Diary of a Group Ex instructor
Starting 2022 - A little bit weird
January has always been my best pick up time. I would put my timetable up, have one slowish week and then be looking at full/busy sessions throughout the next 7 weeks. This would stand me in good stead for the rest of the year, aiming to retain around 60-70% of everyone who walked through the door. This year it’s a little hard to tell what’s about to go down.
I used to rely heavily on word of mouth. My paid advertising was limited and I had a steady influx of new people through Google, social media or just folk recommending me here and there was just fine.
These days things are a little different. And here is why it’s OK and how we can understand it. The channels that I used to use to get new folk in are working - they are just slower, the same as they are in almost every industry. Our potential clients are conditioned to stay in more, not to rush around in the evening, to avoid every group situation for want of protecting their health, weekend social plans or family time. These things are transient. Noone can continually exist in living for an event that may or may not be taking place in 2 weeks time and the health implications will gradually balance a little more. Gradually our communities will mobilise and find a balance between their beloved time at home and their time out of the house, getting new experiences and taking home new things to talk about.
Our communities are a little demotivated, and let’s be honest, a lot of folk feel pretty low. If they haven’t managed to find a way to really enjoy themselves and to boost their energy levels, life probably doesn’t seem that exciting at the moment. But it’s not forever. As more folks gradually attend our classes (gradually being the operative word), start going out with friends and booking holidays, there will be a rise in cumulative excitement. Our communities will start to feel that increase in energy from those around and will want to keep that experience coming. It’s understandable, all social contact has reduced. If our clients and friends of clients are not going out anywhere then they don’t have anyone to tell about our services. Our referrals are down, not because we’re not doing a great job, but just because the amount of folk seeing each other regularly is lower.
The second part is client retention. I have to be honest, whilst this is something I have always thought about, it came pretty easy. My community is strong and my guys have always been really welcoming of new folk… but once this scenario began I had to up my game. My original welcome email out and regular social media posts have been substituted with WhatsApps, DMs and weekly emails. The contact has been more personal as we all try to stay connected from some degree of distance. Even if we are back with face-to-face classes our clients are having enforced breaks as they have/choose to isolate for one reason or another and we are finding new ways to stay in touch and keep them involved. The way we retain them has changed and that’s going to stand us in good stead going forward as we move out of this period of our business lives.
There are more positives to be drawn even if it can be hard to see them sometimes.…. Perhaps now we are building businesses that fit with our message, our ethos and our values. Perhaps pre-pandemic we let things run away from us, allowing our classes to grow in their own way, in their own direction. We have created new business structures and have new ways of reaching people…. And new ways to help and support our clients. Our systems are easier to manage (and easier to pass on to other people) and they save us time…. Which is handy as we have to spend so much more time on marketing.
We all got into this job because we wanted to make a difference to people’s lives, to help spread our love for health and fitness to groups of people who may never have found their own if it wasn’t for us.
Although it may be hard to keep our eyes focused ahead, hard to maintain our own motivation for our job whilst we form new communities and new connections, the wait will be worth it. Understandably, we might feel a little in limbo as we wait to see what happens next, but the truth is, there will never be a replacement for the communities that we create, whether online or in-person. You are the only person who can connect with your clients in the way that you have. Others will teach fitness classes and they will be great, but it’s the minute detail in your classes, in your personality and in the way you speak to people that has connected with the folk who rock up for your sessions. That hasn’t changed.
Hang in there…. at some point being unable to recognise the peaks and troughs in our own industry will be a thing of the past and we will be back in the driving seat, understanding what’s ahead of us and able to plan for our fitness futures and those of our awesome clients.