With so many options available and fierce competition out there, it can be tough to fill up your classes every single time. We asked fitness expert Staci Alden, founder of Alden Fitness Solutions, for her thoughts on what fitness business owners can do to attract and retain members.
In today's post, she explores the importance of building a community at your facility and how to find innovative ways to nurture and grow it, so members keep coming back again and again. Read it below!
You’re not alone if your facility is challenged with less frequent private sessions and unpredictable group fitness attendance. Even with the right talent in place, the disruption and adjustments to each season of life affect our current clientele’s schedules and priorities.
Previous strategies to gain new clients are outdated and ineffective. Offering unique, multi-week programs that address your target audience’s specific goal or need builds a loyal community among current clients and providers. Offering quarterly events where new clients are invited by their trusted friends and colleagues exposes new clients to your services and an authentic, non-sales way.
Defining Enrollment Programs
What if we treated enrollment programs as part of our consistent offerings, marketing, retention, and onboarding strategy?
Enrollment programs are paid programs unique to your facility, progress in intensity or complexity, and are only available for a specific time. The pandemic forced us to evaluate the member journey to keep them safe. Now it’s time to re-evaluate the journey and how we offer our programs to keep current members engaged and introduce new members to our offerings, instructors, and participants they will love. Strategic and creative enrollment programs are just what our members and teams need to provide consistency and support.
Improved Client Experience
Enrolling in unique programs provides increased value and the ability to track improvement and build relationships. These paid programs might initially seem like a barrier, but they can act as a healthy means to supplement other paid programs. For example, a client who sees a personal trainer once a week joins the trainer’s enrollment program with a group of like-minded clients. Their consistent visits increase without paying the high-ticket price of more 1:1 sessions. In addition, programs with the right formula of time, type, and talent can reach specific members during different times of their member life. For example, before kids, with kids, after kids, working in the office, working from home, new exerciser, veteran exerciser, etc.
Improved Provider Experience
Client inconsistency leaves trainers and instructors hanging when there is a long stint of low and unpredictable numbers for no apparent reason. As managers, we want to hire a team we believe will be successful and accountable. But we also need to work with them to identify ways to recognize and utilize their strengths and passions. Well-planned and executed enrollment programs offer a form of consistency for everyone and allow your team to create and build something they genuinely care about.
Offering engaging enrollment programs starts with a team, a plan and an innovative leadership team willing to try new things and work directly with providers to play to their strengths. I encourage facilities to get curious about the talent and equipment they could organize, uniquely program, learn from, and evolve.
These programs are some of the secrets I’ve shared previously to rebuild offerings and attendance in your group fitness program. With the right strategy and planning, you can add tremendous value for your existing customers and attract new customers looking for more advanced training and specialized experiences.
Fitness events are fun, entertaining, and special experiences that include a movement experience paired with a unique environment and/or social experience. They can be executed both in-person and online. It’s recommended to capitalize on an event by allowing current clients to invite friends, family, and colleagues to share their favorite sessions and providers in a pressure-free environment.
There are several strategies and timing of events that can not only gain new clients but also introduce current clients to formats and providers they had never met or experienced.
Here are some ideas to get you thinking about the strategic timing and organization of unique events:
New Program Launch Event
Time the event a week or so before a new ongoing class or enrollment program begins. Offer swag and discounts for anyone who signs up for the upcoming class.
Organize either several formats to be taught in a “preview” length of 10-15 minutes so participants get a taste of each. If your facility has multiple studios, then have clients migrate to each space and participate in each class preview in its appropriate studio.
Think ahead to upcoming holidays you can celebrate with clients in a non-denominational way and get curious about trends in pop culture. The event can be as grand as costumes, photo booths, and featured food, or as simple as a themed playlist with some props and games.
If the facility offers additional services with unique providers like massage therapists, dieticians, makeup artists, or hair stylists, then share an event that showcases them along with your fitness providers. You can offer the ability for clients to sign up for a short service during the event or education and discounts on future services.
Events are also an excellent opportunity to work with your team. Ask your team for their ideas or trends they are seeing that could be fun to incorporate into the experiences you offer.
