This week we talk to Will Brereton, the co-founder of Ministry of Fit, which helps gyms and studios bring their brand to the virtual space in the most authentic way possible. He is also the co-founder of SH1FT Fitness, an online group fitness business.
In this episode, Will gives us a masterclass in making your online offering successful and brings us through 5 key steps to help you bring your brand to life online.
The podcast episode he mentions in the interview can be found here: https://sh1ftfitness.net/podcast/004
Download his excellent guide, entitles 9 Ways To Level Up on Virtual here.
This episode of The Fitness Founders Podcast can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and anywhere you get your podcasts.
Kevin: How is it going everyone? Welcome to the Fitness Founders Podcast. I’m Kevin Mannion, VP Marketing here at Glofox. This week, we talk to Will Brereton, the co-founder of Ministry of Fit which help students and fitness studios build successful online strategies. In this episode, Will gives us a master class in taking your offering online and walks us through the five key steps to success. Let’s have a listen.
Okay Will Brereton, welcome to the show.
Will: Thank you for having me.
Kevin: Thanks for coming on. Really looking forward to having an in-depth conversation around digital strategies for gyms and fitness studios and your approach to those. Before we kick off, maybe just tell me a little bit about yourself.
Will: Sure. I am originally from New Zealand as you can probably tell from my accent. I started in group fitness, the fitness industry back in the year 2000 actually. So this is my 20th anniversary of working in the industry. When I was at university, I started teaching classes as a part-time job. I was getting too injured on the rugby field and couldn’t really handle it anymore, so I wasn’t very good. I went to school with Ben Cassar and played against them at high school rugby, so I realized pretty soon that I wasn’t that quite at that standard. I was teaching classes, evenings and weekends as a part-time job, and then I went to university and finish my bachelor’s degree and then my law degree. And then I went to Oakland which is the home of Les Mills and I was one of the instructors at Les Mills and sort of really got heavily into it there and then started working as one of their, at the time, DVD presenters, which again shows my edge. And then about 13 years ago, I moved to London, just as many New Zealanders do, doing the big and was working for Les Mills as a travelling master trainer, so going around various places in Europe delivering fitness courses and teaching at conventions. And working as a lawyer during the week which was super fun and extremely tiring, but when you’re in your 20’s, it’s totally fine. And then about 10 years ago, I helped to set up the Les Mills subsidiary, so I kind of combined the legal on business and the fitness side into a single job.
After which I worked for a company called Beachbody who were this American company who specializes in home DVDs at the time so like P90X and INSANITY. I helped them launched their UK operations. And then I decided that I want to do my own things, so I launched my own instructor training company right around the same time I was sort of setting that up myself. I started consulting as a lawyer at Deliveroo and ended up doing both for awhile. So, I was at Deliveroo when they went through the massive explosive growth phase working as a lawyer, and then was doing the fitness stuff on the side. I’ve kind of combined the two things together and split them out again. And then my Deliveroo experience led me to get asked to apply for the General Manager of the UK & Ireland for ClassPass at the end of 2018. So, most recently sort of over the last 18 months prior to COVID, I was managing England and Ireland and Scotland and Wales for ClassPass which is their biggest international market; and London was sort of the number 3 city for ClassPass, the number 3 city worldwide and the biggest city outside of US obviously so it really important market for them.
I finished up with ClassPass in April, just after lockdown to move to Paris, where my partner now lives/work. And since then, I have been focusing on SH1FT, semi instructor training company. I’ve been also working on Ministry of Fit which is what we’re talking about today and that’s the studio consultancy. So, I obviously had a really long history of working in fitness with gyms and then studios, kind of I’ve been around long enough to see boutiques come up and the kind of fall of the mid market and the rise of boutiques and budget chains; been working with them the entire time. And then really in depth working with studios and small operators while ClassPass to try help along and make them as profitable as possible. And obviously I’m very aware of the challenges that have happened. My instructor company which they split that company but they kind of interlay and that it’s all digital. So, when COVID happened and the studios were really trying to figure out how they could go about reconnecting, continuing to connect with their customers; I had a whole lot of expertise in the digital space that I thought it would really be useful to apply to studios. So for the last sort of 4 or 5 months with them working pretty closely with studios to help them with their digital transformation; making sure that they have the ability to connect with their customers, making sure that they had the ability to create something that puts their brand forward in a really strong way online; whether it be just something to keep their existing customers retained or if they do want to try to expand to other customers or grow their profile, they can do that to. We’re kind of helping them with strategies right across the range from zero investment using stuff they have already right through putting bit of money behind it and using it to grow.
