One of the most desirable things for any business is to have regular customers who keep coming back. It’s no different for instructors. When you manage to convert your customers into raving fans – or ‘front row customers’ as I call them – then you can usually rely on a certain portion of your class being full week in, week out. This means that you can more accurately predict your income and your marketing needs to appeal to fewer people.
But how do you turn your new starters into front row customers? Here are our top tips:
One of the most important tools in business is good communication. That’s especially the case for instructors who fill classes based on their approachability and the connections they make with their class attendees.
People value communication because it makes them feel acknowledged and heard. If someone texts or emails you to ask about a class, try to send them a response as soon as possible, even if it’s to say that you’ve received their message and will be in touch within 24 hours.
It’s helpful to assign a specific time of the day where you’ll check and respond to emails and social media messages, otherwise it can quickly zap your time.
The very fact that you’re an instructor means that you are someone who shares their knowledge with others. You can turn your new starters into front row customers though by going the extra mile in terms of the knowledge you share. For example, you might record a video of exercises from your latest class for them to practice at home, or give them access to a cheatsheet with the methods you’ve taught in your cake decorating class. You might even give them links to further information that you think they’ll find interesting and that supports what you teach.
The aim here isn’t to give away so much knowledge for free that you teach your way out of a job. The aim is to engage with your customers and empower them.
It’s inevitable that you will occasionally hit a problem in one of your classes – this might be a double-booking at the venue, a personal emergency which means you have to cancel the class, the need to raise your fees, a change in time or something else altogether.
If you have warning about a potential problem, it’s a really good idea to let your customers know about it in advance. Explain what’s happening, why and how you’re working to remedy the problem. You might be looking for someone who can cover your class or be exploring new venues. Whatever the situation, if people are forewarned about a potential disruption to their schedule, they’re far less likely to complain. In fact, they’ll appreciate that you’ve taken the time to talk to them.
Everyone makes mistakes in business, it’s how we handle them that counts. If you do make a mistake that could potentially impact on one or more of your customers, a sincere apology goes a long way. It’s easy to get defensive about complaints when you’ve made a mistake but, instead, try to hear the person out, keep your cool and be proactive about rectifying the problem. Again, people will remember you going the extra mile to resolve a mistake and are more likely to remember your positive response than the problem behind it.
We’re not talking about exercise classes here! What we mean is that people remember and love a painless, stress-free experience. Small touches like making your class easy to book, providing your contact details clearly on your website, giving people directions to the venue, making sure the class starts on time, welcoming the class with refreshments, resolving problems and listening to feedback can all help create a painless experience.
If you have a presence on social media, it’s important to provide content that your customers will love. If people send you a message or comment on one of your posts, try to respond quickly and let your personality shine through. Post details of your classes, let people know if there’s a change of plans, link to articles related to what you teach – again, small gestures can go a long way towards creating good will.
Some of the most successful businesses take the long-view when interacting with their customers. They’re not about a single purchase but instead want to build a loyal and mutually respectful relationship.
As an instructor there are many ways you can do this. Be friendly and approachable, even if you’re tired after a long day at work. Ask and use people’s names so they feel noticed. Send them a reminder text about your next class. When people feel valued, they’re much more likely to stick around.
If someone is kind enough to message you to say how much they enjoyed your class, it’s a good idea to follow-up by saying that you appreciate their feedback and that they’ve taken time out from their busy schedule to let you know.
We all tell people about bad experiences, so when someone contacts you to highlight their positive experience it really does matter.
In this situation, you could even ask if the person would be happy for you to use their comments as a testimonial or whether they would add a review on social media. You could even ask them if there’s anything you could do to improve your class further.
Following up with your new starters and seasoned front row customers gives you an opportunity to learn from them and the more you know about your customers, the better service you can provide. In turn, the happier your customers will be. It’s a win-win situation.
Many people come to classes because of the social aspect of meeting new people who share a common interest. One of the most powerful ways to turn people into front row customers is to get them to participate and feel like they’re part of a community of like-minded people. This might be achieved through introducing class attendees to one another, welcoming new attendees, asking for feedback and actively responding to it by following up on suggestions, or creating a conversation on social media.
So, over to you. What do you do to turn your new starters into front row customers? How do you go the extra mile? What small touches can make a big difference? I’d love to hear your thoughts over in our Instructor-only Facebook Group