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5 strategies to market your fitness business

By Fitness business management archives and news, Fitness industry archives and news, Fitness marketing and social archives and news

How are you going to market your fitness business as you Get 2023 ready?

Between now and the end of the year we’re going to take a look at 5 areas to help you Get 2023 ready.  Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin or Twitter to be sure you don’t miss our follow-up posts.

In our fourth blog post in the series, we looked at operating tactics to save time and maximise revenue.  In this post, we turn to thinking about promotion and how to think about marketing your business.

This post dovetails with a number in this series, especially Who are you targeting as new customers? What do they want from their fitness provider? and What incentives should you offer your current or target customers? Those posts include some internally focused marketing tactics for driving referrals.  Here we focus on what external, outward-facing tactics you can use to promote your business.

Fundamentally, to market your business successfully you need to deliver the right message at the right time to your target customer.  The first step to any marketing, therefore, is to ensure you’re clear on your messaging and brand.  What values do you want to convey?  How do you differentiate yourself from other fitness or wellness businesses?  Buyers want to see an authentic message, as much as possible, personalised to them.  Being clear on what benefits they’ll get from your services and placing that in context for them is often key in motivating, and indeed justifying the buying decision.  With your messaging clear you can move on to consider what marketing tactics are right for your business.

Focus on social proof

As you promote your business you’ll very likely need to offer credibility to your messaging.  The very best way to do this is with customer testimonials and social media support.

Think about how you can effectively collect a good number of testimonials with permission to use them (!).

It’s also worth trying to ensure your customers are following you on social media, and perhaps you can even incentivise them to do so – as you then have a more engaged audience to share content that you can post through your own channels.

Direct marketing

With everyone now so digitally focused and online for long periods of the day it’s tempting to overlook traditional marketing techniques.  However, it’s also important to remember that location is a hugely important factor in people’s decision to buy your services and, indeed post-pandemic with the shift to work from home, many will be spending even more time outside of city centres.

So thinking about direct channels, such as local listing magazines, coffee/supermarket bulletin boards and even leaflets in local businesses/health services can be a super way of generating awareness.

Local groups and associations

Building on local activity, it’s worth researching if there are any local groups that you may be able to join (which often have large and active Facebook groups too) or even sponsor to promote your business.  Examples would be business trade groups or sports clubs.  These can be a great way to both meet potential new customers but also a means to partner to cross-promote businesses while raising your local profile.

SEO

SEO, or search engine optimisation, is the way in which you can be discovered via searches made on online search engines such as Google.

If you have a website building a strong SEO presence (even if you know what you’re doing) can take some considerable time, especially if there’s competition for the key search terms that you’d want to rank for (e.g. ‘gyms near me’).  There are a number of Google-driven ranking website ‘good hygiene’ criteria you’d want to ensure are added, as well as adding relevant content regularly.  In short, it’s likely to be something that if you’re going to focus on, you may want some expert support with (even if that’s small tweaks/directional advice).

As a result, building, maintaining and actually getting leads via a website can be far more costly and longer process than people envisage.  That’s not to say it’s not the right option for many – you have to start somewhere, and if done right can be terrific, but for many, it might not represent a good short-run return on investment.

There are, however, ways in which you can still benefit from SEO without having to have a full-blown SEO-optimised website.  For example, it’s worth checking if your booking system gives you a unique web page that is SEO optimised as part of the deal.

Paid digital ads

Depending on your budget, you may wish to look at either paid Facebook or Google (PPC – pay-per-click) ads.  The former are display based on people’s stated/revealed interests and the latter based on entered search terms on Google (so can be a way to shortcut SEO optimisation).  Whilst setting these up can be intimidating, like most platforms, if you invest a little time in understanding the basics you can upskill to run them both without necessarily needing a local marketing agency to help.

The great thing about both is that you can run limited tests without having to over-commit.  If you’re not tech confident, you may want to look at whether a local marketing agency could help.

The reality is that the entailed time, set-up cost and likely need to experiment in the early days may mean this isn’t for every business, but if you’re a larger business, with a strong digital presence (with a good digital way of converting customers from leads to customers) then they’re definitely worth considering. 

That completes our Get 2023 ready series.  We hope you have found it informative.  Please do follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin or Twitter to keep up to date with new business management content, offers and news!

Ollie is the founder of Gymcatch, a booking and customer management software company with monthly pricing starting at £/$10 per month.

How to manage booking availability and cancellations

By Fitness business management archives and news, Fitness industry archives and news, Fitness marketing and social archives and news

Between now and the end of the year we’re going to take a look at 5 areas to help you Get 2023 ready.  Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin or Twitter to be sure you don’t miss our follow-up posts.

In our third blog post in the series, we looked at how pricing tactics and how to think about using incentives to increase sign-ups, improve customer retention and motivate referrals.  In this post, we build on that topic to think about operational efficiency and specifically what booking availability and cancellation policy tactics you can employ to boost efficiency and revenue.

Manage when booking opens

Many businesses create, and publish their schedule and create a simple structure whereby anyone can book in immediately, right up to the start time of a session.  Whilst this may be fine if capacity isn’t a constraint, we think it’s still a good idea to consider a more refined policy because of the messaging it can send your customer base…

For example, if you note that bookings for a session open X amount of time before it starts (e.g. 1 week), then you can create (whether it exists or not) a sense of demand/urgency for people to book their space because they may fear on missing out otherwise, as they know others are going to be looking out to grab it.  This additionally prevents customers from booking too far into the future, decreasing availability when there’s a reasonable chance their plans may yet change and be unable to fulfil the booking.