Kevin: Got it. Honestly you’ve had like a long career in fitness with lots of different stops on the way. Taking in stalk of everything right now, where do you see the challenges for fitness businesses and where do you see the opportunities?
Will: I look it globally. I think the biggest challenge for everyone is uncertainty. And that we’ve seen very obviously that things have reopened and then they’ve reclosed. In France, gyms are shut as of today for a period of 15 days, so I’m based in Paris now. I think that 15 days is going to get extended. Fortunately, in the UK and Ireland I think. Actually in Ireland I’m not sure but in the UK gyms are still open. We’ve got lots of people working in the US and it goes on a state by state basis. And then I think back to New Zealand which is obviously my home country where my parents are stuck at the moment. And they have 100 days COVID free which was sort of big announcement, then 3 days later they had an outbreak on Oakland, and all gyms shut. And so I think the biggest challenge is just not knowing exactly what’s going to happen. And so all over the rules and all of the playbooks that gyms, studios, fitness operators had created are great and hopefully that we will be able to use them again. But for the interim, they aren’t worth all that much, and so it’s about being agile, pivoting and being reactive.
The biggest opportunity I see I think is to, obviously, I’m a big advocate of digital fitness. But the biggest opportunity I see is to take the opportunity to find a way to connect with your customers in an online space if you’re physical only gym or to build on that. Because people who are required to be at home, they’re on lockdown, they’re working from home because their businesses are closed, they still desperately want to connect and consume fitness content. That hasn’t gone away. I know that you guys did a study in the really obvious thing is that while in person attendance has dropped; fitness attendances, if you include it online didn’t. So, people are still working out, and I think now more than ever people just really want community. And while there are lot of big players in the market like Peloton and Apple Fitness coming in, because they’re so big, they’re a little bit and now I guess to the budget chain, they are all about volume and getting numbers through the door and you’re just a code to them, like you’re just another number on the balance sheet. Whereas with the smaller operator, your digital provision needs to be more around creating a community, creating accountability, personalizing it, getting them somewhere to maybe a Facebook group or maybe your own community to talk and connect outside of it, because that’s the kind of thing that smaller operators can still do regardless of whether COVID is impacting their ability to be open and the big operators can’t.
Kevin: That’s a very good point and interesting distinction. You are running your fitness bootcamp, we’ll come back to the details of that, but I know you got your five topics that you cover when you’re talking to gyms and fitness studios around digital. Maybe let’s pick through those and see what people can learn having a listen today. I know the first point is around defining a unique digital strategy, so you tell me a little bit around starting out what sort of strategic decisions I might have to make around where I want to go on my digital journey.
Will: Yeah sure. I guess we see broadly in studios that are struggling with their digital proposition and when I say that, I include almost all studios in this regard. Some of the bigger ones especially in the States have been doing this for a while and I think they’re succeeding at this and they are generating a quite a lot of income. But they had quite a lot of runway that they already going down prior to COVID happening.
So most people that have decided that this is something that they need to focus on this year in the interim having sort of this similar problems. One is that they started something and it is not really working that they don’t feel that it’s worth the time and effort, because it is hard and it does require a bit of thinking. That they’ve got no time and resources or that they don’t need it because hopefully this is all going to end somewhere soon. And I think that unfortunately, the really awful thing is that it’s all… that it’s probably isn’t ending. There’s no miracle in sight in this situation we find ourselves in. It’s my view and our view at Ministry of Fit that every single fitness business needs to at least consider these questions and consider these things because the reality is it is not going away even if we wanted to, and I think all of us would love it to just go away tomorrow but unlikely to happen.
First of all, it’s important for a studio to define what their strategy is because that will impact every down flow decision that they might have to that. And what we mean by that when you say defining the digital strategy is deciding if they want to appeal to and retain their existing members, so people that come to visit them in person, they want to provide the most solution they can use at home or while travelling. Or if, and these are not either/or, they can be all 3 things or they can be just one. And then the next one is do they want to retain their existing customers and also appeal to other customers like their existing customers who have the potential to be in studio customers when things change. And the third one is do they want to actually make a go of this and try to expand their reach in a way that will provide them with a digital studio that might be profitable for them moving forward.
The reason that those decisions are important because retaining their existing customers is something that requires quite a lot less time thinking an investment, and you can probably do using your existing platforms. Like I know Glofox already provides for live-streaming and video through the platform. So if you’re, for example, a studio that is using Glofox and you decide that retention with your current customers is the most important thing, then you’ve kind of got the platform element sorted and you just have to focus on thinking about what type of digital classes or digital content do you want to make in order to keep your existing customers connected with you and using you when they’re at home or travelling so that they can still come in and join the in person experience. If you are wanting to grow, then you need to employ few different situations and you need to think a little bit more heavily, and maybe you need to tweak your messaging a little bit.
