In this fourth episode of the new series "Replicating the Stars in Your Pilates Instructor Team," hosts David and Claire Gunther along with Sales and Marketing Manager Tara Smith, discuss how to solve common challenges faced by clinical Pilates businesses through well-defined Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). 

They delve into the specifics of their Google review automation process designed to increase 5-star reviews, 

explaining how it aids in client engagement and business visibility in a competitive marketplace. 

Claire shares her experience and the positive impact of having a structured process, emphasizing the importance of personalization and team involvement. Listener takeaways include an understanding of the benefits of SOPs and strategies to replicate successful processes within their Pilates teams.

Show notes

  • [00:00:00] Welcome to the Pilates Business Podcast
  • [00:02:07] Challenges and Solutions in Gathering Reviews
  • [00:04:51] Personalised Approach to Client Communication
  • [00:06:37] Overcoming Technological Barriers
  • [00:09:08] The Importance of a Structured Process
  • [00:18:54] Replicating Success Across the Team
  • [00:21:18] Conclusion and Next Steps

"What I really like about the process is that the emails provide the clients with detailed reasons why these reviews are important, not only to the business, but to the instructors and ultimately to the clients themselves."                                     David Gunther – The Pilates Business Podcast, and Co-owner & Instructor Pilates Can, Canberra                                                                                       

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Episode Resources

Episode Transcript

DAVID GUNTHER: Clinical Pilates business owners, welcome to the Pilates Business Podcast! Brought to you by the people who own operate and instruct in a successful clinical Pilates studio in Australia. Join us as we discover Pilates business specific assets that you can use to build your clinical Pilates business.

Welcome, listeners, to series 6: How to Replicate the Stars in Your Clinical Pilates business, Episode 4: Process by Design. So, what clinical Pilates business problems does our process solve? Find out how we've discovered and defined those problems. So, we could solve them with an effective standard operating procedure (SOP). I'm your host, David Gunther, and I'm joined by Claire Gunther, the lead instructor at Pilates Can, who is also co-owner of Pilates Can with myself, and Tara Smith, who is our Sales and marketing manager.

Let's move on to what the Google review automation process was designed to do, just briefly, so we can reiterate that. Just as a statement here, the automation was designed to be an integral part of the standard business processes, SOPs, to dramatically increase the achievement of 5-star Google reviews for our clinical Pilates studio business. Small business, because we’re only small. Would you agree with that? That's pretty much what we're on about here.

TARA SMITH: Yeah, I think if you had to give it like a one sentence, 'here's what the automation is for, ‘that pretty much sums it up quite well.

DAVID: And it was there to solve the business problem for us, and what we’re doing now is trying to help the rest of the clinical Pilates industry as well with solving the same issue that we've had. We've got fantastic relationships with our clientele because of all the processes that we've already discussed. But the clientele haven't been inclined to provide Google reviews, mostly because they're not up with the technology or they've got very busy lives, that sort of thing.

So, what we've been doing is solving that problem by helping them to actually make these Google reviews. That’s what the process has done, and we've been achieving a significant level of 5-star Google reviews, and that's helped the business to stand out in the local digital marketplace on local search. Of course, because the word 'Pilates' is highly competitive.

Now, it's not necessarily general Pilates for clients that would be a good fit with our studio and what we do, but it's just using the word Pilates in their business  names for perhaps a different clientele. This means that competition for the word 'Pilates' has been quite high in the local market.

And this would be the case for many local markets around the world. That's the problem that we're trying to help solve for other clinical Pilates studios around the world who have the same issue. Great clients, really saying thank you every session, highly satisfied, but they would use Google to find a place.

They would use Google to find a restaurant or a Pilates studio, but they're not inclined really to make Google reviews because of the reasons we mentioned before. So, yeah, any thoughts on that?

TARA: I think it's just about making the processes easy for those people who aren't really used to leaving a Google review as possible. So we really tried to break it down and give them defined options on 'Yes, I'd like to do that, but I need some help in A way,' 'Yes, I'd like to do that, but I need some help in B way,' or that option that we talked about of 'No, I don't want to give you that review for a particular reason,' which we haven't seen a lot of.

I think breaking it down in that manner, into 'Can you answer this survey?' is much easier for someone who isn't necessarily on board with like how to do a Google review without any of that help, than 'Hey, can you just leave us a Google review?' and they don't actually get any instructions or help in doing that.

In the past. We had little postcards that we would give out that had the instructions of how to leave a Google reviews. We were still trying to get people to do that, but that style of asking for Google reviews for us only resulted in seven Google reviews.

