One of the challenges that Pilates teachers face is building a clientele. I have discussed this during one of my Live Q&A Calls. Here's the question I received:
I really appreciated it when you talked in a previous Q&A about new teachers building a clientele. I've been feeling a little frustrated because I get positive feedback but my classes aren't always very full and I don't understand why.
The biggest issue new Pilates teachers have in regards to filling their classes is that they don't have a specific plan. Marketing and selling of Pilates happen in the class. The single most powerful marketing effort in Pilates is word of mouth. Your happy clients will refer their friends, colleagues, family members, and acquaintances.
You might have heard "if you teach a great class, they're going to keep coming back." Well, what does it mean to teach a great class? Here are some ways to make sure your students want to come back for more.
1. Communicate the purpose of the exercises you're teaching
For one, this builds rapport. You demonstrate that you put thought into this sequence and you also demonstrate knowledge so your students will take you more seriously. If they clearly understand how Pilates is helping them live a better life, they'll feel better about spending money on it. Consider that - in some cases - your student's husband might be paying for her classes. If you explain the purpose of the exercises, you give your student the words to defend the expense to her partner.
Especially during difficult times, fitness is one of the first things that gets cut from the budget. Pilates is much more than fitness, we know that. But your student (or her husband) might not know that yet.
2. Get to know your students so you know how to help them
Talk to them before and after class and find out what their active hobbies are. Do you know what your students do in their free time or how they spend their weekends? Are they active outside (hiking, swimming, skiing, etc)? Who spends most of their weekends on the couch? With this information, you can explain in detail how the exercises will improve their movements in real life. For example, someone's piriformis might get out of whack after a long drive or too much time on the sofa. A Figure 4 Stretch will help loosen the compression on the sciatic nerve.
3. Manage expectations
One way to do that is to name your class something different. Call it Fundamentals or Gentle Pilates. There are many yoga studios that have gentle classes that are hugely popular. A lot of people are intimidated by Pilates so if you call it Gentle Pilates some people will be more likely to come. A clearly named class will help ensure that the students who show up want what you're delivering. We don't want people coming into an Italian restaurant expecting Japanese food. We're all going to be frustrated and disappointed. So setting expectations is hugely important.
4. Find your tribe
Each Pilates studio has a specific culture. Let's say that your style is gentle, nourishing, and educated but you're teaching in a studio environment where all the other Pilates teachers instruct hardcore classes. It will definitely be more difficult to build a clientele because you're the outlier. You don't have to change your style of teaching if you don't want to, but understand that finding your tribe will just take a little longer.
Do you have any other tips to share that helped you get and retain more Pilates clients?
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