What would Joseph do? Navigating the Competitive Arena of Pilates.

In recent years, Pilates has become as prominent in some cities as Starbucks. In smaller communities even, you can find a Pilates studio almost on every corner, in a number of iterations. In one neighborhood in my town, there are 7 studios in a two block stretch, with 3 more rumored to be opening soon. We saw this happen sooner with Yoga studios popping up like dandelions, and most recently with Barre studios. With all of the options for Pilates and various movement practices, how can they all be successful?

There are a number of strategies for success being used, or at least tactics to undercut the competition. With Groupon and Class Pass providing cheap options to try a number of studios without committing to one, this creates a continuously rotating door among the many studios, with very little predictable stability. The client base is constantly changing, and retention rates are plummeting. Any service business owner knows that without retention of a client base, a business cannot be successful long-term. Eventually the revolving door will stop spinning.

What would Joseph do?

We know that Joseph and Clara felt strongly about the value of their service, and stood firmly behind the benefits of the Practice. Group classes were not on the service list at their NYC studio. Every client was given one-on-one attention and as a result, was able to build a strong and trusting relationship with their Pilates (then known as Contrology) practitioners, and as a result, reap the Physical rewards.

Drastic discounting of services is quickly eroding the value of the Pilates Method. ‎When we offer packages of private sessions that do not even cover the overhead of the studios or a fair salary for the practitioners, how can we ever expect to succeed? The truth is, we can’t. These discounts not only lead to failure but once offered, it is extremely difficult to convince clients that your services are worth anything more. The result: the client moves on to the next cheaper service, or you are always operating at a loss just to retain a client base.

The bottom line is that Pilates offers a valuable practice for all bodies, and it is worth a reasonable price just like other therapeutic services. Clients that are committed to their health and movement throughout life will make the financial investment to achieve this. ‎Discounts are not the answer, differentiating your Pilates services from the neighboring studio is. You are valuable and should not apologize for asking for a fair wage in return.

Some Keys to Success:

1) Confidence: A little confidence goes a long way. Putting in the effort to be the best Teacher you can be gives you the confidence to effectively communicate the value of your service offering. Confident Teachers earn the trust of their clients more quickly, and that translates into long-term relationships and positive word-of-mouth.

2) Training:
There are a number of Teacher Training opportunities available today. Continuing Education is so much more than just something Teachers have to do to remain certified. This should be an investment in your skills and service offering. Each course you take should deliver a return-on-investment for your business, not just make classes more fun for your current classes. Do your research and seek out high-quality and ongoing ‎training in subjects that are of value and benefit to your current and prospective client base.

3) Networking:
Pilates Teachers are in an interesting position these days. In the coming years, Pilates Teachers will hopefully have the opportunity to be recognized as Allied Health Practitioners. The Medical community is becoming more open to the many benefits of Pilates, and the value for their patients. There are so many Practitioners that we could connect with in hopes of building a strong referral relationship. The old adage ‘Birds of a Feather Flock Together’ is relevant here. Be selective about who you align with, and find like-minded Practitioners that you would feel comfortable referring your clients to, and who are compatible with your philosophy.

4) Connect with your Community:
This is a two-part process. First, developing a positive presence among your fellow neighborhood merchants is important, but more importantly, make an effort to connect with your Pilates community. We have access to each other through social media, but also making a point to meet other Teachers in your area is a valuable benefit for the sharing of knowledge and experiences. Find or start a local Pilates Teachers meetup.

5) Invest in basic Business Skills: Having a foundation in the most compulsory business concepts is valuable and necessary for any business-owner. There are a number of continuing education courses in Marketing, Finance, and Accounting available in class or online. Find a local Toastmasters group in your area to improve your Public Speaking skills.

Invest your time in your business’ value, not in scrambling to keep up with the masses of cheap services. Those businesses will not be around in the long run, so plan for the future instead of panicking in the present.

Written by

Holly Wallis, Certified Movement & Rehabilitation Specialist, PMA®-CPT
Director of US Operations, Body Harmonics Pilates & Movement Institute

Studio Director, ReActive Movement, 6200 LaSalle Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

© 2015. All rights reserved. 


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