PAA Article: Where are all the Clients?

A steady stream of new clients...

…is what keeps every business healthy and alive. When a business first starts out finding new clients is essential. When a business is in expansion phase new clients help the business grow and expand. Day to day pretty much every business needs a steady flow of new clients.

There are actually 3 ways to grow your business and attracting new clients is only one of the ways.

The 3 ways to grow your business:

  1. See more clients
  2. Increase how much each client spends with your business
  3. Increase the frequency of sales to your clients

What does this mean for a Pilates studio? In this article I am going to focus on new clients for the studio.

At a recent conference I sat spellbound listening to Michelle Obama telling stories about her life in the White House with Barack and their 2 daughters; she is a terrific storyteller.

The questions turned to her work with the Let’s Move initiative launched in 2010, dedicated to helping kids and families lead healthier lives. She spoke passionately about how many people do not know how to exercise. How many people feel extremely intimidated about exercise and during her time as the First Lady and working with Let’s Move she met many people – especially women – who said they wanted to take better care of themselves and their families.

They said: “I just don’t know how, don’t know what to do”.

One thing that really stood out for me is when she talked about these people she reminded the audience how important it is ‘not to be the scold’ and to have huge empathy for people who have – in our thinking – neglected themselves and their families.

For so many of us who exercise regularly, and when it’s part of our lives it can be easy to think “How hard can it be? Just get out and move or go for a walk”. Working with the Let’s Move campaign highlighted that people truly didn’t know how to “just get out and move” for a whole host of reasons. Here in Australia we have had similar government led initiatives.

I’ve thought about what she said quite often in the weeks since.

It’s funny how when you’re thinking about something, examples present themselves to reinforce the idea. I’ve had quite a few conversations about what it takes to get started with exercise mostly initiated randomly by others in unexpected situations.

It’s a bit like when you buy a red car, suddenly there are dozens of red cars on the road. It’s due to a part of your brain called the reticular activating system. Maybe this has happened to you at some stage?

The most poignant recent conversation for me was with my sister when out of the blue she asked: “Ingrid, what do you think? Should I do yoga or Pilates?” I asked her why she was asking me. “Because you do both and you know which would be better for me”

“What do you want from the sessions?” I asked and her immediate response was “Some time for me and to have someone else make all the decisions”. We chatted about ‘why now?’ and for her to maybe go and try out a couple and see which ones she liked best. “That sounds scary” she said “I couldn’t just turn up. I wouldn’t know what to do, what to wear, what to bring with me”.

This is a woman who as a teenager held the state record for long distance running for her age group the whole way through high school, spent her entire teen years playing both regular and underwater hockey, running long distance – an athlete by any definition. And here she is 20 something years later intimidated by attending a yoga or Pilates class.

Michelle Obama’s words were ringing loudly in my ears …

My observation is that there are indeed many people who feel like my sister and are hesitant, apprehensive, frightened. A gym is out of the question because it is way too intimidating. There is potentially something more welcoming about yoga and Pilates.

When I think about new clients – there is more than one type of new client:

The brand new client – like my sister, how can we make it super easy for people who have never been before to attend Pilates sessions?

What is our step by step system that helps people feel at ease? That gives them the confidence they are ‘in the right place’?

Once through the door how do we make sure they come back for their second and third sessions? And beyond?

Do we have an effective and caring follow up system to make sure that every single person who comes into the studio has every opportunity to return?

Another category is what I call the exercised new client, these are people making the switch from some other form of exercise. The data shows that there is quite a bit of ‘client churn’ as people move from one form of exercise to another; from the gym to a PT, from yoga to Pilates to Barre or some combination of more than one.

This person may be new to our studio but are not new to exercise so attend sessions pretty much knowing what to expect or thinking they know 🙂 .  The onboarding or the method you use to bring this client into the studio will be similar and yet different to the system used for a brand new client.

Making sure new clients return remains imperative for every business. So much money, energy and time is spent to attract new clients that ensuring they return is vital to ongoing business success.

What process or system do you have in place for client follow up in your studio? A friend of mine recently went to 2 classes in a week of free classes at her local, newly renovated, community gym. That was 3 weeks ago and she hasn’t heard from them since … we’re waiting to see what their process is.

The third category of new client I’d like to mention here is the one coming from another Pilates studio. Super important to understand what they are looking for and why they are changing – it could be relocation or another reason. Again, the follow up system to ensure they return and become a regular client is the secret to success in business.

The fourth category here is some one referred from a health professional. This person could easily be any one of the previous 3 categories as well as a referred client. What system do you have in place for this type of new client? We held a terrific webinar this year on this very topic, if you missed it you can still access the recording via your  PAA membership, in the Resources area.

As we can see, there are different categories of new client and there is so much more to business than having a new client walk through the door and stay forever. Many steps and a variety of systems and processes are the secret to engaging with and retaining new clients for the long term.

It’s not just new clients coming from another exercise modalities, let’s think about all the people who are not already exercising and how do we attract and retain them for our business.

There are so many people who need Pilates that we probably don’t have enough studios to take care of all of them. Let’s find them, bring them in and keep them coming back.

Ingrid Thompson
Healthy Numbers