With consumer behaviours changed forever after the last couple of years, the need for fitness businesses to adopt a hybrid model is beyond all doubt. But how do you go about it? We’ve pooled the collective wisdom of our clients and the Wexer team to come up with the following nine pieces of advice.
#1 – Start with the end in mind
From the outset, you should have your desired outcomes in mind. Why do you want to go digital? What are the problems you’re trying to solve, the needs you’re trying to meet, the experiences you’re trying to create?
If you start by focusing on your desired outcomes, you’ll find it easier to design an ecosystem that meets the needs of your members and your business alike. Because it’s not about making everything digital. It’s about identifying which member touchpoints should be available digitally, why, and how these will complement the physical, in-person experience.
#2 – Get your team onboard
Build and empower the right team to deliver your solution. Who will be your champion? Who will lead this project for your business?
But remember to get your whole team behind the project, too, as this will be key to achieving member buy-in. To secure support from your team, be clear that digital isn’t there to replace them, lead by example by using the product yourself, and encourage – even incentivise – them to try out digital classes for themselves. You’re looking to turn your whole team into raving fans who will enthuse about your digital product to your members.
#3 – Create a content USP
These days, when it seems everyone is trying to be a fitness content provider, you’ll need a clear digital content strategy to set your offering apart.
First and foremost, remember that your digital offering will be your extension of your brand; it needs to be directly relevant to your members. What would that look like? Who are your members, your demographic, and what do they want? If in doubt, ask them.
You’ll certainly want to offer content that’s bespoke to you, featuring your own instructors as the recognised faces of your brand – the people your members already have a loyal relationship with. Leverage the existing connection between these instructors and your members to create powerful, popular digital content. Fill your platform with great content people can only get from you.
Whether on-demand or live-streamed, your self-produced content will be a crucial facet of your overall digital offering. However, you will need to offer strength in depth too, so check the quality of your digital partner’s third-party content library.
#4 – Assess your pricing options
Do you need your digital offering to directly make a profit, or is it more about retaining members and thus contributing to broader club revenues? Is it a marketing asset – a way to get new prospects involved with your brand? Should it be integrated into your membership tiers or have a separate pricing structure: an add-on to membership? Will you sell a standalone digital membership with no physical club access included at all?
Note, there’s no right overall answer – just a right answer for your desired outcomes.
#5 – Prepare for launch
Get your launch absolutely right. Build excitement and anticipation. Ensure your entire team is briefed and enthusiastically ready to answer member questions. Make a big deal of it. Run induction sessions to walk members through your new digital experiences. Be ready to ‘sell’ it as a brand new experience.
You might even consider getting an influencer involved – but if you do, make sure it’s someone your members will identify with.
#6 – Get people talking
Continuing on the theme of marketing, when it comes to promoting your digital offering – and irrespective of whether you’re planning to sell standalone digital memberships – you need to be thinking about both members and non-members.
For your members, get your CRM right. Know who to talk to about which element(s) of your offering, then tailor the content and comms vehicles accordingly.
For a broader audience that includes members and non-members, it’s time to get creative. Build promotions using your library of digital fitness content. Run teasers on social media. Create hashtags and link competitions to them, getting your digital users to spread the word for you. Perhaps even consider the occasional foray outside of your ecosystem to host workouts on other platforms, with a view to winning new fans (i.e. prospective members).
Give a taste of what’s on offer – just enough to get people intrigued – and harness the power of peer recommendation on social media.
#7 – Be patient
Getting digital up and running and turning it into a success story is as hard as launching a start-up. It won’t happen overnight, so be patient and keep plugging away. You are, effectively, creating a whole new business, in much the same way as if you were building a physical club. Set realistic expectations and a realistic timeframe to achieve them.
And even when it’s firmly embedded, with enough raving fans in your customer base to help spread the word, recognise that you’ll still need to keep investing in your digital offering on an ongoing basis to keep it alive and fresh in your customers’ minds. We aren’t just talking marketing here but also – going back to tip #3 – the need to channel a steady stream of new content from your own instructors to keep your customers engaged and coming back for more.
#8 – Focus on the data
Forget gut instinct. Forget what your experience might tell you. The joy of digital is that it hands you clear, usable data – not just what customers tell you they do, or would like to do, but what they are actually doing.
Use this data to continually review and refine your digital offering. How are people using it? What content are they watching? How long do they watch videos for? At what time of day is it worth doing live-streams, and when – or for what type of content – is on-demand better? Which instructors are proving to be your online superstars? Particularly for content not behind a paywall, where are users coming from: sales channels, your app, direct links?
With digital, you can see very clearly what’s working… allowing you to do more of it.
#9 – Be picky in your choice of partner
Underpinning all of this is the need to choose your digital partner wisely – an expert that has all the technology you need, but also the interests of your business at heart.
Your brand should be front and centre. Your business model should inform the tech, not the other way round: you shouldn’t be confronted with limitations on your content, features, monetisation options and so on, simply because it doesn’t fit the commercial model of a vendor.
Make sure the tech reliably does everything you need, from live streaming to on-demand to monetisation. Check the options to dovetail it into your ecosystem for an own label experience. And make sure your partner will be there at every step of the way – because it isn’t just about starting well, but about together building on those strong foundations for ongoing success.
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