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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.

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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.

 

 

 

Image for Referrals blog post

How to create a referral programme

By Dance, Fitness marketing and social archives and news, Gym and studios, HIIT and group, Pilates, Yoga

A referral programme is a very cost-effective and low risk way to reward your loyal customers for recommending new ones. It’s a very powerful marketing tactic to get existing customers to talk about you and help you acquire new ones.

According to a Nielsen report 83% of people trust their friends’ opinions. Although an old cliché, people buy from people, and that’s because there is immediate confidence and credibility to their testimonial. Led by trust, these future customers have the potential to quickly convert.

In summary, these are the key benefits to a referral programme:

  • Turns customers into loyal ones
  • Helps you build on your testimonials
  • Expands your reach and awareness
  • Converts leads into customers faster

If you are now ready to set up your referral programme and are looking for ideas, this blog is for you, and to make it easy we’ve broken it down into a 4 step guide with inspirational ideas you may want to consider.

  1. Set the goal you want to achieve with your referral programme
    Before you get started, decide on what you want to achieve with your programme. You want this to be clear and measurable. Acquiring new customers may not be your goal or what you want by the end of it. Some businesses will be looking at increasing sales or loyalty to get more advocates and improve on retention. Once you have decided on your goal, think about how you will be measuring progress and what are your referral sources.
  2. Decide on your incentive or reward
    The most successful way to get this right is to encourage insight from your customers to determine what incentive or reward will motivate them. Non-cash incentives such as in-store credits or priority access boost customer retention and sales. You don’t want to spend endless hours tracking and calculating incentives manually. Instead automate as much of this work as possible to save yourself valuable time. Choosing a conversion event, for example, the reward is applicable once the customer has booked a class or session with you and made full payment. This will eliminate any doubts and set the boundaries for when claiming a reward.
  3. Decide on your advocates
    The most critical part of the programme is choosing customers that are as passionate as you are about what you do and know your brand. Share your mission with them and draw some parameters. Work out the tags or hashtags and key messages you want them sharing.

    Consider the following:
    Who do you want to target?
    What do you need them to do?
    How can they achieve this?

  4. Promote your referral programme
    Tell your customers about your programme, chances are they aren’t aware and/or need reminding. Your most loyal customers should be your first place to get started. These are people that love your classes or sessions and have probably already advocated your business more than once before. However, make it easy for your customers to share your services and get rewarded. Social media has become a popular channel to share information and get the word out, but it has to be a simple process for both the referrer and referee, or they will lose interest.

A referral programme creates a win-win situation for all. Your existing clients get rewarded, feel valued, and you get quality leads for new customers. The more customers you get to tell their friends about your classes or appointments the more opportunity for new business you create.

Need inspiration?
Take a look at what some brands are doing!

Uber
Uber’s referral programme has 2 parts. Uber gives drivers and riders a unique referral code to share with friends interested in creating a driver or rider account. When a referral is successful a payment reward is made.
In parallel, they run a user referral programme too that works very similarly. When a user shares their code with a friend and that friend signs up they both get their next trip for free.

Dropbox
Dropbox allows you to earn extra free storage space when you invite friends to try it out. Basic accounts get 500 MB per referral and can earn up to 16GB. Plus accounts get 1 GB and earn up to 32 GB per referral.

How do referrals work on Gymcatch?
There are many ways to use Gymcatch’s features to run a successful referral programme and reward your customers. Our Discount Codes bolt-on, for example, allows customers to invite their friends and family at a fixed amount or percentage off. This is great when wanting to encourage loyalty and improve retention.

You can also use bundles and make them available for purchase for a limited time and remove it from sale at the end of the offer period. These are included as part of the base plan and although mean a little more planning are very easy to set up.

Our own referral programme means customers get rewarded with 2 free months and receive a cash reward when referring a new business. The referred business gets an extra free month directly into their account when registering with us.

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.

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Pilates tops the list of the most in-demand exercise

By Fitness industry archives and news, Pilates

Top wellness and fitness trend

Pilates is the exercise discipline that showed the most resilience throughout the ups and downs of the Covid pandemic. Our research shows that the public stuck with, or turned to, Pilates when other exercise disciplines were experiencing tougher trading conditions.

Formed by Joseph and Clara Pilates in the 1920’s when they opened Body Conditioning Gym in New York City, Pilates has evolved through the years while sticking to its original philosophy and principles.

Today over 12 million people enjoy the benefits of Pilates, establishing itself as the top wellness and fitness trend in the UK throughout the pandemic, performing even more robustly than Yoga.

“We have seen a surge for low impact classes. People are increasingly focused on wellness and Pilates offers a great blend of flexibility and strength training,” says Ollie Bailey, CEO at Gymcatch.

The popularity of Pilates

When assessing the popularity of Pilates the main factor was consumer attitudes to the discipline. Pilates enthusiasts, more than in other areas of fitness and wellness, considered Pilates to be an essential part of their routines, rather than a hobby.

Moreover, in a period where people were particularly keen to avoid using health services, we saw consistent feedback that the low-impact, low injury risk reputation of the discipline saw consumers turn to Pilates rather than disciplines that they perceived as riskier.

Finally, Pilates has proved to be a more convenient form of exercise during the past year, as lower intensity and simpler forms of Pilates were perfectly suited to participation at home.

“Pilates has evolved, and demand has increased due to the pandemic with more people looking for mind-body health and overall wellbeing. Thirty minutes a day can be enough to get real results, so it fits into the workday well,” says Joanne Cobbe from JPilates.

Pilates in numbers

Lower impact exercise saw a 2556% increase in bookings between January and July 2021 on Gymcatch. Pilates alone has seen a 25% increase from 2020 to 2021, despite the incredibly challenging backdrop. In the UK Pilates is a truly national discipline with participation levels slightly higher in London and southern counties but distributed throughout the country with almost half of English counties searching for a Pilates exercise class.

Fitness map display


Virtual Pilates classes are here to stay

Many consumers have fully adjusted to online classes and are now seeking the perfect blend of face- to-face and virtual sessions. But this does not mean that face-to-face delivery is going anywhere. The majority of consumers have returned to in-person delivery and in most cases virtual sessions appear to be supplementing, rather than replacing the in person experience.

Following the end of the national lockdown in the UK in April 2021 we’ve seen a steady recovery of in person delivery. In May 25% of classes were still online only. During June and July 2021 85% of classes were delivered in-personGymcatch expects about 10% of pilates participation to permanently switch to virtual.

“People still want access to On-Demand content or have the option to attend a live-streamed class. By doing both, Pilates instructors can offer more value and more convenience for their clients while adding revenue, new streams and resilience to their businesses,” says Ollie Bailey, CEO at Gymcatch.