The fitness industry has taken a big hit during the last several months.

Like many studio owners, you might be wondering how to keep your studio thriving during this difficult moment in history.

The first step, studio owners, is to keep the clients you have. Retention is of the utmost importance right now.

We’ve got a lot of thoughts on how to retain your members and keep them engaged. (And we’ve even got some advice on how to grow your fitness studio business during the pandemic!) 

Let’s start with retention.

A 3-Pronged Attack for Retention

Client retention is always important—but right now it’s everything. Here’s how you can attack this vital component of your fitness studio business: 

  1. Become an equipment rental company. If you’ve got equipment just sitting around, rent it out to your members. It’s a great way to keep clients paying for a full-price membership. (Just make sure you offer at-home programming to compliment the equipment rental—otherwise your price and offering won’t align.) 

2. Create a digital platform. If you haven’t already, it’s time to go online with your workouts. And this isn’t just a strategy to get you through COVID, but a long-term plan to keep your fitness studio business competitive in a virtual world.  

Create live and pre-recorded workouts for your members. Then upload them to your studio’s YouTube channel so your members can access all of the archived workouts. (Oh—you don’t have a YouTube channel for your studio? Whatcha waiting for!)

Remember: Your brick and mortar fitness studio business isn’t necessarily being replaced by a digital platform—you’re simply elevating your product by creating a valuable add-on service. (And who knows? Maybe your virtual platform will become so successful, you won’t even need/want the in-person service!)

3. Double down on community. It’s difficult to maintain an engaged community when you go digital. This is a time to get creative. Find ways to keep the pulse of your community going strong. Any idea that enhances member-to-member connection is worth exploring. (For example: Host a digital event where your members can all do a workout “together.” Or send out special t-shirts to all of your paying members to promote solidarity.)

6 Ideas for Retention

Here are six tactics you can test right now that can help you retain your current clients:

  1. Highlight your member’s success. If your fitness studio business is small, there’s no reason you can’t give a few shout-outs per day to acknowledge the members that are working hard: “Shout out to Mike for hitting up his 10th class in a row today! Amazing!”
  2. Invite members to film with you. When appropriate, invite one or two of your clients to film a live or pre-recorded workout. They’ll love to be in the background of the video, and your other members will adore seeing their fellow studio mates on screen!
  3. Perform weekly check-ins. Schedule Zoom calls with each of your paying members every week. See how they’re doing. Get feedback about the workouts. It’s so valuable to see your members face-to-face.
  4. Partner with other local fitness businesses. Most brick and mortar fitness businesses are struggling right now. Partner with another studio and help one another. Your studio can offer their members your program, and their studio can offer your members their program. Win-win!
  5. Track member attendance. ust because you’re online doesn’t mean you shouldn’t track attendance. Make sure you know exactly how many members are taking your virtual classes, and check in with those members who have missed class for a week or more.
  6. Ask for feedback. After a virtual workout, call one of the members who just took the class and ask them for their feedback. Find out how the workout was, and what you could do to improve the experience. This is an opportunity to be vulnerable with your members. Share your struggles (without whining) with them about going from in-person to online coaching. They’ll appreciate the authenticity, and you’ll probably get really valuable feedback. (Side note: Make sure you’re actually taking the workouts you’re producing. It’s the easiest way to spot flaws and fix production issues.)

4 Ways to Grow Your Fitness Studio Business During a Pandemic

Client retention is your first objective. But once you’ve got a handle on retention (and you’ve got a retention rate of approximately 95% or higher), it’s time to address growth. And yes—you can grow your fitness business during this time if you’re creative and gritty enough to make it happen

At least 30 people should try out your studio every month. If you’re nowhere near that number, here are some strategies and tactics to initiate:

  1. Try organic marketing campaigns. Organic marketing is hugely important for boutique-style fitness studio businesses. It’s inexpensive and effective—two words every studio owner loves to hear. Partner with your local coffee shops, breweries, and your city’s Lululemon. Host outdoor, socially-distanced workouts at those local businesses. Spread the word about how great your studio is.
  2. Initiate reactivation campaigns. Reach out to all of your prospects (former members, folks who tried a class a few months ago but never signed up, people who subscribed to your blog but aren’t active members, etc.) and offer them something enticing. People who have shown interest in your service in the past are prime candidates. Get them back to your studio.
  3. Get very active on social media. Create three unique posts on Facebook and Instagram daily. Make sure they all have clear calls to action.
  4. Create a referral program. Incentivize your members to bring along their friends and family. (Side note: A referral program doesn’t need to be complicated. You can, for example, do a monthly “Plus One” event where your members get to invite one of their friends to a class without a drop-in fee. Keep it simple.)

4 Ideas to Get You Through Q4

The 4th quarter is always tough on fitness businesses. Here’s how you can successfully make it through the holiday season:

  1. Sell e-gift cards to your members. Create e-gift cards that are priced at 50% off your membership. Sell them to your current members so they can gift them to their friends and family.
  2. Initiate a “check-in campaign.” During the holiday season, ask your members to check in to your studio on Facebook and Instagram. If they do it, they’ll get entered into a drawing for a chance to win something awesome. Check-in campaigns are a fantastic way to organically get the word out about your studio.
  3. Go after the folks who still want in-person training. Remember: You’re not going to change the minds of the people who’ve decided that they’re not comfortable working out in a brick and mortar studio. Speak to the people out there who still want in-person training. Try an ad with copy that hits their pain point: “Hey! Are you tired of half-assing your app workouts? Are you frustrated that you’re not getting good results from your at-home training? We’ve got an amazing group of individuals, incredible instructors, and awesome workouts that are ready and waiting for you. We’d love to show you that fitness can (and should!) be fun.”
  4. Start planning for 2021. Now’s the time to plan (and even start) your growth strategies for 2021. How are you going to grow your business next year? Don’t wait until January to start thinking about growth—it’ll be too late.

This is a tough time.

And we’ve still got some major hurdles to jump over.

But with creativity, vulnerability, and a willingness to pivot, your studio can survive and thrive despite the difficulties we face.

Cheers to retention and growth!

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