Practical Tips to Retain and Engage Clients During COVID-19

July 15, 2020
Author: Suzy Levi, NCPT, PMA Board of Directors

Wouldn’t it be nice to predict the future and know how this story ends? I admit, it is easy to get caught up in the emotional rollercoaster of COVID-19 and lose your ability to think clearly and plan proactively for the short and long term for your business.

However, now is the best time to put your thinking cap on to examine your business and plan ways to retain and engage your current clients, while also re-engaging those who may have slipped away due to issues associated with the pandemic.

It is time to expect and plan for the new “normal”. The studio scenario is different depending on where you live. Some of you may already be open, others are planning for your grand re-opening soon, while across the country, there is potential for a second wave of shut downs. Although we all are currently facing different situations, the fact remains for all of us that we are swimming in uncharted waters and we must think creatively and be open to new ways of operating to keep our clients engaged to be profitable and for our businesses to survive.

Implementing the right changes could deliver meaningful value. Here are some strategies to consider that will help you retain, re-engage and acquire clients so your business will weather the storm and not only survive in these uncertain times but also thrive.

Consider The "Trifecta Model" - Hybrid Programming
Even if you are permitted to be open for in-person business, you may have some clients who are still not ready to return to live studio classes. Most likely during quarantine, you offered some type of virtual programming. A good business tactic would be to maintain some of those virtual options to accommodate those that prefer to stay home for now. Multiple programming options requires some proactive planning on your part. Offering what I call the “tri-fecta” schedule of virtual, live in-studio, and hybrid programming will help you retain and engage as many clients as possible and keep your business humming along!

Continuing to offer that programming will also help you capture additional revenue from clients that may have moved or travel often. Also, if you are forced to close your physical doors again, you will be better prepared for the transition back to complete virtual programming.

It may feel that virtual programming pales in comparison to live classes and in-person private training when it comes to building rapport and establishing community with your clients. Gradually adding back small group classes, and private training - especially on the large apparatus, will bring back the personal touch that comes with the live studio experience. If you can pull it off technically, offering and developing some hybrid classes, meaning you are teaching clients in studio while also virtually streaming for those at home, you would be creating the best of both worlds and accommodating all clients at their personal comfort level.

Tiered Membership Models will Provide Choices and Improve Retention
If you offer membership programs, introducing or expanding a tiered membership approach could enhance member retention and growth. Tiered options give clients more choices that meet their needs and budget, versus a one-size-fits-all approach that might not work for them. This will be especially important in seeking to re-activate clients during COVID-19, as many are likely to be re-evaluating their spending and shying away from financial commitments that don’t provide flexibility for them.

A way to think about tiered memberships is to compare it to how you can purchase airline tickets: people who want the cheapest route from point A to B will buy basic economy, while those who want greater service can add on perks such as preferred seating, extra baggage and expedited boarding.

For example, you could offer a virtual membership with live stream only programming, a second tier of an in studio membership with access to recorded virtual programming, and a third tier would include virtual live stream, recorded video classes, and live studio classes along with other perks such as discounts on merchandise and retail.

Get Creative With Your Pricing
1. Offer a special re-opening, private training introductory package to accommodate those who want to exercise in person but are reluctant to do so in a group.
2. Referral discounts to new members referred by current clients for virtual or live in studio classes and/or training.
3. Create a combo package of in studio and virtual programming to offer flexibility of schedule and comfort level for clients.
4. Implement “tiered” membership pricing.

Maximize Motivation With Challenges and Community Events
Creating weekly or monthly attendance and fitness challenges is a great way to foster friendly competition among your clients. It’s fun but also keeps them accountable for their physical goals while engaging with others in your business which helps them stay connected to your community thus helping with retention. Hosting social hours, book clubs, and other events, virtually or in person also encourages inclusion and participation and keeps your clients engaged in your community.

Maintain Contact With Personal Interactions
Personalized follow ups from your teachers and you are vital to maintaining contact with your clients. Put aside the auto email follow ups for now and opt in for phone calls, texts or in person chats. Staying in close contact with your clients is one of your best retention strategies as it keeps you in touch and aware of what your clients are looking for in your studio community.

Survey Your Clients and Staff
Surveying your clients and staff will help you plan accordingly and take out the guesswork when implementing your “new normal.” Knowing how your clients and staff are feeling about returning to the studio and being inside with others will help you make the best decisions for your studio schedule, traffic flow, and implementing new policies and procedures. Asking them for their opinions shows that you care about their safety and comfort and will also instill consumer confidence in your business.

Your staff will likely also provide valuable insight that they are hearing from their private training clients and students in their classes. Continuing to use this strategy to optimize your business will help you work smarter, not harder, and will result in higher engagement and retention of your clients and staff.

Your community is your biggest asset and it is important now more than ever to keep them engaged as it is essential for your business survival, especially during the pandemic. Being proactive with your engagement and retention strategies will ensure success for your business and a happy ending to this story!

Not yet a member of your professional association? Learn more on how to become one.


Category: Business