Using an example here, one of the studios we worked with in London. I’m not going to name them. But we know that they have a big sort of strength conditioning sort of, not bodybuilding but little bit like cross fit but if you take away the cross fit element and it’s just like a community building studio. They went online immediately on Instagram and they have really good success but they were giving all their fitness content away for free. And then they followed the advices some people and created a separate Instagram where people had to pay very small nominal fee just to kind of test up orders of whether people are willing to pay for digital. And now they’re going full-hog into having a proper on demand provision. But when they think about their customer statements, what they really want is for anyone that comes into their funnel doing the bodyweight on demand to consider upgrading to semi-private personal training because that’s where the margin is. And so, as a business, they have realized that running semi-private training through Zoom, they can charge I don’t know, let’s say a hundred pounds a month for 3 sessions. That’s not the actual cost, it’s just on top of my head. Then they create an on demand channel, and they do live classes that are entry level that are design to get people engaged in the brand, and then they try and upsell with them into the semi-private. It’s not going to be for everyone but the great thing is that because they’ve created semi-private personal training, there is no longer physically down. It used to be that in order to do a small group weight training session you have to go to the location. They’ve got a formula now where if someone signs up, they’re like okay you’re a woman, from this age, this is the level of weights we think we should give you. You got to need a band, a set of weights of basically this range; small, medium, large, and then they program around it. And then when they do their videos, they fit them in the videos that they release everyday is obviously focused around bodyweight, but the idea is that they’re always encouraging them to think about strength so that they can push them further down to the funnel.
That’s kind of a very complex answer, but they’ve thought about how do we grow our business by using the digital services that we’re doing right now. So, defining who you want to appeal to is the most important first step, because it will define how much effort and time you need to put into thinking about all the other things that we’re going to talk about.
Kevin: Got it. One word you use there was, they had set this up initially as a test, and I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of different gyms had test various things over the last few months. Tell us about some of the things that you’ve seen work and some of the things you’ve seen not work.
Will: Sure. I would say that one of the most impressive solutions that I’ve seen actually comes from an individual instructor in London who was teaching at a boutique studio. She had a really big following but her following was built using her ability to teach big classes at the studio, and she had a very large Instagram following. She actually managed to get, I think it was 6 thousand paying, mostly woman because she focused very much on booty bend work and glut work and glut activation. By about 6 weeks into lockdown, when everyone was still scrambling to find the solution, she was releasing one 30-minute workout on a private Instagram per day and charging people £20 to be part of it on Instagram. And she was filming it on her iPhone just in Instagram Live. Essentially, she would use her Instagram that had about a 100,000 followers as her marketing tool, and then she asks people to upgrade, she had a very simple PayPal link and they upgraded. They would get a 30-minute Instagram Live workout every morning which obviously lived for 24 hours just because that’s what naturally happens on Instagram. She’s now got a website, but she very, very successfully leveraged her following, and used a completely free resource, that was completely within her power to do, just edit a little PayPal sort of activation. I think at the start, she would have to manually check if they’ve paid and add them in Instagram, so basically they followed her, she checked the spreadsheet to see if they paid her, she allowed them to follow her, and then she had it reviewed it every month just to see whether they’re still paying. But what she did is she proved the concept that digital can work for her, and she did it using platform that she didn’t have to pay for and using her phone and didn’t invest in any of this type of equipment.
I think that the lesson to learn there, she had a massive Instagram following and so she was able to convert it. But the lesson to be learned is that you can really test the waters on this and figure out what your audiences and what your audience wants prior to making any massive investment. So if anyone is listening to this and they’ve started going digital and they’re struggling or they haven’t started and they’re thinking about what to do, my answer would be just keep your phone, start making some content, and see what lands. Because the great thing about digital content is that whether you use Facebook, Instagram, like your platform provider or a more sophisticated tool like the MİYO which is right at the other end; you get stats and data, and that stats and data could just be likes, it could be views, it could be watches, and that will help you to define what your audience should be. So anyone listening to this who has studio or they do online advertising, you will be studiously watching what your audiences and how many likes, and repost, etcetera you’re getting. And that’s a metric that you’re very used to using to promote your in-person business studio. If you apply that same approach to what you’re putting out digitally and then think about tweaking it very slightly, that will allow you to figure out what your audience is actually wanting. And it also allows you to try new things, right, because you can put a random class out and see if it will work.
