FitPros: here’s how to craft your digital strategy

As global governments extend #stayhome mandates beyond the initial 2–3 weeks — to a somewhat indefinite time frame — people are now turning their attention to finding that new norm.

For fitness enthusiasts, this has meant adapting workout routines to rediscover a format that most closely resembles what they previously enjoyed in-real life (“IRL”).

For you, as fitness professionals, that should mean formulating a sustainable digital strategy that optimizes for you, your brand and most importantly your business.

And while this new norm may in totality be temporary, the reality of fitness enthusiasts logging in from home for their workouts over the coming weeks, if not months, is that it will accelerate the trends already in flight with the adoption of digital fitness.

Google Trend data shows search queries for “Online Workout” increased 6x in mid March as the #stayhome mandates came in force

This transition isn’t intended to scare you — rather view this as an opportunity for you to create greater independence by building a brand around yourself, detached from any one studio or gym, and unbounded by any geographical limit. The world is now literally your oyster!

So now is the time to formulate your digital fitness strategy; one that encapsulates:

  1. Your online presence (e.g. website, onPodio profile);
  2. Your pricing (e.g. free vs. paid);
  3. Your content (e.g. live vs. pre-made content); and
  4. Your format (e.g mass, small groups, 1-on-1)

(Read on — but join the Slack FitPro Community to connect with other fitness professionals)

Your Online Presence

It’s 2020 and time you had an online presence for your fitness business

The world is no longer moving online — it has moved online. So it’s time to create an online presence for your fitness business that…

  1. Reflects your unique fitness brand and style;
  2. Promotes all your services (e.g. group classes, boot-camps, private coaching, etc.); and
  3. Builds upon and leverages your reputation.

88% of consumers trust reviews before making a decision, so one of the most powerful things you can be doing for your business is to collect reviews from clients to chronicle your reputation in a tangible way online.

Build a website with Squarespace or create a free fitness page with onPodio to aggregate your class schedules (incl. digital), IG, music playlists, reviews and more, all in one spot.

Your Pricing

The “free” virtual class blitz will evolve…

The abundance of free virtual classes delivered over IG Live or Zoom over the last few weeks was overwhelming. Social media feeds were inundated as studios and fitness professionals sought to maintain continuity of engagement with clients for what was meant to be a temporary interruption to regularly scheduled programming.

But as the community prepares for longer than anticipated closures, free no longer works, which will drive two changes:

  1. Studios & fitness professionals will (and should!) increasingly seek to monetize their digital classes to create a sustainable business model; and
  2. Consumers will seek routine by consciously selecting their preferred workouts, led by their preferred fitness professionals — as they once did IRL.

That’s not to say that free has no place — it does! But think of free classes as a marketing tool, the same way studios offer free classes to new clients.

Balance your mix of digital offerings between free vs. paid, and the format of classes/sessions to create a sustainable business

…so leverage the distinct advantages you have as a fitness professional to differentiate your paid classes

The tenets that underpinned the success of instructed fitness have not changed. People still seek instructed fitness for three core reasons:

  1. Motivation;
  2. Personalization; and
  3. Community

And these tenets apply just as equally in the digital world.

That said digital fitness platforms such as Peloton, Mirror and other apps, are not designed to address them all. Where they succeed is in delivering motivation through HD cinematic fitness videos often with attaching equipment created for the masses — “Fitmass” if you will. Where Fitmass is unsuccessful is in connecting with clients at an individual human level with the personalization and community they seek.

So as you formulate your digital class strategy, leverage the distinct advantage you have to differentiate your paid offering by focusing on these two tenets. Customize programming for your clients, engage them in a community built around you and your fellow clients, and be human with them.

Your Content

Use pre-made content to complement live sessions and virtual classes

Now, more than ever, the #1 thing people are looking for in their lives is structure.

So while this may sound contradictory to delivering personalized fitness, your digital strategy can leverage the benefits of pre-made content.

For the reasons mentioned above, that is not to say you should focus purely on pre-made content, which would position you head-to-head with Fitmass platforms. But augment your live sessions and virtual classes with pre-recorded videos and prepared materials to give you operational leverage, create greater engagement with clients yet to deliver them the personalization they demand.

Focus on creating content that is broadly applicable but which can deliver structure to the lives of your clients outside of the in-person contact hours. This may include additional DIY workouts / exercises or lean on expertise you may have in nutrition, mindfulness, work-life balance, etc. to create take-home content to deepen the relationship and structure you can offer them.

Your Format

Deliver a menu of training options…

The overnight shift to digital fitness appears mostly to have been dominated by IG Live and Zoom group fitness classes. But don’t forget small group and 1-on-1 private sessions.

Each format offers subtle differences in experience across motivation, personalization and community, appealing to slightly different client segments. In many ways the smaller the group the easier it is to run digitally so develop your menu of options for clients to select from to ensure you’re appealing to all segments of the market.

Training formats offer clients subtle, but important, differences between the three core tenets that underpin client demand for instructed fitness.

…connect with a new audience…

Look to tap into new audiences which you may not have once before.

For example, as most companies have instituted work from home (WFH) policies, companies and employees are looking for ways to stay socially connected while physically distant. Use this as an opportunity to connect with local (or global!) HR teams or company leadership to support their well-being and team-building initiatives with regular small group training sessions for the company’s team.

Similarly extend your small group training to entire households — whether it’s a family looking to maintain their fitness and healthy lifestyle or roommates trying to recreate the competitive in-studio environment.

…and build in loyalty and retention in your offerings

Make your digital class offering uniquely yours — an experience they can’t get elsewhere. For example consider:

  1. Gamifying workouts by borrowing from studio concepts like: Hell Week (Orangetheory), Higher Education (Barry’s) or SoulCup (SoulCycle)
  2. Tracking client progress in a structured way to keep them engaged (this could be as simple as a Google Sheet!);
  3. Designing programs that require a small investment by clients into 1 or 2 pieces of equipment to get their buy-in;
  4. Providing special access to clients to a community you create (a simple WhatsApp group, or to your Close Friends list on Instagram)

Final Thoughts

Digital is here to stay so formulating your digital strategy now, and refining it over the coming weeks is an investment that will continue to pay dividends in the future.

When you establish your own digital fitness business, you also can unlock a lot of other benefits too:

  1. Independence to teach on your schedule & beyond the usual limits of your studio & zip code;
  2. Direct connection with your clients; and
  3. Connection with a global community.

And ultimately this may represent the birth of something new and with the potential to be much bigger than before!

We’ve just launched a Slack community for fitness professionals to come together to learn / share notes and stories and to support each other. It’s open to everyone so join here (Slack FitPro Community) and feel free to share the link to help foster a digital community and resource for fitness professionals to tap into as they need!

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