CONTENT BROUGHT TO YOU BY: FitRewards
Small studio operators have perfected five successful concepts that club owners and operators can learn from and implement in their own businesses. If you have not already experienced a niche group-training studio—including those that offer yoga, Crossfit, TRX or cycling—move within just a few short blocks or miles from your club. It is just a matter of time before one or two will arrive in your neighborhood.
It is great that we are all working toward a bigger cause; however, you need to recognize that the small studio club model is competition, with the potential to eat away at your club's market share. Staying informed and educating yourself is the first step in overcoming any challenges. Here are some things to be aware of and strategies to prevent or deal with the risk of losing members and keeping a better hold on your market share.
1. Evaluate your business model. Before anything else, take time to assess your business model. Unlike the smaller, independent clubs, large national fitness center chains are more resistant to competition. However, the one advantage independent operators have is the ability to change their club's identity and offerings quickly. Make a list of your competitors' offerings and unique selling points. Sit down and evaluate your market position. Compare your unique selling points to your closest competition in your market share. What can you do better, first, different and be the only to offer? What is your cost of service and sale, and how do you need to adjust to thrive? Do not forget to give your own business a test run by secret shopping yourself.
2. Understand the sales process. Consider the things that make studios attractive. They do not market price, and they do not market membership. They market low-risk trials and programs that deliver results. Therefore, ask yourself, which of these consumer-attracting strategies should our organization consider and what are the possible outcomes that can occur if we implement them? Most studios have a lax to non-existent sales system. What sales systems do you have in place? You must know your competition, all its strengths and all its weaknesses. Viewing their website and social media channels is not enough. Become an expert on how, and what, your competitor sells and markets. Take secret shopping one step further. Go, join and immerse yourself in their offerings.
3. Excel in specialized programs. Niche or boutique fitness studios specialize in a certain area of fitness, so the exercises are usually more effective and efficient. These instructors are specifically trained to teach a certain fitness method and are usually very educated in the science behind the exercise. Most consumers are attracted to studios because they know they are going to get expert instruction, the most out of their hour and results. Attracting talent and keeping them highly educated is a key differentiator and competitive factor. Owners and managers need to establish and continue to hold continuing education for their staff. Consider having alignment agreements in place to protect yourself from investing in an instructor's education and then having them teach for your competition. Most well-designed clubs invest three percent of revenue into staff education. Promote your results-driven programs by using your own success stories.
4. Create a community. Because studios have smaller class sizes and fewer members than a larger gym, studios have a community-like atmosphere. It is nice to see the same members every time you go to class. The members care about one another and often act as a motivation and support system. Sometimes, studios set up special challenges, such as attending a certain amount of classes per week or sending food journals to friends, as a way to keep their members motivated. This really helps the members to bond and care about each other.
Ask yourself what you are doing to be personal and develop a sense of community. Are you creating Facebook groups and special niche events? Does everyone in your class know everyone else's names? A great technique you may want to have your instructors incorporate is introducing new students and pairing them with a mentor student. How you communicate with your members affects the longevity that member stays with you.
5. Celebrating members creates loyal members. Because boutique studios are so intimate, celebrating members is a natural process of the atmosphere and culture. Bigger health and fitness businesses struggle with creating intimacy. A great way to accomplish this is by celebrating members’ successes and holding ongoing member events that recognize them. Reward and loyalty programs are a great source for providing consistent solutions to engage and communicate with members. You should always be thinking of ways to reward and recognize your members.
Like with any business strategy, overcoming the obstacles and finding a way to stand out in the crowd will be key to your success. If you have the tools to position yourself in the marketplace as a strong competitor, selling your strengths and the potential for members, you will ultimately have success. Although it may feel that this boutique studio model is driving the current trends for the health and fitness industry, as owners and operators, you can learn from what they are doing right to ensure the growth of your own club.
Maria Parrella Turco is a fitness industry expert, consultant and entrepreneur. She has assisted hundreds of centers in the aspects of conception, business plan development, finance, facility development, management and staff training. She is a seasoned turnaround specialist. She is the owner of more than 10 studios and health clubs ranging from $10 to $100 per month, including the Honor Yoga brand. She is also the co-founder and CEO of FitRewards. FitRewards develops affordable customized loyalty programs for fitness centers, studios and fitness professionals who are looking to gain more loyalty with their members and clients.