COVID-19 has flipped the fitness industry on its head: in order to survive, gyms and studios have been forced to take their workouts entirely online.
And while it’s an uncertain time, by maintaining the same passion and determination that you invested in making your brick and mortar studio a success, you’ll be able to maintain a loyal community of members to see you through this challenge.
Many businesses have been quick to improvise and adapt to virtual workouts. Brittany Welk, founder and owner of LadyStrong Fitness, has done so with a 100% member retention rate.
In the latest episode of The Fitness Founders Podcast, Brittany talks about navigating the impacts of COVID-19 and shares the survival strategies that have kept LadyStrong Fitness – going strong.
Brittany’s journey shows that with quick thinking, a positive mindset, and lots of dedication, maintaining a successful fitness business is possible, even when faced with the industry’s biggest challenge to date.
Check out the full episode here and find out how LadyStrong Fitness has retained 100% of its current members. Read on below for the key takeaways from Brittany’s experience, and how you can apply them to your business. Skip ahead to:
Have a Solid Strategy
Currently, the vast majority of fitness businesses are taking their workouts online. Competition is fierce, with fitness influencers offering free exercises on platforms like YouTube and Instagram, and brands including Fiit App and Peloton that have built a reputation for themselves as leading digital fitness providers.
So, much like when you’re operating business as usual at your physical studio, the market is competitive. And now more than ever, it’s crucial to remember what sets your studio apart from the rest.
Understand Your Member’s Needs
When it comes to your members, you’ve built a relationship with these people over time, and you know them. You understand their goals and what motivates them – something that they won’t get from a pre-recorded video with a random instructor.
At LadyStrong Fitness, Brittany is dedicated to ensuring her members are still making the same progress while they’re at home, and this goes beyond the workouts.
“We knew we had a responsibility to these people, more now than ever, to make sure that when they’re at home, they’re making progress and not going backwards.”
The studio communicates with its members daily to check in on them and keep them on track. Again, this isn’t something a member will get from watching free Youtube workouts.
Know Your Value
Your member retention strategy should focus on what it always has, and that’s the value your service provides that members won’t find elsewhere. What you offer is more than a regular online workout; you’ll call members out during class by name, suggest modifications, or one-on-ones if they want extra sessions. You’ll host online webinar workshops, fitness challenges, and Q&As to advise them and add value to their membership.
Just like when they’re at the studio, you’ll keep your members engaged and on track. It’s a service that offers more value than a free workout video ever could, and one that’s worth paying for. Focus on increasing your value, not decreasing your revenue, when it comes to your pricing: All of the members Brittany has retained at LadyStrong Fitness are still on a full-paid membership.
Nurture Your Community
People are craving community now more than ever. According to a study from Latent View, an engaging community is one of the top reasons people go to the gym, and this is still true in the digital space. It’s as much about getting together (even if it’s virtually) with like-minded people and having fun, as it is about working out.
Now more than ever, it’s essential to nurture your community as they turn to you for support. In our current climate, this means making the most of digital platforms. You’re likely using various social channels for marketing your online classes, but it’s also a good place to gather feedback and to encourage members to get to know each other. Below are four things to consider when maintaining your community online.
Encourage Two Way Communication
Ensure you’re in the habit of inviting member feedback. To make someone feel like they’re part of the community, you need to understand what matters to them. You might usually ask members to share progress pictures, or with their permission, share on their behalf. This can still be encouraging to your community; it’s a reason for them to engage with and motivate each other.
But perhaps you can include new angles to this type of community post to stay relevant – think along the lines of asking members to share photos and videos of their at-home set-up to inspire each other. You can join in with the conversation and share tips on how to make the most out of their set-ups and share your own. It’s an opportunity for you to add authenticity to your brand, by letting members see a more personal side of you.
Chat groups are an excellent tool for sharing information and general member engagement. Share advice, blog posts, and encourage members to participate in the conversation by asking what kind of content they’d find useful. Create a vested interest in your community by setting up a private group that acts as a community forum – you can use platforms like Whatsapp and Facebook to gain real insight into your members and nurture your relationship with them.
Host Virtual Events
Your workouts are online, but you don’t have to stop there. Virtual events are a great way to bring members together and add value to your service. Take inspiration from any events you’d usually hold at our studio, like a nutrition workshop, for example. Typically, you’d share information, answer questions, and suggest recipes and meals members can use to complement their fitness goals.
Turn the traditional workshop into a live stream. Invite members to join you for an interactive cook-along session. You can promote the event in advance, and let everyone know the ingredients they’ll need to join in, or substitutes they can use if they’re unable to get to the grocery store.