Manage when booking closes

Perhaps less obvious is the idea to set when booking closes for a session past the start time of a session. How many times has someone turned up last minute, or a customer brought someone new for an intro session where admin is done in a hurry?  By closing bookings for a session at a set time after the session finishes you can enable anyone that turned up late or failed to book on to still participate and yet still go back and pay what they owed whilst keeping your and their booking records up to date.

If you record your sessions and want to have a timetabled set of pre-records for sessions (rather than just keeping it in a static on-demand library), this tactic can also be really handy for securing some extra revenue, allowing customers to book the session/pre-record long after it’s finished.

Manage prioritised access

You can also consider whether you want to give certain customers priority access to being able to book before others.

This can be a great way to reward customers for making a purchase.  For example, perhaps a benefit of booking a course/block is that you’ll get a priority buying period on the next course/block that’s released.  This can create good ongoing commitment with an incentive to maintain their spot based on knowledge may not be able to get it back if they don’t recommit.  By making that repeat buying decision, it can also reinforce a feeling of accountability and desire to attend, something that in our experience can naturally wain with standard recurring memberships.

Another option with this feature would be to offer certain sessions as ‘Member’ only, creating further value differentiation as against pay-as-you-go or shorter-term commitment packages.

Enable digital payments

If you’re reading this post, it’s perhaps unlikely that this isn’t taken for granted, but we think it’s worth noting nonetheless!

Some businesses decide to take bookings without enabling any payments, saving some transaction fees in the process.  Whilst this can work ok for some, and indeed Gymcatch can support this too, our experience is that this often proves a false economy.  Remember this gives people that cancel free access to your sessions and the potential to cost you both the money they would have spent, but also the money that someone else who could have booked the space would spend.

You’ll also have to spend time checking bank accounts against attendance and chasing for payment where necessary.  Assuming your time is limited, you should put a cost to this activity in a week – in our experience, even something at less than minimum wage more than pays for the related transaction costs (and in Gymcatch’s case, the software costs too!).

Sensible wait lists

Ensuring you use a waitlist strategy that maximises revenue for your business is important. Historic first-in-line methods can prove counter-productive, as they entail that those who were on them have had the most time to make other plans.  Indeed, the time it takes those on them to confirm or reject the take-up of their place further reduces the time others have to reply.  Far more efficient is to release any spare spaces on an equitable first come first served basis.

Use reminders and calendar sync

Reminders can be a double-edged sword – for some, if they’ve made a booking and it’s on their calendar, a reminder is an unwelcome interruption.  That said, they can be helpful if your client base are busy and decided to disable that setting/haven’t put it in their calendars and we’d always offer a customer the ability to configure their notification settings, so in moderation, they can certainly be value add.

Set a cancellation policy

Setting a policy is a delicate balance between ensuring you give your customers an incentive to book early / flexibility in case their plans change and the fact that you’re running a business and need the certainty of revenue and attendance to successfully deliver your services.

Our data supports the view that offering some flexibility for customers is a good idea and, indeed, now the market norm.  We’d strongly recommend enabling a swap should be the means of ‘refund’ rather than cash. This ensures you don’t miss out on the revenue whilst giving your customers some additional flexibility.

Clearly stating the cancellation policy at booking is evidently a good idea, and ensures any disputes or issues are kept to an absolute minimum.

In terms of what timeframe you’d allow a credit back/swap to a different session, factors such as what number of attendees makes a session profitable, the notice period you think alternative customers would need to be able to fill the space and a headline assessment of your ideal customer’s typical schedule all feed into this equation.

Generally, we see 3 hours – 24 hours before a start time as the norm but do remember you can set different policies for different sessions if you wish.  For example, perhaps you might be more generous with your 5-6:30 pm sessions than in-school/middle-of-the-day sessions because you recognise that work/traffic variables may be more of a worry for your target customers.

In our experience, as long as you build some flexibility into your model and clearly communicate the policy, customers are thankful for whatever you choose so be sure to think carefully about your policy and ensure you don’t encourage behaviour that ultimately costs you money.

With your operating tactics optimised in our next blog post in the Get 2023 ready series, we’ll consider when and how you’re going to promote your business. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin or Twitter to see when it drops in the coming week!

Ollie is the founder of Gymcatch, a booking and customer management software company with monthly pricing starting at £/$10 per month.

What incentives should you offer to your customers?

By Fitness business management archives and news, Fitness industry archives and news, Fitness marketing and social archives and news

Between now and the end of the year we’re going to take a look at 5 areas to help you Get 2023 ready.  Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin or Twitter to be sure you don’t miss our follow-up posts.

In our second blog post in the series, we looked at how to set a pricing strategy.  In this post, we build on that topic to think about pricing tactics and what incentives you may consider both to bring in new customers but also to increase spending and retention from your existing ones.

Broadly these incentives fall into three types:

  • Incentives to try/join
  • Incentives to commit
  • Incentives to refer

Incentives to try/join

These incentives are well-known and would include ‘First class free’, ‘First month free’ or ‘Free PT consultation’ etc.

When thinking about these types of incentives it helps to think about three questions.

