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Making Money with Pilates

Adding extra value to classes and teaming up with charitable causes can elevate your Pilates program to the next level.

A great group fitness program plays an important role in the financial growth of most fitness centers. Classes can bring large amounts of people into one area of the facility, which frees up equipment. Pilates is a specialty class with the reputation of being therapeutic and corrective in nature, which makes it a natural draw to a wide population of members. Unfortunately, many managers and group fitness directors are not using Pilates to its profit potential. A Pilates program can make money in the short- and long-term, when implemented correctly.

Although Pilates originated as an individual training session, it has been successfully adapted for group fitness. What was once an expensive and elite method of body conditioning requiring a large investment in equipment has moved into the mainstream with Pilates mat classes. And, there are many ways for facilities to make money from it.

Fee-based training

When new programs surface, management's first impulse may be to charge members an extra fee to participate. The cost involved in purchasing equipment for a new type of class is deflected, and the owner may even turn a profit from the new program. Remember when group cycling was first introduced? Members were often charged to participate, and the extra revenue made the large investment in this yet-unproven program palatable to management.

Financial investment in Pilates varies based on equipment. Mat classes can be added to the group fitness schedule at zero cost, if members bring their own mats or you already have them. Facilities may also purchase reformers and chairs to offer members advanced lessons. In these circumstances, add-on fees would be applicable.

Many fitness centers are successful with add-on fees because they are charging for services that go above and beyond the typical membership. If Pilates instruction is private or semi-private, uses equipment that cannot be found in a typical class setting and is taught by professionals who are experts in their field, then add-on charges are appropriate.

Pilates for a cause

Another way to make money through your Pilates program is to host a Pilates-for-a-Cause event. These events raise money and awareness for a cause, while giving positive PR for the fitness center that is hosting it, thus bringing in new members.

Pick a cause. The first item to be addressed is what public cause you would like to support. It can be a global problem, such as cancer, AIDS, arthritis, diabetes, etc., or it can be a local need, such as a fundraiser for the fire department or family in need. The organization being represented should be contacted to see if donations to their cause are tax-deductible. If so, tax receipts should be given to those who donate.

Internal marketing. Once a cause has been selected, the campaign needs to be marketed. Internal marketing will inform current members of the event. Multiple methods of marketing should be used, including posted fliers, take-home fliers, newsletters, websites and email. Every staff member, without exception, should be educated on the event's details, and be expected to promote it.

External marketing. External marketing is crucial because it can result in increased membership sales. Contact the media about the event to ensure that it is getting maximum exposure. Ads on television, radio, newspapers and local magazines should be considered. Local physicians' or chiropractors' offices may also be willing to provide event fliers in their waiting rooms. Customize the marketing effort to appeal to the demographic audience for which it is intended. For example, if the local schools are being informed, gear your fliers toward school teachers and staff, and highlight a Pilates class schedule that will appeal to a teachers' workday. Look at each nearby business as a potential customer, and drop off event invitations for their staff.

Guest fees. Fitness center guest fees should be waived the day of the event. Every person who enters the facility is a potential customer, and the goal should be to increase the number of visitors on the day of the campaign. Allow members to "bring a friend free," and offer guest passes to the community.

Explaining value. Now that the public is aware of your event, people need to be convinced that they want to participate. What is in it for them? Pairing your Pilates program with a charitable cause makes it a community event. People feel good when they are part of a cause, and your campaign should make getting involved fun and easy. Donations should be requested, not required. Advertise the other benefits of the event, such as free refreshments, hors d'oeuvres, discounted membership fees, etc. Lastly, emphasize the quality of the Pilates class they will receive in return for their donation, and the exceptional qualifications of your Pilates instructors.

Collecting donations. Donations will need to be collected for the event, and the general manager should decide on the staff member to collect and keep track of the money. It is imperative that the collection process be clearly explained to all employees. A successful campaign is an organized one. Receipts and tax receipts (if applicable) should be given. If space is limited, class reservations should be made when people donate. Reservations are a good idea because it will help the group fitness manager assess whether more classes need to be added for the day of the event.

Event day. Make the day special and memorable. Appreciation does not have to be expensive to be remembered. Offer simple beverages and snacks. Bartering with a local massage therapist for free neck massages in exchange for exposure can be arranged. Have personal trainers on hand to answer any training questions and to promote the personal training program at your facility. Sales staff should be ready to answer any questions and to publicize membership specials that might be in effect for that day and/or week. Equip Pilates instructors with handouts that promote the benefits of participating in a Pilates program, and include your group exercise schedule on it. These instructors are doing so much more than just teaching a Pilates class - they are selling an experience, representing your facility and enticing visitors to join. Their professionalism in their attire and performance is at utmost importance during this event.

Pilates for Pink. Interested in hosting a Pilates-for-a-Cause at your facility, but need help getting started? Consider joining the Pilates for Pink annual campaign, which supports the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. This nationwide awareness campaign is sponsored by Shape magazine. Each facility is invited to offer one or more Pilates classes as a Pilates for Pink fundraising class. Each member is asked to donate $10 to the cause, with a goal for $250 from each facility. In return, each participating facility receives an official Pilate for Pink Promotional Kit. Your fitness center will also be displayed as a participating facility at www.pilatesforpink.com. Shape will also promote the event and the Pilates for Pink website to its millions of readers. Signing up is easy. Send the name of your facility, address, phone number, facility's email (or personal email), and your name and title to shapemarketing01@shape.com.

Member retention from Pilates

Customer retention makes money. Keep your members loyal and retain their business by respecting the time and money they spend in your facility. Whether you opt for low-investment mat classes only, or you build a Pilates wing complete with equipment, supply your members with the best environment and most qualified instructors that you can find.

If you opt for add-on fees, ensure that clients are getting extras that other members are not currently receiving. Your clients want to experience the popular trends, and they want to see results. When they get both of these, they will stay with you.

An exceptional Pilates program with highly trained instructors will bring clients in your door. Use a two-fold method of making money with your Pilates program: Implement a high-quality program and get the word out!

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