We’ve all been there at one point as a fitness entrepreneur.
You know the feeling.
When you spend weeks putting together the perfect class – mulling over the best exercise selection, curating the ideal playlist and rehearsing it as many times as humanly possible.
When showtime rolls around, you throw your best gear on, get yourself in the zone, rock up to the venue feeling like a superstar and then…
Only. One. Person. Shows.
Whether you’re just starting out on your fitness journey or a seasoned vet, class attendance can be the difference between success and disaster for your business.
In this article, we will cover the following:
So if you’re ready to put an end to low-turn outs and max out your classes, let’s dive in!
1. Build a Loyal Tribe
“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” ― Seth Godin
From professional sports teams to political parties, humans have an innate need to feel like we belong to a larger social group.
Social psychologist Abraham Maslow identified this trait as ‘belonginess’ in his hierarchy of human needs and he stressed that belongingness is a powerful motivator of our behavior.
In other words, we strongly gravitate towards groups where we feel acceptance.
How Do You Build a Loyal Tribe?
As fitness entrepreneurs, we can leverage the need for belonging by morphing our clients into an irrationally passionate tribe of class-attendees. No, you won’t have to break out the face paint or have your them swear an oath of allegiance to your company. The solution is much easier than that:
Create a common goal: Creating a goal that everyone can work towards is an excellent way of developing group cohesion and strengthening the bonds between your clients. It might be that you need to reach a total workload in each session or lose a collective amount of weight over the next four weeks. Whatever the goal is, make sure that your clients can see their contribution in measurable terms. When everybody can see the larger picture and knows how to play his or her part, you’ll keep people engaged and working with each other.
Encourage peer-to-peer support: Building a space where your clients can support and encourage each other will also help foster the strength of your tribe. Make a space where members share stories of common struggles and where you can provide tips and tricks to help solve these issues. One of the best ways to do this is by setting a private Facebook or Whatsapp group for your members
Call your clients by name: “Names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language” is one of the most widely cited nuggets of wisdom from Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People. And for a good reason too: It’s 100% true. Modern research backs up Carnegie’s 93-year-old advice; our brains light-up with pleasure neurons whenever we hear our name being called.
Knowing and using your client’s names creates a humanizing bond between them and your business. It seems like a small detail – but it’ll make a serious impact in building your tribe and ensuring a regular crop of dedicated attendees turn up for your classes.
2. Incentivize Turn-Out
When you think about it, so much of what we do is motivated by incentives and sometimes all we need to reach our goals is a reward waiting for us at the finish line. Adding incentives for your clients to show-up can be a powerful tactic to increase class numbers. But it’s important to understand which incentives work best for your audience.
Think hard about what matters most to your client’s – Purely financial incentives can be effective, but incentives that are personal and relevant will always deliver the greatest results. Hosting incentivized challenges is a great way to tap into your clientele’s competitive nature and pump-up your attendance figures. Consider holding challenges such as
- Monthly PR challenges (biggest % improvement wins)
- Weekly calories burned (Top 3 participants get free gear)
- Highest Attendance (trains for half price the next month)
- Team-based challenges (Group A vs Group B most collective weight loss)
Keep your participants accountable during challenges by providing updates via email or social media. Alternatively, track progress on an old-fashioned chalkboard in your studio. Remember that nobody wants to look like a slacker to the rest of the group!
Whatever challenge you decide on, include a reward for the best participants. A competitive(but friendly!) environment can provide a solid motivational push to increase attendance. So get creative with a few competitions, hold your participants accountable, offer a reward and watch your class numbers start to climb.
3. Partner Up Locally
Joining forces with other local entrepreneurs is a fantastic way to add value for your members. The added advantage is that it opens you up to a pool of prospective clients. The key to a complimentary business relationship is that both your customers and your partners should stand to gain from the venture.
Make a list of local businesses in your area to work with that can drive simultaneous growth.
Some examples could be:
- A monthly calisthenics & coffee tasting morning at a local café
- A 20% membership discount at a local vegetarian restaurant
- A once-off vinyasa & vino evening at a local wine shop
- A special price on supplements at a local health shop
Get creative and see what interesting deals you can come up with to enhance the attractiveness of your current offering. The results will be more prospects, more clients and fuller classes.
4. Run a Free Trial
Prospective clients can often have reservations about signing up to classes. Maybe they don’t know if they’ll like your teaching style. Or perhaps they’re worried it will be too hard for them.
Whatever their concerns, joining-up means they’re risking their hard-earned cash on something they think they may not get any value from. So, remove as much risk as possible with a free trial.