Kevin: Have you come across, because we definitely hear a lot of examples of people using online like you said to improve their retention or to complement their existing offering adding some convenience. Have you seen many businesses successfully launched this whole separate digital platform to a new audience? Have you seen that happened?
Will: The short answer would be, yes. The once I talked about before who have a strength conditioning gym in London. Their digital audience is actually driven through one of their really popular instructors who has a really large following of females between 30 and 45. They’re a London based studio, and her followers are UK based. What they’ve realized is that they have basically this ability to market to anyone globally actually, but anyone in the UK, and they previously had been limited in who they could appeal to by geographic location. They’re an example, and now they’re investing a little bit in an external platform that will help them to host and create live streams with a little bit more data around it and looking a little bit more sort of professional. But they only did that after doing this test phase using Instagram, and the test phase using Instagram was how they really define their audience and allow them put together a business plan which determined how much budget they had to allocate to this.
Kevin: Got it. And from everything you said, it does seem that people with individual following are becoming more relevant now than maybe the studio was. Is that something people need to think about?
Will: Yeah. This is really interesting. I think that this is a key risk for a lot of studios having quite realized, and that is that instructors because of the way things have gone a lot of instructors were very, very comfortable, getting paid a nice amount, and just coming into the studio, allowing the studio to do all the marketing. I think of myself as an instructor. I used to teach a big box gym and they will do all the marketing for me and all I had to do is deliver a great class, and I could turn up with my 6, because I was one of the top instructors of the gym. I turn up in my 6:30pm Monday night class because I have a good slot and I did nothing except deliver a great class. This is a little bit before the age of social media because again I’ve been around for a while.
But with gyms being close, instructors are now having to do a lot of work themselves, and the rest of the studios need to be really alive to. It’s worth saying that just because it’s a fact is that your instructor, if you don’t do this, your instructors can go and do it themselves. And so you really do need to think about whether or not that’s a risk for you and what relationships you’ve got with your instructors because I have seen quite a few big studios lose their top instructors who’ve gone out and done this themselves using all the same tips that I’m giving now. That’s just a risk. It’s always getting risk. There’s always be massive studios like Barry’s Bootcamp I think is in the US is formed about 5 or 6 different large chains through star instructors who’ve been funded by private equity or a very rich client that thinks into their own studios. This always happens, but the various to the instructors doing it to themselves have dropped. There’s a number of reason that you need to figure out with your digital strategy because if you don’t do it and you don’t provide your instructors with the ability to make that money and do what they love then they might be going to do it themselves.
Kevin: Okay. Alright. Well, let’s move on to through the list here into a little bit more of the hands on elements of…
Will: Sure. Basically, once you have decided who you are going to appeal to, the most important thing to do is to select your delivery. Now, when I say select delivery there’s two things there. One is what is the nature of the digital content you are going to be creating. The biggest decision there is how you are going to do video on demand, one-way livestream. And when I say one-way livestream, I’m talking about sort of social media livestream where you are live, the people are doing it live, and there is a limited amount of two-way communication in the form of hearts or comments. But effectively it is one-way teaching because there is no feedback and the teacher can’t see the students, or two-way livestream. And two-way livestream, the best example of that the Zoom but it could be any of these other things that are coming in like Facebook Rooms, or Google Hangouts, etc.
Where we go unto from there is choosing your platform and I’m not going to be getting into that one because that one is super complicated. But of course, Glofox is a platform that already provides this ability anyway. If you are listening to this and you are using Glofox then you are good. You’ve already got a platform that you can utilize. The reason that you need to pick these three things is because they provide different benefits and concerns that you need to think about before you go into it. If you are a business that focuses on delivering to music, then you might want to think more heavily about having an on demand. We can talk a little bit more about how often you need to refresh this at the reason being that I’m sure anyone who has been on a Zoom call has experienced the audio screwing up and that little lack of delay. So very, very difficult if you are doing a beat base class to do a two-way livestream on Zoom and not have the audio break in places. All the research shows; all the surveys show that people will put up with a slightly grainy video as long as the audio is correct. And that’s the problem you get when using music. You can solve it through having an external mixing board and hard lining into the WIFI but those are all really complicated things for the average studio or instructor to figure out.
