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We help pilates studios with their websites every day.

Are you using the right client onboarding strategy for your Pilates studio?

Every week I get calls and questions from Pilates studio owners asking how they can compete with the big brand Pilates studios that run tons of classes each day.

These questions come up because the studio owners are struggling with getting enough clients to sign up for classes at their studio.

They commonly ask.
- Do I need to do more marketing?
- Do I need to do Facebook ads?
- Do I need a new website?

These can all be part of a solution to get more clients, but the first thing I do is help pilates studio owners identify where the problem exists in their client acquisition strategy.

- Are enough people aware of your studio?
- Are you getting enough calls, inquiries, and new client signups?
- Do you make it easy for people to get started?

Lots of pilates studios get enough phone call inquiries and visitors to their website each month but struggle to convert people who are interested in Pilates into actual clients.

One of the most overlooked aspects is how Pilates studios typically onboard their new clients!

Most Pilates studios require a new client to take at least one private session or buy an intro pack of 3 private sessions at a discount before they can join any classes at a studio.

What does this onboarding strategy communicate to a potential client?

Unconsciously you've just given them the impression that Pilates is challenging and that they need specialized training before they can enjoy Pilates. You've unwittingly put up significant barriers to entry and getting started for many potential customers.

This approach may make sense if your business is a boutique studio which only offers private or semi-private sessions. In this case, the client onboarding strategy matches your value proposition, product offering, and business objectives. This approach makes sense for your business because you only offer private classes and your target customer is a person who wants one-on-one instruction in a private Pilates class.

However, if your studio's core product offering and bread and butter revenue streams are equipment and group classes then maybe you need a different onboarding strategy! Is requiring all new clients to take a private Pilates session(s) the best way to get them to signup?

If your goal is to get more people in the door and experience what you have to offer, you might consider letting new clients sign up for classes without requiring them to take a private lesson.

There is a good business reason for this approach! It allows clients to sign themselves up without having to spend a ton of money or make a significant commitment. It also removes barriers to entry and makes it easy for a client to get started!

If you look at all the boutique fitness studios that are popping up, almost all of them aren't making new clients take prerequisite private sessions before they can start classes – even equipment classes. They allow new clients to jump right in and get started.

I can already hear what you are saying about this idea. Clients have to take the private sessions for safety reasons, or they will disrupt the flow of the class, or the teacher has to spend more time with that one student, etc.. the list goes on. A lot these issues can be overcome though by teachers who are trained correctly to deal with them and by intelligently using your MINDBODY online widgets.

Let's consider a real-life example and the results this approach can generate!

I recently had a client whose website was in the process of a makeover. We weren't ready to launch the new site, but she needed something up, so her current clients could still book classes online. We ended up creating a temporary three-page website. It included a Homepage, a Getting Started section, and Class Schedule (they only offer small group equipment classes).

The studio's old website required that all new clients take an intro private session to start. On the temporary site, we did have the Getting Started page where it leads new clients to sign up for an introductory one-on-one Pilates session at half price, but it turned out no one used it.

Looking at Google Analytics, we saw people were going to the Getting Started page but then most just jumped to the schedule page and signed up for a class. The studio had 8 new clients that month! That was with zero marketing and a half-built website!

What happened when those eight new clients showed up? They were welcomed and given a little extra help in class. Did they take a ton of time away from the other clients? Not really. Were they in any danger of hurting themselves? Not any more than if they walked into a gym and started using weight equipment. Yes, it required the teacher to give them some extra assistance and modifications, but the teacher was still able to run a fantastic class. Yes, it made the teacher work a little harder.

Then the teachers talked to new clients after class and discussed with them what options might be best suited for them. All 8 clients signed up for memberships!

This approach also makes it easier to upsell clients on private Pilates sessions. Once the client is in the studio and has experienced a group class, they tend to realize if they need some additional help and instruction. The Pilates teacher can then introduce the idea of a private one-on-one Pilates session.

Do you want new students showing up to your advanced reformer class with no prior experience? Probably not! However, you can use your MINDBODY Online widgets and class restriction settings in MINDBODY to help solve that problem.

On the Getting Started page of your website, you can offer two options to new clients. Either sign up for a class and get started or take a private introductory lesson.

On your client acquisition page, you can set the MINDBODY widget to only show classes that more suited to the beginner student. I also recommend you stay away from naming classes beginner or fundamentals classes. Nothing turns people off more than thinking they are signing up for a dull beginner class. If you're worried that new clients will jump to the main schedule page and incorrectly sign up for advanced sessions, then you can set up restrictions in MINDBODY for who can sign up for those advanced classes.

Making sure your teachers and front staff is trained to talk with new students after their first class and sell them on your intro offers and memberships has to be a critical part of your onboarding experience! Its a lot easier to sell a Pilates membership or package when the client is in the studio after they experience how awesome the pilates class was than it is on a website or over a phone call.

Is this solution for every studio? No. But reevaluating how you can make it easy for new clients to get started and take their first Pilates class is something to consider. Are you only giving them one option? Are you setting up unnecessary barriers? One of the key goals of any studio should be to make it easy as possible for new clients to come into the studio and experience what you have to offer.

What onboarding options have worked for your studio?