Zen Planner Review 2020: Features, Pricing, Top Alternatives

Updated on January 31, 2020
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Running a business is a challenge, regardless of what kind of industry you’re in. But when you’re running a business that relies on class schedules and bookings, you’re managing more than just your company—you’re also managing attendees and clients too. This can make for some logistical challenges at best (and logistical nightmares at worst). As a class-based business proprietor, you have a ton of needs to juggle, including class attendance and customer satisfaction. Finding an appointment scheduling software to help manage it all, such as Zen Planner, becomes a must for your business’s success.

You may have been trying to keep track of class schedules and attendees through your own system so far. Perhaps through a spreadsheet, a shared calendar, or, heaven forbid, a pen-and-paper logging system. If these worked for you, you’re in a pretty small minority. Even then, these systems only really last for so long before they end up getting complicated, hard to manage, or just flat-out faulty. And when that happens, it might mean lost revenue and unhappy customers (who are likely to become former customers).

Difficult as it is to keep track of your studio’s class schedule and bookings, there is software out there that makes these tasks a little bit easier for small business owners. Zen Planner is just such an option. The Zen Planner platform makes it easy to manage memberships, automate billing, keep track of prospective and current customers, and to keep your clientele engaged (so they keep coming back).

There are many Zen Planner reviews out there, given the demand for this kind of software. The sheer volume of opinions and pros and cons can make it hard to decide whether Zen Planner is the right option for your business. Thankfully, we’ve read just about every Zen Planner review so you don’t have to. We’ll go through the main Zen Planner features, pricing, and alternatives to help you make the best decision for your business. 

Zen Planner: The Basics

Imagine there was a singular business app that could help you manage your class bookings, keep track of billing, entice new clients to sign up, and keep your existing customers coming back. Better yet, envision that this same platform also helped you build your own websites, run digital advertising campaigns, and came with a dedicated support staff to help you work your way out of a jam if and when it happens. Lucky for you, Zen Planner boasts the ability to do all of this and more.

Zen Planner makes it easy for fitness business owners (among others) to run their operations smoothly. With Zen Planner, you get a customer relationship management (CRM) solution that helps you stay on top of your clients with helpful reminders and a digital dossier of their current and previous interactions with your company. You also get a scheduling platform that makes it easy for clients to book time—and for your staff to make sure they know when to expect clients to show up. Zen Planner also gives you an opportunity to build out your own small business website, in case you don’t have one or want to switch things up with your existing site. Last but not least, Zen Planner also makes it painless to get paid by clients once they book your services.

There are tons of programs that do many of the similar functions that Zen Planner provides (which we’ll go into later), but few package them together into one tidy platform. With Zen Planner, you get coverage and support for just about every element of your business needs. This helps you spend more time on the big picture projects that propel your business forward, and less on the operational tasks that can be a time- and soul-sucking experience. Plus, it’s not just for workout studios either: Any business that sells classes, appointments, or other kinds of bookings can take advantage of Zen Planner to streamline the mechanics of their business.  

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Zen Planner: The Details

There’s tons to cover with Zen Planner, considering how much the software offers to its users. The level of support you want out of Zen Planner is sure to differ based on a few factors, including the kind of business you run, your major needs, and your budget. We’ll go through each of these and more, providing you with a broader understanding of how Zen Planner works. Most importantly, we’ll also help you figure out how to make Zen Planner work for you.

Zen Planner Pricing

First things first, let’s talk pricing. Zen Planner comes with a robust set of features and functions—some of which you may or may not need. The good news is that Zen Planner operates a business model similar to other small business software companies. There are several tiers to choose from, each with a different set of features at a different price. The more you want from Zen Planner, the more you pay. This is also true with regard to the number of members at your studio: The more members you have in the system, the more you pay. The more you add, the more you pay. You can right-size your Zen Planner suite to accommodate your needs and avoid paying for features you don’t need. Here are the two Zen Planner tiers to choose from:

Zen Planner Software Only

Zen Planner’s software-only option features all of the core components of the platform. You can manage memberships, keep on top of class schedules, and reach out to new and returning customers with ease. 