If music is important to you I’d consider on demand. If interaction is important to you and you feel that your unique studio brand is built upon the ability to give feedback to your clients and customers to see what they are doing, then you probably want to do it two-way livestream like a Zoom or something that facilitates you being able to see the class. The reason being that most, and this also have been officially allows you to continue to charge your premium. I’ve said that the ability to charge for digital content and in-person content is a factor of the amount of contact that you have. And so if you have an in-person class and then that’s peg at $20, just to give an example, then you have a livestream class. The connection is not quite so great, right, because you are not in the studio. They can still see you through the two-way livestream. But if you’ve applied sort of premium to connection then you may be dropping it to down to $12-$15. If it is one-way livestream, so people are still getting to interact and the instructor sees you online, and they might call out your name, maybe you are going down to kind of the $7 point. And if it’s just on demand video then they probably going to want that rep into a monthly subscription fee because that’s how everybody seems to do it.
Two-way livestream is great because you actually can continue to charge a higher amount than you would have charge for other things. But you just got to think about what is the genre of your class and how is it working. So using some of the examples I’ve used before in the strength and conditioning box they have two-way Zoom semi-private training where they have a trainer who has three people on the screen and is giving them live advice. And then they have the one-way livestream, so at 7 o’clock every morning they do a 30-minute HIT class on livestream which anyone can then watch throughout the day. The price points of those vary greatly because obviously one has lots of contact and the other one doesn’t.
Kevin: I think it is a reminder if you are doing the two-way to actually make it interactive as well.
Will: Yeah, absolutely. And then we can talk a little bit more about this, but, and then being smart about it. So if you are doing the two-way what I would suggest is that if you think you are going to do a 30-minute HIT class but you also know that you want to maximize your energy and effort and turn that into a video on demand that will sit in your library. This is something that Glofox can easily enable, right. What I would suggest is that if you have the class, 30-minute HIT class, start at 7:00 finish it at 7:45. First, five minutes is, “Hey, Kevin. How are you? Hey, Will. How are you doing? How are we feeling today? Isn’t it bad weather…” Then the class starts, then there is interaction in the class, and then the class finishes, and then you do some post class interaction. And when you upload that to video on demand library you chop off the front, you chop off the end. And so you get two pieces of content. One is a livestream where people had genuine interaction and they’ve had two-way communication even if they’ve been typing, “Hey” coming from Lester, “Hey, June. How are you?” from Lester. But you can chop that off and still have the 30-minute piece of content sit in your library. So you’ve kind of achieved two aims in one go. You’ve got a livestream that has your live people interacting and you’ve also got a bit of content that can sit in your library forever and be used on demand.
Kevin: Got it. Really quick, in terms of the music in the two-way version what is your tip for that? It might not be as immersive may be as a recorded on demand. But what should you do in a two-way scenario?
Will: There are a few really interesting companies popping up now who provide music so that it plays out for the instructor and the consumer, but they are not yet studio solutions. But, yeah, something to look out for. What I suggest right now is that you do BYOP or BYOM, so Bring Your Own Playlist, or Bring Your Own Music. When I’ve been teaching virtual classes I usually create a bespoke playlist for that day and then I send it out as a Spotify playlist in advance to the class and then I also put it in the comments to the class. And then I let them play it at their end. I actually teach with no music. I’m okay with that and I’m comfortable with it.
If you are teaching a non-beat based class, I really do suggest that you consider not using music on the instructor end because it just solves all your audio issues. I know that if you are a studio owner and you have instructors that they all freak out about the idea, but trust me you do get used to it.
Kevin: Alright. Okay, cool. Very good. Alright, let’s keep moving then. And whole other kind of… now is developing your programming, so where do people start?
Will: Yeah. This is a really interesting one, and this is kind of one that sort of [unclear – 27:40] by that because I’ve been creating programming that has been used in digital environments for years now. But I think that because fitness has, up until recently, been a predominantly in-person experience. In this heap of stuff that studios have become really, really good at such as having a really nice reception area, having the reception manager greet people when they walk in, having nice fluffy tails, having Bumble and bumble products in the showers, all that sort of stuff which is fantastic in people. A lot of people pay premium for. Obviously, you can’t rely on any of that stuff when it comes to digital. You have to think of what are the things that you can do to make sure that your digital programming is strong. The primary thing around that is the content that you are creating and therefore you have to think about what workout will work at home, what am I going to do around the outsides to make sure that I can try and replicate the experience. What we talked about before maybe having a 5-minute conversation at the start and 5-minute conversation at the end that still kind of replicates that community focused approached. And then you really, really do need to come up with some predictable but not boring and consistent rules around what the classes are.
