It happens like clockwork every January: a rush of newbies who’ve resolved to get in shape pack fitness studios across the country. Studios offer deep discounts in an attempt to snag new business during the year’s highest traffic month. But how can they keep clients coming back in February and beyond? As a studio owner, what can you do to encourage newcomers to purchase packages and, better yet, memberships?

We asked business owners to share their best ideas, tips and strategies to convert more new clients in 2017.

GO BEYOND A FREE CLASS
Just about every studio offers a free introductory class to first-time clients. In order to increase the likelihood that newbies will convert, you’ll need to do more. Consider sweetening the pot with a bulk discount on a block of classes or a free unlimited weekly pass.

Laura St. John, co-owner of Pearl Street Fitness in Denver, CO, offers introductory specials so new clients can get a taste of what her studio is all about. “We do a discounted first month of unlimited classes,” St. John says. “We find that it’s a great way for people to figure out how often they will come to us, and from there, choose what option best fits their scheduling needs.”

Julie Insogna-Jarrett, partner and instructor at Prime Cycle in Hoboken, NJ, says her studio hosts a January challenge that rewards participation with steep discounts. “In previous years we’ve done ride 20 times in 30 days and receive 20 percent off your next package,” Insogna-Jarrett said. “We’ve also done (a promotion in which) the top riders with the most visits receive a free unlimited month. These have all been highly successful.”

HOST A SPECIAL EVENT
One of the most effective ways to showcase the benefits of working out in a small studio is to host an event. Last January, Insogna-Jarrett hosted her studio’s first annual wellness day and plans on doing it again next year. The 3-hour event, which was a sell-out, consisted of a 45-minute cycling class, a 45-minute session with a life coach and a 45-minute session with a nutritionist.

“The best way to show people what our classes are all about was to consider a more holistic approach to their lives,” she said. “The life coach focused on motivation, commitment and goals and the nutritionist focused on not only eating healthy but also on tips for people who spin and how they should fuel their bodies before and after intense workouts.”

About half of the workshop’s attendees were new clients and several bought packages right after the event, she said.

BE VIGILANT ABOUT FOLLOW-UP
Few clients will become new members on the spot, which is why follow-up is so important. Whether it comes in the form of a handwritten thank you note or an exclusive money-saving promotional offer, follow-up is a key piece of converting new business.

Debbie Wolff, owner and director of Fusion Fitness and O2 Yoga in Coral Springs, FL, says the instructors at her studio pride themselves on knowing clients’ names and needs. That relationship building starts with a thoughtful follow-up the first time a client works out in her studio.

“We like to think we are the Cheers of the fitness industry,” she says. “Once new clients come to their first class we ask if they’d like to or have they seen the facility. Our instructors seem to have a great handle on each client and build a nice rapport with them as well.”

Another way to follow-up after a client’s first workout?  Sign them up to your email list then send a thank you along with a discount offer to come back for a free class.

MAXIMIZE YOUR DIGITAL MARKETING EFFORTS
Showcase your best January offer on your website’s homepage and make sure to use an engaging headline.  When it comes to promotions, remember that simpler is better. You’ll want potential clients to do as little work as possible in order to sign up online so make sure the user flow is seamless.

Email blasts and social media promotions should also be a part of your strategy. “We have found that email blasts work well for New Year’s offers,” says St. John. “We also love promoting or boosting posts on Facebook, because you can set the targets to your demographic and get friends of friends to join in on the fun.”

Insogna-Jarrett says Facebook and Instagram are her studio’s best marketing tools in January and are sometimes more effective than email newsletters. “We ask instructors to share our posts so we can reach a wider audience and this proves successful,” she says.

INTRODUCE NEWBIES TO REGULARS
After new clients sign up for free classes, introduce them to long-time members. In many ways, your regulars are your best sales people since they already know and love your studio.

“We start every single class with people introducing themselves to each other,” says St. John. “It is always a pleasant surprise to newbies in the class! And it never gets old for our current people who get to know and love working out with each other.”

While January is all about bringing new faces into your studio, remember that your regulars are still your bread and butter. “For the biggest impact, we love offering special ‘loyalty’ discounts to our current customers,” St. John adds. “We believe the power of marketing is in our people, so it’s important we start there and treat them like the royalty they are to our business model!”