State of the Fitness Industry: New Tools

State of the Fitness Industry: New Tools

I recently bought a treadmill.

I took the advice of other people like me online. I don’t know them, but they do the same sports I do, so their recommendations were worth a $3,000 purchase.

On Tuesday, I received a shipping notification from the treadmill company.

On Wednesday, I got a little email showing me how to unbox the treadmill, how to set it up and how to start out.

On Thursday, I got one more email: some tips to start (and stick with) a walking program—because most treadmill buyers are first-time exercisers.

I used to sell treadmills for a living. I know that most treadmills turn into clothes racks within a month and garage-sale items within a year. I know that the industry was front-loaded: People bought one treadmill in their life, and the transaction ended there.

But home fitness equipment companies have new opportunities. They can sell ongoing subscriptions to training plans or online classes or games like Zwift, Aaptiv, Mirror, Tonal, Hydrow … and they can call it “coaching.”

But we can turn it around on them.

 

First: The Tools You Need

 

When I found online scheduling software in 2005, it was a huge epiphany: We could throw out our messy day planners and let clients choose their own appointments. No more no-shows or last-minute cancellations. And then, in 2006, we found MindBody, which tied payments to bookings! Hallelujah: no more awkward “you owe money” talks with clients!

But since then, software tools in the fitness industry have morphed into slow “scoreboards” with appointment tracking and payments tacked on as an afterthought. (There are a few good ones bucking the trend—read our detailed report here.) But what do gym owners really need to run a business?

I think it’s:

  • A client relationship management (CRM) platform to track clients and leads (we like UpLaunch).
  • An appointment scheduler that integrates with payment processing.
  • Something to track client results and show their progress.

By the end of next year, you’ll need:

  • A way to deliver programming to clients who aren’t in the gym and have them track their progress.
  • A better camera and microphone.
  • A nutrition program for everyone you coach.
  • A fluency in tools available to you outside your gym.

In our report on coaching software, we found that Trainerize has a lot of this covered. It’s not perfect, but it’s probably the best option for personal trainers, and maybe the best choice for gym owners, too. At least for now: Several others were close.

But the tools don’t make the coach. Tools should extend and scale your care, not replace it. In the end, your success will be determined by the personal care you extend, not the emails you automate.

And new tools give you the opportunity to extend that care into new markets. Below, I’ll tell you how to see these tools as opportunities instead of competition.

 

Second: The Tools You Don’t Need

 

Many gyms sign up for things they don’t need and then fail to use them.

Then, when they do an expense audit, they add up what they’ve spent and regret the purchases.

Here’s what you shouldn’t spend your money on in 2020:

  • Marketing agencies that will “do it for you.” Every marketing agency is incentivized to increase ad spend. They’re a lot like mutual fund salespeople: As the market gets worse, they tell you to spend more. It has a ratchet effect that costs you more and more for fewer results. And without skin in the game, marketing agencies really never have to get creative with their own money. Learn to do it yourself, teach a staff person, and continually track and improve your funnel instead.
  • Coaching courses that teach something beyond the scope of fitness. Partner with local health-care professionals instead. Read “Scope of Practice” here.
  • Equipment or education you can’t tie directly to more revenue. Too many box owners are over-educated and poor. Plan to upgrade your coaching education in 2021 and your business education in 2020.

 

Third: The New Opportunities

 

Online spin classes, Zwift, remote trainers—they aren’t your competition. They’re a breeding ground for your next clients.

Every time a spin bike company sells a monthly “coaching” subscription, it’s doing you a favour. The company is teaching its clients the value of coaching.

You don’t have to do that part anymore. All you have to do is reach those people and tell them that you’re the next step.

Now, I’ve screwed this up. When I brought CrossFit to our city, I thought I was competing with P90X. Remember that? A bunch of DVDs that people followed for eight weeks.

A couple of firefighters told me “I don’t need to do CrossFit. I can do P90X at home!” so I thought I was in a life-or-death battle with the program.

What I should have said was, “That’s great! I hear good things. When you get bored, give me a call.” And then I should have called them eight weeks later—because everyone got bored with P90X. They would have been ready for CrossFit. I could have said, “You’ve taken Step 1! Here’s Step 2.”

People sign up for at-home coaching programs for many reasons. One is that they’re scared to exercise in front of other people. They think, “I’ll get started at home and then join a gym.” But if you tell them that’s dumb (like I did), they’ll just stay in their basement. If you pit yourself against the treadmill company, you’re also pitting yourself against its user.

 

Not-so-Obvious On-Ramps

Here’s another story: I used to publicly denounce laparoscopic surgery. I thought our government was crazy to subsidize “the easy way out.” I thought people were wasting their time having their stomachs cinched off with rubber bands. I thought they should exercise instead.

One day, as I was working up a good rant about it to a couple of clients, one of them touched me on the arm to interrupt.

“Chris,” she said kindly, “I’ve had the surgery.”

I was shocked: “You, Cathy? I don’t believe it!”

Cathy was one of our most hardcore CrossFitters at the time. She followed every blog, watched every video. She’d usually be the one to fill me in on the CrossFit Games gossip.

But she’d had stomach-reduction surgery. And she changed my viewpoint with what she said next:

“I needed to feel good about myself before I could join a gym.”

Laparoscopic surgery wasn’t my enemy. It was my on-ramp!

Peloton isn’t your enemy. It’s your on-ramp!

Bowflex isn’t your enemy. Strava and Zwift aren’t your enemies. Orangetheory isn’t your enemy. They’re all on-ramps to your service!

