Keeping Clients Engaged and Retained on Screen
September 10, 2020
Author: Katie Santos, NCPT, PMA Board of Directors Vice President
In March, we never suspected we would be teaching to a camera every day for 6 months. And our clients thought they would be back in front of us way sooner than this. Our new reality is that teachers have gotten used to the Zoom life, but have our clients? What was novel in March and April now seems to pose a challenge to our client engagement and retention. But Pilates teachers have two things on their side; a deep desire to help others move better and an ability to think outside the box – or in this case – the camera.
Most teachers noticed excellent attendance in the first few weeks of shutdown when clients were eager to connect and loved seeing a familiar face. Some clients have fallen off while others realize we are in this for the long haul and have joined our online classes. Keeping current clients engaged while attracting new ones and coaxing those who have not yet made the online leap is the key to steady revenue.
The most important way to keep clients engaged is personal connection. The truth is that we must communicate with our clients even more than we ever did before. You connect to a client in the studio just because they are in your space. The aesthetics of your studio, the little touches like aromatherapy, fresh towels, and a welcoming space are all ways we connect with clients. Those extra touches are not available in an online class. We have to pick up the slack and go the extra mile by texting, emailing, or even calling our clients to check-in and see how they are. While it seems like a daunting prospect, setting up a time each week to make 5 or 10 outreach calls to your client base goes a long way to retaining them and making them feel valued. Connect the phone call with the on-screen class. Acknowledging a conversation you just had with a client during class shows the rest of the group that they are in a community that is valued.
Another great way of reaching out to clients is before the start of a streamed class. Log on 5 or 10 minutes ahead of time to invite community connection and conversation. You can use this time to prep the class for what is coming, asking about how the last class went or check in to see generally how your people are doing.
The same goes for sticking around 5 or 10 minutes after class to answer questions and solve any challenges the clients may have. The more you can foster connection between you and the class and the clients to each other, the better your retention will be.
Decide if you can spend a little bit of money on software to help streamline and ease your client communication. Email newsletter providers such as MailChimp allow you to create drip campaigns that can be personalized to your client’s journey. Two-way communication software like Fitgrid or Brandbot are great ways to monitor your client communication and get reviews of your teachers.
Give your clients something to look forward to each month. Take a weekend to sit down and plot out a year's worth of monthly themes around your classes and let your social media, email, and in-person communication revolve around the theme. If you are stuck on what themes might work best for your clients, start to think about the conversations that you're having with them. Are they asking the same questions about the same subjects, are they expressing the same feelings about their lives? Perhaps even consider bringing in an additional resource such as a nutritionist or a meditation teacher for a pop-up class. Offering these to your community in conjunction with your other class offerings gets them excited about something new and different.
Consider hosting a virtual happy hour once a month or so. You could even take that happy hour outdoors to a local restaurant and broadcast it from Instagram Live so that those that are not ready to go out yet can still participate from home. Partner with local eateries who are willing to share their recipes or even do an online cooking class just for your clients.
One of the ways we have found to expand our reach is to encourage our current clients to invite their family and friends from across the country or the globe. We have mothers asking daughters, sisters, and even brothers joining them in our virtual class space. It’s a good bet that some of your clients know people in other countries. All you need to do is pick up a few clients from someone in England, and you are off to the races if you invite them into your community and make them feel welcome.
Zoom fatigue is real, but I also believe that a lot of that fatigue is a mindset. When you can feel and your clients can sense that they are taking care of their health, they will be less likely to be fatigued by taking online classes or sessions. You can help them lessen screen fatigue by recording the audio of your classes and storing them for clients to access while outdoors. Coach them through a walk or run, or a 20-minute mat class they can do outside. This way, they get out of the house, away from the screen, and they can do their workout in their own time.
A big stumbling block for clients is the tech involved with online classes or sessions. Make it easy for your non-techie clients to get set up so they can see and participate easily. Record yourself walking step by step through all the setup they would have to manage for an online class. Our brains are all working at maximum capacity, so the more thinking you can save your client, the easier it will be for them to participate with you. If you're lucky enough to have a manager or even a high school or college-aged child, tap them to be your tech support department. They can be on hand to help clients navigate the online world and troubleshoot their tech problems.
Keep in mind that Zoom is not the only game in town. Microsoft Teams, Instagram and Facebook Live are all good options to name just a few. Online classes and privates are here to stay and can be a great way to keep you and your clients together and moving and make you a living in the process.
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