9 reasons to consider switching to a video format:
The fitness industry is in crisis mode. As owners and managers of studios, the decisions that you make now, what you choose to spend your time on today, will determine whether your business survives or disappears. So, can live-streaming save your business?The short answer is—quite possibly. Some of you may already be doing it; others may be still wavering. To help you decide whether to invest the time and energy, here are nine reasons I think it makes sense:
1. Protect your existing revenue stream
Studios have long talked about going virtual, but few have had the time or resources to build this out. Now most of us are scrambling in a game-changing scenario that none of us could have predicted and looking for solutions. One option is to shift your existing classes to streaming and implore your customers to support you while you figure out the rest. This approach has a few benefits:
- It staunches some of the bleeding immediately
- Most of your regular members want to support you and will
- This can tie your community together creating a bond that can help you get through this
- You can keep your existing prices and set-up, at least in the short term
- You don’t have to master a whole new business model
- It delays, for at least a few weeks, an exodus of clients, giving you crucial time to master the format, shift your mindset, and plot your next moves
2. Grit and authenticity
Ever heard of Tik Tok or Instagram Stories? These platforms provide millions of highly engaging, authentic videos created by people with little more than smartphones. Your studio doesn’t need a professional AV setup to stream classes, and in fact, your clients aren’t expecting it.
We are in a disaster situation! Your clients are in a disaster situation! Do they want something that looks like it came off the lot of Universal Pictures? No, they want something that’s just as gritty as their situation. Personally, I’m not sure that will change even after the COVID-19 crisis. Personality and authenticity are here to stay.
3. Give the client what they want
Now, I am a specific type of client – a regular who’s a lot more interested in the substance than the form. I have a favorite studio, and I have favorite instructors. So do I care if the video is 4K quality? Absolutely not. It just has to be visible enough for me to follow the movements and clear enough that I can hear the instructions. I’m there for the cadence, for the method, for the instructor, for the routine. Give me that and I’m good to go.
I assure you – there are many like me. So for studio owners out there who are looking to supplement revenue but don’t want to make video a core competency, know that there is a whole group of clients you could be serving just by doing something with live-streaming.
4. Flexibility with pricing
Live-streaming allows you to be flexible with your costs. You can have all of your instructors do it. You can have some instructors do it. You can scale back completely and only do it yourself. Only you can decide what’s best for your business. However, what I will emphasize is that the decision around what you should do shouldn’t come from only a concern about the expense.
The main goal is to keep your clients fully engaged. If they are engaged they will pay. If they pay, you have a business, and you have flexibility. So play with it a little and see what happens.
5. Community and instructor bond
One way to create a community experience through live-streaming is to allow clients to see each other in the classes in addition to the instructor. It’s one of the reasons why FitGrid chose to work with the video platform Zoom for our solution. In Zoom, there is “Gallery Mode” which allows people to see each other. While we can’t get together in a room, we can certainly simulate that, which can be just as good.
Also, the bond with the instructor is more important than ever. There’s something about visually seeing your instructor — seeing him or her there with you; hearing them exhort you to try more, to go harder, to sweat or meditate out your fear or frustration. It’s powerful. And if you choose the right instructors to host live-streams, this bond that begins to happen can pull your clients right through to the other side of this crisis. You’ve done a lot for your instructors over the years. Now it’s time to let them do it for you.
What you can do to reinforce this is be sure to ask for feedback after classes—give students the chance to tell you how much they loved it, what worked or what didn’t. This will only deepen the sense of community.
6. Experiment with new programming
Guess what? It’s never been so inexpensive to test new content. Throw up an “Experimental Class: Couch Yoga,” ask whoever signs up to give you feedback, and see what happens.
In normal situations, most of us are averse to experimenting with new programming for fear it could turn away loyal clients. It might not have occurred to us to use live-streaming to create tiny little Petri dishes for new content. Now we’re forced into it. Take this time to develop all the content that’s going to make you blow up when things come back around!
Some of you (cycling studios, etc.) may have to develop wholly different classes during this time, but it can still complement being on the bike and can even live as a permanent addition to your schedule once things are back in order. For those whose content works well with live-streaming (yoga, mat pilates, dance), you’re lucky. But you can still experiment.
7. New revenue and bigger classes
Yessss! New revenue! Does your studio have a reputation in your community, but people simply can’t get to it at a convenient time, or your classes sell out in the prime time slots? Create additional classes online. These revenue streams can come at very little additional cost. For example, you can stream a class from your living room (yes, yes, we’ll talk about brand a little later) and those who like it join and those who don’t, don’t.
Live-streaming also means that you’re not restricted to classes of a certain size, or to students who live in your city. If your classes were capped at 20 people before, now you can have 40—from people all over the country and world. That means more revenue per class than before, and with less overhead.
8. You need this for your mental health
Honestly, we all need to feel like there is something we can do instead of just letting circumstances take a hold of us. We need space and time to think. Moving quickly on live-streaming—especially if it’s in a way that is semi-automated and minimizes your needed investment in the technical aspect (see FitGrid’s solution and hopefully other solutions that are being created out there) can help you feel a little more in control while you figure the rest out.
9. What about my brand?
I get it. In-person, you produce extremely high-quality content with extremely high-quality sound. You’re known for that and you take pride in it. You want whatever you put out there to be an extension of your brand.
Think of live-streaming (and honestly even recorded products) as a new business. When you started your business were you in the perfect location? Did you have the perfect instructors? Did you have to build an audience that accepted it for what it was and grew with it?
This is no different. Enroll your clients in the journey with you. This situation gives you the perfect excuse to be imperfect. Everyone understands. Start small, and as you become more comfortable with it, invest more. Remember that this is a different type of client who will be drawn to this, and remember that live-streaming does not imply cheap. You can do it at a low-cost level or a very high-cost level.
There is no question we are in a crisis. The human toll COVID-19 is taking and will continue to take on us is likely to be devastating. On a personal level, we will hurt.
On a business level, we will hurt as well, but we aren’t defenseless. We have assets—ourselves, our clients, our instructors, our methods, our energy. We may need to shift them to another medium for now, but sometimes that’s just life and business.
Remain flexible. Remain strong. Remain together. You can do this. We’re with you all the way.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nt Etuk is the Founder & CEO of FitGrid and Co-Founder of BFS. The team at FitGrid has been working around the clock to create a simple, more automated live-stream solution FitGrid LIVE – that automatically connects Zoom and MINDBODY, for group fitness studios, in response to the crisis hitting the industry.
FitGrid is a community management system designed for boutique fitness studios to engage clients on a personal level