All of us within the health, fitness and wellness space are seeing and hearing the phrases #virtualfitness, #hybridclasses, and #anytimeanywhere. These are attached to online classes available via thousands of apps and now from even more boutique studios, gyms and clubs. Before “sheltering in place” was instituted due to Covid-19, people were engaging virtually with their favorite instructors on devices from their homes, in parks, hotels and on the go. But as we’ve written numerous times in our Endorphinz Blog, digital fitness is now the new expected experience, even when our go-to studios and gyms reopen.
As a fit pro or gym, studio or club owner, how do you start an online fitness business? What are the steps to get started? Many of you quickly took to social once the shutdowns began, meeting your members where they were – at home with “live-streamed” Facebook, Zoom or Instagram classes. Many of you were not charging class fees during this time due to the dire situation of rapid mass club and studio closings, wanting to support your members and clients during these scary and uncertain times. The market overall has reflected these changes as well, with 70% of fitness brands currently using fitness streaming in some form.
Now that the world is slowly re-opening, the online fitness offer is the play and showing promising benefits to both member and owner.
Here are 5 Question to ask in order to THRIVE on the DIGITAL tract:
1. Where you are right now with CONTENT AND INSTRUCTOR TALENT: Take a good look at your business model and decide WHY an online fitness offer is right for your brand. Ask thoughtful questions like what classes, small group training or personal training sessions are getting the most traction. Who is teaching these classes? Would these instructors and their class offer be well received by your current members in an online format? What does the content comprise of, are the classes packed, is there a waiting list, is everything from instruction to format to flow of the class smart, effective, transformative, cutting edge and well received? Remember content is king, but instruction and delivery are weaved into that. If your answers are tepid because your class content and caliber of talent is not at a top tier level or where it should be, maybe the first step would be to look at your class offers, your team of instructors and re-engineer the content offer. If you are running on all cylinders and smashing it out of the ballpark with great fanfare, then on to step 2.
2. Who is your audience and HOW do you want to digitally engage with them? This is a vital step in the process of creating a virtual fitness revenue stream. Now that you feel confident with your content and level of instruction, it’s time to get feedback from your members if they would subscribe to an online offer in addition to their in-studio membership, or even as a standalone offer! The “Hybrid Class” approach is quickly taking off as clubs are re-opening at 30%-50% capacity. Studios are continuing to offer “live” classes at reduced capacity and meeting those who cannot physically fit with a virtual class offer. Think both the in-studio “live” experience along with the at-home “livestreamed” offer. The livestreamed offer can also be recorded and uploaded to a catalog or library for those who want to break a sweat at a different time that better fits their schedule, similar to a Netflix movie listing to watch when the time is right. Another option is to record classes (with or without class participants) in a “recording studio” setting and upload to a library of classes with filters based on class type or instructor. Will you be offering the online offer to your members only or will you cast the net out to non-members as well? Maybe as a gateway to introduce them to your unique offer and community virtually, opening up the door to greet them in person when they’re hooked!
3. How do you FILM and PRODUCE your Classes? What cameras and platforms should you use? Now that you have strategized your content offer, determined the level of your talent and who your audience will be, it’s time to assess how to film/produce your digital class offer. This is often a daunting task as many of us in the fitness space are NOT techies and there are a plethora of gears, gadgets and software on the market! There is everything from a DIY, where you film on your own, to a “virtual producer model” where you bring an outside team to your studio, to renting a studio with a full team of producers and editors. As with all menus, yes budget plays a part, but the end-goal of what you are trying to achieve, produce and sell plays a bigger role. Once you decide on your content, offer and audience, the filming, production and platform will be easier to navigate through.
4. How should you PRICE, PACKAGE & PROMOTE your online fitness offer? Now that you have everything uploaded and ready to launch, how do you price, package and promote your signature programming? As subscription-based models are readily preferred by users as well as an intuitive user experience, it’s a smart choice to offer monthly auto-renewal memberships– similar to your brick and mortar pricing structure. As long as you have a robust and well-rounded offer of content from a team of motivated and engaging instructors, your members as well as non-members will see value in your offer. Your prices can be less than your “in-studio” offer, but don’t undervalue it. Spend some time researching the market and what others are charging. We are seeing anywhere from $9.99 a month to $39.99 a month depending on the app and offer. Social media is a great way to promote and drive awareness to your new online business. Think about using the “freemium” model of free content on social, driving users to your website to learn more about your full digital class proposition. Give them a little taste on social via video or a few livestreamed classes and then pull them in for more with class content behind a paywall.
5. How do I continue to keep my subscribers engaged and loyal to my brand? An important fact to remember is that people are attracted to people! Although this is a digital space, they are still coming to experience, hear, see and interact with a human that moves their soul! As we said there are many players in the game, a lot of amazing trainers touching lives every day, but it’s the connection you and your team have with your fanbase. The churn rate is very low once a member is hooked to a specific instructor. We’ve all seen it in the physical space where clients will leave and follow their instructor to the gym down the street! The same works in the virtual space. As long as your club and fleet of trainers and instructors are meeting the needs of your members with high quality, transformative and unique content, along with a smile and virtual high five, they’re in for the long haul and will remain loyal. But consistency is key with content as well as communication. You need to constantly check in and even reward your subscriber base. Think gamification as well as communication. Content, talent, consistency, communication and gratitude goes a LONG WAY.
Now that you are asking the right questions and are starting to see a clearer path to virtual after answering the above “what’s” and “why’s” you’re off to a solid start! The road to digital doesn’t seem so daunting once you figure out who you are, what your offer is and what your audience wants