Make your class a success

When members aren’t buying in to a class, it’s time to research, adjust and promote.

'Build it and they will come’. Except, sometimes they don’t. You have a great class on your timetable, but for some reason members just aren’t getting on board. Why?

The way in which a class on your group exercise timetable is received will depend on a few factors. Is it a new class that most of your members are unlikely to have heard of? Is it a class that has been sailing along with consistent, but not great, participation numbers in a different timeslot? Is it a class that is hugely popular at another studio or club, but just isn’t gaining the traction you’d hoped for in your facility?

Purpose and efficacy

The most important thing is that the class has an intention, and that the structure and delivery of the class actually facilitate the desired results. Whether the focus is on strength, flexibility, endurance, agility or balance, there is no use promoting and spruiking a class if it doesn’t noticeably improve participants’ fitness and wellbeing. In a nutshell, if it doesn’t deliver, it’s as good as dead anyway.

Compare and contrast

Your gym or studio doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Pay attention to what does and doesn’t work at other fitness facilities. If the same class runs successfully at other locations, go and participate in it at a venue and time where it works. This will allow you to observe whether it’s the facility itself that is conducive to success, whether the demographic is entirely different and more responsive to the class type, or whether the timetable is designed to drive participants from the previous class into the next.

What members want

Ask members for feedback, but also have the confidence to introduce new programs and classes that aren’t established and well known. Having unique offerings is a great marketing and loyalty tool – it can be your point of difference that participants can’t find elsewhere. Do some research into trends in group exercise to see what’s ‘hot’ at the moment, but also trust that programs that have been running for decades are still reliable and relevant.

Observe where your members seek credible recommendations and opinions. Word of mouth is the Holy Grail for building class participation.

Make sure your team know your product

Encourage customer service staff and personal trainers at your facility to attend the class. If prospective participants ask any of your team about a specific class but are unable to get satisfactory responses about its format and intention, they are unlikely to make the effort to attend.

Encourage personal trainers to refer clients who would benefit from the class to make it part of their program, and ask sales staff to refer interested new members. Really get the team behind the class. And practice what you preach: above all, make sure that you can confidently explain and recommend the class!

Make it unmissable!

You and your facility should have a strong social media presence, so take advantage of this to promote the class. A profile of the instructor and the class on Facebook and Instagram can pique curiosity and get people planning their attendance. An ad on the website – and perhaps a short preview video – can draw attention to a new class or a class that needs a boost. A Twitter reminder on the evening before the class can help remind followers to pack their gym gear and attend the next day. Online may be where we spend more and more of our time these days, but physical reminders can still make an impact. Put up posters in the gym, in the change rooms, in the entrance, and inside lockers. In short, make it impossible for members to not know about it!

Nurture and respond

Once you’ve launched, or re-launched, the class, give it time to be discovered, shared and experienced. If a class is taking a while to get some traction, but you are convinced that it has the potential to be really popular, then work with the instructor (if you are the group fitness manager – or vice versa), to tweak the way in which it is presented and promoted. Trial a different start time. Ensure the classes scheduled before and after it are complementary. Promote a ‘bring a friend for free’ offer.

Don’t be afraid to get creative. Theme the class for Christmas, Australia Day or any other occasion. Enter class participants in random giveaways and make announcements to the whole club 10 minutes prior to class to encourage people to try it.

If you believe the class has real benefits, and you want to share those with your members, don’t give up without making every effort to make it work. If it’s as good as you believe it to be, then once members have experienced it, enough of them should be converts to make it a success and secure its spot on the timetable.

Cat Woods founded her Melbourne-based Ballet Sculpt as a barre class that doesn’t require a barre. She is also a writer and blogger with a passion for arts, health, beauty and design. Cat is available to deliver presentations on positive body image and cultivating a healthy and happy culture. and @catty_tweeter