This blog post is sponsored by Burnalong
By Matthew Locker, Special AFS Contributor
The fitness industry is changing. What was once a distinctly in-person only experience is now online. Online isn't going away any time soon - have you heard of Netflix? Do you remember Blockbuster? People need options, and they now have months of experience using online for everything - whether shopping, working, connecting with friends and family, and yes, fitness training.
They may not be eager to go to a physical location, and even when they do, they now expect businesses to support their online preferences. Don't be one of the businesses that gets left behind (think Blockbuster) - keep your online presence going to support your members no matter if they come into the gym or stay home (like Netflix!).
With many states reopening physical locations for gyms and fitness studios, you may be asking yourself, "Do I reopen my in-person location and stop training online, or do I keep going online and ignore in-person?"
If you're looking at the online/offline divide and think there’s only one clear option, look again! The best businesses are those that can meet their clients’ needs wherever they are and can adapt as those needs continue to evolve. Some clients want to train in person and will be the first ones knocking on your door when you re-open. Others may prefer staying home and training online. You'll be surprised how many of your clients would prefer to do both!
In this article, we'll explore ways for you to set up your fitness business for success by developing a hybrid approach and combining online/offline practices to keep your business growing through the next phases of the global pandemic.
Is Your Business Already Online?
Maybe you're one of the thousands of businesses that rapidly pivoted to online/remote classes when your physical location closed. If you are, you know there were challenges you faced regardless of the technology you used: if you were using a video conferencing app you may have dealt with the challenges of a closed network like scheduling, receiving payments, and reaching a new audience.
Publishing classes on social media may have helped you retain or grow a following but might not provide a consistent revenue stream. Some open networks like BurnAlong let fitness professionals grow their audience while capturing additional revenue. No matter the challenges you faced along the way, you might be thinking once your physical location opens you can stop and go back to the “real” training. Consider Netflix vs. Blockbuster again - would we still be shopping for DVD rentals in-person if Netflix didn’t develop an online streaming service, or would another company have started that put them both out of business?
Keeping your online business going while you're training in-person is vital to your business' success as the global pandemic continues. Stay-at-home orders are being evaluated on a state-by-state basis and are subject to change as the situation evolves.
Haven't started training online yet? Visit this article to learn ways you can get started training online to stay connected with your members at home.
How to Balance the Online and Offline
Balance is hard, your clients might say while standing on one leg holding 1/5 of their body weight in their hands. The same applies to fitness businesses, especially those who now have one foot in online training and another foot in traditional in-person fitness models. As with anything in fitness, it takes practice and commitment to maintain balance and increase strength and performance.
Here are a few ways you can help position your business for success by balancing the online and offline:
No matter the challenges you faced along the way, you might be thinking once your physical location opens you can stop and go back to the “real” training. Consider Netflix vs. Blockbuster again - would we still be shopping for DVD rentals in-person if Netflix didn’t develop an online streaming service, or would another company have started that put them both out of business?
The Name of the Game: Retention
Use online as a retention tool. How many times have you had to deal with clients saying they are swamped with work, pulled into kids’ events, going on vacation--you name it--and can’t take class with you? Having an online presence means they can still take a class with you from anywhere and you can assign “homework” for them to do when it fits their schedule. You’ll still maintain that relationship and not lose that client entirely because they can’t see you in person
Grow. Expand. Recruit.
Being online lets you tap into audiences beyond your immediate area. With an online presence, you are no longer limited in who can be your client. (This is another great retention tool to keep clients who love you but are moving out of the area.) You can expand your business to reach clients around the country--and even the world--with your online platform.
Prepare for the Future
No one can predict the future, but you can prepare for the future. Growing an online business while running an in-person business keeps you adaptable to change. If the future brings more in-person shutdowns, you’ll still have your online channel to maintain a connection with your clients and keep growing. Don’t lose the momentum you’re gaining online - your clients will still be looking for you online even when you’re back in-person.
You can keep your business running online while you transition back to in-person training. Don't phase out your online presence entirely or you miss out on opportunities to retain clients who may prefer online training and recruiting new members to join you in-person. Online training doesn't have to be difficult, either, with tons of platforms and tools out there to help you grow your online business to complement and support your in-person business.
Matthew Locker is the Director of Marketing at BurnAlong -- an online video health and wellness platform focused on bridging online-offline relationships – that partners with a fast-growing network of 100s of local gyms, studios, and independent instructors globally. People can take classes alone, or live with friends, family, and fellow club members. There is no cost to gyms, studios, and instructors to sign up and stream classes live and on-demand.