First, consider how long is needed to determine whether they’ll benefit from your services.  This also, of course, should take into account how long you’re asking your customer to commit. For example, if you’re requiring a yearly contract you may want to give a potential customer longer to decide than if you are offering pay-as-you-go classes.

Secondly, consider how long you think a customer needs to become an engaged customer. How long do they need to build a routine or habit that ensures you’ve converted them?

Thirdly, consider the cost to you of the offer.  Can you afford a strong take-up of the incentive?  The cost to set up and administer the offer should also be factored in.

It is also worth noting, that if you don’t feel a free or longer free period is justified, a discount can work just as well for many, especially in relation to more expensive services.  This approach can also place a higher perceived value on quality and demand which for less price-sensitive buyers may be desirable.

Incentives to commit

These incentives are more business model considerations and would include decisions around whether to offer memberships, courses/blocks and class packs etc.

The consideration here is how much you want to require or even incentivise a bigger upfront commitment as against short-run or even per-session payments.  For many smoothing and visibility of future income is desirable, but in an age where customers increasingly value flexibility, this can be a difficult balance to strike.

For some businesses with high demand or waitlists, the right decision here will be to not incentivise commitment at all, but rather just enable a regular full-priced (e.g. membership, or course/block) for customer convenience of buying or securing a space.

A second option where demand is strong or artificially creates that view is to incentivise commitment based on the access.  For example, you could give members or course buyers priority access to sessions, or an existing course buyer priority over a space on the next.  This can create an incentive to commit without costing you anything.

Where offering a price incentive to commit is desirable, matching that to your customers’ cash flow and own schedule is a good idea.  For example, if your customers generally have children, would it be a better fit to offer term-time blocks rather than year round memberships?  Or perhaps if you want to keep a premium pay-as-you-go pricing model just offering a small discount on class packs that expire based on a date from purchase may make more sense than a discounted membership.

Incentives to refer

Finally, we consider incentives you may wish to offer to customers or local partners for referring new customers.  These are often more costly than standalone free trial products, as it generally makes sense to also include your standard offer for the new customer.

Examples might be a free class pass when you bring a friend, a month’s free membership for a successful sign-up, a gift card on success or even straight cash.  Generally, it makes most financial sense to offer incentives where you can absorb your margin as part of the cost (i.e. it’s not an additional hard cash outgoing), but this of course is only the case if the incentive proves sufficiently motivating as against offering something more tangible like a gift card or cash.

Given their additional cost, we’d recommend carefully considering when and for how long these types of incentives are used, as well as meticulously tracking how successful they are.  The one big advantage they have is that it’s very likely that your existing customer base has good access to potential customers with a similar demographic and set of needs/preferences.  As such, whilst these incentives cost more, there’s every chance they’ll convert well and, indeed, may be less costly than other more outward-facing marketing initiatives.

Thinking more widely than your existing customer base for referrals can also be beneficial.  Perhaps there are local businesses with a large employee base, a service provider or even a coffee house/restaurant that has a client base that would match up well to your services who you could create a more bespoke offer for.  There’s every chance there are businesses that you may even be able to partner with to offer something in return to reduce or even remove the cost entirely.

With your pricing strategy and incentive tactics now thought through, in our next blog post, we’ll move to thinking about operational efficiency strategies, including cancellation policies. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin or Twitter to see when it drops in the coming week!

Ollie is the founder of Gymcatch, a booking and customer management software company with monthly pricing starting at £/$10 per month. 

How to price your fitness services

By Fitness business management archives and news, Fitness industry archives and news, Fitness marketing and social archives and news

How to price your fitness services.  What are your customers willing to pay for your services?  How long and what are they prepared to commit to?

Between now and the end of the year we’re going to take a look at 5 areas to help you Get 2023 ready.  Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin or Twitter to be sure you don’t miss our follow-up posts.

In our first blog post in the series, we thought about how to define your target customer and how that should inform the services you offer.  In this post, we build on that topic to consider the evergreen topic of pricing. Here we focus on your pricing strategy, and in a follow-up post, we’ll get deeper into specific promotional tactics. 

Be aware of bias

Before we think about your business, it’s worth raising a couple of important human characteristics that invariably influence pricing.  The first is a psychological bias known as ‘loss aversion’.  This bias can unconsciously lead you to under-price your services.  The bias entails that we fear loss more than valuing potential gains, so as applied to pricing, it entails that it’s natural to take what you’ve charged to date, or what the competition charge, as a reference point, fear the worse with regards customers’ propensity to not pay or switch services, and undershoot what you could charge.  i.e. you fear the worse when considering a price change rather than accurately weighing that as against the potential upside.

Secondly, there’s an emotional element to pricing for many. One likely strength of your business is its sense of community and your relationships with your customers.  Many may be considered friends who you socialise with.  This can naturally lead to a desire to please/aversion to confrontation and impact your confidence in making price changes, especially in a scenario where you feel funds are tight.

Of course, both of these natural tendencies exist for a reason, they serve us well in many situations, and ultimately you won’t (nor should you) try to ignore them completely but being aware of them can help in driving a more objective assessment of your businesses’ pricing strategy.

Keeping those tendencies in mind, we move to assess two important inputs to your pricing strategy; your business and your customers.

Your business

As you think about pricing your fitness services, you need to start by ensuring you understand the costs that need to be met by the output of your strategy – i.e. to understand your breakeven point.

