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Increasing Class Membership in a Rugged Economy

by Rachel Battaglia
As seen in the Fall 2009 Balanced Body Pilates COREterly

As instructors we are all aware that without members we wouldn’t have jobs. However, with the current economic crisis most of us do not have the luxury of expensive advertising. These ideas, combined with your passion for improving peoples lives through Pilates, are all you should need to keep those classes full, without breaking the bank.

Scheduling

Make sure your class schedule is easily located in your facility and accessible to your members. They can’t attend class if they don’t know when it starts. If possible, add a contact person’s name and email address. This will allow a member who’s considering a class to ask questions before participating.

E-Marketing

If you have an existing website, make sure your schedule is current and easy to download. Members can check the schedule from home or work and plan their day accordingly. You will find it also saves paper and printing costs. Eblasts are a great way to communicate with your members; just be careful not to overdo it. Once a month is an acceptable amount. And remember – content is king. Make sure you have something interesting to say and do not repeat yourself from one month to the next.

Call them

Make a point of calling every new member who joins your facility. Introduce yourself and invite them to participate in a class. You can suggest the best classes for them to start with. Perhaps offer them something special, like having the first class for free. Doing this makes the member immediately feel more comfortable, and you may have just added another member to your classes.

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Don’t be a stranger

Don’t be afraid to call or email members whom you haven’t seen in class for awhile. You can check in with them and let them know about class changes and upcoming events. This just might be the extra motivation they need to get back into the facility.

Be visible

During the club’s busy time, hang out in the lobby area and let people know who you are and what you are doing. Bringing equipment like an EXO™ Chair for demonstrations is a great way to break the ice and introduce members to your classes. For many members, it is the fear of the unknown that keeps them from trying classes. During slower times of the day, do not be scared to walk the floor and talk to the members. You would be surprised how many people have misconceptions about Pilates.

Use your current class members

Current members are the best marketing tool you have access to. Encourage them to bring a friend or spouse to class. Create a referral program where your class members are rewarded for getting someone new to sign up. With their permission, you can also begin a testimonial wall board of pictures and stories of current members and how Pilates has helped improve their lives. Testimonials are great for encouraging new members to participate and to remind the regulars why they are here.

Be creative with our programming

Combine 30 minutes of EXO Chair with 30 minutes of cardio for those members who want that cardio burn as well. Consider offering shorter classes (30-45min) back to back. This might allow someone with limited time to participate in a class and someone with more time to stay for two classes.

Pound the pavement

Being active in your community and networking outside your facility are great ways to bring people into your facility. Partner with a worthy organization and hold a fundraising class that’s open to the public. For instance, contact your local Food Bank and offer to hold a special class. Participants would bring canned goods instead of paying for the class. Not only is this good for promoting your facility, it is a wonderful thing to do for your community.

Ask, listen, and act

Talking to your members is an important way to get feedback on programming, but don’t forget about the frontline staff. Receptionists, sales staff, and personal trainers are just a few of the individuals that come in constant contact with members. What are they hearing from the members?

Rachel Battaglia is the Group Fitness Director at Triton Sports Club in San Antonio, TX.