Now let’s explore the enrollment programs that can be timed or marketed during events and how they can be woven into your annual program strategy.
A workshop series consists of three to four weekends of 90 to 120-minute workshops that are related and progressive. Weekends are the best time for these workshops because they are longer, and people tend to have a more flexible schedule on the weekend. Just be sure to look ahead for any holiday weekends or school breaks that might interrupt attendance. Participants register for the series and complete it, or they could attend the first few if needed.
Here are some examples of workshop series enrollment programs to consider offering:
Consider offering a workshop series for the various levels of clients interested in attending standard formats on your schedule, such as a beginner series for participants who are curious but intimidated by dropping into a class or an advanced series for clients looking to progress. Examples are Yoga for Beginners or Advanced Pilates Reformer.
If you’re considering a self-defense or martial arts class, give a workshop series a try to see how many people sign up and complete it. Strategically offering a unique workshop series before committing to having it regularly on the schedule saves you from canceling anything that is unsuccessful and aligns expectations for the instructor teaching it.
Lifestyle and Recovery
Collaborate with other facilities or providers to offer workshops to help people improve their lifestyle, habits, and well-being outside of “fitness.” These workshops include Meditation and Mindset, Foam Rolling and Myofascial Release, or a Diet and Meal Prep workshop series.
Long-form Enrollment Programs
Long-form enrollment programs consist of six to 10 weeks of classes that progress in either intensity or complexity. These classes can be offered multiple times a week during “prime-time” morning, mid-day and evening. As with workshop series programs, it’s essential to look ahead for any holiday weekends or school breaks that might interrupt attendance. In addition, since participants who register for the class are committed to finishing the series, participants build camaraderie and relationships on a deeper level than in a drop-in class.
Here are some examples of long-form enrollment programs to consider offering:
Children, Youth, and Teens
Enrollment programs are a great way to break young clients into specific age groups and keep attendance consistent with this unpredictable population. Examples of formats to offer include dance, swimming, and cross-training to improve power and strength for whatever sport they might compete in.
While working with a personal trainer might be the best way to get specialized attention to accomplish specific goals, many clients need options for accountability and goal setting on a budget. Programs that offer assessments for participants to set clear goals and work toward those goals with supervision in a group setting provide immense value. These classes can comprise unique cardio and strength training combinations while offering fitness tests and bioelectric impedance assessments to recognize progress.
Winter and Summer Conditioning
Whether on land, on the snow or on the water, many clients are curious about what it takes to train and feel more confident when trying a new seasonal sport. Where else to learn more about how to cross-train before hitting the slopes or surfboard than with personal trainers and instructors eager to share their knowledge?
Explore your talent pool to discover who has experience, education, and passion in a certain area and time the enrollment offering to end just before the season begins. These classes include Ski Conditioning, Water Sports Conditioning, Mountain Conditioning, and Running and Cycling Cross-Training.
I recommend working with your team to create and finalize these programs’ and events’ specific names, descriptions, and formulas. We must also recognize the possibilities of how we offer these unique offerings are endless. They can be delivered in person, outdoors, hybrid, and online. We can provide relevant resources like a shared document, monthly newsletter, or chat group to support what is covered in real-time. We can offer à la carte services participants can purchase in addition to that program to enhance their experience and increase their success rate.
The key to building a successful event and enrollment program plan is to create goals and strategies around what you plan to offer this year. Decide how many you want to provide, and how much revenue you want to make. Then, meet with your team and strategize what, when, where, and how you will offer new programs. Evaluate and learn from each session to continue to improve these valuable offerings for the future.
Enjoyed our post? Why not check out Staci's Masterclass session for more ideas here.
Staci is committed to helping fitness managers and club operators elevate their programs, instructors, and leadership. As an experienced consultant and strategic planner for digital and in-person offerings, her clients range from large luxury health clubs and international companies to small studios. She has designed world-class studios on a tight budget, launched signature formats, and built turnkey solutions for enhancing systems, leaders, and talent. Staci is also a master instructor and established presenter, podcaster, writer, and YouTube influencer, regularly interviewing and collaborating with industry thought leaders.