Whereas we've got ten times as many of Google reviews using this other process, which has really made it a lot easier for the type of clientele that we have to be able to. interact meaningfully with leaving a Google review for our business.

DAVID: We've also done that with minimal personal communication within the Pilates sessions. The personal communication within the Pilates sessions is really important, but we've minimized that. We haven't made the instructors work too hard. Have we, Claire? It's been very easy for the instructors to do that.

CLAIRE GUNTHER: My cheeks puffed up because I was trying to laugh, yes. I was actually going to say, just before David said that that, I think one of the reasons, as Tara mentioned about the postcard-sized cards and it was simple, clear. It was ad hoc, really. We didn't have a process behind it other than developing these great-looking cards and occasionally handing them out when it was getting the instructors involved, but without a process behind it just doesn't work.

Also, because we're in a personalized service business, it is that personalized side of asking. We have a process, we haven't gone through the ins and outs of the process, but they'll get an email and then we'll be speaking to them. We're actually talking to them, and that's what's involved.

Yes, we do need to talk to them, and as David just indicated, it's true. I'm very much,' Can we keep moving and focus on what we're achieving in the session?' So, when I get an opportunity, I will thank someone in the session for their Google review because I know, because I get given a list, I know exactly what's happening.

So, I know what I'm meant to be doing as well, which is good. It's great to have that guide. I can quickly look at it if I need to. I tend to probably talk to them about the review just for a minute or so at the end of a session so that it doesn't distract them from their exercise and what they're trying to achieve during the session. It's when they're feeling fantastic anyway, and it just seems to work really well, and they're like, 'Oh, of course I'd love to.'

Then we occasionally get the IT issue. One of the ones we've discovered too, and this is where my skills just, I was amazed with myself, and is that with some clients, cause I check it, 'Are you okay? Were you able to do the review?' And they said, 'Oh, I've done it.' Then I double check and I say, 'Oh, we can't see it.' So that's strange. So they got up their Google account, and one of these people doesn't tend to leave them. I like to read them. They don't tend to leave them.

And I'm going through and going, 'Oh yes, it says you've reviewed this business and we still can't see it. We just went through the next, I saw another button and another button, and finally there was a submit button and ah, we could see it and we're all thrilled about that outcome. So that's only been a couple of people, but that's something I've learned. I just truly amazed at my IT skills.

TARA: You figured it out as well, Claire, because I have an Android phone, so I'm always signed into my Google account. I couldn't even replicate that error, which I tried to do after you told me about it. You were the one who was the technological whiz there.

CLAIRE: Truly amazing. And luckily I had iPhone in there because they had an iPhone.

DAVID: Well, that's probably it. The iPhone against the Android, That's probably one of the reasons for that, Tara. Is that what we're saying?

TARA: Yes. If you have an Android device, you by default have to have a Google account, because Google owns Android. In order to, be able to do things on your Android phone, you would have a Google account. Most people who have Android phones should already be signed into their Google accounts and would be easier for them to be able to leave a review.

Versus people who use an iPhone, they can sign into their Google account on their browser, and if that's the case, it might be easy for them. But with the types of clientele that we've been talking about, that's not usually, I would say, something that they always do, some of our clients are very technologically savvy and have it all under control, but it's not always something that they would have done by default. It's an extra step that they've had to do.

CLAIRE: That's right. With the process that we have behind the scenes, that Tara and David have developed to support this whole Google review, it has enabled me, and I keep laughing because I can use computers and everything, but I'm not a big social media type person or review type person.

So, I had to think about it. I had to look through and just work it out. But because we already had all that other process behind, I had to organically work out. It wasn't so hard because the client had already achieved a certain point. Then they thought it had appeared, I knew it hadn't. So, I thought there's got to be more in there, and we found it. That was the "da" moment for all of us in the studio at the time.

DAVID: We like those 'Tada' moments. Let's get back to that process a little bit. What the automations have done, the non-personalized bit, which we still do also personalize as much as possible, is that the initial emails initiate an ongoing conversation with the clients towards that goal of achieving a Google review for the business.

So that initiation of the ongoing conversation with the clients means that the instructors don't have to initiate the conversation. On many occasions, because we have small group sessions, it's been much easier. It may be that you don't even really need to bring it up with the client sometimes because the client brings it up with you, or you may thank another client for providing their 5-star glowing review that they gave us during the week.

That reminds other clients in the sessions that they also received an email, and that's brought up the subject, which is not an easy thing to do for an instructor because they're very selfless instructors. They're very caring people and they care about their clients getting Google reviews for the business and for themselves and all of those benefits that flow from it that we've already discussed. They also have little time.

