A year ago I opened a 30 minute personal training studio and business is booming. We were cash flow positive the first week we opened our doors. And in less than a year we needed to expand the space. So we added a second floor to the studio, but now the challenge is how to double our existing clientele base of 200 members to 400 members. I know this will take some new techniques and I would love some expert advice on this area. Thanks - Jesse
Make sure your long term strategy is tied into your short terms tactics.
Tactic - method or technique to achieve a immediate short term gain, run ads, sales calls etc.
Strategy- A carefully defined detailed plan to achieve a long term goal. The overall position you would like to achieve.
So not knowing your long term strategy.. I would venture to focus on having your core customers drive that growth.
Referral programs for existing members to recruit new members get discounts / months off etc. (Think Dropbox)
Run a contest based around your current members that would naturally invite them to share that experience.
This article by Ben Chestnut founder of Mailchimp really embraces the strategy of laser focusing in on current customers.
Your situation is unique and I don't know all the details, so I'll give you some basic strategies that have worked for other businesses like yours.
- Optimize what works. You've been doing something right to get to 200 members already. Write down and analyze your existing sales systems, plug the leaks, and dial up the things that are working.
- Create referral systems. Incentivize your existing clients to refer their friends, and reward them (with free training sessions, nutritional supplements, gift certificates for a juice bar, etc.) for bringing you new clients.
- Partnerships / joint-ventures: What do your existing clients (or the kind of clients you want to attract) have in common? What other businesses do they patronize? Can you partner with those businesses to get them to refer people to you?
For example, I've lived in several apartment communities that had on-site gyms. The building, in partnership with a local personal trainer, offered a free training session to every new resident.
- Market education: Offer free online or in-person seminars on exercise, nutrition, fat loss, muscle gain, healthy living, whatever your clients are really interested in. Teach people something they didn't know, and position yourself / your company as experts. You can do these for free, or even charge for them. At the end, make a special offer to the attendees to sign up for training.
- Public relations: Do a free "boot camp" series in a local public park. Get the word out in local publications and online.
- Advertising: Build a landing page optimized to get visitors to sign up for training/consultation/free education. Run banner ads or AdWords targeted at your local market and drive traffic to that page.
- SEO / social media: Publish content online that's interesting to people in your market. Use it to drive traffic to specific offers that get people into your sales funnel.
I'm going to do a sales optimization case study soon ... get in touch and I'll be happy to get some more details about your particular business and talk about all this with you in more depth.
Incentivize your current members to bring in new ones. Pay them for referrals. It's the best way to have happy members bring in qualified leads.
Also, leverage your current membership by having them articulate their experience. Have them write testimonials, do short video interviews (can be done with just an iPhone!), and take pictures to share on any social channel you have.
I always tell founders to take what's working, what's great, and "unwrap" it for the world. That means to have your "users" document the things they enjoy for you. Have a photo contest. Throw an appreciation event. Run a twitter #hashtag promotion that encourages members to tweet about you.
All in the interest of leverage THEIR social influence and personal networks to spread awareness. Referral and social proof acquisition is cheaper than all the other alternatives.
Jesse, congratulations on your tremendous success in the first year!
Before you start designing your growth strategy, I recommend that you analyze first your current situation and figure out what is the reason for your tremendous success. Then, survey your current clients, figure out the attrition rate, their satisfaction levels, needs, why they like to be in your fitness studio, etc. For example, industry average attrition rate is 3.25%/month or 39%/year! That's a lot. What's your attrition rate? I hope it's lower. On the other hand, with an expansion and membership growth, you have to ask yourself will you be able to have enough high quality trainers in the studio to keep the clients happy and offer them personalized training and attention.
I am currently working on a project that deals with this exact topic and I have a number of valuable data points that are relevant for your industry. Healthy living trend is definitely your friend, but desire to be make healthier choices in life didn't translate into more physical activity or increase in fitness club membership. In fact, fitness club membership has peaked in 2012, so the challenge is how to attract a mainstream person to get off the couch and come to your studio because that's the demographic segment that can provide the highest growth. On the other hand, if you are targeting elite fitness enthusiasts, ask yourself if there are 400 of them in your area.
Here's another valuable data point: people that talk about fitness clubs and classes on social media use one specific channel 70% of the time. So, knowing which channel to use, you can have your staff focus only on that social media channel and ignore the rest.
it's really hard to give a specific advise without knowing your specific situation and location. Feel free to call any time if you need specific advise and I can tell you where to focus your social media activity that gets the most chatter -- 70%.