Club Insider

To Beat the Boutique, Be the Boutique

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Jeffrey PinkertonJeffrey Pinkerton

The boutique fitness space has grown exponentially over the past decade, and it has grown at a pace that exceeds new people joining a health club for the first time. So, it's fair to say that, if you operate a full-service health club, your business has been impacted by the competitive pressure of these often single-service, often higher-priced, always socially driven, usually smaller footprint fitness facilities. What can we learn from the business model and learn from the consumer attraction? How can you create a boutique-like experience to beat the boutique at their own game? And, to be clear, the game is delivering amazing, engaging, social group fitness experiences.

Driven by Social Connection

Whether it's a studio that offers cycling or yoga or rowing or barre or boxing or bootcamp, each is driven by the social experience and the social connection they create. The model has taken the group fitness door and made it their front door (and in fact, their only door). They recognize the power of the shared experience, the benefits of a staff-led workout and member-to-member relationships.

While a typical health club might deliver this type of social experience to 10 - 20% of members, the boutique studio has 100% group fitness participation. One hundred percent!

  • Your Advantage: Full-service facilities can offer more variety to attract a broader spectrum of members. Caution: Too much variety can be overwhelming and have the opposite effect.
  • Your Action Items: Measure, monitor and maximize your group fitness participation percentage.

Single Focus and Single-Message Marketing

If you've never searched the Facebook Ads Library to see what ads your competition is running, I highly recommend it. Do a simple Google search for "Facebook Ads Library," then select Ad Category for All Ads, then search for your competitors by Facebook page name.

You'll find your boutique competitors market a single message and an offer to try-before-you-buy (first class free). This single-message creates a clear call to action: Come try THIS at our studio. It creates a smaller, less confusing menu. And, it helps shape the path for member onboarding (fewer options make it easier for people to make buying decisions). Too many health clubs spend their resources on marketing features and benefits (bullet lists of machines and amenities) and specials and discounts (no joining fees and "hurry in!" price specials).

  • Your Advantage: Multiple offerings allow you to create multiple marketing campaigns. Different programs can attract different people with different interests.
  • Your Action Items: Investigate the competition. Create marketing and member onboarding strategies that focus on your most inclusive, most successful programs and offerings. And, if none come to mind, let's talk.

Amazing Group Fitness Rooms

Marketing gurus and website copywriters call it an "immersive experience." My Gen Z children would call it "the aesthetic" or "the vibe." In simple terms, to deliver an amazing experience and to compete with the boutiques, you need amazing group fitness rooms. The overall look and décor, the sound system, the lights, the stage, the equipment, the flooring; all of it affects the experience.

  • Your Advantage: You can create multiple boutique-like experiences in different rooms. We recommend one main room, one cycling room and one mind-body room, each with its own design elements.
  • Your Action Items: Give an honest review and audit of your group fitness space and what needs updating. Send me an email (jeffreypinkerton@mossa.net), and I'll send you our White Paper with MOSSA's Group Fitness Room Design Top 10.

Social Media Is Social and Instructors Are Influencers

I am still surprised by the number of clubs that are using their Facebook and Instagram accounts for traditional marketing. Meta's algorithm continues to aggressively suppress business page posts, in particular, those that are advertisements (images with words, copy with sales language, posts with external links).

Social media should be social. It should be the platform that you use to highlight the social events and social experiences at your facility. And, your group fitness instructors should be deployed as content creators and brand ambassadors to provide after-workout photos, workout highlight reels and pre-workout social story invites, all to attract more people to your facility and more members to their workouts!

  • Your Advantage: You can leverage the variety of your workouts to create a ton of varied content. This content can be used in your organic and paid social efforts to reach various audiences.
  • Your Action Item: Shift your social media strategy to be more social and more single message. Develop a plan for leveraging your instructors as influencers. I've written on this topic before, and we also have a great white paper and webcast recording on the subject.

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Don't waste your time bemoaning the boutiques; borrow from them and then be ready to go head-to-head in marketing and the member experience. Specifically, borrow this bold business model: group fitness is what we do, and we do it better than anyone else. Because, for your members, the benefit of belonging to your "full-service" gym isn't lots of treadmills, elliptical machines and rows of weights. The benefit of belonging is the bigger picture of belonging: community, accountability, results, enjoyment, variety, and social, consistent, amazing experiences.

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While your group fitness door might be one of many, it's the only one with the potential to draw crowds that are way too big for any boutique. If you don't currently have a group fitness program that you can build a business around – something widely appealing, results-guaranteed, innovative, and fun – set one more action item: talk to MOSSA about getting more people moving with an amazing workout like Group Power. Learn more at mossa.net/workouts/group-power.

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