Your monthly breakeven point should include your desired base income and all venue and marketing costs.  If you know you’ll be quieter in certain months of the year (and have required outgoings for those months) you should factor this into your thinking for busier periods.  A good exercise during this time is to assess your costs for any efficiencies that can be made. This will help you identify the common costs you can reduce (insert link). This is to say, you’d increase your income target in the busier months to make up for the quieter ones.

A second business-level consideration is cash flow. This is really about the timings for incoming and outgoing cash to your business and ensuring that they are aligned.  Generally, there’s a trade-off between offering longer-term (e.g. monthly memberships, courses/blocks) and shorter-term (e.g. pay as you go, class packs) commitment-based products. 

The former strategy gives greater visibility of revenue but the latter, as it’s normally priced at a premium, would be, all things equal, revenue maximising.  The extent to which you want to smooth cash flow versus relying on regular repetitive purchases feeds into how you price the different products you offer.  Of course, what your customers are able and willing to commit also feeds into this.  Quite often the right answer is a blend, but every business is different and should think through the value to them of each.

Your customers

With your breakeven point and cash flow needs to be established, we’d recommend experimenting with different pricing and customer purchasing numbers on paper or a basic spreadsheet.  From this, you can begin to get a feel for what range of pricing and demand meets your breakeven point and generate some ideas from which to evolve your thinking.

You can now look at your pricing ideas from your customers’ (and target customers’) perspective.  Assessing willingness to pay is difficult but using your customer profile from our first post in the series and reviewing, if applicable, how customer retention changed after a previous price change will all feed into your overall conclusion.  Trying to place them (generalised) on a 1-10 sensitivity scale may help.  If you think they are highly sensitive then you may also want to consider what the local competition is doing and pay some attention to that. This is not to say you match or undercut, more just be sure that the value you offer can be clearly communicated in comparison.

Once you’ve formed a view on price sensitivity you can overlay that against your range of high-low pricing and product commitment (long v short-term options) models to conclude what makes sense for your business.

Track and review

As you launch your new strategy, be sure to regularly review how it’s performing and consider whether the assumptions you’ve made throughout this process are holding true.

Having followed a logical process, you should feel confident in the strategy and launch.  That said, as the above has revealed, determining a sound pricing structure requires you to make reasonable assumptions across often inferred preferences, so ultimately you can’t be 100% certain on how a new offering or changes will land.  As such, how you communicate price changes is also important – our 5th blog post in this series will come back to the subject of messaging.  So, as you launch, stay close to your customers as you launch it and watch for feedback. 

‘Watch’ is the right word, because stated versus revealed preferences can be very different here.  For example, I might indicate that I’m upset about a price rise, but if I still pay/keep coming there’s perhaps a reality that I can’t be that upset about it.  Indeed, it may be that you’d weigh that type of feedback from customers more than others.

With your base pricing strategy now established, we’ll build on these considerations in our next post and look at how you can evolve your pricing tactics to add incentives for current and target customers.  Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin or Twitter to see when it drops in the coming week!

Ollie is the founder of Gymcatch, a booking and customer management software company with monthly pricing starting at £/$10 per month.

How to define your target customer

By Fitness business management archives and news, Gym and studios, HIIT and group, Pilates, Yoga

Who are you targeting as new customers? What do they want from their fitness provider?

Between now and the end of the year we’re going to take a look at 5 areas to help you Get 2023 ready.  Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin or Twitter to be sure you don’t miss our follow-up posts.

In the first post of our series, we look at why it’s important to define your target customer and how to do it.

As you plan for 2023 it’s a good idea to take a step back and think about your perfect customer.  Your customer profile informs everything at your business; what products/packages you offer, your pricing and marketing strategy.  We’ll explore those wider theme’s later in this series, but let’s first think about how to build that profile.

The best place to start is by interviewing, or at least thinking about, a selection of your customers that you’d consider ‘ideal’. How you conduct your research is up to you, you could use a free online survey tool, paper questionnaires or even just write down based on your personal knowledge (we know many instructors know their customer base very well!).

Below we explain the four most important factors to consider when building your ideal customer profile.

  1. Demographics

These are personal pieces of information that describe who we are as individuals and include age range, sex, income range, education, and family status. 

  1. Attitudes

These are lifestyle considerations and focus on what habits they follow, and what goals and pain points they have.  What values and interests do they have?

  1. Actions

This is about behaviour.  Consider how, when and what products those customers buy and potentially ask what they’d like to see added.

  1. Location

With the shift towards working from home, this consideration is particularly relevant.  Consider where your perfect customer is based at different times of the day.

With those questions answered, you can build something like this below (not that it needs to be made pretty!)

From here you can do two things:

  • Review your service and product offering in light of attitudes and location
  • Think about where to find new customers

Reviewing your service offering

Whilst there’s every chance that your current services meet your target customers’ attitudes and location you should take the opportunity to review this regularly. Asking yourself a few simple questions can help:

  • Do all of the services you’ve offered in the past still make sense?
  • Do the buying habits (what’s bought and when) reveal anything about what you should increase or decrease?
  • Do your services accurately map to what your customers state they want?
  • Are there any additions that would better fit or complement their revealed preferences?
  • Do the times of day you offer your services fit their routines?
  • Is there a better or additional location you could use that would better fit their routines?

