If people know you are there and then you do a fabulous job, you will be busy. It’s that easy! My husband’s job has meant that I’ve moved hundreds of miles on several occasions. Each time I’ve started Pilates classes from scratch and each time I have successfully built a small business to be proud of. These are my tips and what has worked best for me.
The first thing to do is realise your audience. Are you aiming at young mums, office workers, injured athletes or the retired population? Pilates can appeal to all these groups and the time of day and location that you hold your classes dictates your potential group. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising, so you need people to be talking about your classes to the people that you want to encourage them to attend.
These are a great way to get people through the door. Once you have a potential participant group in mind, think of other businesses that share the same client demographic. For example, if you have a hall in an affluent area and you are aiming to attract housewives, then think of the places they may go to and the people they may speak to. In this case, it could be beauticians, hairdressers and cleaners. Lookup details of these businesses in your area and post free passes to your class for all their staff. You can accompany the passes with a short letter detailing why Pilates would be beneficial to them as well as some flyers for your class which they can display for you. Your hope is that they will enjoy the class and chat to their customers about it the following week. This will hopefully let your target group know through word of mouth that you are there.
Throughout your teaching career, you will be presented with individuals with conditions you are not aware of. We are not medical professionals so why not get advice from those who are. Start by sending more free passes to people you may need information from such as physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths and midwives. When they attend, ask them if it would be okay to seek advice from them on any conditions you are unsure of. You will undoubtedly know more about Pilates than they do, but they have medical knowledge that you are missing. In my experience, they are happy for you to ask and learn and would much prefer that you gave correct and well informed advice than made something up. If you can build a working relationship with these professionals then over time they will refer their own clients to you, knowing that you are happy to seek advice and that their clients will be in safe hands. This is another way of attracting word of mouth advertising.
Think outside the box on this one. Your goal is to let people know you are there. You could provide oranges for the nearest school sports day in return for a mention in their newsletter. You could organise a one-mile walk for a local toddler group or special school and write a press release for the local newspaper. You could sponsor the local triathlon club, martial arts club or swimming club. All of these organisations will have members who you are trying to reach with your advertising and limited funding, so anything you offer will be gratefully accepted. In return, you can expect your logo to be printed on their club shirt, a link on their website or, at the very least, some word of mouth chatter.
Most areas have advertising booklets delivered through the letterbox once a month with details of local businesses in the area. You need to be included in the booklet, but rather than paying for a small advert, offer to write an article about the benefits of Pilates for their readers. You can write this from the perspective of someone who has visited your class such as “When I arrived, ______ (your name) made me feel at ease straight away”. Make sure the article includes the details of the class you are promoting and keep it friendly and upbeat. This then sounds like the word of mouth as your potential customers are reading a review of your class.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on an all-singing, all-dancing website to begin with. Keep it simple, up to date and easy to read. You want people to be able to find out where and when your classes are and how to contact you. Facebook and Twitter are great tools for creating a buzz, but think who your potential client group are. The retired sector is the most loyal group and will benefit most from Pilates, but they may not have Facebook or Twitter accounts. You will also need to build a database of email addresses that you can send information to. Everyone who attends your class or makes an enquiry should be added to it. They should then receive an email every week. Keep them informed and let them get to know you. People buy from people. Let them in to your world and make them welcome. Your email should contain a picture of a class or you doing the ‘exercise of the week’, a tip such as when engaging your TVA it helps to ….. and information you need to pass on about that week’s classes.
Make sure this goes out on the same day at a similar time each week. Create a buzz of people waiting to see what’s in your newsletter this week. Open the communication channels and keep your class in people’s diaries. Make it hard for them to ‘forget’ to attend. Retention is enormously important. This way, your marketing will help your class numbers grow, rather than replace the clients you’ve lost.
These are always important. You can design your own and have them printed to keep costs down. Statistics say flyers produce a 1-2% uptake. This means for every 100 flyers you post through doors, 1 or 2 people may enquire about your class. So to maximise your advertising for a low cost you need as many people as possible to read the flyer. Ask in the local shops near the hall you are renting if you can display one or leave a few on the counter. Think of places where people would like something to read while they’re waiting such as dentist and doctor’s surgeries, car repair workshops or chip shops.
These ideas should be more than enough to get your classes off to a good start. Once people know you are there, it’s up to you to be fabulous and keep them there. Promise me this though – never let the rubbish instructor up the road have busier classes than you just because their marketing is better than yours.
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Written by Heather Oakes