Marketing: Specialty Event Promotion
Each year on the first Saturday of May, Pilates studios around the world unite in a shared vision to raise awareness of the Pilates Method created by Joseph Pilates nearly 100 years ago.
The Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) coordinates the Pilates Day celebrations to provide Pilates events for the community that are accessible and affordable for all. This year’s event, themed “Pilates Bliss” hosted 167 events in 18 countries, and Gainesville Health and Fitness (GHF) Pilates was included as one of the featured Pilates Day studios.
With over 70 attendees, the Pilates program at GHF at Tioga held free Pilates classes open to the public, as well as a Lululemon trunk show, hourly giveaways, and a morning of Pilates fun during their first annual Pilates Day Celebration.
Pilates Day is not only an amazing way to share the many benefits of the Pilates method, but it is also a great way to increase exposure of your club’s specialty programs within your community. However, if not properly executed, you could end up hosting a mind-blowing event to only a few eager participants. There are a few key elements that need to be in place in order for your specialty event to become a community “must attend” occasion.
First, it is very important to take advantage of social media. Services like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are great ways to get the word out about your event.
On Facebook, for example, you can set up an “Event” on your business Facebook page and then have your staff personally invite their friends through Facebook. Once someone clicks “interested” or “going” to your event, Facebook will then recommend your event to that person’s friends as well. Anyone interested in attending your event will receive reminders through Facebook as the event date approaches. Have your staff actively involved in sharing, liking, attending and recommending your events to people that they think would be interested.
It is a good practice to add updates and comments often to the event page. Post statements like, “Pilates Day is less than two days away. The weather is predicted to be 75 degrees and beautiful outside. See you soon.” This helps to increase traffic to your page. The more activity you can get on your event page the better.
Be sure to take a lot of pictures during the event as well — add a picture of the grand prize winner and post them to your page following your event.
I prefer having participants pre-register for our events so that we will have a better idea of how many people to expect, as well as how many people we will need to properly staff our event. We use our online scheduling software to create a free event and then encourage our participants to RSVP in advance to reserve their spot.
By offering the first 20 to 50 people that RSVP a perk of your choice, participants have more of a sense of urgency to sign up early. You can offer a free class, apparel, water bottle, or whatever works for your club. During Pilates Day 2016, we offered free Pilates Day t-shirts with our GHF Pilates logo on them to the first 25 people that registered. We then gave the first 50 people to show up a free goodie bag filled with our class schedule, upcoming workshops, local business menus and business cards, and other small items donated from local businesses like pens, sunglasses, and jar openers.
There is a strong power in local, community-supported businesses. If your health club is located in an area with other businesses, be sure to connect and start networking. Local businesses are a great place to post flyers for your events as well a great source for your event giveaways. It’s a win-win relationship. They are supporting you by helping you advertise and you are supporting them by getting their products and/or information to your participants. Remember to write thank you cards to each business that donated something for your event.
Hourly raffles are another great way to peak interest in your event. These usually include a limited amount of larger-ticket items like free classes, private sessions, retail, smoothies, massages, etc. As participants arrive to your event you can have them enter their name and contact information in a raffle box and then draw names throughout the event.
Depending on the number of prizes you have, as well as the length of your event, you can announce winners every 30 minutes to every hour. The winner of the grand prize can be announced at the end of the day. Try to make your grand prize big enough to excite your participants. For example, our Pilates Day grand prize was, “GHF Pilates Package for Two.” It included four classes, a Pilates shirt, and a pair of ToeSox for both the winner and the friend of their choice.
Once your big day is over, make time within to the next 24 to 48 hours to follow up with everyone that attended your event. Thank them for attending your event, but also let them know that you are available to them if they ever have any questions regarding your program or health club.
You can use your event to help you promote future events within your program or you can simply host specialty free community events throughout the year to get more members of your community involved in fitness and visiting your club.
Often people are hesitant to try free promotional events, fearing that they will try to be sold something afterwards. Every once in a while it’s nice to just get the community together and have fun — all at your health club.