No one expects their business to suddenly close down. However, the coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, has done just that, wreaking instant havoc on small businesses — particularly high-touch businesses like gyms and fitness studios — and creating a new reality.
Now active gym and studio owners like you are stuck at home, separated from the clients and customers you’re used to helping. Add in loss of income and concern for the future of your business, and it can seem like an overwhelming situation.
But what if I told you there was an alternative?
What if I told you there was a way to “relaunch” your gym business in ways that will help you make money now and continue to boost revenues in a post pandemic world.
What if you could create virtual workout plans, classes, and coaching to sell your clients, bringing in extra income? What if you could make online training offerings that helped your clients who are also stuck at home?
Thanks to advances in easy-to-use technologies, it’s never been a better time to sell fitness online through your gym or studio by simply combining a learning management system (LMS), like LifterLMS, with your WordPress website. You can add industry-tested tools to your business that not only help you through this time, but also create new recurring revenue for the future.
High Demand, Different Delivery
Here’s LifterLMS team member Ali Mathis working out via an online fitness class while homebound during the pandemic.
The demand for fitness is still there. It might even be higher.
It’s the mechanism of delivery that needs to adapt.
Create a Gym Business Survival Plan
While we know the current public health emergency will end and businesses will reopen, there are plenty of other events that can occur at any time that could impact your business.
Sickness. Vacation. Personal and family emergencies. Weather closures. Structural difficulties, like plumbing issues and facility maintenance. All of these — just to name a few — unavoidable realities can come out of the blue and impact business as usual.
Knowing that, now while you have more than normal down time is perfect for developing a Gym Business Survival Plan.
Whether you own a fitness studio or gym, or are a yoga instructor or personal trainer, you can develop a plan uniquely tailored to you. While we look at a variety of elements, each online fitness offer can be sold directly from your WordPress website, because if you’re selling fitness in a building or in person, you can be selling fitness online.
What could a Gym Business Survival Plan include?
- Courses that customers can watch and workout anytime.
- Live virtual group classes.
- Live virtual group and private coaching.
- Fitness certification programs for your employees.
- Other products for sale.
- Upgrades to your existing management resources.
Let’s take a minute to address a few potential blockers that may have already started to creep into your head.
Are virtual live courses and passive online course creation worth the investment?
Even before COVID-19 trapped us all at home, the fitness industry was booming, and the current situation only compounds the demand. Being kept from their regular workouts, people are desperate to continue exercising while at home. You can build on the proven success of DVD workouts like INSANITY, XTFMAX, Jillian Michael’s Body Revolution, P90X, and more. You can implement your own unique courses with modern, innovative technology you have around your house.
The model is proven. Fitness DVDs paved the way. And now any fitness pro can deliver a richer workout experience through the modern online course format.
A course sounds appealing, but I’m not a professional videographer/actor/presenter.
Not a problem. The only thing you need to be is the professional you already are. Don’t reinvent the wheel. If you have made an Instagram video with your phone and Skyped or Zoomed with someone through the internet, you’ve already got the tech equipment and skills.
You just have to start by replicating the programs that are already working and simply put them online. We’ll dive into how this is done in a moment.
I’d like to sell things, but I’m not a website or ecommerce expert.
Also not a problem. LifterLMS has payment, checkout, and subscription options that easily integrate with your current WordPress site, as well as documentation and support staff to assist you with the process.
Already have a billing system running on your website? No problems there. You can simply just keep using that for the billing if you want.
And if any of that’s more than you want to take on by yourself, there are plenty of reputable WordPress website builder people, developers and agencies happy to help.
Interesting, but I’m not a “gym.”
Once again, not a problem. “Gym” is being used in a general way here. Anyone in the fitness industry can create an online survival plan for their business. For example, an individual can easily implement these suggestions to create online training plans to grow his or her personal training business. Add in dietary suggestions or meal plans and a store with some resources, and they’re ready to roll!
Curious how others in the fitness industry are putting the ideas here to work in real life? Take a look at Ashley Turner, TakeLessons.com, Jon Venus, and Kinobody Fitness. Each of these fitness pros have made the decision to leverage online fitness business models to create a more diverse customer experience leading to additional recurring revenue streams.
How to Create a Fitness Program Online
As part of your Gym Business Survival Plan, you need something digital to sell.
Fortunately, creating a fitness plan that sells is far less technical than you might think. Thanks to the improvements in everyday technology, resources already exist to help professionals like you get online courses up and running.
Step One: Make a plan.
