Your fitness studio should be a welcoming place. No matter the level of experience, everyone should feel welcome. Beginners often feel nervous and intimidated when stepping into a new fitness space without any prior knowledge. The worst possible experience is a newcomer signing up to your studio only to feel unprepared and unwelcomed at the very first hurdle. This will hit your bottom line as new clients will not come back.
It’s so important to welcome beginners to your studio with open arms and have systematic processes in place to nurture their fitness journey. All this helps to increase retention and create engaged members in your studio community. In this article, we discuss the importance of welcoming new members and 12 ways to bring in new clients and make them stay.
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The Importance of Making Newcomers Feel Welcome
When it comes to welcoming new members, the experience needs to be flawless. Whether someone signed up for an in-person studio class or live stream, people are eager to get started after the initial sign up process. You want to get your new customer acquainted with your facility, services, digital platform, and the bigger fitness community. Here are four reasons why you want to wow your newcomers from the beginning.
Members More Likely to Hit Fitness Goals
A solid onboarding process and welcoming procedure will help to remove the barriers that stand in the way of your members achieving their fitness goals. When a newcomer fully understands your workout methods, what to do in class, and feels comfortable asking any questions, they will have the tools they need to succeed.
One of the best ways to improve your retention rate is by adding value from day one. Health clubs that have a solid onboarding program have a significantly higher member retention rate. As soon as someone new comes into your business, they should feel comfortable and trust that you are an expert in the industry. The first few weeks are the most important in the membership lifecycle. Your welcoming process should take this into account by making frequent contact and delivering exceptional service.
For more insight on retention in the fitness industry, listen to The Fitness Founders Podcast episode on retention now and in the future. Dr. Paul Bedford discusses the fundamentals of a great retention strategy and how to create an engaging customer experience in a virtual setting.
To help you and your members reach their goals, it’s important to set the tone from the beginning. Whether it’s picking the right class or program for new members or setting realistic goals. Whatever your welcoming system is for newbies, it will help create more engaged members who interact with your brand. Better engagement means more motivation and customers who stick around because they love your class and the community you have created.
12 Ways to Welcome New Clients to Your Studio
There’s a lot to think about when welcoming new customers. Is there such a thing as too much welcoming? How often should you communicate online? Put simply, the more your new customers feel at ease, the more likely you are to retain them as members. Welcoming new clients is a multifaceted process. Let’s take a look at 12 ways to turn your new customers into long-term loyal members.
1. Offer Introduction Packages and Fitness Classes
Committing to a new workout routine can be scary, especially for people new to working out. Offer packages and beginner classes that are tailor-made for newcomers. Introduction packages should cover everything customers need to know to start developing a new healthy exercise habit. Make it as easy as possible for new clients to trial your studio and feel comfortable.
For some group fitness classes, new members may need special training. For example, there will be a bigger learning curve in total body workouts like kickboxing, than say indoor cycling.
If your studio requires specific equipment like yoga mats or boxing wraps, consider offering free or discounted equipment in your introductory package. Start adding value from the first day and remove any hurdles or anxiety from entering into a new fitness space.
2. Introductory Tour and One on One Training Session
An introductory tour and one on one training session is a great way to welcome new members and find out more about them. It also gives you the chance to assess their fitness abilities so that you can set realistic goals. If you’re running both in-person and digital personal training sessions, then this stage will look a little different depending on the type of class you’re running.
For digital fitness members, you have the option to deliver a virtual one on one training sessions. After the initial sign up, new customers should receive an automatic email with clear instructions on how to use your digital fitness platform. Whether you’re running purely digital or physical services or a combination of the two, the same steps apply.
3. Have a Clear Onboarding Process
Just because a new customer has signed up to your membership or class, doesn’t mean they will stick around forever. You have to put the work in to make them want to stay and to show them what they will get out of it. Sign-ups are fantastic and important in attracting new members, but really, that’s just the first stage.
A solid and robust onboarding process is a system that takes every new customer through the same journey. Things like a welcome email, one to one training session, facility tour, and regular follow up are all part of the onboarding process. In the first few weeks of a new sign up, it’s your time to go above and beyond to show new members why they should stay.
4. Straightforward Procedures and Rules
Gyms and studios already had rules and procedures in place prior to the pandemic. The coronavirus crisis has created additional guidelines that new members will need to follow. All procedures and rules should be packaged in a simple and easy to understand format.
