Editor’s note: We often get asked by fitness professionals about ways to keep clients coming through the doors. Here’s a great article by consultant Dana Auriemma from 2015 with some tips on client retention.
Exercise is a fickle business. It requires a lot of work and a serious commitment of time and energy. It’s humbling and it often hurts. So it’s no surprise that when life gets busy and money gets tight, clients fall away. But as fitness professionals, it’s our job to help them stay the course. To make the experience so fun, inspiring and irresistible that clients are willing to keep making personal sacrifices to come.
Now, clients won’t stay with you forever just for the workouts. To keep them happy and loyal, your workouts have to become part of their lives and offer physical, mental and emotional benefits. Then they won’t ever want to let you go!
So here are 5 easy things you can do this month to improve client retention by offering benefits &emdash; physical, mental and emotional.
1. Start with a continuing education refresh.
Instructors get stale, workouts get stale and clients feel stale. Continuing education gives us fresh new ideas and better workouts. Absolutely every single time an instructor comes back from a workshop, they teach better and I hear their clients rave about their classes. RAVE. There are tons of great continuing ed options out there for every budget so let’s face it, there is no excuse. Big conferences and workshops are great, but you can also go take classes from other facilities, watch videos online, buy DVDs or even partner up with other instructors and trade workout ideas. The best creative inspiration can even come from other methods of exercise. Challenge yourself to think about how a yoga, barre or spin class could inspire a Pilates workout with different cues, tone, style or flow.
2. Offer a brand new type of class or workshop.
Variety is the spice of life and fitness. It’s good for your body and for your brain. New programs, themes, styles and exercises shake-up students and challenge them to improve in new ways. You can dive deep into specific topics or techniques and get your creative teaching skills flowing. And the perfect way to test out something new is with a workshop. Try at least one a month depending on your studio size and test different themes, styles or body parts each time. And the added bonus is that it will bring you incremental revenue, as students love to try special workshops in addition to their regular class schedule. (Note: Make sure the new class or workshop looks and feels noticeably different from your regular classes.)
3. Show a special gesture of appreciation.
Your relationship with your clients is like your relationship with a partner or spouse. They know that you love and appreciate them…but they still want to hear it on a regular basis. And so do your clients! Better yet, they want you to show it. It’s easy to forget that clients make sacrifices to come exercise at your studio. They get babysitters, leave work early, budget their money and so much more. So it works wonders if they see you occasionally making a sacrifice to show your appreciation. Offer a small token gift, complimentary class, special giveaway, anything you can think of! Give a little something back to them. Just be sure it doesn’t look cheap or stingy. I don’t recommend arbitrary discounts or anything so small or cheap it doesn’t signify any value.
4. Remind them why they come.
I’m not talking about reciting a boring list of physical benefits. It’s about connecting with their ego, pride, confidence, personality, goals and emotions. The thing with fitness and exercise is that it comes with a lot of baggage. Everyone has an exercise ‘story’ and secret wishes or insecurities about their health, physical abilities and appearance. We are driven to exercise for a lot of complicated reasons. So don’t get stuck just talking to clients about “strength, flexibility or burning calories.” Talk to them about how awesome they are for taking action every week to be their best self! Tell them that they rock (and yeah, they should feel a little superior) for coming to class in the rain, early in the morning, on a holiday weekend, etc. They should feel proud of exercising, confident about their health and appearance, happy for taking care of themselves and working towards their goals, etc. Say these things after class, on bulletin boards, on Facebook, over the phone and even in handwritten notes. Help your clients feel good about themselves!
5. Get feedback. Get feedback. Get feedback.
I once had a client compliment me for doing client surveys. She appreciated that I wanted to know how she felt. I looked at her and said “Oh my gosh, I’d much rather know now if there is something you don’t like than realize it after you’ve left the studio!” So go get feedback. Anonymous surveys are vital. I would recommend once a year. Also make it a habit to regularly ask your clients for feedback one-on-one. And not an insincere sounding “how’s it goin?!” You should always be having good conversation moments with your clients…so take advantage of those moments by asking a few specific sincere questions “How are you liking your new [fill in the blank] class? What do you think of it?” And of course, thank them for their feedback and take steps to resolve any issues. No go work-it-out! Take action on these 5 steps this month and then look forward to seeing your clients’ faces on a regular basis for a long time!