How to Hold a Super-Charged Free Trail
Sure a free try-out lets folks get a feel for your classes and may convert a few new customers. But to turbo-charge your free trial results and max out your classes capacity, it’s important to focus on what happens after the class has ended. Nurturing people who attended a free class with e-mail or SMS marketing will take your client acquisition game to the next level.
Use a marketing platform like Mailchimp to set up a follow-up email sequence that is sent out to prospects as soon as you add them to your list. Over the course of 5-7 e-mails focus on providing your prospects with value-based content, as well as addressing any reservations that they might have about joining. In the final e-mail, include a special discount to join as a full member for your red-hot prospects.
The best part about this tactic is that once you’ve collected e-mails, all you gave to do is sit back and let the automation do the heavy lifting. Additionally, you can use your email list to promote any future offers to a bigger audience for free. You can even leverage your current client base’s network by offering them a chance to bring a friend along to a class free of charge. Maybe even consider incentivizing referrals by offering clients a discount if their referral becomes a customer.
The social proof provided by the referral combined with your e-mail sequence will have your classes bursting with new-sign ups in no time. You can find out more about using email in our blog on The Anatomy of A Gym Email.
5. Ask for Member Feedback
“The first step in exceeding your customer’s expectations is to know those expectations.” – Roy H. Williams
Sometimes simple solutions can yield the best results. From scheduling to program design, the solutions that’ll have the biggest impact on your bottom line can often be discovered by simply asking our current client’s what’s working for them, and what’s not.
You can use a tool like SurveyMonkey to put together a simple feedback form. It will let your client’s share what they like and what they don’t like about your classes.
You might discover that
- 43% of attendees would like more variation
- 17% are dissatisfied with the attention they get
- 39% would attend more frequently if classes were available at certain times
- 63% would like a Saturday morning stretching session
Discovering the pros and cons of your current offering allows you to focus your efforts on what members want and remove any aspects that they don’t enjoy.
6. Go Corporate
Savvy business owners have known for some time that a healthy workforce is a more productive workforce. Because of this, many corporations and small to medium-sized business are now looking to offer employees a wellness program as part of their salary package.
This is great news for us in the fitness business because tapping into the world of corporate health is a super way to get a steady stream of clients and income for your business.
Approach business in your area and propose a business partnership. It could be a one-off day event where you run a workshop in their offices, a custom-designed office fitness challenge or a more long-term arrangement.
Business to business contracts are typically more lucrative than getting paid by individual customers and the best part is that you’ll only have to close one deal to get paid the same amount as selling multiple memberships.
So, whip out your local business directory, slap together a corporate wellness proposal and get those quieter day classes full in no time. Check on our article on starting a corporate wellness program for more information.
7. Consider Paid Ads
More and more consumers are beginning their search for a fitness class online. Facebook ads allow you to target specific users in your area who are interested in specific types of fitness. It also allows you to retarget those who have visited your site with the Facebook Pixel. With Google Ads, you’ll be able to capture the attention of people actively seeking classes in your area.
Learning how to run paid ads on Google, Facebook and Instagram is a steep learning curve – but there are resources that you can take advantage of to shorten the process. Check out Facebook’s free Blueprint course which will take you from zero experience to being able to run and analyze effective campaigns on their platform. Then delve into Google’s Digital Garage to get the low-down on how to run profitable search ads as well as a bunch of other helpful digital marketing content.
With a little elbow grease, paid traffic can be an incredibly reliable way to acquire new sign-ups and leads that will fill up your classes, year after year after year.
So, there you have it, 7 killer tactics that can boost class attendance.
While each of the tactics is useful, it’s important to remember that it’s almost certainly counter-productive to implement them all at once. Trying to do so usually results in sub-optimal results, copious amounts of running around like a headless chicken and enough stress to make your head explode.
So, the best approach is to choose one method that resonates with you and go all-in on it. Give it a chance to take hold with your clients and prospects. If it’s not producing classes teeming with happy clients after a few weeks, then consider adding another method into the mix. Through trial and error over a few months, you’ll enjoy the benefits of more members, fuller classes and a gloriously upwards trending profit graph.
Just one final note – It’s important to remember also that your class size doesn’t equal your worth a fitness professional. Fluctuations in attendance are totally normal and there are many factors that can impact the number of people turning up at a given time. So, don’t let it get to you if you’re struggling with attendance right now.
Re-read the steps outlined above, pick the one that makes the most sense and take action right away.
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