Boutique studios have grown in popularity in recent years as more consumers are drawn to the specialized, engaging workouts this concept delivers. As a result, many full-service health clubs are incorporating boutique studios into their own facilities.
Whether you’re starting from scratch or growing an existing boutique studio, an important step is positioning the concept to catch the attention of your members.
“It’s important for clubs to market these specialty offerings well,” said Drew Baker, the vice president of Courthouse Club Fitness, with five locations in Oregon. “We’ve found consistency and repetition in marketing, as well as featuring the studio, trainers and success stories, are fundamental.”
According to Allison Flatley, the CEO of Allison Flatley Consulting, marketing should be tailored to the audience you’re trying to bring to boutique programs. “It is important clubs understand who they are communicating with and what the goal is,” she said. “Do you want to attract current boutique members? Are you trying to retain your existing group exercise participants and give them a boutique experience? The more you can segment and customize your marketing, the better.”
Because specialization is the strength of boutique studios, giving each boutique offering its own brand in your club will perpetuate the tribe mentality for participants, and thus maximize your boutiques’ effectiveness.
“We market our various programs and studios as their own entities,” said Baker. “Everything links back to the mother brand, but we’ve found creating niches within the greater organization gives our prospects and clients a deeper sense of community and belonging.”
However, according to Flatley, it’s important to find the balance between creating individual program brands without sacrificing your club’s overall brand. “I would encourage clubs to give their individual spaces — boutique studios or programs — their own brand,” she advised. “However, you want all the studios, classes and programs to have some common elements so the consumer or members understand it falls under your club’s brand and is not a separate entity.”
One particular challenge for gyms entering the boutique space is a perception that larger clubs are good at a lot, but great at nothing. For example, Courthouse Club Fitness features an engaging Pilates studio with energetic and passionate trainers, but has to be very intentional through its marketing and branding to show members it can deliver great experiences across multiple specialized programs.
“We’ve found, in our market, it’s hard for a consumer to believe a large-box gym can be an expert at everything,” said Baker. “Having specific branding that is unique but also links back to the Courthouse brand enforces the idea we really do specialize in each particular area of training.”
The importance of tying your boutique offerings together under one big brand is evident when you’re trying to grow the programs. Courthouse Club Fitness has found success growing its boutique studios from within the framework of the club because of its existing membership.
“One of the real advantages to having studios within a larger club is we already have a dense member base to draw from,” said Baker. “Recruiting existing members to demo a session is a great foundation, so as we draw new clients off the street, we already have a base group.”
According to Baker, using an established membership base is important when building a boutique offering from the ground up. “We’ve found having critical mass is really important for a launch,” he said. “Nobody wants to be the only one or the first one. Most people are attracted to programs that already have a following.”
Baker suggests using big events or an open house in your club to generate excitement when launching a new boutique program. Once you’re past the attention-grabbing events and members coming to try the classes, having engaging trainers and effective workouts will make them come back.
Member testimonials are another effective boutique marketing tool, according to Flatley. “Great branding elicits an immediate emotion,” she said. “Clubs should build interest and excitement about boutique studios with emotional testimonials.”
The engaging environment of a boutique studio can help members reach their goals and find a community. These are the aspects of boutiques you should highlight in your marketing strategies, whether you’re starting a program from scratch or growing an existing one.
“It’s important to help members emphasize the community they are joining,” said Flatley. “Studios, boutiques and programs are more intimate, and members are drawn to them.”
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