Business Strategies

How These Six Studios Engaged Their Communities During COVID-19

Lindsay Mcclelland | June 25, 2020

Keep your clients coming back with these community engagement tips from studio owners

Community is a topic that comes up a lot in the boutique fitness industry, and with good reason: It’s what keeps your clients coming back. However, in a virtual fitness world, social interactions are far more limited. There are no conversations between workouts or in the locker room. Instead, it’s up to you as the owner, along with your instructors, to find other ways to foster a sense of community and connectedness.  

We chatted with six studio owners about how they’ve kept their close-knit fitness communities engaged during COVID-19, and how it’s impacted their client retention and profitability. Here’s what they had to say:

Make client communications more effective 

One of the primary reasons people love boutique fitness is accountability. Having an instructor or workout buddy to keep them honest about their goals and class attendance is probably a big reason your clients joined your studio in the first place. So don’t let them forget about those goals. A great way to do this is by using instructor follow-ups messages to consistently encourage and connect with clients on a personal level. “FitGrid followup emails have been key to keeping our clients engaged,” said Chelsea Mozel, the co-founder of MVP Dance Fit in Kettering, Ohio. “The clients really appreciate them, and they’re so easy to send!”

Help clients create their mini-studio 

Your clients miss the in-studio experience. Sure they’ve learned to use wine bottles and laundry detergent as DIY weights, but by now they’re craving more from live-streaming. A great way to offer that is by renting or selling your equipment. JTW Fit in Harlem found that implementing a rental program allowed them to differentiate themselves from other online class offerings while keeping their clients connected and adding incremental revenue. “Our members were ecstatic and immediately saw the difference in how their bodies responded during sessions,” said Jah Washington, co-owner of JTW Fit. “It started to feel a little more like the in-studio experience they were accustomed to.” And at a cost of $50 per rental, the extra revenue helped JTW  cover nearly a month of rent. 

Give back to the broader community 

There’s no shortage of people and causes that need support right now. A donation class is a great way to re-engage with your clients and attract new ones, and all while doing something positive for the larger community. For example, JTW Fit raised $2,000 to support Harlem Hospital’s essential workers during COVID-19, a cause many of its clients cared about deeply. eTONE fitness opted to host a donation class featuring 15 instructors nationwide that supported the NAACP.  “I started with $100, then all of a sudden it skyrocketed and we were at $2,600,” said eTONE founder Erin Beck. She even caught the attention of Nordstrom, which offered to match the donations totaling her financial impact to $5,200. 

Give personal mods whenever possible

Your competitors are no longer just the studio down the street. In a virtual fitness world, you’re now competing with national and global brands, including tech brands such as Mirror and Peloton. What sets you apart from these players is the simple fact that you know your students.  Jill Dailey, founder of The Dailey Method, suggests that instructors leverage the tools within FitGrid LIVE in order to “use their students’ names, give virtual assists, praise, and support whenever they need it.” By personally challenging your students and offering real-time modifications, your instructors will create personal connections and enhance your students’ overall experience of the class.

Make it about more than just the workouts

Connect with your clients outside of your regular fitness class schedule. Offer virtual workshops or simply get together for an informal happy hour or cooking demonstration. The Light Centre in London, UK has taken this approach, adding workshops including yoga for beginners and children’s story time to appeal to the whole family. These workshops or events give your clients an opportunity to interact while adding a new revenue source to your schedule. 

Find an outdoor space to teach a safe in-person class

Outdoor classes are another great way for clients to take your classes while maintaining social distancing measures (assuming your local regulations permit it). Use your studio’s parking lot or a public space, require clients to bring their own gear, and enjoy sweating together from a safe distance. Crew Barre & Cycling in Haverhill, Mass. has done just that. Using Haverhill Boardwalk as a barre, clients enjoy a great workout and incredible view! By adding outdoor classes to your schedule, you can re-engage clients that you haven’t seen since the pandemic began. And because of the in-person nature, you could consider charging a higher price than you do for virtual classes.

Create some competition among clients

Breakthrough the monotony of quarantine by stoking some healthy competition within your studio. Creating a studio challenge is a great way to motivate clients, increase accountability, and maintain brand loyalty. Erin Beck, founder of eTONE Fitness, an online-only studio that used FitGrid to launch in June, wanted to incentivize members to return to classes so she started a “earn a ticket” challenge with a giveaway.  “Clients earn tickets for taking classes, sharing on social media, and referring friends. It gives them the motivation to come back and gives us content for marketing,” Beck said. 

Your community is your biggest asset, and keeping them close and engaged is essential to success—especially during a crisis.  FitGrid was built specifically to foster community and retain clients—both online and IRL.

To start live-streaming and keep your clients engaged, sign up for a free trial of FitGrid today.


Lindsay McClelland manages social media and influencer marketing for FitGrid. As a self-proclaimed "people person" who loves group fitness classes for the social aspect, she was immediately drawn to FitGrid for its innovation in keeping fitness communities together during a crisis. Her passion for fitness and wellness brands stems from her personal interests as a yoga teacher, competitive marathon runner, and former collegiate swimmer.

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FitGrid is a community management system designed for boutique fitness studios to engage clients on a personal level