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How to ensure your boutique business hits the consumer sweet spot

Successful boutique fitness businesses need to know a thing or two about community (see our blog on Boutique Trends – http://ukactivesweat.com/three-big-boutique-fitness-industry-trends/). But how do you build real trust equity with your customers and keep them coming back time and again? We asked experts in different areas of the business what they’ve learnt along the way.

Patience, patience, patience

Few Londoners have more experience in running slick boutique fitness businesses than Colin Waggett, CEO of The Third Space and Another Space, and previously of Psycle and Fitness First. ‘It’s not a case of build it and they will come, you’ve got to understand how to reach out and build people in,’ he says. It’s a viewpoint shared by Kara Rosen, founder of renowned cold-press home delivery juicing company, Plenish (www.plenishcleanse.com). She insists that building a loyal following doesn’t happen overnight: “It probably took us about three years of talking about the same message, and the same education points [before things began to really pay off],” she says. “We also did thousands of samplings in stores and at events; we got out there and talked to consumers – we couldn’t and didn’t adopt the Pepsi or Coke approach where you blanket the whole city in outdoor media. Really it comes down to the product, and putting passion behind it.’

Staffing your business right

Spending time and money on getting the best possible staff for your brand is something that Waggett is also passionate about: ‘‘The customer falls in love with the people that work here,” he says of Another Space (https://anotherspace.london). “Picking the right staff to build the right culture and environment that people want to be part of is the be all and end all. We go to extraordinary lengths to find the right people and look after them. Types of training will change all the time; customer retention these days is less price led and more about service and engagement.”

Waggett and his co-founder believe this so vehemently in fact that when establishing Central London studio, Another Space, they put all potential staff through a strict audition process and 16-week training programme before allowing them to begin teaching classes. He adds: “Probably only about half of those who started finished the course! It was tougher than joining the marines and we spent, between us, a year just assembling the team – not just for their technical ability but [to ensure] are they the sort of people we want.”

Olga Allon, founder of Hot Yoga Society (previously Hot Bikram Yoga), takes a similar view: “It’s vital that our team of teachers and staff are happy,” she says. “They enjoy work and enjoy being part of the studio which is infectious. My ethos has always been to create a special space where everyone can feel welcome and supported to enjoy a yoga practice – whatever ages, size, ability – and that’s what sets us apart and builds true commitment and loyalty to a business. It begins with customer care (largely through staffing) and that’s returned in loyalty.”

Social media is non-negotiable

“We don’t do any advertising at all,” says Another Space founder, Waggett. “Social media is probably the single biggest way we reach people (along with print PR) and we actively coach our instructors as to how to build a following in this way.”

For Plenish founder, Rosen, high levels of activity and engagement on social media has been totally integral to the brand’s development. “You can’t do too much in this area; that’s where the world is, that’s where the audience is and to opt out of it is [on a business level] suicidal,” she says. “Social media has afforded an opportunity to brands that we’ve never had before. You used to have to buy television ads or host a big event to talk to consumers but now you can engage with people with zero budget. They can give you feedback on your product or service and you can answer their questions in real time. That’s invaluable. With social media we can easily identify who’s influential within your space whether you’re a fitness studio, or a fashion brand and those are the people that you want to know about your product. Follow them, listen to them, respond to them, engage… keep doing it until you’ve developed some sort of rapport with them. Hopefully they’ll want to know more about your product or service and try it, love it. It’s about persistence really.”

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