The software-only tier makes customer management easy: You can bill people directly from the app, manage their scheduled appointments and sessions, track attendance, and send emails about promotions and upcoming events at your studio. You can also empower your employees to keep track of their own class attendance and scheduling with a staff-centric version of the platform. Customers also get their own interface within Zen Planner, which allows them to keep track of their progress within fitness goals or classes, monitor their own scheduled sign-ups and attendance record, schedule appointments online, and pay for classes. Better still, you can even use Zen Planner to run an ecommerce operation for your small business, making it easier than ever to sell goods online. 

The software-only level of Zen Planner support costs $99 per month, in addition the number of members in the system. Studios with 50 members or fewer can expect to pay $99, 51 to 100 members costs $159 per month, and 251 members or more will cost you $193 per month. This is in addition to any fees charged by payment processors. In case you aren’t familiar with payment processors, they are part of the online purchasing landscape and help facilitate transactions made on the web. It’s a good idea to look into merchant services providers in order to see what options work with Zen Planner, and which work for your business’s needs and budget too.

Zen Planner Software and Website Suites

There is a broad array of Zen Planner options once you get past the software-only tier. These plans differ depending on your needs, and what you expect out of the platform itself. You can choose to create a website through Zen Planner, add in lead generation tactics, turbocharge client acquisition through accelerated lead generation tools, or even hand over your entire marketing management to Zen Planner as well. 

Zen Planner keeps things simple by offering four different plans that incorporate these tools. The Zen Planner New Business Suite includes a new website and digital marketing tools to complement their class scheduling and customer tracking capabilities. The New Business Suite helps you build a site with up to 13 individual web pages, five SEO-friendly and keyword-optimized pages, website design changes and consultations, 15 directory listings to help your business get found online, and one managed ad campaign to maximize your online presence. This suite costs $396 per month for up to 50 members, $422 for 51 to 101 members, and $490 for 251 members or more. This does not include merchant transaction fees.

The next tier of service, Zen Planner Lead Generation Suite, builds on the two less robust platforms and includes a stronger emphasis on online customer acquisition tools and tactics. This plan includes the same 13 web pages, five optimized pages, and infinite design change requests, but adds in 30 directory listings, four managed ad campaigns, as well as the ability to approve ads and embark on remarketing efforts. For those who don’t know, remarketing is the practice of reaching out to visitors to your site, former clients, or other people who have interacted with your company online in order to persuade them to come back. These additional features are great tactics to help build your business with a focus on digital—aka essential tools for small businesses marketing online. This service tier costs $597 a month for up to 50 members, $623 for 51 to 100 members, $657 for 101 to 250 members, and $691 for 251 or more members. As with every Zen Planner tier, these costs do not include any transaction fees from retail operations that are part of the system.

There’s also an option for businesses that want to send their customer acquisition efforts into overdrive. Zen Planner’s Accelerated Lead Generation Suite beefs up the marketing efforts within the Lead Generation Suite plan by including 10 optimized web pages, unlimited site changes that are completed within 24 business hours, 45 directory listings, and 20 managed ad campaigns. The Accelerated Lead Generation Suite package includes the same ad approvals and remarketing found with the regular lead generation package, but includes two blog posts per month for your webpage as well. This level of service costs $948 for studios with up to 50 members, $974 for 51 to 110 members, $1,008 for 101 to 250, and $1,042 for 251 members or more.

Last but not least is Zen Planner’s Full Marketing Management Suite. This option throws in  everything you’d want out of a robust website and marketing plan. This plan includes 23 web pages, 10 keyword optimized pages, four landing pages, 60 directory listings, unlimited managed ad campaigns, four blog posts (and social media posts to go with them), prospect funnel setup, and company reputation management online. This option gives you all of the features you’d get out of a dedicated marketing team without having to hire an in-house team or content agency (although you may still want to do that, given that they are usually more adaptive in terms of what they provide). Zen Planner doesn’t provide standard pricing for the Full Marketing Management Suite; instead, you’ll have to contact them for a quote.

Summary of Zen Planner Reviews

There are plenty of Zen Planner reviews out there, given that there aren’t a ton of gym- and studio-specific options out there for managing every business and marketing component of a company’s operations. The sheer variety of features and support tiers included in Zen Planner make them rife for feedback—both positive and negative. Here are a few of the most important highlights and lowlights from Zen Planner reviews.

