By Liz Callham, AFS Community Expert

We all have relationships of many different degrees and facets in our lives. We have our families, our friends, and those acquaintances and professional contacts we see monthly, weekly or even daily. I ask you all to take a step back and take stock in specifically those professional relationships you have and how long you have had them for.

If I think of my own, I have had the same hair stylist now 11 years, visit the same nail salon for 3 years, and even the same esthetician for almost 4 years. Why do I stay with them?  Why do I continue to send them new referrals?  For me personally, I think they all do outstanding services, they are reliable, and honestly I enjoy the time I spend with each of them.

I live in a city where there are dozens of other choices to go to for these services, but I stay with my current group because I have built relationships with each of them and believe they are worth every penny that I spend with them.

The reality is, no matter where your studio is located, you will eventually have competition around the corner.  The best strategies for keeping your business from being effective are knowing your brand, developing strong relationships with your members and clients and creating an unbelievable experience each and every day.

Knowing your brand can seem daunting to some. If you struggle with this, refer to the brands you gravitate towards in your daily life. Strong brands not only know who they are and who they serve, but also who they NOT are. Don’t be afraid to specialize and cater towards a specific area in the market. Customers like to feel that you are the best fit for them, not the all-purpose. Spend time customizing your offerings to echo this.

For instance, if you only want mind/body classes on your group fitness schedule, then offer only those types. Work with your personal trainers on the overall experience, so that each client starts on time, the workouts are planned ahead, and the exercises are safe and effective. And train your front line staff to ensure cohesiveness in standards, such as answering the phone, checking people in and handling prospects when they walk in the door.

When it comes to relationship building, it’s all about the little things. Learn each and every name. Pay attention to details of your members and clients. And don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. They are the reason you are in business; make sure to treat them that way!  

Going the extra mile and offering free snacks or refreshments after a class, partnering with local business to offer discounts to your clients for being affiliated with you, or handing out birthday cards are simple and cost-effective ways of showing your clients and members you are thankful for their business.

Creating an unbelievable experience is honestly the result of executing the other two strategies well. Creating a strong brand and developing strong relationships will lead to an unbelievable experience. When you are able to create that unique experience and environment, it will not matter who pops up down the street. There is an old saying in that a person will leave a business, but not a relationship. Keep that in mind each and every day!


Liz Callham received her Bachelor’s Degrees from Illinois State University in Exercise Science and Public Relations and also completed a Masters in Business and Administration from DePaul University. She holds certifications as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist from NSCA and Health Fitness Specialist through ACSM. She also sits on the Advisory Board for the Exercise Science Department at ISU.

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