They've got to have eyes in the back of their head so that they can know what one client is doing over there on the reformer, and the other one on the trapeze table and the other one that's just come in and is starting to warm up, for their semi-private session. Any thoughts on that, initiating the process? Did you find that process easy?

CLAIRE: At first, because it was so new, it didn't just come naturally. It was another thing I needed to be aware of that I was going to be doing on top of everything David just mentioned. That's why generally it worked better for me. Maybe there was a bit of a break in a session. I might mention it during the session, but usually, it worked better for me towards the end of a session.

I would mention, 'You probably got an email from us yesterday, ‘and then sometimes they'd look at you and 'Oh, I didn't know. I get a lot of emails type thing,' or sometimes 'I don't look at it,' depending on if they're retired or working. Sometimes they don't look at their emails that much. Then I'd say, 'Oh, just check your inbox and your junk mail because it might've gone to there and let me know if you haven't seen it.' I'd explain very briefly what it was about, and they would say, 'Oh yeah, sure, that'd be great.'

DAVID: Our team at the Pilates business podcast, focused on helping clinical Pilates studio owners build valuable business assets. These business assets work away in the background for you, and they work in the long term.

Now, this is a very specific target audience that we are working for and so we ask you for a little help to keep improving and delivering this service for you and other potential Pilates business owners, listeners just like you.

Firstly, please follow the show on your favorite podcast platform. And please also recommend the show to another clinical Pilates business owner. These easy actions will be a fantastic help for us to continue to improve this show and the benefits it provides to all the fantastic people in our little vulnerable niche, clinical Pilates industry. Thanks for your help.

CLAIRE: In our process, because people have busy lives, as David said before, even if they really want to do it, things happen, and they don't get to it. So, we have a follow-up a week later, and then I know who I'm talking to, and I check. Occasionally, that's when the client would say to me actually before I asked anything, 'Oh, I am gonna do it. I'm gonna do that review.' But then I find out in that process sometimes, for whatever reason, couldn't see the email. They said they didn't get it. Who knows why, or maybe there's a little issue there.

Then we'd work out. So having a process to start with meant that we could find out what was happening all the way through. If there was a problem, maybe we needed to address it and change the process or add something to the process a little bit. That's been really great to find out. If we didn't have a process and that's where it didn't work initially, as Tara mentioned, the postcards and occasionally mentioning it or asking, because it was too ad hoc. Everybody needs to be focused on what we're trying to do and the reason.

DAVID: Exactly. What I really like about the process is that the emails provide  the clients with a detailed reason why these reviews are important, not only the business, but to the instructors and ultimately to the clients themselves. Being able to take the time to get that in writing into an email, even if the clients don't really read it, don't see it, it goes to junk mail, or they ignore it, or they don't have time to read it or whatever, eventually, that message is what's, getting through to the clientele as a whole, and it's ringing very true.

They understand the situation in the marketplace, particularly following Covid, as well. We've sold one of our studios to make sure we survive and thrive following Covid because we only get paid by having clients coming along to the sessions.

Although we did very well online with pivoting, it's about really what happens in the studio. We also encourage clients to do things outside the studio, do their homework to help them with getting the results. That's the reason why Google review is important and means a lot to the clients as well as to the instructors and to the business.

Articulating that it's assisted the clients in making that decision to actually take out a minute, for some of their day, for others an hour or three hours to work through the technology and employ consultants, their grandsons, and sons, and daughters’ other younger people to help them. With that.

The other thing that it's done is opened the communication channels and overcome those barriers. So, we've overcome the fear of technology. People fear the technology, but they'll go through that brick wall to provide the Google review. It's also overcome the fear for the instructors of bringing up something that they may feel is selfish for the business. That's been important. It's made it easier, I won't say easy, but easier for the instructors to have this conversation with their clients.

In the end, it's been a really satisfying conversation for the instructors and for the clients We're really glad that we've done that.

CLAIRE: I think I touched on it before, but it has been really important, the personalized approach. So, we have our system, we have the automation, we have all the background, the client may or may not have seen, but then the instructor briefly lets them know about it. So, they keep an eye out for it.

Then sometimes the next session, they might say, 'Oh, I couldn't find Claire actually.' That's fine. So we have another process to sort that. But it's really important to have that actual brief discussion between the instructor and the client, because people have a very busy life. We all get bombarded with emails, just things coming from us everywhere. It is very easy to miss that communication, and it would get missed.

Some people would say it, but some people would just say, 'You know, just lots of emails some days.' With that personal side interaction in conjunction with the system, we wouldn't have what's been happening really. It has to be both. The reason it didn't work the first time, that little bit of ad hoc personal thing, there was nothing to follow it through.

Now it's all come together.

