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Marketing Secrets From the Pros

Pilates instructors share how they attract new clients.

What can you do to bring clients through your doors? We asked studio owners and program directors to tell us their marketing secrets: What works to attract students to Pilates programs—and what doesn’t work?

Make It About Them

“Boston Body Pilates has four locations in the Boston area, so we have to attract new clients from all around the city—and then we have to retain them! Our client base is as broad as possible. We have athletes and dancers, but we also want to appeal to beginners and to people who think they’d prefer a gym workout.

“We’ve found that the best way to attract new clients to Pilates classes is to appeal to their fitness goals. I know this sounds obvious, but in the Pilates environment, it can be easy to forget. As a group, we’re very passionate about Pilates, and we spend hundreds of hours learning the repertoire and proper form. We think our clients should have the same passion we do!

“Instead, we need to give them time to develop an understanding. The first time clients take a Pilates class or session, ask them what their fitness goals are. Do they want to lose weight, improve posture or reduce back pain? Listen carefully to their answers, and then format the sessions or classes to appeal to these needs.

“If you always teach the same exercises or teach them in the same order, how can this work for everyone? Your format needs to be about the client, and not just about what you think is best. We hear a lot about preserving the integrity of the method. This is [fine] for our advanced clients, but first-timers don’t care about the method—they just care about what they are going to get out of the workout. If they don’t come back for the second class or session, you are not going to be effective in helping them!”

—Zayna Gold, program director, Boston Body Pilates, Boston

Attract With Fundamentals, Not False Promises

“Attracting clients to Pilates classes requires that your studio or facility have a clear vision of what you have to offer—and be able to explain it well to new students. For example, many clients want to know the difference between mat classes and equipment classes, and they want to know the benefits of both. Nothing replaces good, strong fundamentals. Explaining the basics of Pilates and outlining the movement fundamentals will set new clients up for success as they progress. It keeps them coming back—and happy clients tell their friends.

“We’ve found that an inviting website with pictures and descriptions really helps attract and educate new clients. Testimonials are important, especially when they come from clients with different issues. It’s also a good idea to have pictures of clients who represent various ages and skill levels.

We allow potential clients to observe for free if they wish. We also offer a newcomer special that includes sampling mat classes and taking two private sessions so they can experience the equipment. We always offer specials in December (to welcome the New Year)—these benefit both new and current clients. It’s just as important to keep your current clients happy as it is to attract new ones.

“What doesn’t work are false promises. It’s important to be honest with clients that Pilates is work; it takes concentration and attention, but their efforts will be rewarded when they exit the studio feeling better than when they arrived.”

—Karen Sanzo, director, Pilates Unlimited LLC, Dallas

Make Deals and Discounts Work for You

“We found that it works to advertise consistently for 6 months or a year in local magazines or newspapers, especially when we keep adding different little deals to the pot, such as two free mat classes. We also offer a percentage off a package of private lessons, or a deal where you can pay for three private sessions and get one free. These deals draw people in, and we have gotten lasting clients from them.

“So far, Groupon-type online discount offers, such as the chance to buy a package of mat classes at 50% off, haven’t worked for us. I think people may get excited about the online deal and buy it impulsively, without thinking about whether this is really something they want to do. They want an instant fix, and once they find out it’s going to take more than a few mat classes to make a difference, they don’t want to invest in continuing.

“However, an Internet presence is very important. If someone looks for Pilates in your city and you come up in the first, second or third spot on the Google search, you’re going to get calls. You need to work closely with your Web designer. Word-of-mouth is definitely important—you want clients to bring their friends and co-workers.

“If clients are doing private lessons and are on a budget, offering mat classes makes them very happy and keeps them coming back. They can afford to come more often and save a ton of money with the mat classes, plus their private sessions help them get the most out of the group experience.”

—Alicia Buoni, owner, Geometry Pilates, Portland, Oregon

How do you successfully bring clients in to try Pilates, and keep them coming back for more? What works, and what doesn’t? We look forward to hearing from you!


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