Think about where to find new customers

With your customer profile built you can now begin to think about marketing tactics:

  • Who would they trust for health/fitness advice or recommendations?
  • Where (digitally / in-person) do they hang out?
  • How best to leverage customer referrals?
  • Are there any local/corporate business opportunities to access them?

This may take some time, and some further research so begins to build that understanding in the next couple of weeks as we review the other building blocks of your business. Making notes on your phone, or having a pad with you to jot ideas down as they come to you is also a good idea.

With your ideal customer profile built and service offering reviewed in our second blog post we’ll move on to consider pricing.  Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin or Twitter to see when it drops in the coming week!

5 key considerations for managing block bookings or courses

By Dance, Fitness business management archives and news, Fitness industry archives and news, Gym and studios, Pilates, Yoga

In this blog, we consider when to sell sessions in courses or blocks, how best to maximise their operational efficiency, and block-to-block customer retention.

Are courses or blocks right for your customer?

A common theme in our business management content is to start with your customer.  We make no apologies for this, when thinking about your business model you should always start with an assessment of your customer or target customer.

When reviewing whether a course/block of sessions is right for your customers it helps to consider a few headline questions:

  • Do you assess your client’s progress frequently or set short-term milestones?
  • Is there a scheduling reason that courses/blocks may suit your customer better than other models (i.e. pay-as-you-go/memberships)? For example, are you targeting parents that have more availability during school term time?  Or kids where it’s often vice versa?
  • Can your customers afford larger one-offs, or twice over-term payments?
  • Would a perceived lack of flexibility in scheduling put them off?
  • What, if any, service would customers want when you’re not running courses?

When considering these questions, it is perhaps not surprising that many of our business customers who operate this model do so because:

  • They focus on parents as a demographic, effectively dove-tailing with school terms
  • The structure is particularly popular with Pilates and yoga modalities
  • Other programs where clear end results over a period are a focus often use them, with many personal trainers offering either 1-2-1 or small group training courses/blocks.

Your decision-making process can, of course, also be supported by considering whether alternative business models would work better:

  • In instances where courses/blocks make the most sense, it’s often the case that a membership model might be perceived by your customers as too long-term, or a waste of money (as regular commitments mean it wouldn’t get used for much of the year)
  • Whilst pay-as-you-go can supplement course income, running that by itself may also be seen as lacking a desired certainty of attendance for customers and, indeed, income for you as the business owner.  

How to think about retention

A reason we often hear for using memberships over courses is that the former encourages greater retention, as it doesn’t require a regular review / re-purchase. With this, it’s assumed that by surfacing the buying decision regularly you can increase the chances for the customer to cancel/not re-buy.

In our experience, and based on the data we see, this is not a valid assumption, and we believe it rests on some antiquated thinking.  Whilst memberships are absolutely a great model for many businesses, having a recurring, ongoing, payment does not in itself increase customer retention.  Customers are now, perhaps more so than ever, very aware of their outgoings and rights with regards to cancellation.  Just because a payment is automated does not mean that it is unknown or unnoticed.

In our experience, when businesses build a course-centric customer base the ongoing requirement to commit to the next course/block serves to increase retention.  This is because it introduces a ‘fear of missing out’.  This is to say that customers can be made aware that spaces are limited, the course is popular, and if they don’t recommit then they may lose their space with no guarantee they’ll get it back.  This in turn increases their propensity to turn up to sessions and make use of their allocated space.  It therefore actually serves to have a positive impact on accountability, far more so than with a membership where the available sessions are entirely optional/bookable.

In addition, you can increase the ‘fear of missing out’ by layering extra privileges on buyers of your past course/blocks.  For instance, you could offer a priority purchasing window for your next course/block that’s only accessible to those that bought the previous one.  This adds immediacy to the buying decision and, again, drives repeated attendance and accountability which will assist in retention (our industry-leading Priority Access feature can help here).

How to handle swaps and drop-ins?

One understandable gripe we repeatedly hear on our consults is the time it takes many to administer week-to-week swaps when courses/blocks are running.  Illness, transport, childcare, and holidays are common themes that can cause customers to miss scheduled sessions and want to swap into different courses/blocks’ weekly sessions.

Whatever you decide to set for your cancellation policy for sessions, if you’re offering a swap/credit, the process needs to be easy and manageable.  Ensure you find a system (e.g. Gymcatch) that can handle the customer canceling and rebooking of their spot (where there’s availability) across courses/blocks without having to contact you.

With regards to drop-ins, these can be a nice way to both enable swaps, but also boost income if your course isn’t full.  The main thing here is to ensure that you’re not opening up too many spots too early (i.e. too far before their start time).  It’s important to remember that for every drop-in you sell, that reduces your total course capacity (until that session is complete) by one.  So drop-ins at premium pricing are really best used either when they’re made available close to the start date of the session, or if there’s considerable excess capacity in the course.

What to do outside of course term time?

Where courses/blocks are run across school terms, we see two approaches to non-term time.  One approach is to leave the calendar clear.  This can give customers a break, and the flexibility to manage childcare without feeling like they’re missing out or, guilt for non-attendance.  This can also give the business owner some valuable time to refocus on pre-marketing the next courses/blocks and general admin that’s difficult to do during the period of delivery.  If you hire space and variable business costs, it can also mean that you don’t necessarily continue to incur in-term overheads.

