4 Virtual Models That Drive Growth for Fitness Franchises
By Lauren McAlister
These days, virtual offerings are the key to longevity amid the ups and downs of COVID-19. Whether your organization offers on-demand videos, live stream workouts, or a combination of the two, you'll need a sustainable model to meet the needs of both corporate and your franchisees if you’re looking for long-term growth.
To start, ask yourself:
- How important is the quality of video versus building or maintaining your local community?
- Do you see virtual services as permanent or simply a solution for COVID-19?
If you do plan to continue with video services:
- How will you build an on-demand program that promotes your brand and is viewed as a value-add for individual franchise locations?
- What are the standards and ways in which you’ll allow your franchisees to deliver virtual offerings, if at all?
And while there’s no one-size-fits-all approach with virtual, there are a few models that are particularly popular with franchises. Let’s work through some of the pros and cons of each.
Model #1: On-demand is produced at corporate and distributed to franchisees
This model allows corporate control of all on-demand content but lets individual franchise locations sell access.
- Quality control. You can ensure on-demand classes are consistently branded and high quality by using the same team and tech equipment to program, produce, and distribute workouts.
- Buy in. When franchisees sell VOD (video on demand) memberships, they have buy-in to heavily promote—and thus, reap the benefits of—your corporate on-demand offerings. This protects their success—and your royalties.
- Existing customer engagement. Current customers feel connected to their local instructors and might be hesitant to engage with a corporate on-demand program. To remedy this, consider bringing in top instructors or coaches from your various locations to film workouts. That way, you can maintain corporate-level quality with familiar faces.
Model #2: On-demand is run entirely through corporate; live streaming is left to franchisees
Once again, this model allows for on-demand content control at the corporate level. However, it grants live streaming freedom to individual locations.
- Consistency. Like the first model, when on-demand content is produced by corporate, it's easier to maintain quality.
- Revenue. Not only does an on-demand video library better position your brand, it creates an entirely new and sustainable revenue stream for your business.
- Franchise growth. An on-demand library isn’t just good for recruiting new consumers, it can be used as a sales tool to expand your franchise locations, too. For those looking to invest in a franchise, virtual is now more important than ever—having a top-notch, on-demand library sets yours apart.
- A more tailored live stream experience. Your franchisees know their clients best and can customize their live streams accordingly. Clients can then work out with the same people they normally do, instructors included.
- Potential pricing conflicts. Depending on how you price your on-demand membership(s), it might create a conflict with your locations. For example, if your pricing is comparable to an in-person membership, it might be perceived as competition by your franchisees. Instead, many organizations are choosing to price low ($5-$15), so consumers see on-demand as a supplement, rather than a replacement. Regardless, you'll need to reinforce why your corporate library is a value add to your franchisees to minimize any unsettled feelings.
- Lackluster live streams. When left to individual locations, it’s harder to ensure a consistent live stream experience for both existing and prospective consumers. If a brand-new customer has a poor virtual experience with one of your locations, they’ll be less likely to interact with your brand again. So, if you do decide to move forward with this model, you’ll need to set expectations and educate your locations on live streaming best practices—more on that later.
Model #3: On-demand and live streams are produced at corporate with a revenue share for franchisees
This model maintains all virtual services with corporate but provides revenue opportunities for franchise locations.
- Consistency, consistency, consistency. By keeping all virtual offerings—including VOD and live streaming—with corporate, you create an entirely branded experience for customers. Plus, you control the technology used, the instructors on screen, and the promotion plans.
- Lower live stream engagement. Like Model #1, members may have a preference to take classes from local instructors. This could pose a risk for low engagement with your live streams, and open the potential for competition, should a local instructor offer streamed workouts on their own.
Model #4: Both on-demand and live streaming are left to franchisees
This model lets individual franchise locations create their own on-demand and live stream content.
- Customer engagement. With existing connections to their local instructors, customers may be more likely to buy in and engage with both on-demand and live streams.
- Franchisee success. By enabling your locations to create their own virtual offerings, you give them endless opportunity to earn additional revenue. This increases your royalties as well.
- Lack of control. Like Model #2, it’s difficult to create a cohesive and branded virtual experience. If done poorly, you could turn off both customers and potential franchise owners from investing in your brand. Having very specific guidelines around virtual and requiring continued education for your franchisees is essential for this model.
Equip your franchisees for success
If you do choose to delegate live streaming to your individual franchise locations, you’ll want to support their efforts with education and ongoing feedback. This might include:
- Virtual trainings or webinars. Online educational events are a great way to virtually engage with locations all over. Plus, they give your corporate team the opportunity to reinforce your virtual brand, share best practices, and answer questions franchisees. Topics specific to live stream include software setup, A/V equipment, programming suggestions, and at-home equipment swaps. Check out our tips for live streaming fitness classes for more ideas.
- How-to guides. Reinforce live stream best practices by creating explainer videos or downloadable PDFs. (As an example, check out our Fitness Instructor’s Checklist for Livestreaming). Add them to an all-franchise portal or shared drive so franchisees can quickly access and share with their own teams.
- Regular check-ins. Especially now, your franchisees should feel connected to headquarters. Assign members of your corporate team to specific locations and have them take live streamed classes. Schedule regular, virtual check-ins to provide feedback and additional support, as needed.
Invest in the right tools
Regardless of the model you choose, technology will set the foundation. To be successful, you need a software that’s reliable, easy-to-use (for both staff and clients), and integrated.
With Mindbody’s video feature, it’s simple to offer virtual services effectively and efficiently—at headquarters or your various locations. Built specifically for the wellness industry, the virtual wellness platform offers all the features you need to be successful, including a pay wall (so only those who pay for classes can attend) and email automation (to provide access to clients without extra work on your end). Plus, the feature doesn't require any new passwords or third-party apps for staff or clients to login, pay for, and enjoy virtual workouts.
Your franchise community wants to keep moving with you, which for a while may be exclusively on screen. With virtual services, you can keep your locations and their clients safe, while still building your brand. And, with the right systems in place, you’ll create a seamless experience that’s good for both clients and your bottom line, too.