Business development · 3 August 2018

Running a fitness business? Here’s what you need to know to stand out from the competition

It’s been a summer of love and football this year, as more Brits than ever before tuned in to the World Cup and Love Island. In fact, searches for gym memberships, healthy foods and workout plans have surged since the start of summer this year, and according to online retailer SportsShoes.com, this is partly because of what Brits have been bingeing on the telly.

According to research, ITV2’s flagship dating show has been a major source of inspiration for many to get to the gym and kickstart a fitness regime. Most viewers claim that watching from the sofa instead leaves them feeling guilty about their fitness levels.

Analysing online search trends in the month of July, the retailer found that the first week of Love Island saw 52% more searches for gyms and gym sign ups than an average week in the UK and 114% more of 18 to 24 year-olds searched for ‘workout plans’ in the first week of Love Island, compared to the week before the show started.

But Britain’s love for fitness isn’t new. Businesses that are in the fitness industry face stiff competition and thin margins.

Revenue among gyms has increased by 5.5% since 2013 and by 2% for yoga and pilates studios, according to recent reports from IBIS World.

Data from business management software company MINDBODY reveals that consumers are more demanding and open to switching between studios, classes and gyms with ease. This competitive landscape, combined with the influx of large global brands opening UK locations and the continued expansion of ‘boutique’ operators, means that opening a new studio can feel like a daunting challenge.

Using its latest research and insight, coupled with advice from its studio owners the experts at MINDBODY has shared five tips to consider when opening a new studio.

Know your niche

It might sound fairly obvious but defining the niche for your new studio is key when starting out. MINDBODY discovered in it’s recent Insight Report that consumers are unique and a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work within the fitness and wellness industry. What your studio offers will be (and should be) very different to the next, to meet the increasingly individual needs of the consumer.

Consider introducing elements of ‘added value’ throughout the studio, to give you a unique edge on competitors. Justin Rogers, Creative Director at MINIDBODY studio, Ten Health & Fitness, explains why the launch of Ten Clinical has been instrumental to the studio’s growth. Ten Clinical bridges the gap between fitness and the medical community, and for Rogers, that’s been its unique selling point.

Of course Wilson does Zumba. Don’t all dogs? (And birds?👍🏻).

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“Ten has always been more than just another boutique fitness provider – with our ability to offer an end-to-end solution, helping people from rehabilitation to full function fitness, we were already well on the way to achieving this,” he says. “Ten Clinical takes us one step further within that strategy. It also means we can reach a new and growing population for whom exercise isn’t just a lifestyle choice, it’s a genuine need. The response has been amazing so far.”

Your people are key

The research looked into the importance of fitness instructors and personal trainers when it comes to driving repeat visits and customer loyalty. The data showed that one in five consider a good personal trainer or instructor the most important factor when choosing a studio. So once you’ve nailed your niche, make sure to do thorough research into your trainers and teachers to ensure they are a perfect fit for your target audience.

Naturally, what makes a ‘perfect’ instructor will differ depending on your offering. The report showed that while yogis preferred a teacher with patience, HIIT fans want a trainer that pushes them, while the majority of female clientele consider a friendly personality to be the most important trait in a personal trainer or instructor.

When it comes to the trainers and coaches themselves, Brendan Chaplin, founder of Strength and Success Business Coaching, says knowing their customers is key.

“Knowledge of their client’s goals, desires, fears and beliefs are key when it comes to getting long term transformational results.”

“Taking the time to really get to know your ideal customer really does pay dividends down the line. Very often as trainers we try to instil in people what has worked for us rather than what is truly best for them.

“We are teaching them to read from our map of how things should be. The art of effective coaching is to learn to see the world through their eyes. Only then can we make real progress and build a sustainable business.”

The price is right

The report also revealed the power of introductory offers on the bottom line. The most popular studios tend to have appealing offers in place, which helps attract new customers and keep them hooked once they’ve tried out the services.

Insight from the report also showed that price is a driving force for customer loyalty, so when you consider prices for your classes, think about rewarding return customers.

Plié, Chassé, XTEND everyday! ✨@gracehershkorn

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For example, MINDBODY customer, XtendBarre, offers 10% off retail when joining as a new member, and it’s not uncommon for studios to offer better value to customers when purchasing a ‘package’, or even offering ‘buddy credits’ to encourage return visits with a friend.

Get tech-savvy

Just 15% of people think using technology as part of their fitness routine helps improve motivation and keep goals on track, but as FitBits and smartwatches grow in popularity, this could be a great avenue to stand out in the market.

Locations with online bookings enabled saw higher customer numbers than those without, showing how an online booking system or accessible website is a key factor in attracting customers.

If used right, technology can be a great way to add value to your service and keep clients engaged. FitMetrix is a type of fitness software for studios and gyms that help their clients sync up hear rate monitors to get results in real time on a group leader board to track performance. Their results are emailed to them immediately after class, so they can access all their information, learn from it and aim to improve on results next time they visit your studio.

 Spread the word

Another key piece of data from MINDBODY’s report was that word of mouth continues to be the best performing marketing channel, with over half (58%) of people saying this is how they find a new studio. Online searches and advertising are a close second for 22% and 19% of the fitness clientele, but nothing trumps good old fashioned customer endorsement.

These platforms aren’t just great for attracting potential customers, but are also important in engaging existing customers with inspiring content and, if nothing else, reminding them that you are open! 

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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