The second option we see deployed successfully is for a more flexible set-up over the period.  This might be where you allow only pay as you go, or class pack / bundle-bought sessions.  This can be a great way to boost non-term time income and gives those that want to maintain their routine the ability to do so, all without in any way prejudicing those that can’t.

How to launch or migrate to a new booking system?

If your booking system doesn’t allow for all of the above, then there’s potentially a decision to be made to migrate to one that does.

If you are moving from pen and paper, then planning a launch in between courses/blocks is no doubt a good strategy and can ensure everything kicks off with minimum disruption.  If you’re not digitally confident look for 1-2-1 onboarding as part of the offer.  At Gymcatch, we pride ourselves on ensuring that all customers receive the onboarding support they need.

If you are migrating from a system that doesn’t provide these solutions, or that you’re over-paying for, then thinking about the following can be helpful:

  • When are you going to switch?  Again, in between courses/blocks can make a lot of sense, but equally the system may be able to import/add customers to existing courses/blocks, which may make for a gradual switchover while you’re still seeing customers regularly face-to-face to smooth the inevitable (if hopefully infrequent) questions that come up.
  • Can you import customer data and create their accounts for them?
  • Is it easy for customers to claim their accounts?

We hope you found the post useful.  If you would like to speak about the above and discuss your booking software needs and our £10 / $ 10 per month system, please book a free consultation here or if you’d like to give Gymcatch a go for free for 1 month, please get started here.

ASFA® and Gymcatch announce strategic partnership

By Fitness business management archives and news, Fitness industry archives and news

The American Sports and Fitness Association® is pleased to announce its new partnership with Gymcatch. By providing great value booking and customer management software for fitness and wellness businesses from $10 per month, ASFA® recognizes Gymcatch’s commitment to making participation easier for all.

As a leading Personal Trainer & Fitness Certification provider, ASFA® recognizes and appreciates the need for companies like Gymcatch who create easy-to-use, affordable tools that help our customers manage their businesses, enabling them to do more of what they do best: bring exercise to their community.  We are delighted to offer our community 20% off their first 12 months on the service with code ASFA20. You can find out more about the service and register here.

Additionally, we are excited to proudly display Gymcatch’s logo on ASFA’s Partner Page with other leaders in the industry such as MyCPR NOW™ – the leading online CPR and First Aid Certification provider, Human Kinetics – the leader in fitness texts and manuals provider, Berxi – a Berkshire Hathaway company and more than 100 gym chains and fitness institutions.

 

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What’s important in your cancellation policy?

By Fitness business management archives and news, Gym and studios, HIIT and group, Pilates, Yoga

If you have been receiving too many ‘I’m sorry I won’t be able to make it today at the very last minute, is time to set a cancellation policy and start protecting your income. Make this task item number one on your to-do list and keep on reading.

“There’s nothing worse than a cancellation” is a phrase we hear quite often at Gymcatch. Although it’s not quite true. Worse than cancellations are last-minute cancellations, and worse still, a no-show.

We’ve all been in that situation where you have prepared for a training session or class and a client cancels at the very last minute. Handling late cancellations and no-shows can be very difficult for your business, eat away precious income and waste the opportunity to get a new face or different client into the session.

Cancellations and no-shows are out of your control but they are bad for business and bad for morale.   What you can do is two things:

1) encourage responsible behaviour of your client base so to minimise cancellations, maximise the notice they give you when they cancel and eradicate no-shows in all  but extreme cases; and

2) mitigate the financial risk of cancellations.

There is a stack of evidence and proven processes which tells us that you can stop cancellations blighting your business. You don’t need to accept a high drop out rate and you shouldn’t.

Take payment at the point of booking

Cancellation rates at businesses where the client pays at the point of booking are 40% lower than at businesses which operate a pay-on-the-door model.

It’s just a fact of human psychology that once a client has paid for something they are far less likely to not show up or cancel it. Some businesses don’t like taking online payments either for reasons of not wanting to pay the card fees or because of additional admin. All the data points to that being a false economy. What you lose in card fees you’ll make back several-fold in reduced and non-refunded, cancellations.

This helps both sides of the cancellation risk: taking payment in advance reduces the number of cancellations and having the client’s money puts you in control of whether your policies allow a refund in the circumstances.

Do I need to let clients cancel at all?

A cancellation is always better than a no-show (because you’ve got a chance of filling the space). Not giving a client the means of cancelling doesn’t stop them from cancelling, it just means they don’t turn up and you won’t know about it in advance.

This is where having a booking software that automates tasks for you, such as booking confirmation messages and reminders, can be very useful and help reduce your no-shows as well as save you time. If you take a proactive approach, you will help minimize no-shows.


Automation of waitlists and refunds

While you can reduce the number of no-shows and cancellations they can’t be eradicated. But encouraging clients to act responsibly and follow a clear process if they need to cancel maximises the chance of you not being out of pocket.

Making it simple to cancel (and receive a refund if it is due) incentivises clients to do this and give you maximum notice.

And for clients who want to take a cancelled space, an instant waitlist which converts to bookings and that is easy to use saves you the bother of phoning round to try and fill a spot.

Do I need a cancellation policy?

Yes, you do. Every business should have a cancellation policy that sets the boundaries of its services. You don’t need to be a lawyer or to copy someone else’s policy. It just needs to very simply and in plain language set the rules that clients need to know when they book.

