strategically?”
My response to that question is another question: Are you willing to lose everything by NOT marketing right now?
I don’t say this to scare you or push you into marketing, but to emphasize a point about this moment we’re living through. The landscape of the boutique fitness industry is changing dramatically. In fact, you probably have already pivoted your in-studio classes to a virtual format using platforms like FitGrid to host interactive live-stream sessions, streaming your workouts on Instagram Live, or uploading workout videos to your studio’s Facebook group. Shouldn’t you pivot your marketing strategy to reflect that?
Acquiring new customers has never been so cheap
I’m not suggesting that small businesses should start investing tons of money in marketing and advertising right now. No one is doing this, nor should they.
Yet there is an opportunity to acquire customers today for your studio more cheaply and easily than ever. At my company Loud Rumor, many of the fitness studios we work with are currently seeing sub-$5 costs per lead. That’s incredibly low—and the leads are valuable, too. In fact, the top 5 percent of fitness studios we work with have now increased their marketing budget, because they’re able to get more paying members online than they ever could have in-person.
There’s no such thing as “capacity” when you’re running live, at-home, virtual workouts with extremely low overhead costs (assuming you worked out a deal with your landlord, and I hope you did!). Now that you are able to have clients anywhere with the link to your class join, you have the ability to bring in revenue in different ways. Classes that were once limited to 15-20 participants because of physical space in the studio are now engaging hundreds of participants per class via live-streaming!
Some of Loud Rumor’s top-performing studios are generating more revenue now than they did when their studio was open before COVID-19 hit. That’s how much potential there is for your studio.
The 5-Mile “Target Audience” Radius Is Gone
For those studios who have gone virtual: The world is your oyster. With your studio’s services transitioned into a virtual format, you are no longer confined to marketing within a 5-mile radius; customers ANYWHERE with internet access can subscribe to your services from home.
So if you run a virtual fitness studio out of Chicago, like LadyStrong Fitness, you can acquire paying members in Phoenix like my wife—true story. In fact, my wife does more LadyStrong Fitness at-home workouts than she ever did in a studio. In fact, she loves these workouts so much that she bought a membership even though the location is nearly two thousand miles from her home.
So, not only is it more affordable than ever for virtual fitness studios to level-up their marketing, but virtual fitness studios have their largest available audience to generate more leads than they ever thought possible.
Your Fitness Clients Aren’t Just Customers, They’re a Community
As zingfit put it, “the people who choose to workout at boutique fitness studios are not just gym-goers, they are members of a tribe.” FitGrid has said it before, too: “Once a client has chosen your studio, the connections to others are what keeps them around. Community plays a huge role in whether or not clients choose to return, particularly in the boutique fitness industry.”
Pre-COVID, the best clients were the ones who showed up to class every time, worked hard, and bonded with the staff and other clients at your studio. NBC News cited multiple studies that prove that people who worked out with friends were more likely to remain motivated and committed to their workout routine.
Now, in the time of COVID-19, people are searching for positive outlets to blow off steam and cope with stress, and your fitness business is the perfect solution. They’re looking for companionship and motivation to work out rather than lounge on the couch all day.
Engage your clients and encourage real-time interactions that will strengthen their bonds with others and with your instructors. Encourage them during class, be active on social media, and solicit client feedback constantly to improve the virtual experience.
Make each person in your virtual fitness classes feel included, valued, and inspired, one part of a large team. Using tools like FitGrid Pro follow-up messages jumpstarts community engagement and shows each client their value at the studio. Have instructors reach out to students after each session with a personal message, complimenting a job well done and asking what type of classes they’d like to see in the future, or even what music they’d love to hear during class.
Strengthen Your Brand and Promote Positive Reviews
Sometimes all it takes for a positive review is to ask for one! Approach your community to help you in your time of need — loyal clients will want to help your business survive the pandemic! Consider sending out an e-blast with a link, host a live-stream or class where you show them where they can easily leave a review, or reach out to your clientele directly and ask for a review.
A good place to start would be asking that they say something about how you’re handling the crisis like a pro. You can even thank them for writing a review by offering a discount promotion, personal message, or other small perks. You’d be surprised by how this little push will encourage members of your community to help.
Then, share positive reviews as testimonials on your social media feeds, in email newsletters, and on your website to strengthen your studio reputation and showcase your fitness community. Dedicated clients really are your biggest cheerleaders, and can help your business overcome challenges in a time like this.
Take advantage of the community feeling that will retain your virtual clients throughout this pandemic, and could even earn you new clients once your studio reopens.
There Are Those Who “Wait It Out,” And Those Who “Figure It Out”
Are you waiting until things get back to normal? Are you clinging to whatever you have in savings and whatever you’re getting from current members, just hoping to get by? Are you counting on the Paycheck Protection Program to tide you over?
As a business owner (and I personally learned this the hard way), this is the absolute wrong mindset to have right now. Don’t be someone content with “waiting it out.”
Instead, accept that this might actually be the new normal. A lot of people are going to continue social distancing even when you are ready to reopen because they’re not comfortable sweating in a studio in close proximity to a bunch of strangers.
So what do you need to do to be successful if social distancing goes on until August 2022?
The measures you take to retain a sense of normalcy for your fitness studio will keep you afloat and ensure your success. So start focusing on solutions:
- Solutions help people get in shape when they’re stuck at home.
- Solutions keep your trainers and staff employed during an economic crisis.
- Solutions put a roof over your head and food in your family’s bellies.
- Solutions make you a “figure it out” type of fitness studio owner.
So the REAL question is: “Am I willing to lose everything by not marketing during COVID-19?”
Don’t just sit around and hope your studio will survive. Marketing your studio is the only way to keep revenue flowing and engage new leads, and it makes more sense to focus on your fitness studio’s marketing efforts now than ever before.
And if you haven’t yet made the switch to a virtual format, it’s not too late! Our Loud Rumor course, backed by Yahoo Finance, is a step-by-step guide to converting your fitness studio into an online one to save your business. You’ll learn how to retain your current members, generate more leads to join your virtual studio and convert them to paying members, switch your virtual members back to regulars after your studio reopens, and more.
This process may sound intimidating, but Loud Rumor and FitGrid are here to make saving your business simple and straightforward. It’s up to you to decide what type of studio owner you are going to be. There’s a world of opportunities — and possible new leads — waiting to find out.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Arce is the Founder & CEO of Loud Rumor, the #1 marketing and advertising agency for fitness studios worldwide and host of The GSD Show where he interviews the biggest names in the fitness industry to help studio owners grow and scale their businesses. Mike is also the host and creator of GSDCON, an annual fitness business conference where thousands of studio owners and their employees learn everything necessary to radically grow their fitness businesses.
FitGrid is a community management system designed for boutique fitness studios to engage clients on a personal level