TARA: I think as well that people, for our clients who do have more trouble with technology, do have a level of trust in us because we've helped them through other technologies, like in the past with other things.

I've had those conversations about how to fix their Zoom accounts when we were in Covid and we were doing all our sessions online, how to use their online accounts and their client app to change their sessions. So, they have a level of trust in us that we will help them get over the line with the technology, even if it's not quite working perfectly.

CLAIRE: Yes, actually a few clients have said to me when I've said, 'Thank you so much for that wonderful review,' and I might have said it to them in a session when it's just them and me near each other, and someone may not have heard. It just depends on how organically it goes. Just this morning, one client I said that to and, ' Oh yes, Tara was wonderful. She helped me through that, and it all worked, and it was really good.'

That's what I mean about, and we've had this team process. We have it all the time, but as Tara just said, during Covid. That was absolutely essential in that new technology of, well, now we can't imagine life without Zoom, but when it all suddenly got thrust on us, I know it was already out there. Whoo. Everybody had to work out what was happening and needed.

Clients knew that we were practicing on our, or just about to really, we'd had one team go and then we were supposed to go practice and suddenly we had to. There was no practice time left, I divert a little bit, but that's how important it all just comes together. And it's not just one person, it's the whole team and it's the wonderful clients that we have that appreciate our services so much, the fact that they want to be involved in this way and to help us.

Once again, I have to say we get blown away by the amazing things that they are writing and that you can tell they've stopped and thought about it, probably drafted. I would draft it too if it was me, I'm like that. What else could you say guys about that? We just love reading them.

DAVID: We do, and so that'll be evergreen content for us, whether it's on Google or not, or it's somewhere else. We can refer to that and use that in highlighting what the relationship is between our business, our clients, and our admin, and our instructors. So, let's move on to the replication of this process throughout the team, Claire, because you've been extremely successful, as the leader of the team and leading the way, leading by example with what you've done and single-handedly 10 times, a thousand percent increase on the seven that we had that we'd achieved over 20 years.

And then in a couple of months you've achieved10 times that amount, a thousand percent increase. We're at 78 at the moment, heading for a 100 and then off towards 200 and the majority of our client base after that. The key to that, of course, because you don't instruct all the clients, we've got ten other instructors of thereabouts. They’re also started, you've started replicating the process.

So, for the listener, who's running a studio out there, leading a team of other instructors, concerned about how this process replicates, what do you think are the important aspects of that replication of this sort of what is really a sales and marketing process for the Google reviews through your instructor team?

CLAIRE: One of it was to test it with me first. So, David and Tara had come up with the system behind the scenes. I mean, I've been involved in seeing how that was evolving, but I didn't actually produce other than maybe occasionally annoy them and make a couple of comments. I think generally, they did that.

Then I said, 'Yeah, yeah, I'm really keen to try it. That's good.' So, we tested on me. That's when we found some little glitches, for example, maybe they didn't see the email, maybe it had gone into junk. Then maybe some people needed help more than others. So, it was good.

I had a pretty good, by the time we've only, so I did it for quite a few weeks. I'd recommend doing it for at least a couple of weeks as the business owner to make sure you're comfortable with the process, that you're finding it easy because it's just a little bit tricky when you first start, because it's something new. Then it just flows. It's super easy.

Then I found I was saying much less to just explain very briefly what was going on with that the client. Instead of all of us trying to do it all at once, we've been doing it gradually.

CLAIRE: We've had another major business change recently, so we sort of put a stop on it for a couple of weeks and we've just started again. I've got a couple of the other instructors now, one mat and one equipment-based, replicating the process. And that's been going well.

DAVID: At the time of recording this episode, we were at 78 5-star Google reviews. But by the time we edited the episode, we are already at 94 5-star Google reviews. By the time this goes to air, we may have achieved our interim goal of 100 5-star Google reviews within about three months of starting the process.

If you are interested, go to Google and search for Pilates Can, Pilates in Canberra. 

In the show notes, you can also find out there, how to get access to the full details of our very useful 5-star Google review process. 

In the next episode, 5 of series 6: How to Replicate the Stars in Your Pilates Team, we discuss the nitty-gritty of the replication of the process with your team. What really matters, and what surprisingly, has not mattered. 

So please join us next week, and to make sure that happens, follow the show on your favourite podcast platform so you don't miss it. 

And until then, stay awesome. 

"The automation was designed to be an integral part of the standard business processes, SOPs, to dramatically increase the achievement of 5-star Google reviews for our clinical Pilates studio business."                                                                        David Gunther – The Pilates Business Podcast, and Co-owner & Instructor Pilates Can, Canberra

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