With the advent of “Social Distancing,” how can studio owners proactively foster their community while protecting their financial exposure? In this article, we’ll look at specific ways that you can retain and engage your studio community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Take a deep breath.
I know this is scary for all small business owners, but I’m urging everyone to rise above the storm — think of Warren Buffett’s famous quote, “We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.”
Let’s for a moment replace “greed” with business acumen. In that context, “greed” is not a bad thing — it’s asking you to tap into that amazingly smart business owner brain that has brought you to this point, thinking clearly about how you can be nimble and position your businesses as a place of stability and safety.
It’s a time to be calm and nimble. I spent the first 20 years of my career in the trading pits and learned that, in times of panic, you need to chuck aside any fear and obstinacy in order to make the best decision for your organization. Gather whatever facts you can and move forward with the best possible decision, being ready to be nimble and change course as needed along the way.
That being said, here are my recommendations for three things studio owners can do today to support their clients and maintain a sense of community.
Maintain Open and Honest Communication
…with your staff
When the world around you is unstable, your staff is looking for you to stay sane and hold things together. That may feel like a tremendous weight on your shoulders, but you need to rise up as a leader and communicate what you do know at this time. A virtual meeting (using Zoom or another platform that allows your team to hear your voice and see each other) is ideal, but an email will suffice if that’s not possible.
Communicate that you are doing everything in your power to protect their income. By showing that you care for them, your expectations of cleaning protocol, working on virtual services and pitching in with little more flexibility will be met with open ears and open hearts.
…and with your clients
Your clients are being inundated with hundreds of COVID-19 emails from every business they’ve ever visited. (Did you ever think you’d ever hear about the sanitary practices of Home Depot?) What steps can you take to make sure that your clients receive your message (and that it is well received)?
As with any message that you’d send from your studio to your clients, you want to think about delivering the right message to the right person at the right time. When crafting messaging, segment clients by activity/usage and think about the purpose of your message. Don’t send another “we keep things clean” email just because everyone else is doing it. Make a personal appeal as a small business owner who is doing their best to serve the community they love.
Run a report to see which clients are still attending and which clients have stopped visiting. In the messaging to clients who are attending, thank them for their loyalty and think creatively about how you can keep them coming (offer semi-privates or reduce class times to be in line with social distancing or offer to have instructors hold outdoor sessions or small group classes). For those who are staying home, note that you respect every decision regarding social distancing, and that you’re working on developing online content that allows them to stay connected with the studio community they love.
Get creative about what you offer and how you do it.
In-studio (if applicable)
- Make an announcement about reducing class sizes to accommodate for personal space. (You may be seeing a dip in classes anyway, so this is self-fulfilling.) This shows that you are maintaining your position of “movement keeps you healthy” but assuring people that they will get to maintain “social distance” in your studio.
- I know you clean like crazy on a daily basis, but make a special show of having front desk staff doing their cleaning while clients are in class. It makes me feel good when I see someone wiping down the door handle we all just touched.
- Nix the partner workouts, adopt a “no adjustment” policy and limit or temporarily eradicate use of props — great opportunity to be positive and show how strong and powerful bodyweight movements can be.
Online classes – start working on this if you haven’t already
- I find that coupling Zoom ($15/mo for business account) with MINDBODY (or whatever service you use) is a simple way to keep clients engaged while keeping your registrations/accounting intact. Clients continue to sign up for classes (now billed as Virtual Classes) via your app or online. Have your front desk staff email the Zoom meeting link to all registrants 15 min prior to the class. This would allow your community to stay connected while keeping a monetary value to the class.
- If you want to explore another option, Namastream is a sleek interface that allows your clients to pay for and stream your videos all in one place. It is $179/mo and you can find more information on plans here.
- Offering online classes does a lot of things. You get ahead of requests for membership holds. You keep people connected to your brand. It allows you to approach a scary time with a little humor and grace. You can get creative and ask your teachers to create their own mini-classes filmed at home. It won’t be perfect but nothing is right now. We’re all just trying our best to keep going and maintain connection/community — your clients will appreciate the effort.
Offer unique opportunities for your studio community to stay connected.
While gathering in person may be challenging, human beings will always crave community and connection. Support your clients’ emotional wellbeing by offering meetups that are not just focused on fitness — set up a private Facebook group for clients, offer virtual coffee dates with the owners, lead a Zoom session on meditation, etc. Anything that you do now to show your community that you care for them with pay off greatly in long term loyalty.
Keep calm. Rise above the panic and (as always) put yourself in your staff and client’s shoes. You’ve always thought of simple “path of least resistance” ways to help your studio community feel healthy, calm and connected. Keep a clear head and I don’t doubt that you’ll do the same in the coming weeks.
About the author:
Chris Beer, the founder of B.Well Consulting, has a diverse background that is rooted in finance, driven by data, grounded by giving, fueled by entrepreneurial passion and made possible by hard work and grit.
After a 20 year career in finance, Chris became a MINDBODY-Certified Business Consultant to further her ability to help fitness and wellness owners make data-driven decisions that propel their organizations forward. Chris specializes in the development and implementation of business operating systems — your company’s unique way of doing things — how it operates, goes to market, produces and deals with its clients. An effective business operating system transcends the people who are doing and managing the work, and is more valuable as a result. A business that effectively operates without you is always more attractive to public and private sources of capital.
Driven to be humble and helpful, B.Well Consulting works with small businesses to create more success while working more efficiently and gaining a better understanding of what drives their revenue.