How to increase attendance and retention in your gym this summer

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How to increase attendance and retention in your gym this summer

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Summer in the boutique fitness industry can be stressful for studio owners. Members are often less consistent, and leads are slower when everyone is spending time outside, but it doesn’t have to be silent. Instead of accepting under-performing months as the norm, let’s get proactive and design your summer fitness retention strategy to keep members engaged and attract new clients. 

Retain Your Members

It’s less expensive to keep members than find new ones, so shore up your membership numbers for summer by focusing on retention and engagement. Events, challenges, sales, and exciting new classes keep your clients in the studio and prevent the dreaded summer slowdown suspensions. 

Engagement Strategies:

  • Summer attendance challenges:

 Design an attendance or goal-based challenge and reward your clients every time they take a class with a sticker or stamp. To keep engagement high, share the weekly updates on your social media and ask your staff to compete, too. 

  • Outdoor events: 

Member-only hikes, movie nights, farmer’s market trips, and BBQs all bring your clients back together outside of the studio, strengthening membership bonds. These don’t necessarily need to be fitness related, your goal should be to build community and keep member engagement high.

  • Outdoor classes:

Outdoor classes are a client favorite. Bootcamp in the park, barre on the bridge, yoga on the beach- no matter where you live, there is an outdoor opportunity for your gym to take it outside. Remember to bring signage and encourage your clients to wear branded workout apparel. 

  • Workshops: 

Survey your clients and ask what they’re interested in learning over the summer. We’re focusing on what your existing clients want for this series, like a handstand workshop or a meditation class. It can be free or paid and your marketing should match your enthusiasm. Create your summer series newsletter with at least four-weeks of lead time in order to fill classes. Summer workshops often flop due to a lack of marketing, not a lack of interest.

  • Summer Series: 

Add an exciting summer-only series for your clients to look forward to. For example, every Saturday morning could be a unique core-focused class, add a new summer-only advanced class, or bring out a special summer prop. Members are much less likely to cancel in June if they think they would miss out.

  • Holiday Classes: 

The fourth of July, Father’s Day, and International Yoga Day (June 21) are all perfect opportunities to teach something fun and different to get clients excited. You can add themes to the attire, playlist, and lesson plan to create a unique experience that members will look forward to next year.

  • Family Fitness:

If parents are your target demographic, your clients probably feel the squeeze of childcare during the summer. Create family classes where parents can bring their child and the family together:

  • Mom and me yoga
  • Babies at the barre
  • Family fitness in the park
  • Or parent night out where your studio hosts children’s creative movement or yoga and the parents get to go on a date. (Don’t forget to charge for this one!)

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Summer Partnerships

You’re likely not the only business owner who feels stressed when the temperatures rise. Look for business owners in your area willing to join efforts with you to offer something memorable for both businesses’ clientele, like workshops or discounts. 

Search for:

  • Nutritionists to offer discounted consultations or nutrition workshops on summer meals
  • PTs to come in-studio for mini tune-up sessions in between classes
  • Massage therapists to provide five-minute chair massages after class on a surprise Sunday
  • A locally-owned brunch spot to host a yoga and bubbles class on their patio.
  • Local boutiques are usually happy to offer a members-only shop night. Arrange for an after-class shopping experience after your evening class.

It’s important to note that you’ll want to choose just a few of the above ideas to focus your member retention planning. If you overload your calendar, you’ll end up splitting your clients’ attention and risk low enthusiasm for individual events.

Aim for one event or activity per month so you can market to your existing membership base by email, organic social media posts, and in studio announcements. A comprehensive marketing campaign doesn’t have to involve paid ads to be successful, but it does need to be multi-dimensional. 

Summer Marketing Strategies:

It won’t surprise you that we’re not focusing our studio marketing efforts on long-term memberships during the low summer months. Instead, design introductory offers and packages with a clear deadline and up front cost:

  • Buy two classes, get one free
  • Purchase an introductory package and gift one to a friend
  • 8-week unlimited pass that expires right in time for your fall back-to-school open house

Unless your gym is packed in the summer, your marketing plan should focus on reviving old leads, recruiting your members’ friends, and attracting new short-term clients who can be nurtured into a longer package when their normal schedule resumes. If your usual membership is full of parents of school-age children, you’ll need to consider a secondary target, such as teachers or college students who have an abundance of availability during the summer. 

Just because it’s warm doesn’t mean we’re forgoing your digital marketing presence. Although your marketing strategies should go beyond your social media, it’s still important to maintain a reliable schedule on your platform of choice. Share all of your events and activities and drum up excitement for events by showing the behind-the-scenes effort in your stories. 

This summer, outsource your marketing and encourage current clients to spread the word by:

  • Sharing events to their stories and rewarding them for any referral 
  • Wearing their studio branded tank tops in the community and tagging your gym
  • Bringing friends and family to events for a discounted price, like $15 friend Fridays
  • Tagging friends in your posts who would be interested in your summer events.

Summer is a great time to practice your guerilla marketing skills. Think of where your community already hangs out and start the conversation there. For example, you can contact your farmer’s market organizers to host a weekly pop-up class, or your gym could sponsor and table fun runs or other active events. It’s amazing how far your marketing budget can stretch when you’re in front of your ideal client, so think outside your traditional marketing strategies to meet them where they are.

Capitalize on walk-by traffic by partnering with a juice company and offering juice samples as people walk by. Be prepared with your short elevator pitch and an incredible low-cost offer such as a buy-one-get-one to keep the conversation going after the juice samples are gone. 

Plan your pop-up classes strategically to be highly visible to your ideal client and you’ll increase your current member engagement while also marketing to new clients. Remember to bring your pop-up sign or ipad to all of your outdoor events and be ready to sign new clients up for an intro offer.

Summer can be daunting for boutique studio owners, but it’s also a great way to focus on organic sales conversations out in the community. Be sure to track your results so that you can repurpose your content for next summer and save yourself from reinventing the wheel next June. 

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About the author:

Niki Riga
Industry Expert
Limitless Studio

Niki has been a client, a studio owner, and a coach in boutique fitness for over a decade, and she can’t think of an industry she'd rather be in. Her favorite part about coaching and studio ownership are the same: she loves supporting clients as they push past their limits and achieve their goals. Niki became a coach because she was regularly asked, “how did you do that!?” by other studio owners who were drowning in the day-to-day responsibilities of business ownership but didn’t have the support to grow their studio to its potential. She created Limitless Studio to partner with owners who have a vision for their business and are ready to implement systems to build the studio of their dreams.