I’ve seen some kind of big studios that have about 70 class options on digital. I think that’s because they are replicating the in-person experience. They have a lot of really great freelancers. For example, dancers that do their own style of dance. But if you are trying to appeal to new people or people that haven’t come across you before, that’s just that whole Cheesecake Factory situation where there’s so many items on the menu that you can’t choose which one. And then you almost always regret the one you didn’t choose. My recommendation is boil it down to a small number of classes that fit within your studio brand. Think about how you might make those classes work for at home and then put some simple rules in place around how instructors will use them so they know the parameters that they are working with.
A really great example of this, and you can Google it, is [solidcore] in the States. [solidcore] were a Megaformer, a bit like Lagree if you’ve lived in London. It is a big Pilates reformer but it is a bit more designed around sort of muscle building, a bit more of guy focused rather than classic Pilates which tends to have a bit more female skew. Although, they have a really big female audience. That’s probably the hottest thing to replicate at home, right. If you have to think who’s the most screwed if you can’t use equipment, it is the ones that were using Pilates reformers. Very, very quick they got some of their top studio consultants and top instructors to figure out how do we create a really great Pilates class that mimics what we do in the studio as much as possible but uses stuff that people have at home. And so they’ve basically replicated as so far as possible because there is a limit to what you can do using sliders or towels. So basically, if you are going to be doing [solidcore] at home all the time invest in some sliders so that you can do this in the best case scenario. But if you are a new person you can go on to your kitchen floor or tile floor and use a towel and understand what the experience is. They have kind of turned something that was a massive challenge into an opportunity because they are at home stuff is excellent.
Kevin: Got it. Okay. I think in terms then of general rules for you programming, I think what you are saying to me is that less is more just like nailing a few core versions on your classes than having a million different things.
Will: Absolutely. There are two reasons for that. I mean, there are more than two reasons but there are two primary reasons and that’s because at a digital situation someone is going to arrive at your site and they’re going to see these options. If you give them too many options they are going to freak out and not know which one to choose, and then they don’t make a decision. And just like any online shopping experience you should be designing it around people clicking through making decisions then and there. It is exactly the same concept of why like on Amazon buy now, buy now, buy now, at every step of the journey because every additional click or every additional moment thinking is a moment that they aren’t buying. So you need to be kind of really commercial and think hard about that. If you have four class options and they are very obvious, like one is HIT, one is yoga, one is abs, one is strength. Then they are like, “Okay. I know I’ve come to this studio’s website. I feel like doing strength. Strength it is.” If you have 20 options and they start clicking on each option to see the little blab about what it is. They are less likely to actually click on that.
The second thing is time investment on the studio side. If you say our strength class is a 5-minute warm up which instructors can make up themselves, a 30-minute block of work in which you need to do some legs, some chest, some abs or it could be 30-minute block of work where you choose the body focus. Either way, I mean, it is up to what the studio wants. And then, it is going to be a 5-minute cool down where we do x. And then you define we are going to do Bring Your Own Playlist, so every instructor needs to do this 5-30-5, but within those bounds they can do whatever they want and they just have to send this playlist through at the beginning. Simple rules that instructors can follow that allows you to have consistency so that people keep coming back. Because just like the in-person experience, what is important to get repeat customers is making sure they like what they do. But also that when they come back it is the same so that they know that they are going to get a consistent experience. It doesn’t mean the same experience which is another reason why… And this is something we haven’t actually touched on but is really important is that if you are creating a video on demand library most important thing to know is that all the platforms right now are suggesting that content is watched probably less than two times. There is no point in spending a whole lot of money on creating really, really masterclasses because they are not going to be watched over and over again. Good enough is good enough. And what people really want is freshness. They want to come in and know what they are doing, but they also wanted to be not the same as it was before.
For example, and this is actually bringing us unto #4 which is producing the content. We’ve naturally into the fourth of the five steps. This is where you plan out your production. Even if you are doing video on demand, if you over capitalize and get an external crew, and a whole lot of lighting that you rent for a day, and a beautiful camera and you have three angles, and you go a whole of editing, and you make the world’s best Pilates class. That is still probably only going to be watched two or three times maximum. If you choose a spot on your studio where you just set up a DSLR that you purchased and invest in. You know, can be $800-$1000 if you know that this is something that you are going to be doing. If you are not ready to make that investment, iPhone, totally fine. If you set it up and you have that Pilates class taught but then you do a new Pilates class each day. Total number of views for the five classes that you created that cost you let’s say including instructor costs, and maybe a tripod, and one Diva ring lamp, the overall cost of those might be say $250 for the week as opposed to $2,000 for that single Pilates class. They are going to get the same number of watches.
