Tricks of the Trade
In the Clearwater/Tampa Bay, Florida, region, there are a large number of competitors in the Pilates industry. Competitors are other Pilates studios, gyms that offer Pilates mat classes and even personal training studios that offer other exercise modalities such as yoga, TRX® and CrossFit®. I feel it is part of my job as a studio owner to be constantly evaluating the competition. My assessment includes comparing services offered (privates, duets, trios, group equipment sessions, mat classes or other offerings, such as barre classes), as well as products and clothing sold on-site.
Yes, I do compare pricing. However, since our Pilates studio was the first in our area and one of the first in the entire region, I believe that the experience and expertise of our staff and the level of service we offer warrant the pricing we set. Therefore, we hope that we set the standard for fair pricing of services. We do not participate in price wars or discounting. We have always advertised through a combination of ongoing website improvement; print ads; search engine optimization; online newsletters and blogs; social media, such as Facebook and Twitter; and online booking. It is important for us to view competitors’ advertising, as they are using the same tools we use.
We want to ensure that our studio captures our fair market share. We have added equipment each year for the last 16 years through strategic planning; we’ve increased our space as the business has grown; and we’ve added services to stay ahead of our competitors. In recent years, we have also added Pilates instructor training to our offerings, attracting additional business to the studio—even from competing professionals who need continuing education. The instructor training enables us to train and add to our staff, which helps increase the hours and Pilates instructors available.
I watch what is happening nationally (and even internationally) in Pilates market trends, and I check what other Pilates studios throughout the U.S. are doing. I belong to national and international Pilates and fitness forums, and I listen to what others are saying about the business. Our competition sharpens us, ensuring that we are offering what clients need and want.
Patricia Massey Welter
Palm Harbor, Florida
I feel it is an important business practice to keep an eye on the competition; doing so is part of our market research. On the other hand, it is vital that we do not become obsessed with watching and—worst of all—copying what competitors are doing! It is easy to get overly concerned with checking competitors’ websites, which can cloud [one’s] own market decisions.
As part of my ongoing market research, I regularly check the websites of my key competitors. I try to identify their product ranges, price points and unique selling points. To ensure we are competitive in terms of levels of service and price points, I also look at any discounts or special offers competitors are running.
This research allows me to make sure my product offerings are up-to-date, and it allows me to identify new products/services that are being offered. It also helps me make informed decisions about possible new product ranges and promotions for my business.
Foresight Personal Training
Living in a small town with an overabundance of redundant fitness offerings, we do believe it is important to know what the competition is doing. (However, to be honest, we don’t analyze our competition frequently!)
The first thing we do is identify who qualifies as our competition. At Real Life Fitness, we specialize in truly personalized training. Many of our clients have never exercised (or have not worked out in decades), which means that group ex, dance-based workouts, boot camps and general exercise classes don’t really qualify as competition for us.
Our true competition is from businesses that offer the same services—or, more important, businesses that appear to offer the same services. This distinction is important because clients know only what advertising and promotions tell them.
We occasionally do “secret shopping” via phone calls to see what other fitness businesses are charging. We also comb through their websites, social media and blog sites, and through newspaper columns to analyze the competition’s fees, services and marketing approaches. But our most powerful tool is personal reconnaissance with competitors’ past and current customers.
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. We started Real Life Fitness 19 years ago, and it has often been the model that local fledgling fitness businesses have followed. We have actually found that if we have a successful boot camp–style program, then a startup will copy our program. When we launch an outdoor walking program or create a student sports team circuit, then a newbie does the same. This certainly makes analyzing our competition easy!
Honestly, our research rarely uncovers anything that makes us change our target market. Rather, the information we glean from our competitors encourages us to get laser-focused on our customers and to fine-tune our offerings and the language we use (in person and through advertising) to educate customers into making wise fitness choices.
Scott Jackson, CSCS, MES, ACE-Certified Personal Trainer
Barbi Jackson, NSCA, CPT
Owners, Real Life Fitness
Nevada City, California
I do like to know what our competition is doing. For one thing, I want to make sure our prices are competitive and that we are offering the equivalent to, or more than, the competition. I also like to see if competitors have different offerings than we do and what seems to be popular.
Usually I look at competitors’ websites and check out their offerings, prices and class schedules. If a competitor’s flier is advertising something interesting, I’ll check out what the website says about it. I have a mutually respectful relationship with some of my competitors, and we discuss what is working and what is not.
Owner, Fitting Fitness In
As both a mobile personal trainer and a trainer at an independent gym, I analyze my competition at times but only to a certain extent. When I first established my business, I analyzed the costs and prices offered by other mobile businesses, and I set mine in accordance with the market.
When it comes to working in a club, I look at the industry standards and innovations as a guide and for ideas, while trying to stay within our club’s core values and mission. And I try to focus on the fact that as club trainers, we are a team, rather than viewing other trainers and gyms as competition.
Bonnie Lang Fitness