In April, TRX launched the TRX Roundtable Webinar Series—weekly discussions with fitness entrepreneurs, influencers, and innovators. The goal? Provide fitness professionals and business owners with resources for navigating the waters surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the course of 6 weeks, we've talked to business moguls, world-class economists, celebrity trainers, and everything in-between — the individuals at the top of their respective industries. And from these conversations we've gleaned some valuable take-aways. x
The global fitness industry has made a massive pivot over the course of six short weeks to a virtual training platform and business model, enabling members and enthusiasts to continue training from home. It truly is a remarkable feat given the short timetable for the shift. Think about that for a moment. In less than two months a massive global industry that conducted itself almost entirely in-person has fundamentally redefined itself into something completely new and different.
While TRX Roundtable guests had their own approaches to transitioning their business models, all of them cited the importance of community and member support.
For instance, Kari Woodall of Blaze Fitness pointed out that she’s “not making business decisions based on business, but rather making business decisions based on people” to ensure her members feel supported during this time. Similarly, Ami McMullen, owner of Studio Hustle, stressed the value of socializing with her members and the importance of leaving time at the beginning and end of classes to simply catch up and chat. Mo Hagan of the Canadian club chain giant, GoodLife Fitness, wowed us with her commentary on their company-wide decision to make good on their “member first” policy by not only suspending all membership dues during the stay at home directive—from all 350 clubs—but also giving members free access to their virtual fitness app.
From a business perspective, everyone we spoke with felt that the strongest selling position was retention and referral, and that supporting members through this difficult time would result in a high percentage of return. The overall consensus was this would help mitigate the risk of high cancelation rates post pandemic. Christina Boccio of Beachfit Training summed up the importance of relationships: “People don’t cancel relationships, they cancel memberships.”
The primary takeaway is that, regardless of how business owners are structuring their virtual offerings right now, the most critical factor is to take care of your relationships, determine how best you can serve your community and show up to support your members at a high level. All panelists who are doing this are experiencing 80-90% retention rates, and, in some cases like Chris Cygul of TRX Training St. Augustine, actually seeing business growth in this challenging time. While most organizations have been forced to aggressively manage their costs by executing deep staff layoffs or furloughs, suspend vendor payments or negotiate lease/rent payment deferral or abatements, Chris and his team have successfully pivoted their live personal training clients into their previously configured virtual training offering and have enjoyed a referral rate to their online program enabling their business to actually grow during this crisis.
The importance of allowing yourself a natural—if not accelerated—evolution in services is important. All of our panelists have seen a rapid progression in how they are delivering their respective virtual experiences. This ranges from addressing technical needs that improve audio and visual aspects such as microphone use and multiple camera angles to exploring changes in business models and behaviors to enable retention.
Kari Woodall reflected, “I built my business in six weeks/months, and I won’t lose my business in six weeks/months. I cannot solve all of the problems in the first week.”
Even if you feel like you’re playing catch-up, there’s still time to make changes. With health officials acknowledging that life and business will look very different across the world for at least the next year, we’re in the early phase of a new normal. For now, focus on being a steady and confident force for members and clients in this time of uncertainty. Ask for feedback. This is your chance to be nimble and grow business an entirely new way. Don’t let longing for the status quo stand in the way of opportunity.
Check out the TRX Roundtable Series —presented via Zoom— every Monday. You can watch previous Roundtables and sign up for future ones here.