Instead of “us, not them,” we should be saying, “Would you like a bit more?”

 

Leveraging the New Tools

 

Think about online coaching the way you’d think about a library.

“Here is all of the information you’ll ever need organized in one place.”

But nobody learns how to do open-heart surgery at the library. No one quits smoking after reading a book about it. And no one reads the same book every day. Eventually, people need a teacher. And then they need a coach.

If I wanted to attract local cyclists to my gym (and I do, because I am one of them!), I would start by posting my own rides on Strava.

In my Strava profile, I’d post a link to a local group ride. I’d create the ride if none existed.

At the group ride, I’d mention how much my climbing speed had improved since adding front squats.

Then I’d say, “Hey, all of you guys keep asking me about front squats. Tell you what: Let’s just start the ride from my gym next week, and I’ll show you what I mean.”

And then I’d book 1:1 appointments with each person who showed up.

People seek out groups of others like them. The key to marketing is “finding the others.” The key to sales is showing “the others” how you can help them.

I searched for “Peloton” on Facebook and found dozens of open groups and forums. Here were a few categories:

What if I told you that the next 20 clients for your gym were waiting in those groups? Would you dive in and grab those gold coins?

 

How to Take Action in 2020

 

Forget about ads: Start 20 new conversations next year. (Actually, run your ads, too—and retarget the new audiences you create through these conversations. Your ad spend will go down and your conversions will increase.)

Write love letters to the people in these groups.

Talk to them on video. Record a podcast—whatever. Show them you care and how you can help them.

If I had an Orangetheory franchise next door, I’d be happy. Orangetheory is great at taking average people who are scared of intense exercise and introducing them to our world.

Over time, the thing these people once considered “extreme” becomes normalized in their brains. And then it’s easier to introduce something that’s just a little … bit … harder. Instead of taking them from a zero to a 9 on the “things I’m willing to do to lose weight” scale, we can allow Orangetheory to take them from zero to six and then accept the baton.

Microgym owners who open next to globo gyms are also very smart: People can try to exercise on their own and then add coaching when the results slow down.

Turning these potential competitors into new opportunities doesn’t require a pivot in your business model. It doesn’t require a rebrand. It requires a new perspective. That’s really what a mentor is for.

 

Other Articles in This Series

State of the Fitness Industry: 2019
State of the Fitness Industry: Your Brand
State of the Fitness Industry: The Disappearing Middle
State of the Fitness Industry: Rebirth

The Panic Vaccine

The Panic Vaccine

It’s the 28th of the month.

You don’t have enough for the rent.

You just remembered your insurance is due. And this is a three-pay month … .

Anxiety is your cardio now.

You live in constant fear of “what’s going to happen next?” because you’re stuck in a meteor shower, and you know that any little hit could be your last. You’re overwhelmed, overworked, and just kinda over it.

That’s panic.

And data is the vaccine.

 

What Data Does

 

Data tells you, “Here’s how other gym owners got through this same situation.”

Data tells you, “Next month will be better.”

Data tells you, “Here’s how to stop this from ever happening again.”

Data is the laser beam that blasts the falling rocks out of the sky before they get close to you.

Data is clarity. Data is a look into the future. Data is absolutely critical to the success of your business.

So why isn’t there any data in the fitness business?

Because, until now, no one would collect it, analyze it and report on it.

 

Data and Duty

 

Big chain gyms collect tons of data about their customers’ spending habits. They know when they’re busy. They create budgets around peak seasons. They know when to boost their ad spend, when to hire and when a client is about to leave.

But they don’t share.

Franchisors collect data on their franchisees but don’t give that data back for analysis because it’s their intellectual property. Gathering data is very hard and very expensive, and they want to keep it in the mothership.

And licensors, like CrossFit, don’t collect data at all because they charge too little to pay for that level of business support.

When I visited CrossFit HQ last year, I asked the question over breakfast:

“What if you tracked data for all of your gyms and just released it for anyone to analyze?”

The response: “Good idea. But we’re not going to do it.”

I quickly realized that our company, Two-Brain Business, was in a unique position: We were already the largest mentorship practice in the world, and gym owners trusted us. We had the resources and the ability.

That made it our duty to collect data, analyze it professionally and report back to the community who shared it with us.

 

The Two-Brain Dashboard

 

We unveiled the new Two-Brain Dashboard to those in our Incubator and Growth Stages last week. It’s simple and clean but very powerful—all of the individual gym’s information stays private, but we can analyze metadata trends that will benefit the whole industry.

Most importantly, the dashboard makes it really easy for a gym owner to enter data, track it long term and see trends in his or her own gym.

But this is just the start!

The Dashboard will also clearly show gym owners their next step in the path to wealth. Using data and experience collected from over 10,000 one-on-one mentorship calls, our mentor team has mapped several paths to Tinker Phase. Those will show up on the Dashboard soon.

No one else has done it. No one else will. But when you care this much, it’s your duty to give as much help as you can.

Take your hand off the panic button.

Write down your numbers.

Write down your feelings (they’re important, too).

Next time you’re panicked, look back.

Then look ahead. Build your path with stones instead of shifting sand.

And call if you need help.

Need more advice on common problems? Click here to book a free call with a certified Two-Brain Business mentor.

Episode 114: The Baltimore Connection

Episode 114: The Baltimore Connection

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Episode 113: Working With Entrepreneurs

Episode 113: Working With Entrepreneurs

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Episode 112: Where Should Your Focus Be?

Episode 112: Where Should Your Focus Be?

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Episode 111: Love and Logic with Garner Tullis

Episode 111: Love and Logic with Garner Tullis

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