Your business is already successful. You know what your clients want. Think about your most popular classes or routines and outline what they include, remembering to make any necessary adjustments to fit exercising at home. That’s it. That’s all you need to get started.
Notice that nowhere in there was “Record your entire course.” That’s coming; but before we get too deep into a time and money investment, we want to make sure there’s interest, which brings us to the next step.
Step Two: Do a little marketing.
Here’s your chance to stay on your customers’ minds while also notifying them of your upcoming launch.
This marketing shouldn’t be complicated. Use word of mouth (easily done with a couple social media posts) to simply tell people — customers, friends, family — what you’re making. We all know a good idea will spread. In addition, you can email your customers. Spark interest in your current client base, while at the same time getting feedback on what they’d like to see you offer online.
Marketing doesn’t need to be costly or time consuming. Just spread the word in a friendly, caring way.
Step Three: Enroll the right “beta” testers.
Engage your instructors and most loyal customers — at either no cost, or if necessary, a reduced rate — to participate as you build your course. These early people are called beta testers. The priority at this point is not to make the most money possible. It’s to co-create with real customers and make sure you build the right online fitness program that your customers will want to actually buy and get results with.
You know who your favorite, most loyal, and motivated clients are.
They’ll feel valued to be included, and you’ll gain insightful feedback from these online-trained individuals, while also increasing your marketing through their testimonials and contacts.
However, be selective about who you choose. Make sure these are individuals you’ll enjoy working with and who are willing to give critical feedback. Your time is limited, and you need a group you can work smoothly with.
Step Four: Build out your course.
Finally, it’s time to record. Using the outline from Step One, your laptop, tablet, or phone, and online meeting software like Zoom, hit record and go.
No fancy recording equipment needed.
Keep it simple. Keep it close to what your customers are used to doing when you meet in person. Be you. Show your unique personality. Your customers come to you for a reason. And remember, it’s okay that you’re not a professional course creator; you don’t have to be.
This is simply a start. If you’re unhappy with the quality later on, the videos can easily be re-recorded, and you’ll have the benefit of knowing that it’s worth the investment.
Last thought here, don’t wait until everything is built and recorded to launch the course. Let the beta testers work through the programs with you, giving you feedback, and adjusting as needed. This allows you to launch sooner and waste less time if you have to make adjustments.
We highly recommend that you release as you go and remember that what works in the gym or studio, may need to be adjusted for those at home. An example of this is that you may need to favor more bodyweight exercises, since not everyone has a full rack of gym equipment at home.
Step Five: Get your course online.
Fortunately, thanks to those who have come before, this step is fairly simple, but it does require a monetary investment.
First off, to use LifterLMS you’ll need a WordPress website. Hopefully, your WordPress website is already up and running for marketing your business, so this one’s likely already covered. If you need a fresh WordPress website, you can simply sign up with one of these recommended web hosts.
Next, sign up for a video storage service like Vimeo Pro or Wistia Pro. By choosing the Pro versions — do not choose the Basic options — you get all the functionality that you need without outside branding (one of many benefits), which will give your videos a cleaner, more professional look. You’ll also get the security features that guarantee your videos cannot be taken and played outside of your website.
Last, sign up for the free version of LifterLMS. LifterLMS makes it easy to turn your videos into your very own course, creating recurring revenue whether your physical gym or studio is open or not. The LifterLMS Quickstart Course walks you through the set up process and has your course launched in a day.
That’s it! Three steps, a few decisions, and your unique courses are live and online serving your customers even when your gym or studio is closed.
Go Beyond With Additional Resources From LifterLMS
Want a little more help? LifterLMS has other available tools as well.
If you don’t feel like DIYing the process, outsource the tech implementation through LifterLMS’s concierge onboarding service or to a LifterLMS expert.
Want to add in private one-to-one coaching as a standalone product or upsell? Check out the benefits of LifterLMS Private Areas.
Last but not least, you can invest in either the LifterLMS Stripe or PayPal plugin, or why not both, and make it that much easier for clients to pay you for group online training and/or custom programming.
How to Create an Online Fitness Challenge
Having handled the details of how to create a fitness program online, you can now shake it up a bit by setting up an online fitness challenge. There’s nothing like having a goal to achieve to motivate your customers and help speed time along as we wait out the virus.
