This question was submitted to me by an excellent technology marketer and over all very smart woman. She is trying to help a local business that she really likes and wants to see it do well.
The question again is: What should a new, local fitness studio do to recruit clients?
Well, here is my humble answer to this VERY smart friend:
Your fitness business owner needs to assess the market - which sucks now, right? Then, assess her potential clients within this rotten market - that would most likely be a very high end client who is not affected by the recession (oh-- I forgot -- I heard on the news that the recession was over--oops :P), a fitness or health oriented person who is looking to have a regime that they can afford, a retirement aged (AARP) segment that has the time to come to classes during the day and some discretionery income and health needs or a niche market of narcissists who would sell there child before they gave up anything that made them feel and look better! In other words, what was her business model when opening a business in this climate? Did she even have one or did she just decide to open up a business doing something she loves and cares about?
Since my friend provided me some background info on this business, it has a couple of strong points that could really help the owner decide which path(s) to take. Let me clarify that point. Sometimes you can lay a wide net, but as a small business, you have to take one market at a time or do small testing in two markets to see which one pulls a better response and then go after that market with a fury.
Here are the helpful facts of the current business:
- Location - It is located across the street from a high end hotel that runs specials for local residents to "get that get away feeling - without leaving town"
- Lure - The first class is free (this can and cannot be a plus and there is plenty of debate on giving away your service/product - but in our economy, free sells)
- Price – The classes are extremely well priced - I'm talking $10 and less per session for yoga!
- Variety - There is a wide variety of classes from yoga to the new Brazillian craze dance style exercise to CPR training!
I did a little research on the business and here are a few things that could use some looking into:
- Website landing page. The header is great, but the pictures are poor quality and the strong points (listed above) are not pronounced on the page. The market that they are appealing to is not clear on the landing page and it needs to scream "My" (whatever market she is going after) place. There are some good images on later pages but the landing page is too wordy and not visually stimuating.
- SEO for the company name is non-existant. I even typed in the name of the business in a search and got something else -- that's bad for a business. (I have the same thing for another 'just ask mary' site who is a book keeper -- but this is a blog -- free advice -- not a business. Paying for SEO to give free advice would not be a good business decision;)).
- The average income in the area she is promoting in is twice the national average.
- The divorce rate in her state is 4.1 - Hey--- I'm just saying......when people get divorced, they tend to take stock of the "merchandise" and tend to begin to engage in activities where they work on their bodies and feeling better about themselves.
There is more info but that data provides opportunities to get started:
- Invest in SEO - I would choose keywords that exploit the pricepoint and the free class. This is appealing to people struggling through the economy, the divorcee who might be on a new budget and the retiree or stay-at-home mom on a fixed budget.
- Partner with local hotels (especially the one across the street!) - This is an area where there is business travel. Strike a deal with the hotels to have them pay you a nominal fee to include your class(es) as one of the ammenities or part of one of their hotel stay packages. Business people worry about how they are going to still get their work out while on business and if they advertise the service on their website, you have immediately gained extra traffic and some might argue credibility.
- Partner with local businesses - The location she is in is surrounded by business parks. Meet with the HR Directors/ VP of HR and offer a free pass to the employees and then either a discount package or offer the business a set, per person in their company fee, to pay monthly as an added perk. In these days where many benefits are being cut in businesses, an attractive, low cost, health promoting benefit may be of interest to business owners. The holidays are coming and even getting the employers to give this to their employees for three months as a gift would give you enough time to hook them into signing after their free trial is up.
- Change the landing page - Some of the info on the page is good (like the picture of the before and after of the owner -- wow she looks amazing now!) but the page needs to grab on price, convenience and experience. Move a testimonial or two to this page. Show pics and bios of other instructors and make it fun—Why do they like teaching (fill in their class(es) here? There are current visuals of an empty dance studio looking space-- that says nothing to the woman who has just had a baby. If you want to showcase the space, show it with your target audience in a class and add ambience -- like greenery, candles, etc. -- think spa-like and an oasis from the hectic day.
- Look at specialized programs and/or wording like suitable "for beginners" or for the "plus 50 crowd" or "for new moms", etc. This makes people in these groups feel as if you understand where they are coming from. If you just say "a gentle class", they may still conjure up visions of showing up after having a full day of taking care of the baby with your hair in a pony tail and being surrounded by perfectly coiffed women who belong on those housewife tv shows while you’re trying to lose baby fat. It could be intimidated by not painting another true image for the viewer with a studio full of “people like them”.
- Get linked in and network with the local health providers like nutritionists, social workers, mental health professionals, divorce lawyers and hospital outreach or community directors. Most hospitals have rehab facilities and once a patient's prescription has run out, they can no longer exercise at the facility. If the caregivers know about your program, they can recommend you as an affordable after care option. (Most of these facilities have a social director who can help you get the word out to the providers. From personal experience, a lunch meeting provided by you of course, where you present your business will usually work better than a brochure.) Also, most hospitals give new moms a "goody bag". If info or a certificate (adds value) for a free class and info about your services is in the bag, then you may develop a good niche.
· And as I recommended to another local businesses who is now flourishing – JOIN YOUR LOCAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND BECOME ACTIVE! It always has been and continues to be a great source of business for local, small shops.
There are many more ideas, but this should get the owner started with the low cost options. If you are in a position to spend a little money, two really great options are advertisements in the local paper (again price and value messaging) and movie screen advertising (you'd be surprised how inexpensive this is for the audience you will reach.) If you have a little more money to spend, consider marketing on dating sites.
Good luck and I truly wish the business success,
Mary M Mussard
http://justaskmary.blogspot.com - The "Dear Abby" of Marketing and Business