As lockdown hit, many gym operators made the decision to offer customers and prospects free access to online fitness content – a way to maintain contact with the former and build new relationships with the latter.
However, ‘free’ isn’t a sustainable strategy for the long-term. With clubs now gearing up to re-open, we’re therefore hearing a lot of discussion around how to migrate customers from free to paid-for online content.
This is a bigger discussion and one that’s worth taking offline; if any operator would like to talk it through properly, please get in touch. We’d be very happy to have that conversation.
In the meantime, we’d like to share five tips.
#1. You have to own the platform if you want to monetise the content
That means moving off third-party social media channels: YouTube, Instagram and so on. You need your own (ideally white labelled) platform that you control, and where you have the option to paywall content.
#2. Monetisation of online will work best when online is integrated, not bolted on
Don’t simply look at your current membership packages and try to crowbar digital into them as an add-on. This approach involves attributing an obvious fee for something that was previously free, and that’s hard to do.
What’s needed is a fresh approach that combines digital support and physical attendance into entirely new membership tiers: the more you pay, the more personalised it becomes online and the more human elements there are to the offering, including VIP access to limited edition in-club experiences.
It’s about creating membership tiers where digital and physical are so integrated that there’s no specific attribution of a new cost to online fitness.
#3. Your different tiers can include different online privileges
From a digital platform perspective, we’re likely to see three content prongs moving forward: professionally produced live streaming of operators’ top stars; more amateur live streaming by local instructors; and a large on-demand library to ensure variety.
Going back to the membership packages, digital content for tier one might be on-demand only. Tier two might also include local live streaming, tier three the live-streamed superstars. Higher tiers might also include some one-to-one virtual PT or one-to-10 online small group training.
#4. Social media should be for signposting, not for content itself
If you’ve posted fitness content online for free during lockdown, and people have enjoyed using it, there’s no point suddenly removing it; it could even create badwill for your brand if people notice it’s gone.
However, moving forward, resist the urge to post any further workout content on social media. Instead, use social media to promote and drive interest in your new offering: “We hope you enjoyed this workout. If you want to tap in to the latest content from our superstar instructors, check out our new platform.”
#5. Online will help you reach new (paying) audiences
Online has no geographical boundaries, which means digital-only memberships can be sold to those who live too far away to attend your gym(s) – including former members who may only have left you because they were moving out of the area.
But online is also an easy first step for those who live locally, but who thus far have never been tempted by gym membership: more flexible, more convenient, less intimidating, and feasibly cheaper than in-person membership. If gyms can harness this to get more people hooked on their content, there will be a far larger base of people interested in fitness when we’re finally back to being able to operate clubs normally. These people are the gym members of the future.
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