With this clear, no-surprises, approach a cancellation policy’s role goes beyond protecting your income and also protects your relationship with your client as it stipulates how you work and what your working boundaries are. Most client-provider relationships that break down, do so because of a lack of communication.

Don’t be afraid of making the terms onerous. Strict cancellation policies will encourage good clients to book rather than put them off because it places real value on the place – it demonstrates scarcity and that the client is buying something in demand.

Setting the tone at the very start, for example at sign-up stage will help bring more commitment from the client too. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use your discretion when a client comes to you with some particularly difficult circumstances – you’ve always got that option.

What should I include in a cancellation policy?

  1. Contact information
    How to contact you or your gym or studio. If your client needs to contact you to cancel a session make sure you tell them the process for that. Do you want them to contact you directly, if so how. Or do they need to cancel their booking on your booking system?
  2. Cancellation without penalty?
    Are you going to allow clients to cancel and provide them with a refund, provided they give you sufficient notice?
    Not all businesses do this. Some say that once you’ve booked there are no refunds. Others will always provide a refund no matter when the cancellation comes in. Most businesses fall somewhere in the middle.The whole point of this is to maximise your chance of selling the space that the client is cancelling. If you’re a business with packed waitlists and are regularly over-subscribed and your services are easy to participate in at short notice you can afford to allow cancellations until relatively late. E.g. 48 or 24 hours before the start time.If your session is harder to fill, you don’t have a regular waitlist, or the class is difficult to participate in at short notice then you will probably want the place on sale for longer. E.g. 1 week.We find that cancellation policies which allow refunds up until a few hours before the class start time are counter-productive and see low levels of client uptake on the newly available and more frequent cancellations.at least 24 or 48 hours before. Some will even charge a penalty fee if the 24- or 48-hour timeframe has been breached. If your client has adhered to the timeframe, however, you can give them the option to book into the next session.
  3. Cash refunds or credit
    It’s important to state in your cancellation policy whether you will issue a monetary refund, allow to reschedule or even include a penalty fee.  Offering a refund in the form of a credit to book another session will usually be the better option.  It cheats the revenue in the business, is lighter on admin and acts as a better tool for retention.
  4. Agreement
    When a client makes a booking you’re entering a contract with them so you need to know that you’ve got their agreement. Make sure they read and understood both your cancellation and refund policies. Having your clients tick or sign in the agreement will save any misunderstandings as they’re in clear knowledge of how you operate.

Gymcatch helps you minimise the number of cancellations. Our booking and management system lets you set your cancellation policy to suit your business needs. You can choose to automatically credit customers with a class package that lets them book a replacement class if they give you enough notice. And although cancellations are inevitable and when this happens, our waitlist feature set allows you to fill up the cancelled space fast.

 

 

 

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How to communicate your price increase to your customers

By Fitness business management archives and news, Fitness marketing and social archives and news, Uncategorized

Raising the prices of services can be daunting. We worry that we might lose clients on price, that we make them angry, upset and disappointed at us. We also feel a duty of care toward clients and don’t want to raise prices when we might know they are already struggling. Sometimes, we can even question whether our services are worth the extra cost.

These are completely normal emotions and entirely empathetic response to a difficult situation.

But, and it is a big but, you are almost certainly going to have to raise your prices.

If you have been postponing it for a while, now is a good time to get into action and do it in the best way possible for you and your clients. So, take a deep breath, and let’s dive into the key steps to take to make the transition easier for you, and for your clients.

By how much do you need to increase your classes, and in what timeframe?

Has inflation already started to bite you and by how much? Add up the additional costs that you now incur. That’s the minimum amount you need to make up by increasing your prices just to keep your take-home revenue the same. So, if your bills have done up by £100 / month and your monthly revenue is £1000 / month, you need to raise your prices by 10%.

You might decide actually that you can make some efficiency savings in your business which save £50 a month so you can actually raise prices by 5%.  But the thing to watch out for is that inflation doesn’t stay still. Inflation might add another £50 to your overheads in 6 months’ time and now there’s no more efficiency savings to make so you need to raise your prices again.

And here is your first choice which is do you raise your prices in a big chunk in one go to future-proof your pricing and keep your prices flat for a decent amount of time? Or do you raise prices incrementally through the year a little at a time?

The answer is probably that if you sell in long-term increments (annual memberships for example) you will need to raise your prices in one big jump now. Whereas if you sell more on a pay-as-you-go, or in weekly or monthly increments, you have far more flexibility to increase prices gradually.

 1. Communicate your price increase

Raising your prices without giving much warning and without clarity can cause unnecessary friction. The key is to communicate any changes to your customers effectively and allow for some time to adjust to the changes. People will understand you have to put prices up but for them, it’s just another increase so however understanding it’s not what they want to hear. Be as transparent as possible and provide them with a timeline that gives them plenty of time. If it’s practical, let them know individually or in small groups and in person.

People will appreciate that you’ve spoken to them and not just assumed that the increase will be fine or not care if the increase is too much for them. Once your customers know you can make an announcement but most of your clients will already know and appreciate the advance warning.

 2. Add value, foster loyalty, and build a community spirit

Adding value to your fitness services will aid with customer retention and acquisition. In general, people are willing to pay more if they feel they are getting more value for money. This can be anything form the service you provide, to the speed of your responses, to any free resources you give away, to the private groups you form etc. Adding value can put you in a unique position and help you differentiate from your competitors. At the end of the day, only you know what you do and how you do it, so be brave and consider yourself an expert in the field by driving conversations.

