You’ve got a good thing going at your fitness studio. You’ve built a strong community of loyal members who sing your praises, your staff is awesome, business is booming and you’re ready to expand to a second location.
Sure, it helps (a lot!) that you already know what it takes to open and run a successful studio. But getting the word out about a new location has its own challenges. How will you market your second spot without cannibalizing your first? What’s the best way to promote your studio in a new area—one you may not be as familiar with? Read on for your marketing game plan to drive success to your new space.
Focus on Referrals From the Start
Whether you’re opening a new location nearby or in another city, it’s important to reach out to people who are happy and will want to tell others about your studio. When it comes to referrals, your regulars are your best friends. “We work very hard to get the word out to our existing members to help us market any new location,” says Sarah Lux, founder of Uforia Studios with locations in Palo Alto and Nob Hill.
Jamie Silverstein, founder of The Grinning Yogi, which has two locations in Seattle and two in Portland, uses a similar strategy. “A lot of yoga business is word of mouth. Particularly with the second locations in the other cities, a lot of it is calling upon our current clients,” Silverstein says. “We have a deal where members can bring someone that’s never been to the studio for free to try us out because we find our members are our best referrals.”
Beyond word of mouth, consider using tools to help manage and increase referrals.
Beyond word of mouth, consider using tools to help manage and increase referrals. Lux has had success with Perkville, a customer reward program that focuses on referrals, retention, rewards and social media presence.
Target Your Message on Social Media
Social media should play a big role in your marketing strategy. When expanding, Uforia Studios did a combo of exclusive offers, targeted messaging and early promotions on social media. “These all reigned supreme when we opened our second location in Nob Hill,” says Heather Adams, Uforia’s head of brand strategy.
For starters, Uforia ran Facebook ads targeted to the area they were opening with exclusive discounts. The studio also leveraged its existing member base to hype a new location to friends by tagging and sharing Facebook posts to get in on presales, Adams explained. “These referrals make for a much cleaner sales process and more potential for repurchase down the line after the studio is opened,” she added.
When it comes to calls to action and getting the word out about deals, focus your efforts on Facebook, advises Silverstein, who has a separate Facebook account for each studio. Because Instagram is less about calls to action, Silverstein has one account for each city, not each studio. When opening another location, be sure to use your closest studio to cross-tag and promote the new studio.
Partner with Local Businesses
Getting to know business owners in your new neighborhood is one of the easiest ways to market your new studio to locals. “We network with local businesses to do in-kind trades or help support each other’s business through word of mouth,” says Silverstein.
Silverstein offers free yoga to the staff at a neighboring coffee shop. In exchange, studio members get a discount on coffee there. “They get a staff perk and our members get a bonus,” says Silverstein, who also offers free classes to local bloggers in exchange for a shout out on their blog.
Fine Tune Your Email Strategy
Of course you’ll need to differentiate between messages you craft for existing members vs. potential new clients of your new space. But there are other groups you should be thinking about emailing, too.
“We have different messages for many subsets of clients; leads, new members, existing members, members we haven’t seen in a while,” says Lux, who uses the reporting features in MindBody to help with tracking. “We also have communications that are for our entire member base, but we have more success when we can target messages to these subsets as their needs might be slightly different.”
Get Personal with Follow-Ups
Silverstein uses a TLC approach when following up via email with new clients at a new location. “We send a lot of very individual emails out to people after they try us out rather than relying on some of the automated emails that are available,” she says, adding that her teachers use an email template that they personalize for each new client.
“If someone took my class and I remember who it is I’ll mention something that we talked about so it comes from a person,” says Silverstein. “We noticed a huge increase in response rate and those who responded genuinely were very appreciative about it.”
Promote a Founder’s Membership at Your New Location
Silverstein offers new members of a new location a founder’s membership, which allows them to lock in a lower membership rate. When opening a new location, she makes sure that existing members can get in on a deal, too.
“Anytime we’re doing a special deal we’ll either make sure the members are able to get that deal or we’ll give them a secondary bonus so they’re not being punished for being loyal to us,” she says.
Cross Promote Your Studios (Only If They’re Close)
Silverstein started in Seattle and learned that brand recognition from one state to the next isn’t big. But cross promotion within the same city has been really helpful, she says. If your new location is close to your existing studio, cross promote them and make sure new and existing members can use both studios.
Most importantly, stay true to your brand by making sure your marketing message is consistent between your current studio and your new one. Says Lux: “Our messaging is the same between locations.”