The Group Class Conundrum: New Client Prerequisites
Balanced Body COREterly
Every studio that offers group classes faces a dilemma. Should they allow new inexperienced students to jump into their general classes straightaway or require some form of prerequisite be taken first, such as a designated intro class or some private sessions?
Prerequisites for group classes have pros and cons from both a teaching and business standpoint. And there is both a short and long term impact for the studio and the clients.
Having a chance to teach fundamental principles and movements to new clients at a slower pace or in a one-on-one setting before they join general group classes is beneficial because:
Clients begin their class experience with better form and movement, and better understand your program(s). This means they will see and experience greater benefits, enjoy the classes more, and are more likely to stay with your studio for the long run.
The clients are easier to teach! They won’t distract or derail a class as much, which means that the instructor and other class students have a better experience.
You attract clients that have a higher level of interest and commitment…because if new clients are willing to follow your prerequisites in order to start, they either see the importance and value in it, or they are more open-minded to following your program as it needs to be taught.
However, prerequisites are often a deterrent for prospective clients. They usually aren’t convenient for a new client’s schedule and/or require more money. Additionally, some new clients don’t consider themselves needing special intro sessions or classes (even though they do), so they feel forced to take a service that they fear will be a waste of time and money. All of these things can result in fewer new clients signing-up at your studio or cause them to postpone their start.
So how can we reconcile the pros and cons to do what is most beneficial for our studios and our clients, with minimal impact on our studios’ bottom line? There is no one-size-fits-all answer because every studio’s business model, clientele, operations, and objectives are different. The key is to consider a variety of different options and pick what fits your studio best. And don’t forget to consider offering clients multiple options to best fit their schedule and budget.
#1. Private Session(s) This is a common prerequisite for group equipment classes since using equipment is more complex and has a safety concern. But the challenge with this option is the higher cost. To estimate how much of a deterrent this will be, consider your town’s overall income level and willingness to spend their discretionary income on health and fitness-related products and services.
#2. Intro Classes Another option is offering an intro-level class on your regular studio schedule designated for first-time clients. The class is focused on teaching basic principles, moves at a slower pace and allocates more time for questions and help. The challenge with this option is offering the class at a time convenient for most people and having enough demand to keep the class running. This may be better suited for higher population towns and cities that bring your studio a greater volume of clients.
#3. Monthly Intro Workshop For studios that don’t have the traffic or demand for a weekly intro class, a monthly intro workshop might be a better fit. A stand-alone workshop/class (60-90 minutes) or even a short series could be offered on a monthly basis as an entry point for new clients. The challenge with this option is picking the most popular days and times to have the workshop for maximum attendance. So analyze your studio’s attendance and your clientele’s most typical lifestyle and schedule. Then make your schedule of workshop dates well-publicized so prospective clients have an opportunity to adjust their schedules if possible and have an incentive to take action and sign-up for this ‘limited-availability’ offering. NOTE: This can be a nice service to offer as an alternative to taking intro private sessions — for clients who need a more affordable option.
#4. Pre-Class Video Training What would you like to show and teach clients before their first session? What fundamental principles, movements, and language do you teach a new client on day 1? Put it in a video (i.e. 20 minutes) for new clients to watch before their first class. This will help new clients better follow along and understand your cues when they come to class. Post the video online and direct new clients to watch it before their first workout. NOTE: This is a more fitting prerequisite for mat classes vs. equipment classes since clients can practice along at home with the video and are generally more resistant to prerequisites for mat classes than equipment classes.
#5. Private Session Orientation A 30 minute private session scheduled on a day prior to a new client’s first class, or on the same day immediately before the class. The new client is introduced to the most important concepts and movement patterns that will help them have a better class experience. This can be a good option if you feel new clients have a lower acceptance or ability to afford taking regular private sessions before joining a class, and can be a good fit for mat, prop, or light equipment classes like MOTR™ or Pilates Springboard.
No matter what type of prerequisite you choose to have, it is important to communicate to prospective clients why you have a prerequisite, emphasizing the benefits to THEM. Explain this repeatedly on your website, in your marketing materials, over the phone, and in person for new client inquiries. Here are a few points you may want to include:
Your program has unique technique and terminology not practiced in other forms of exercise so it will be something that new clients have never experienced before.
This technique and terminology is not easily learned in general classes. It is best taught to new clients through your [prerequisites].
Learning this technique and terminology before joining general classes will allow new clients to have a significantly better experience in class and benefit more from each and every exercise. This results in noticeably better results over time!
NOTE: You could even tell new clients that taking general group classes without learning this technique and terminology would be a bad experience and waste of their time and money…which you can’t bear to let clients do! Or mention that in the past when new clients took general classes without the prerequisites, they realized how necessary the prerequisite was and felt that their class experience was a waste without it.
This dilemma is indeed a case of balancing costs and benefits, and deciding what is best for our clients, teachers, and business. The examples listed above are good options to consider, but you can also think creatively and develop a variation that is the perfect fit for your studio! It comes down to teaching new clients some important, fundamental lessons before they jump into our general group classes. How those lessons are delivered should be tailored to fit your business model, operations, objectives, and clientele!
Dana Auriemma started her professional career in marketing and sales working for Fortune 500 companies, but later moved out of the corporate world to pursue her passion in fitness. She opened, grew, and sold a successful Pilates studio and now offers one-on-one consulting and online courses to help other studio owners and instructors learn the business and marketing skills they need to reach their full potential. Visit her at www.danaauriemma.com.