Consumers make a lot of snap judgments your business before they even know it. These subconscious decisions are creatively explained in research and books such as Blinkby Malcolm Gladwell. Like it or not, you will be judged. While that might sit funny in your gut, it is the truth. With client retention being one of the most challenging aspects in the fitness industry, as small business owners we really have to do a bang up job when it comes to making favorable first impressions. 


I have generated a list of three simple tips that really pack a punch. Assess where you currently are, create a plan, and follow-through with consistency and watch what unfolds!


1.    Identify how you want to make people feel the moment they walk through your door.Create the experience in a detailed fashion in your mind and then on paper. Consider ambience, lighting, sounds, smells, tidiness and cleanliness (these are not the same things!), staff appearances, greetings, and more. Appeal to as many senses as possible, as memory is stored and housed all throughout the brain and physical body. After developing a clear vision, take the necessary steps to actually make this happen. Be sure and outline these musts in your studio operations manual; be certain your manager knows the non-negotiables, and ensure that staff trainings are consistent. Lastly, use secret shoppers from time to time to let you know how the studio is performing in this realm. Remind yourself: people will rarely remember what you say but they will always remember how you make them feel.

2.    Create a consistent experience in client sessions and classes.This does not mean that your staff are trained robots or exact replicas of you. Rather, know your avatar and teach your team to speak to that client. After all, the charm of small business is often the personalities and unique skill sets of the team members. Determine a way to maintain this highly valued quality while setting the tone with some consistent patterns or behaviors. Be sure to outline it, in detail, in your operations manual. Then train new hires consistently and evaluate the veterans with some regularity. For example, all our yoga classes begin and end the same way and have a common thread or feel throughout. So long as our teachers are working within our prescribed framework, the sky then becomes the limit with their creative processes. While our clientele like cannot identify exactly what “it” is, they know they feel at home and they know what to expect. Like it or not, we are all creatures of habit and we find comfort in some semblance of routine. When your clientele feels comfortable, cared for, and at home, they will come back.

3.    Clients will also remember the last experience they have when walking out the door and it will impact their desire to return.Do you and your staff ask them how class or their session went? Ask them if there was any way you could enhance their experience? Explain membership options in simple terms and invite them back? Was the restroom messy? Was the staff talking to each other instead of the membership? Did the space feel cluttered and unmanageable with your people-flow patterns as classes / sessions let out? You catch my drift! Address the nitty-gritty details up-front so that they can just slip out of the focus of the patron’s full experience

Take the time to really analyze the details of the first client experience and make necessary adjustments as quickly as possible as if the life of your business depends on it – because it does! 

Post was originally published by the Association of Fitness Studios, where Bahneman serves on the Industry Advisory Panel.