“Give yourself permission to be flexible on how you define a “course.” A course can be a traditional Do-It-Yourself video course. A course can also be a past workout webinar vault, a curated collection of podcasts, a fitness challenge, and more. A course is structured content with progression tracking and individual user accounts that helps the learner get a result. Be creative and flexible with how you use the course concept and what you call it.”Chris Badgett, LifterLMS CEO
Use Zoom to record your instructions and leave it to your customers or clients to submit videos or photos of them completing it through an assignment for accountability. Or host a group virtual challenge through Zoom where you all come together to accomplish the goal. Post pictures or videos on the website or to the social learning area of your website or in a Facebook group. Offer virtual prizes or have prizes delivered to their houses. With modern technology, there are so many ways to interact with one another.
Keep in mind, people want fitness results. But they also want other things, too, like community, recognition, and confidence.
Regardless of what you pick, you have the opportunity to grow your business while also creating a more engaged, more loyal customer base simply by employing a little creativity and the technology right at your fingertips.
How to Create a Fitness Certification Program
Another resource you can add with learning management software is a certification program.
Whether it’s for your instructors, customers, or both, it’s a great way to walk people through a step-by-step program that gets everyone to the same educational level. And again, add incentive by handing out rewards, like printable certificates or virtual stickers (achievement badges) for their profiles. In eLearning we call this gamification.
A small selection of gamification graphics included with the LifterLMS Powerpack
By putting a fitness certification program on your website, you give clients and instructors the option to work on the programs in their own time and at their own pace. It can also help you understand and gauge their education levels for class placement or new hire onboarding.
Once again, simply follow the same process as with course creation, and before long you’ll have repeatable resources (business assets) that allow you to focus your attention elsewhere — or take a much needed vacation — while still seeing revenue come in on its own.
Other Ways to Secure and Relaunch Your Fitness Business
We’ve covered a lot, and it might seem a little overwhelming. However, modernizing your website and relaunching your fitness business in these ways can very quickly result in more time to focus on streamlining your business in other ways.
Implementing a Gym Business Survival Plan that includes online course creation is a great way to experience first hand the advantages of automating and virtualizing parts of your business. With your extra time, you can consider upgrading your current in-house processes. Let’s look at a few options.
Upgrade Day-To-Day Processes
PushPress integrates with your current website and offers you the opportunity to automate business elements in some key areas:
- A custom app that allows you to use a device to verify customers and validate they have an active account.
- Digital waivers that can be signed on either a tablet, phone, or desktop computer.
- A single point of sale for many types of memberships and various products.
- Beautifully formatted screens you can cast via Bluetooth to TVs or monitors around your physical location.
Take a look at your particular needs and see if PushPress has any options that can lighten your workload and free you to invest your energy elsewhere.
Also, a big shout out to Dan Uyemura and the PushPress community for supplying some of the photos for this article!
Automate Onboarding and Client Management
The team at UpLaunch have created a tool specifically for those in the fitness industry to make it easier to manage your customer relationships.
By automating your client communications, you can maintain an uninterrupted flow of information that you can set and forget, but which leaves your customers feeling valued. Take a look at putting their proven system to work for you.
Improving Revenue Flow
The goal of business owners is to work smarter, not harder. To assist in that, GymLaunch was created. GymLaunch is a proven financial management system that has helped more than 1,500 gyms on four continents.
Their program, library of multi-faceted resources, and community provide the tools to help you become quick to react to ideas and be decisive in making changes that will position your business to provide abundantly for your future.
Grow Or Become Obsolete
In the highly competitive fitness industry — particularly at a time like this — the need to adapt or risk permanent closure is obvious. While that could sound terrifying, technology has made it possible to implement proven strategies to help you create a modern, flexible business.
Sometimes it takes a shove, and a little forced down time, to move us in a direction that not only helps us now, but allows us to build for the future. By investing in new strategies and resources like LifterLMS and using technology you have at home and by using the WordPress website you already have and simply adding the free LifterLMS plugin, your fitness business can relaunch and thrive when others might be failing.
Don’t wait; get started and relaunch today!
One More Thing…
If you choose to relaunch your fitness cash flow online, it’s important to choose a technology partner that gets you.
I’d like to introduce you to the lead software developer, CTO, and co-founder of LifterLMS.
Meet Thomas Levy …
Thomas is the technical programming lead behind the LifterLMS software.
He writes a lot of the LifterLMS code and much of that nerdy stuff that makes your online fitness training experience and cash flow possible.
Thomas transformed his life from being an overweight, sedentary, stressed-out computer programmer on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown into a seriously obsessed CrossFit guy and amateur strongman. The dude writes code, and he can lift.
Just so you know, we get you over at LifterLMS.
Fitness is in our company DNA.
We’re going to spot you if you decide to step up.
LifterLMS has got your back.