Driven by their passion for health, fitness and exercise, Amy Briant and Vanessa Malchev opened their first Pilates Plus franchise location in Newport Beach in July 2009. Before committing to open their own studio, Amy and Vanessa thoroughly researched fitness classes in the neighborhood so they could be sure they were offering Pilates enthusiasts a unique product.
Insight #1: Offer a product or service that fills a void and/or makes you unique.
“There are many Pilates Plus studios in Los Angeles and probably around 100 other yoga and Pilates studios in Orange County,” said Amy. “We are the only Pilates studio in Orange County that offers Sebastien Lagree’s techniques and Pilates machines, which has truly set us ahead of the curve in both our industry and Orange County.”
Insight #2: Don’t underestimate face-to-face interaction.
Before Pilates Plus in Newport Beach officially opened up, Amy and Vanessa created buzz around the studio’s launch using traditional marketing methods.
“We walked around to all the other businesses in the area and introduced ourselves; we did a lot of face-to-face networking on the streets and at the beach and sent out direct mailers to get the community excited about our studio,” recalls Vanessa. “We only began to utilize social media over the last 6 months; Twitter doesn’t have much impact in Orange County, but we’re very proactive on Facebook, Yelp and CitySearch.”
Insight #3: If you can’t manage your own social media, hire someone who “gets” your business and goals.
Amy and Vanessa, who hired someone to help manage their social media marketing efforts, make it a point to encourage and respond to feedback about the studio as a way to enhance its community feel.
“The person who manages our Facebook page is a seasoned executive and is a really active member of the OC community. We found that he has been an effective social media manager because he understands how to utilize Facebook in a professional way on our behalf,” said Vanessa.
Insight #4: Run cross promotions with neighborhood businesses that share like-mind values.
Pilates Plus OC uses Facebook to promote an inter-studio “Biggest Loser” competition and even promotions happening at other local businesses nearby, such as the neighborhood juice bar. “We find that cross-promotions with neighborhood businesses are a great way to further develop our studio’s presence in the community and attract new clients,” said Amy.
Insight #5: Be smart about discount promotions; make sure they reach your target audience.
Pilates Plus OC recently offered a discounted deal through a company called Plum District, a deal site targeting smart, savvy moms in specific cities. “We used Plum District, as opposed to a Groupon or LivingSocial, because it reaches a more targeted audience relevant to our location and business. With other daily deal sites you get one-time customers coming from neighboring cities; we wanted to reach our immediate community to try and bring in new, repeat customers,” explained Amy, who had great success with the deal, and will most likely sign Pilates Plus OC up for another one. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned, however, it’s that timing is everything. You can’t just throw out a promotion because you want to drive business, you have to determine the right moment, and that comes from a lot of trial and error!”
Having opened two Pilates Plus locations in Orange County within their first two years in business, Amy and Vanessa are poised for continued growth. The duo have built their business on the foundational belief that Pilates is not simply an exercise regimen, but rather a core and integral element of a sustained, healthful lifestyle. Pilates Plus has attracted a devoted customer base that recognizes the value in a studio established by passionate and engaged professionals with expertise in Pilates training (which, by the way, helped them win CityVoter’s Orange County Hot List Award for “Best Pilates Studio”).