Running a fitness challenge is a great way to keep members motivated and coming back for more. Turning fitness into a game is an effective way to keep members engaged in exercise and feel like they’re a part of something, and again, adds value to their membership.
There are tonnes of examples online, especially on Instagram. Take a look at the #pushupchallenege hashtag, where people have to complete 100 push-ups a day for 30 days. There’s plenty of inspiration under the #quarantineworkout hashtag too.
Fitness challenges are a sure way to boost member engagement, plus they’re great for getting authentic content to share on social media. You’ll find that members will naturally share their experience on their own channels, and you can repurpose it to promote your workouts and generate more interest.
As far as marketing tactics go, checking-in with and updating members regularly is a cost-effective way to re-engage them, reduce member churn, and increase retention. Below are three different areas you’ll want to base your communications on.
As things are moving so quickly lately, you’re likely adjusting to finding a new rhythm with running your business. It’s essential to be open with members at this time and keep them updated. Perhaps, as online workouts are new for many fitness businesses, you’re changing platforms or streamlining your booking process. You’ll want to let members know as soon as you’re planning on these changes, so they know to expect it. Then you’ll need to let them know how the changes will impact them and what they need to do. The same goes for any new virtual workouts, webinars, or events you may want to introduce.
Whether it’s email, texts, social media, or a combination of everything – checking in with members shows that you’re invested in them and that you genuinely care about them. Post in your private member groups after a session and thank members for their support, or for a more personal touch, leave a recorded voice note if you’re using Whatsapp. At LadyStrong Fitness, Brittany has a dedicated team member checking in over the phone with clients every day.
If one of your regular virtual members has been absent from a few sessions – reach out and find out why. Where did you go wrong, what could you do differently, how will you win them back?
It’s an opportunity to ask for feedback and find out what kind of workouts, content, or information your members would value.
As you see how members are receiving your online classes, you’ll also begin to notice new ways to add value. In a live class, for example, you can physically help members with their form during the session. You can keep an eye on people during your live streams and call them out, but how else can you prep your members for the moves they’ll need to nail in class?
Think about pre-recording a demonstration of different exercises. You might not have time to cover the whole class – but even one or two examples is perfect for a pre-class reminder email to get members excited for their upcoming workout. Take a look at the example below.
You’re joining us for HIIT Live tomorrow!
Tomorrow’s the big day.
We’ve curated another killer playlist for this week’s session, don’t forget to tune in through Spotify – we’ll give you your cue for when to hit play. Take a sneak peek at the exclusive playlist here.
As you know, you don’t need any equipment, but if you have some free-weights to hand, we’ll let you know when you can sub them in.
Tomorrow’s class will cover a range of exercises for a full-body workout. Check out the video below to perfect your burpee form before the session!
If the movement makes you week at the knees, try this modification instead:
As always, we’ll be keeping an eye on you, cheering you on and offering up modifications wherever you need it.
See you tomorrow!
Personalization is a crucial part of the member experience, and you must use it in your communications as much as you can. For members, it comes across as authentic and will foster loyalty.
Provide a Consistent Experience
Brittany cites consistency as a key reason LadyStrong has retained 100% of its members. Everything from the warmups, class structure, and trainers is identical to how they’re done in the studio.
Keeping your experience the same makes for a smooth transition for members and ensures that you’re still delivering the high-quality service that they’re accustomed to. It’s crucial to maintain this consistency right from the beginning, starting with your class booking culture – have members continue to book in and join remotely to their usual classes with their favorite trainers.
When it comes to your class size, it may be tempting to take on more members in a virtual class than you would normally. Again, it’s essential here that you maintain quality over quantity. So far, Brittany has committed to focusing on the current members that have stayed loyal to LadyStrong Fitness. She highlights that keeping classes to their usual size means delivering a more personalized experience; “You can really call people out when there’s a small number of people.”
If you let 100 people join a live stream when you usually cater to 16, the regulars will likely feel a lack of personal attention that they’re not used to with you.
The sense of community in the group fitness space is unrivaled. At a time where members feel isolated, the need to maintain that community is critical. It’s an uncertain and challenging time for the fitness industry, but members are still turning to fitness businesses to take part in their favorite workouts.
The success of LadyStrong Fitness proves that you can still deliver an exceptional member experience online.
It’s the same experience that has kept members coming back to your physical studio, and if you can create it virtually, it will continue to keep your members loyal online, and beyond.