By Dennis Dumas, AFS Community Expert

For the last 10 years as technology has expanded into and taken over other industries our industry has seen its share come and go. There have been some solutions we expected to change the industry, others that were the next big thing, and so many that have saturated the market without much positive impact anywhere near the scale we need it to be.

In my opinion and experience, there are two spaces for utilizing tech in your business.

  • The first is to decrease expenses and cost of doing business (Back of House) and;
  • The second is to increase revenue, retention and engagement (customer facing)

The back of house includes but is not limited to check ins, member management, processing, accounting and scheduling. The cookie cutter tech that has worked in other industries finds space in ours because there is little interaction with the core of the business - the people. Even so, it’s taken many years for the companies to evolve and for their offerings to get modified to accommodate us.  It’s safe to say we are a unique bunch that enjoy and understand programming for people far more than computer programming. With that said I won’t delve too deep into this as I believe these solutions are identifiable and readily available. The main focus here should be to free up your time as an owner-operator to focus on members and relationships.

The second is more difficult, and is a confusing and saturated market place. The second, is in creating a better member experience and higher level of engagement in the relationship between the member and their fitness. This applies to their interaction with your staff, your classes, and all their training in and out of the facility. This is where we have been looking tirelessly for technology to come to our aid. As studio owners having technology that expands your offering and engagement beyond your walls is the key. Square footage is a premium and time is a precious commodity, technology should be a solution for your business maximize both.

So you might ask yourself... "Why hasn’t it taken off, what’s missing?"

First of all, in most industries, technology is used to take people out of the equation and make the interactions faster and more impersonal.

In the fitness industry that just doesn’t work. Our industry is one of culture, philosophy, engagement and emotion. In our industry any technology that will succeed and be sustainable must be personified.  What does this mean?  This means that we must use technology that provides human interaction and engagement on a personal level.  This means that new technology must seamlessly integrate human to human interactions alongside the delivery of on-demand content on the member’s schedule.   It means that the technology must also collect accurate and reliable data that is consistently and easily aggregated and provided to the coach and client, or club and a member.

What tech is important and why?

To exponentially grow your business, seek tech that allows one to many interactions and can be automated. If you apply services to your business that are one on one you will end up back in the hour for hour rut and experience little growth.

Accurate activity tracking that is shared with studio and trainer, member engagement at home, white labeled platforms, LIVE interaction and on-demand content should all be key markers in what you look for in either a bundle of technology services or in a partner that provides a suite of services. This is important because in the fast pace industry and world we work and live in people are constantly distracted and being offered new deals and opportunities.

Additionally, as an owner and operator you do not have the time to individually engage every member every day, which must happen every day, whether they come into your place of business or not. This consistent branded engagement will solidify you and your company as their home for fitness. Backing that up with LIVE remote interactions that allow members to participate with you while they are at home or traveling again puts you, your business and their health front of mind.

Finally, included in your suite of services you should have a place for members to view content, education and programming on their schedule. This can be done in the club their homes and on devices. Essentially at the heart of it all, you as an owner should be saving money on staffing and labor by leveraging these services to expand your offering.

As an incremental up sell or value add to a membership you should have a direct line item in the PNL that accounts for the result of using any technology.

What should you look for when selecting new platforms and software to integrate?

Look for partners that put their neck on the line with you. This means that you should be in a rev share situation where everyone learns and grows together. Flat fee technology services provide little to no incentive for the partner to help you grow your business. IN any rev share situation content is king. If you are providing content and managing the systems, the rev share should be very heavy in your favor.

Look for partners with co-marketing opportunities. Partners that have exposure to your ideal customer base. Additionally, there are hundreds of apps and software platforms. I encourage people to look for one they can white label. Your brand is your pathway to all your marketing success, don’t give that up. Select tech and software that have a clear path to revenue. Your success when using these services should not be ambiguous.

Be open minded, diligent and intentional and you will be successful!

Dennis Dumas is a dedicated father of two and very lucky husband. Over the last 8 years as an entrepreneur, an executive and an educator Dennis has created 12 unique fitness brands, managed one of the industry’s largest club companies, and has contributed to programming in more than 300 clubs in the US, Japan and Australia.

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