Positive Reviews

The bulk of Zen Planner reviews are pretty positive. Users love the Zen Planner platform because of how easy it is to use, in addition to its robust reporting features. Most users remark that they’re better able to handle class scheduling, manage their members, and even keep track of their teachers and instructors. The app’s front desk check-in capabilities get tons of praise as well, as they make it simple to get members checked in and ready to go. The financial reporting offers small businesses great insights into how their business is performing, which is a vital part of any small business (even if it’s not always something that entrepreneurs can get to often enough).

Negative Reviews

Zen Planner has a ton of positive feedback from users, but the platform isn’t perfect either, according to reviewers. For starters, some reviewers state that it’s difficult for members to sign up, and that payment options are not as robust as they would hope for. For example, there’s no option for members to pay via ACH, which would provide a useful option for prospective members. Another potential pitfall with Zen Planner could be the cost of the higher-tier marketing plans, as many of these services could be provided at a better price with other alternatives (such as marketing experts or consultants). 

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Zen Planner Alternatives

There may not be as many Zen Planner alternatives as you might find for other, less fitness-specific options, but there are still a few to choose from. Each of these Zen Planner alternatives offers different pros and cons, as well as plenty of the same features across the board. Finding the right solution for your business means exploring each option and determining if one has a specific x-factor that makes it a better choice than the rest. Here are two top-tier Zen Planner alternatives.

MindBody

A popular Zen Planner alternative that helps studio owners manage their members, classes, and billing is MindBody. The MindBody system offers a comprehensive solution for studio owners to manage payments effortlessly, create customized mobile apps, manage scheduling on mobile or desktop from anywhere they might be, and to reach out to members through effective marketing campaigns. MindBody is, in many ways, the incumbent technology platform in the fitness space, which may provide some business owners with peace of mind to know they’re working with the biggest platform in the game. 

MindBody’s pricing, however, isn’t cheap. The Essential package costs $129 a month and incorporates the bare bones of the MindBody platform—chiefly class booking, a retail point of sale, 35 reports per month, and web widgets to make it easy for people to book classes directly from your website. MindBody’s Accelerate tier costs $239 a month and includes all of the Essential functions (with 90 reports instead of 35), including text notifications and reminders in addition to an email campaign builder and message templates. Last up is the MindBody Ultimate tier. This level of services costs $349 a month and includes automated email and text campaigns as well as a customer referral program.

Triib

Triib is another popular option among gym and studio owners as they emphasize many of the same core functions as Zen Planner and MindBody. One major difference between Triib and their competitors is the platform’s emphasis on social networking and community building. Triib offers a robust platform designed to help business owners keep their members engaged and interested in upcoming events, as well as special promotions and other events as they arise. The platform also includes fitness and nutrition challenges, which adds an extra way to keep customers engaged and excited about being part of your studio’s community. Triib also includes the same features you’d expect out of a gym management platform, including payments, attendance tracking, billing, membership management and scheduling.

Triib offers the most straightforward billing of the lot. Triib Events is free to use and features—as one might expect—the events component of the platform. This tier includes event registration items like custom image assets and descriptions, integrated payments, promotion codes, and more. Triib Events also incorporates real-time scoring and leaderboards, member messaging, and digital communications tools to keep participants excited before, during, and after an event. The Standard tier costs $130 per month and includes a fuller plate of features, including attendance tracking, member billing, class scheduling, payroll, point of sale operations, ACH verification, and much more. Triib also offers special pricing at this tier for small gyms, as well. Last up is Triib Premium, which costs $180 per month and includes content management tools, website support, and more customizable elements for client web pages. 

Zen Planner: The Bottom Line 

The biggest determining factor when deciding between Zen Planner or another tool is your business’s own needs. If all you need is a class and business management tool, then you can shop around and determine whether Zen Planner’s fee structure works for your business (and the number of members you have at any given time). 

If you need a bit more support, particularly on the marketing front, then it’s worth seeing if the Zen Planner platform offers you the best possible experience for showing up on the web and attracting new clients. If you’re looking to hand over all of your studio’s marketing, payment, and digital efforts, then you’ve certainly got an option there, as well. It all boils down to price versus the features you need—know both of these elements, and you’re on your way to finding the right solution for you. 

Christine Aebischer

Christine Aebischer is an editor at Fundera. Previously, she was an editor at the financial planning startup LearnVest and its parent company, Northwestern Mutual. She has written for print and online on topics ranging from personal finance and insurance to luxury real estate and interior design. She has a degree in journalism and English from The College of New Jersey. Email: christine.aebischer@fundera.com.
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