Managing a successful fitness studio isn’t easy no matter where it’s located but being in the suburbs comes with its own unique challenges. When you run a studio or gym in the burbs, marketing your location is key since you’ll likely have less foot traffic and therefore need to work harder to get people in the door. You’ll also have to be smart about optimizing the extra space you may have. How do you make sure you’ll stand out in a crowded suburban fitness landscape? Here are four strategies to help you grow revenue and stand out.
Maximize Your Space
It’s a given that your suburban studio is most likely more spacious than those in an urban area, where real estate is at a premium. So how do you maximize your suburban square footage given that you may have more space yet get less foot traffic than a city studio? If you have a roomy studio or gym in the suburbs, think about how you’re using the space beyond the areas set aside for classes, working out with weights and machines, locker rooms and the front desk. Ask yourself: Where is the unused space and what can you do to monetize it?
If you have extra front of studio space, consider opening a smoothie bar or healthy snack café. If you’re not up for taking this on yourself, rent a chunk of space to someone who already runs a successful business like the one you envision. If this is too much of an undertaking, think about simpler ways you can grow revenue and foot traffic by inviting local vendors to your studio. Invite a farm that sells CSA subscriptions or a fitness apparel brand that can offer a discount on athletic wear. In return for offering your space, ask to collect a small percentage of sales made at your studio. In addition, by diversifying the type of vendors you work with, you’ll also meet a wider net of potential new clients.
Plan and Participate in Events
Whether you host functions at your studio or participate in happenings within your suburban community, events are a smart way to build community.
Start by seeking out events in your local area. Join local Facebook groups and call surrounding towns to find out what’s planned for the year ahead. Ask when street or town fairs will be happening and what it costs to get a booth for your studio. Find out when area 5K races are planned and inquire about sponsorship opportunities. Ask if you can add a special class offer card to a bag for 5K participants.
Hosting free events in your own studio is another way to attract new members. Think about what makes sense seasonally. During the summer, ask a nutritionist (in exchange for free classes) to come to your studio for a healthy smoothie class or demo. Make it a free event and offer a discount to anyone who signs up for classes. Consider a Thanksgiving morning 90-minute workout session and open it up to non-members. Offer a discount to anyone who signs up for a batch of classes that day. Or host a healthy chili cook off the Saturday before the Super Bowl. Ask instructors and members to bring their best healthy chili recipe in a crock pot and invite non-members to try your studio for free while casting their votes in the cook-off. Hand out recipe cards with a special offer for a class pack. And if you’re debuting a new workout or class, make an event of it by offering a free workout Saturday to non-members that’ll allow them to try a class and chat with instructors and members afterwards over drinks and healthy apps.
Connecting with like-minded locals outside your studio in a meaningful way will do wonders for community building and will be worth the effort.
Another event planning strategy? Reach out to area colleges to offer internships. Hire marketing majors for credit and task them with creating a community building strategy via events and social media outreach.
Invite Local Influencers to Your Studio
Who are the social media influencers in your area? Find them on Instagram and invite them to your studio. It’s okay if they’re not exclusively in the fitness space. Lifestyle influencers can help you spread the word, too. Here’s an example of how it works: A salt therapy studio recently opened in a suburban community. The owner hired a style blogger and influencer with a huge Instagram following to plan an event at the studio. The blogger invited eight lifestyle influencers to come to the event, where everyone tried salt therapy, then mingled over apps and drinks. Everyone left with a swag bag filled with goodies from the studio as well as partners. The result? All the influencers (who have more than 100K followers combined!) spread the word organically about the studio via Instagram stories and posts. It’s the kind of advertising a suburban studio can’t buy and helped the salt therapy studio attract a new base of clients.
Leverage the Power of Hyper Local Facebook Groups
After Facebook changed its algorithm to show people content from friends and family over companies, many small businesses started testing the private Facebook group waters. A study of Facebook groups compared with brand pages conducted by The Digiterati found that groups outperform pages by 50 percent when it comes to reach. Private groups are more engaged and allow you to connect with like-minded people in your local area on a meaningful level. Unlike your Facebook page, a group is built on back-and-forth conversations rather than sharing content many of your followers won’t see.
Where do you begin? Consider starting a group based on your expertise (i.e. Pilates or barre) in your studio area. Remember your role is not to sell memberships or promote deals but to share information, educate members and offer a forum for discussion about a specific type of fitness in your community. Offer tips, advice and support, pose questions, post Q&As with fitness experts and share inspiring and motivational posts, including member success stories. If 90 percent of your posts are content-driven, you’ll be more successful when offering the occasional special offer for your studio. Hosting an engaged Facebook group means you and your instructors will have to check in daily and be quick to respond to comments and questions. But connecting with like-minded locals outside your studio in a meaningful way will do wonders for community building and will be worth the effort.