The big answer here is that pre-plan everything that you are doing but don’t focus on huge production values. Les Mills is the best example here. They have an on demand channel. They are world renowned for body pump and their previous release prior to COVID was filmed at Fox Studios in Sydney which where they have Sydney Mardi Gras. It was on a stage. There were 20 instructors on the stage the old time, four dolly grip gimbals, everything. And then the most recent content they have done is a single instructor teaching in the practice room at Les Mills International. The simple reason for that is because they know… everyone else does that they overcapitalize on their content. Because if an instructor tells a joke in a live class and they tell the same joke the next class, there’s a different people there. It is a slightly different situation. They are wearing something new. They might tell it at a different time. It is the same joke, people laugh, but the experience is different. When you are watching video on demand you hear that joke again. You know exactly it is coming in the second squat of the third song. It is just not fresh, and people want fresh.
Kevin: Got it. Okay, so you are definitely saying roll to them the 10 perfect videos to just keep the engine going and the content fresher.
Will: My advice is I think it is always good to have some really great, high quality video that properly establishes who your brand is, what they are, looks really great. But the idea that should be thinking about it as a marketing spend. It is something to use about your studios to bring people in. Yes, you can have them on the platform but you cannot commit to that level of production and still be profitable and not tear your hair out with how much time and money it is costing you. So I would suggest that firstly, content that is shot on an iPhone that has thought, put into pre-production, and has a good instructor that knows what they are doing, and is consistent, and does all the things we’ve talked about before is just a bit of it. But I do also think that having some nice content that maybe you get a third party to produce is always a good idea but it is a marketing expense. It is something that you’ll use on your website or you’ll use to catch people’s attention. But then you need to be thinking about how do I roll this out time and time again to keep it fresh, to keep the content updated.
Kevin: Got it. Okay. Time to move on to delivery. Yeah, what are the dos and don’ts.
Will: Yeah, exactly. This is where you’ve got, so you’ve decided on exactly what you are doing. You know the type of delivery that you are doing. Now it comes down to the pure like how do I deliver this class. I think the important thing here is that you need to critically think about your instructors and how they are teaching. If you are a studio that has lots of equipment and a really heavily programmed. Taking Orange Theory for example, the instructor is pretty much just reading, watch all of the systems around them are doing, “Alright, you are on the treadmill now, you are on the rower now, you are doing the strength and conditioning now”. Like the whole franchise theory of Orange Theory is to take the instructor out of the equation. Whereas, in an online scenario, the instructor is really, really important. Some of your instructors are going to be great at this. Some are not.
The hack that I’ve got for everybody that will be a massive time saver for every studio is regardless of whether right now your instructors are fantastic or if you worry about them. The one thing that you can do is get your instructors to teach a class, record it, and have them watch it back. The most meaningful thing any instructor can do… It is actually the same as any public speaker or any person who does any type of delivery is record yourself, watch yourself, and critically assess what you are doing. This is something that when I was doing Les Mills’ DVDs kind of 15, 20 years ago we use to do every day. We teach a class, we have the video set up at the back, and we all go back as a group. We had to write down what we see. We had to review. We had to think about how could that cue be clearer. How could I say that better? Could I rearrange the things that I was saying to make it more understandable? Did I start talking about raising your core before I’ve even told them where to put their feet. This is all stuff that is so easy no because now you can see it on a smartphone. And so if you are doing digital, then you should be having your own instructors commit to if not watching a whole class, at least watching a 5 to 10-minute chunk of their class and then critically writing down as easy as this, 3 things I did right, 3 things I did bad. And just a simple fact of doing that will make them sort of cognizant and aware of the things that they need to do more, and the things that they need to do less of.
The other thing in line with that is have them do it with no video, so they listen to their voice. Because the things that instructors do that are the most obvious things that are a turn off are talking all the time with no gaps. Silence is really important. Or having a monotonous tone of voice. And so we just get them to kind of turn away and think, “Am I interested in my own voice?” And if the answer is no, they need to change. Allowing them to recognize that themselves is always more powerful than telling them.
Kevin: This is a little bit of a step back but it seems like it is such a whole new world of training for the actual trainer. How do you get them on the journey that they have to make such a transition in their own skills, and what you’re asking, and watching themselves back on video? How do you bring them on that journey?
