By Dan Kleckner, Special AFS Contributor
Given the circumstances due to COVID, many gyms have elected to try and pivot their business model to online training only.
While I understand the appeal to do this, I’ve been advising my consulting clients to stick with the in-person training model and use online training to enhance their current services. While there are examples of businesses that do well in the online space, most training businesses that pivot to only online training will have limited success.
First, let’s look at the Pros and Cons of Online Training….
- You can reach more potential clients and are not limited to one certain area.
- You can see more clients at one time and space is not a limiting factor.
- You can save money on rent and other overhead costs.
- Retention with online clients is much lower than in-person clients.
- People who do online training tend to jump around and try many different online services.
- People often get bored of working out at home by themselves and stop engaging.
- The online space is very crowded, and it is hard to stand out and differentiate yourself., You will also be competing against businesses that are spending millions of dollars on marketing (e.g., Peloton, Tonal, The Mirror, etc.).
If you are thinking of pivoting your business to online training only, I’d advise you to weigh all your options before deciding. At the three gyms I own, we have seen a big influx of people coming back to in-person training since January. Our current numbers are as good as they’ve ever been even though we are still in a pandemic.
With many people being less active because of the pandemic and other gyms closing, we have seen a huge demand for in-person training. I think part of that is most people prefer to be part of a community and go into a gym that they see as their “third place” after home and work. As I’ve written about in previous blogs, I believe that small group, in-person training gyms are still the most profitable business model for fitness businesses.
To conclude, I do think it is naïve to completely ignore online training as there are components of it that are here to stay. But I would recommend using online training to enhance current services instead of pivoting to online only. Some examples of ways to do that include offering virtual nutrition or mobility sessions. We also still offer a few of our large group classes virtually as we have not brought those back to in-person.
As always feel free to reach out with any questions,
Dan is the owner of Kutting Edge Fitness in Kirkland, Washington and Kinetic Fitness in Butte, Montana – two start-up training gyms. He has worked in the health and fitness field for 15 years and holds a B.S. in Applied Health Science from Montana Tech University, where he was also a collegiate athlete.
Dan is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine and a level 2 Titleist Performance Institute Golf Fitness Professional. He has been mentored by some of the top golf fitness and fitness business professionals in the country including Thomas Plummer, Rick Mayo, Frank Nash and Jason Glass. He now mentors several start-up gym owners himself. Dan is a well-respected speaker in the greater Northwest and is considered an expert on the business of start-up gyms, improving strength/power for golf and other rotational sports, and small group training.