Procedures include things like when to arrive at group exercise classes, what to wear, and what to expect. New safety guidelines will include points on social distancing, regular handwashing, and COVID-19 guidelines. Make everything very clear so that newcomers know exactly what to expect and know what is expected of them.
5. Host a Community Event
An important part of welcoming beginners to your studio is introducing them to fellow members. Hosting community events aimed primarily at newcomers is a great way to nurture new friendships and invite new customers into your community.
Your space should be welcoming, inviting, and enjoyable. You can host community events both online and offline, depending on the current climate. As guidelines around COVID-19 continue to change, you may need to adjust your events accordingly. Host a healthy potluck, quiz night, or wellness talk for new members to meet.
6. Follow Up After the First Visit
It’s important to check in frequently with new members, but not to bombard them with emails and messages. Make sure to follow up after the first time to see how everything went and if they need any additional support. Personalization is essential as it makes new members feel more special and improves the overall experience.
The Business of Dance Podcast has an interesting episode on how to retain students for longer in your studio. The episode talks about the importance of a welcome nurture sequence, and how to make new students feel well cared for and included in the overall studio community.
7. A Special Welcome for Newcomers
Personal touches tell new members that you appreciate and value their contribution to your studio. It’s also a great way to keep your brand at the top of their mind. Think about how you can do something special to welcome newcomers like sending a personalized postcard just to say thanks for coming.
Making your new members feel appreciated and welcome is a part of the onboarding process as a whole. When new customers feel appreciated and receive a personalized message or gift, it encourages them to come back to your studio.
8. Customized Classes for Beginners
In addition to intro packages and programs for newcomers, it’s a good idea to offer customized classes for beginners. Depending on fitness levels and abilities, some new customers may have little to no fitness experience. This means it will take them longer to develop their fitness and be comfortable in a more intermediate class.
Offer classes for all abilities, so that new customers can go at their own pace. Whether it’s cardio, barre, or HIIT, group fitness classes can be customized accordingly. Being surrounded by members who have been visiting your studio for years can feel overwhelming. You want to create an environment that motivates and inspires, encouraging new members to keep going and get better.
9. Over-Deliver on Value and Experience
You want to blow the socks off your new members. That means over-delivering on both value and experience from the very beginning. There is a lot of competition in the fitness industry. With digital fitness platforms popping up and fitness studios around every corner, you need to go above and beyond for your members.
The Fitness Founders Podcast delves into the topic of member experience even further in its episode on why the member experience is more important than ever. Fitness industry veteran Chris Stevenson talks about how to use data to improve the member experience and how to empower your employees to deliver this experience.
10. Foster a Welcoming and Inclusive Fitness Community
While your equipment, workouts, and facility are important, your community is crucial when attracting beginners. Having a positive, inclusive, and welcoming community can have a massive impact on new members and retention. This is especially important when customers are just getting started and are still a little nervous.
Simple things like encouraging new members to introduce themselves before class to other members or pairing up new clients in class with existing members can be helpfull. Your staff also have a big role to play in creating an inclusive community. It’s important to foster a positive community both online and offline.
11. Provide a Variety of Equipment for All Abilities
Depending on your type of training style and studio, you may use a wide variety of equipment like dumbbells and kettlebells. It’s important that the equipment caters for a range of abilities. By creating a fitness environment that is suitable for different fitness abilities, it gives newcomers the opportunity to learn and grow.
Having a variety of equipment fits in with beginner-level classes and packages. It’s all about creating a welcoming and comfortable environment that gives new members the chance to hit their goals and encourages them to come back again and again.
12. Create a Challenge for Newbies
Fitness challenges are a great way to boost motivation and accountability. They can be especially useful when just starting out to help new members set realistic goals and progress through their own fitness journey. If your studio focuses on Pilates classes or high-intensity interval training, you can adjust the challenge to your specific niche.
Challenges are suitable for both online and offline members. Create challenges suitable for beginner-level fitness. For example, stream or visit 10 classes in one month or perhaps total miles ran in a month. Create a healthy level of competition with other members and offer incentives like bring a friend for free or even a prize for the winner.
The transition from a beginner to a long-term member is an ongoing journey. By creating a fitness space that is welcoming and inclusive, it encourages people to return. From small personal touches to a solid onboarding program, you need to develop a flawless fitness experience that delivers value immediately. Your studio should be an enjoyable place to visit that influences new students to develop a regular exercise habit while increasing your bottom line.