Will: I think the first thing I would say is that I don’t think it is actually that much. Sorry, this is a bit where kind of the generational thing comes into play. It is absolutely not a transition for anyone who is millennial or below because they have been existing on camera forever anyway. While they not have been teaching virtual classes or delivering livestream classes, they’ve been filming themselves on TikTok. They’ve been filming themselves on Instagram. They’ve been chatting to the camera. They’ve been doing this forever. So it is just a tweak they are comfortable. For a generation older than that that aren’t used to seeing themselves on camera, it is much, much harder and it is much, much more of a struggle. I think you just have to be kind but just to point out that it can be done and that the only way to get over it is to do it. I have, so taking away for the instructors for a while, we’ve shift a lot of out instructors had never ever gone virtual before and they have taken the plunge. I have a group in this podcast which maybe you can put in the show notes. Last week I interviewed two instructors who have both been teaching for a long time. I think they’re both in their 40s but they had never gone virtual before and COVID hit and they realized they needed to do it, and they just talked about all their anxieties and strategies. I think that could be a really good resource for anyone who’s in older age group who isn’t as comfortable to have a listen to this. I can send you the link.
Kevin: Awesome. Okay, and then I think my last question on the delivery is how, maybe as a gym owner, do you maintain the quality or test for the quality across a group of trainers?
Will: It is a very good question. So depends on the size of the studio, right? If you are the owner/operator and you are doing it then you are going to need to take some control all of this. Otherwise, you nominate your best instructor and you get them to do it for you. This really does depend on the makeup of your studio but somebody in your organization needs to be watching this content and giving some feedback on what’s good and what’s bad. No difference to how it will be done.
Kevin: Alright. Will, that’s been a great journey through the 5 steps levelling up on your digital fitness strategy. I know you’ve got lots of online resources. I know you are running a bootcamp in a couple of weeks’ time so just tell us a little bit about all that stuff.
Will: Yeah, sure. In the process of doing consulting with individual studios what I realized really quickly is that there are sort of these 5 tips, and we’ve sort of went over them really quickly today. But these 5 things are the things that every studio needs to consider and be aware of before they can really take their offering to the next level. I actually felt a little bit bad about offering consulting on things that are really pretty basic, so we decided that we are going to do a 5-day bootcamp. It is a digital fitness bootcamp that starts on Monday, the 12th of October, and we basically do an hour each day where we go, we deep dive into each of the 5 topics that we talked about. The idea being that if your studio who’s struggling with digital at the moment that we will immediately give you the ability to assess what you’re doing and level up. Or if you’re a studio that hasn’t taken the plunge yet but knows they need to that will give you the ability to kind of go from zero to having some form of digital proposition that works for you within a month.
It is designed to make sure that in the event that things stay difficult that your studio is in the best place to be able to kind of thrive in an environment where maybe we will be open, maybe we will be shut. But the one thing I’ve felt very strongly about is that it is just not a viable option for studios not to think about this anymore even if they decide not to do it which I still think is actually okay. If you just decide that this is not for you, my studio experience can’t be done on digital. I would challenge you and say it could be, but I do think you need to turn your mind to it. So, yeah, we are running that. Again, I’ll send you the link. We actually have a free resource which is all the things that studios need to be thinking about in 2020. If you go to the website for the sign up and you decide that you’re not able to commit to the course, then please download our free resource because it’s got a lot of tips in there and hopefully it will be really helpful.
Kevin: Got it. Awesome. Okay, that’s great. We’ll share all those details in the show notes. Before I let you go, what is the biggest lesson that you’ve learned in the past 6 months?
Will: Me personally or? The biggest lesson I get. Yeah, that’s a tough one. The biggest lesson that I think I have learned is that you’ve just got to jump into doing things. I think a lot of people, and a lot of studio owners, and a lot of people that have been in the fitness industry for a long time, I was quite comfortable with what we were doing and what I was doing that I felt like I knew what I was doing. And when everything went virtual I was like I need to take some virtual process which I hadn’t done before. I have done lots and lots of video, thousands of hours in front and behind the camera preparing for video on demand, but I hadn’t done any livestream. And it was so stressful like getting the camera off and worrying about your WIFI connection, and the Zoom room, and then setting up the Zoom meeting wrong so you have to let people and not realizing until five minutes is the warm up. It was extremely, extremely stressful and filled me with so much anxiety. But that dissipated sort of 4 or 5 classes in, and then I started to really enjoy it. So I think the thing I have learned the most is that if you’ve been doing something for a while you are so resistant to change but give it a try, make mistakes, just jump in. You are going to screw up and do some things wrong but the benefit of trying something new especially when the opportunity is so big is with it.
Kevin: Awesome. Okay. Will Brereton, Founder of Ministry of Fit, SH1FT, and The Digital Fitness Bootcamp. Thank you very much for coming on the show.
Will: Cheers! Thank you for having me.
Kevin: Thank you!
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