Ready, Set, Launch: Your Fitness Studio's Complete Opening Day Checklist

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Ready, Set, Launch: Your Fitness Studio's Complete Opening Day Checklist

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You’ve finished the setup work for your brand-new boutique fitness studio; congratulations! Now for a reality check. The idea that “if you build it, they will come” is, unfortunately, a myth. Many steps need to be completed before your big day, and they’re all important to ensure you have people lined up and waiting for your doors to open for the first time. 

First: Soft Opening or Grand Opening?

Often these are used interchangeably, but they are, in fact, different. Think of your soft opening as a dress rehearsal before the main event. During this period- anywhere from a few weeks to a few months- you’ll practice your client flow, train your staff, gather testimonials, and finish setting up your processes. Not everyone has a soft opening, but I recommend it to begin presales, establish your brand, and begin to make a name for yourself. Plus, clients hold you to a lower standard and give you more grace during this pre-opening period, so you have room to learn the ropes and get the kinks out.  

A grand opening signals to your community that you are officially ready for business! The training period is over, and you are live. You will most likely announce your official launch with a party and ribbon cutting and the last chance to take advantage of presale memberships. A grand opening is ceremonial, but I always advise my studio-owning clients to take full advantage of the pomp surrounding a grand opening. The press potential is enough to launch you into profitability significantly sooner than if you skip this step. 

Opening Preparation

After your start-up processes but before your soft opening, there is a list of tasks you’ll want to check off. It’s okay if you discover they must be reworked during your pre-launch. That’s why you have a soft opening runway before your big celebration. 

  • Select a date for your soft opening and your grand opening party. Avoid holiday weekends and check your chamber of commerce for city events that could impact parking or attendance. You’ll also want to include your chamber at your ribbon cutting which may affect your date selection. 
  • Develop your schedule for classes or training. Schedule fewer classes than you think you’ll want because it’s better to funnel clients into a few fuller classes than spread them out from a class experience and payroll perspective. Consider just one or two classes in the morning and evening with the promise to increase your schedule as classes fill. 
  • If you’re going to have instructors, decide who is teaching what class and hire if you need to. Remember to consider your desk staff and other staffing requirements as you plan. 
  • Cleaning and retail supplies are probably not high on your list- I was buying hangers the morning of my soft launch- but they’re essential for the client experience. Before you open your doors for the first time, ask an employee (or yourself) to go through the check-in process as if they were brand new. Do you need pens for the waivers? Shopping bags for retail? Tissue in the bathrooms? Move through your space as if it were your first time and go through the motions of a new client on their first day. Take notes as you go to ensure you remember everything you need on your purchase list. 
  • Check your links. This is an often forgotten step I catch when auditing client websites. Try every link on your social media, Google, booking software, and website to ensure they take your clients where you want them to go. If the client experience isn’t seamless, you may end up with frustrated clients falling out of your client flow. 
  • Create your presale packages and start sharing them. I like to offer a six-week unlimited pass which gives you time to work on your sales process so you can convert those clients to a long-term membership when they expire. If you want to offer a free preview period, stick to just the first weekend or week and be prepared to upsell those clients into an intro pass. 

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Marketing Strategy

You cannot market too much before and during your soft opening. Now is the time for organic digital, guerilla, partner, Out of Home (OOH), and paid marketing to make sure your community knows you’re coming. 

  • Organic: Post, post, post! Be diligent about daily posting on your social media and Google in all formats- reels, lives, stories, and static. Let your clients behind the scenes to see as you paint the walls or place props. Include countdowns, polls, and links to your opening day signups, and remind them of your presale specials that they can’t get later. 
  • Organic Digital continued: your website is one of your most expensive and visible billboards for clients. Use it! Capture email addresses by offering something in exchange (you’ll need to “buy” client email addresses. Very few people are willing to part with their email to get a newsletter. Think of it as a trade). A pop-up or a banner on your website with a clear Call to Action, “Leave your email for the chance to win a free month!” will give you far more emails than a “sign up for our newsletter.” 
  • Guerilla: The best way to let people know you’re coming is to get out into the community. Spend weeks leading up to your soft opening by hosting pop-up classes at locations like Lululemon and Athleta or in the park. Flyer drop at the farmer’s market in your studio gear, and sponsor the coffee sleeves at your local coffee shop with QR codes to your sign-up page. Although you are undoubtedly busy with last-minute tasks, you can’t be too visible, so carve time to be in the community.
  • Partner: What established businesses can you partner with to take advantage of their customer list? Juice bars, athleisure stores, and wellness businesses all likely share clientele. They won’t hand over their list for anything, so be prepared with how your business will support theirs later. You could include their sponsorship in your grand opening flyers or link them in your email list in exchange for leaving flyers at their desk or being included in their upcoming newsletter. While you’re chatting, invite them to participate in your grand opening party as well. 
  • OOH marketing is essentially the signage and banners that announce your upcoming launch. Read details of how to take advantage of this important marketing tool here. 
  • Paid marketing: I’m not usually a fan of paid ads, but now is the time. If you’re not an ad expert, I recommend paying for this service, as staying on top of the ever-changing algorithms is difficult. Google and Meta are obvious choices but don’t forget about your local radio stations and reach out to your newspaper, too. They have a huge SEO digital reach, and many will even advertise for you for free if it’s a one-time press release. 

Once you’ve chosen your dates and checked off your list, it’s full steam ahead! It’s an exhausting preparatory period, but that work is all worth it. Remember, the effort and hours you put in now directly impact the number of clients signing up on the opening day and your bottom line as well. Good luck! 

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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.