You’ve welcomed a new customer to your studio. Congrats! Now, it’s time to get your new customer acquainted with your facilities and make them feel comfortable in your new space. Why? It’s no secret that the more at ease your new customer feels, the more likely you are to retain them as a repeat client.

But just how important is it to onboard new clients, and what’s the right way to go about it? How much welcoming is too much, if there’s such a thing? As far as online communication goes, what’s the right cadence of emails to send? To answer these questions and more, we asked a few authorities in the space for their take on all things onboarding. Read on for their tips and advice on how to turn your new customers into long-term customers.

Onboarding a new member of your fitness studio is important for a number of reasons. According to psychologist Amanda Mulfinger, one key reason is that doing so removes potential barriers.

“Once someone’s been appropriately introduced to a fitness studio and shown how the equipment works, where the bathrooms are, who and where the staff are, you’ve taken away several reasons to not work out,” she explains. “They won’t get overwhelmed by all the unknown variables at the gym, and will feel like they belong there. Whatever you do in the onboarding process to remove barriers will increase the chance of someone succeeding in their fitness goals.”

From a business perspective, onboarding new members not only leads to member retention, but also improves your bottom line. “Educated members are engaged members, and engaged members are fully involved in the club and far more likely to stay with the club,” says Kristin Montpetit, marketing director at the Saint Paul Athletic Club. It also helps build your clientele. “Engaged members are far more likely to recommend the club to their friends, family and colleagues,” Monpetit says. “If they enjoy the club, they will want to share that enjoyment with others.”

When onboarding a new member, step one should be getting your client up to speed on the facility and class offerings. “When I have a new client enter my facility, the first thing that we do is to spell out the process for what they should expect and what is expected of them,” says  Kanika Brock, owner of The Cardio Grind. “My goal is for them to understand the principles of how they should workout, the intensity that they should workout, and why my workout will get them to the desired results.”

But onboarding can (and should) go beyond just basic facilities introductions. Your staff or email newsletters should also communicate your class policies, such as for late cancellations or no-shows, as well as what materials are needed for class. Boutique fitness involves more class etiquette and planning than what newbies might be familiar with, so help alleviate any confusion or surprise by clearly communicating your policies on your reservation confirmation emails, your website, and through signage around your front desk and studio. That way, your new clients aren’t left feeling jilted if they lose a class credit for a late cancel or show up without socks for class.

Consider implementing a series of welcome emails for new members, so as not to overwhelm them with information at once, before adding them to your regular newsletter list. These can be set up to send throughout the experience of their first few weeks at your studio, for instance:

  • An introduction email once they signed up for their first class – can include information about how to find the studio, parking, what materials are needed for class, and any info around cancellation policies.
  • A congratulatory email once they’ve completed their first class – celebrate the accomplishment and give them a positive boost for trying it out! You might even consider offering a new-client discount off a class package that expires within 7 days to encourage them to sign up for more classes.
  • Meet Our Instructors – about a week or two into their experience with your studio, send an email highlighting your instructors with brief bios/headshots and links to their most popular classes taught.
  • Survey – it’s always good to get feedback, especially from new clients, so consider implementing a survey email to understand any pain points your customer experienced or what they absolutely loved to help you improve.

Once you’ve given them the grand tour, outlined the classes you offer and what can be expected during each one, continue to keep in touch with them via your most powerful tool: email. Brock says, “As an owner, these emails are golden as a retention mechanism. Acquiring a new client is costly, however these small cost-effective emails keep the clients engaged with the studio, keep them in-the-know, and hopefully encourage them to give a recommendation to friends and family.”