Are there a few little things you can add to your service which don’t cost you much or anything at all, but that your clients will appreciate as their prices go up. Checking in with clients a bit more to make sure they’re enjoying themselves, additional positive feedback, run little competitions and hand out little prizes (just tokens and silly things – not flat-screen TVs). This is all part of creating a mindset with customers that your services aren’t just an expense every week or month. Your services are an essential part of their physical and social routine that is essential for their mental and physical health.  Do everything you can to ensure your service isn’t a nice to have, it’s essential. You may want to read our top 5 tips for creating value for your customers.

 3. Pricing trade-offs

It might be with your business, especially if you’re still seeing a drop in numbers from Covid, that revenue right now is tight. You might therefore want to consider killing two birds with one stone and offering a chance for customers to avoid price increases in return for buying upfront. For example, you could offer a 1 year or 6-month membership where the client pays in full and upfront but at your current price?

Now there’s a trade-off – your profit margin on that customer is less than it would be if they were paying that in instalments at the higher price. But, you’ve got the money in the bank now. If you’ve got clients that fit the profile that can pay upfront, then it might well suit both you and them.

If your customers have been with you for a while, it is likely they can anticipate a price increase. Fitness professionals approaching price raises with attention and communicating the change successfully will likely not risk the customer relationship.

For more information on Gymcatch and how it can help your yogapilatesdance or personal training business. Get in contact to book a demo or start a free month.

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3 step guide to cutting costs for your fitness business

By Fitness business management archives and news, Gym and studios, HIIT and group, Pilates, Yoga

As a fitness or wellness professional, you’re probably already feeling the squeeze of rising costs and the impacts this will have on your business. Looking at your financial health and planning for the months ahead will prove an invaluable exercise.

And although there are some critical costs or expenses that can’t be avoided, there are others that can easily be reduced and get you to start saving money, fast.

We wanted to share a guide that might help you save money and get your business into better financial health by cutting common costs or expenses without jeopardizing your business’ potential to grow. This isn’t about cutting corners – this is about making sure that every penny you spend is well spent. Here’s a practical guide to cutting costs and improving business in three As.

1. Audit

What are you spending, on what and why? Are there alternatives to any item of expenditure, are there items that you can eradicate by changing your internal processes?  On revenue, what are your attendance and cancellation rates, and how are your products and services performing?

Write down every process or cost associated with your business. Don’t restrict yourself to the obvious things. This is every expense, policy process. Think about cancellation policies, waitlist, communications, marketing, the operations of your business, the time you spend on different elements, your training and development. This is a deep dive into everything in your professional life.

Break down every detail of your business, no matter how small or no matter how long that expense has been in your business. Take nothing for granted and don’t pass off small costs. The accumulation of marginal gains goes straight to your bottom line.

2. Analyse

What are the little changes you can make to improve your profitability? These might all be small changes individually, but when you add them up, they can really make a difference.

The SCAMPER method will help you find the best and most innovative solution. SCAMPER is the acronym for (substitute, combine, adapt, modify, put, eliminate and reverse) and encourages you to improve existing processes.

Take your list of expenses and process and say for each of those and apply the SCAMPER options to each of them. Is there a substitute, can you adapt or modify it?

Is there something you use but you could use something less expensive? Do you use something which doesn’t actually pay for itself? Are you doing work that you could push back on your clients?

This table gives you an example of how to analyse the operations of your business:

3. Action

Now that you have worked out what savings you can make, is time to get stuck in with planning and work out how you will operationally manage your business so that your costs remain low, you reinvest where you need to, and simultaneously your efficiency runs high.

See this as a new opportunity to reinvent some of the things you do and bring added value to your customers. By connecting with your most loyal customers, they will be feeding you tons of great insight. Use this information to improve the way you communicate with your audience to truly connect with them and grow your community. Adding value will help you figure your niche and stay one step ahead of everyone else.

 

These are our top 5 tips for creating value for your customers:

  1. Make it easy for your customers to book and pay. Everyone dislikes a painful buying experience. Make this easy for them, and yourself and automate this. They will love getting notified and being able to have control over their class or appointment booking schedule.
  2. Leverage the power of customer testimonials. Make sure you reward your loyal few and fill their inboxes with discount codes and other incentives they can use to encourage them to invite friends and family.
  3. Make sure your customers hear from you, and often. Staying top of mind is an artform and you want to make sure your name pops to mind even at the dinner party. Give them access to free resources such as healthy tips guides, helpful facts and reminders, or an inspirational story.
  4. Create a VIP room. You can use Facebook to bring your most loyal customers together in a place where they can feel inspired and motivated, and hear the most up to date news from you. Add them to a priority list in your booking system too so that they get access to booking ahead of anyone else and can secure their spot!
  5. Do what you love. When you do the things you love you become more productive and motivated. Automating and delegating some of the boring admin tasks with software will enable you to do more of what you love and gain more time to engage more with your customers.

 

Once you have audited your expenses or costs and know the actions you need to take to make some savings, you’ll want to make sure your booking and customer management software is affordable and easy to use for you and your customers. That’s where Gymcatch can help you, get in contact with us today.