How Are Fitness Studios Handling the Ever-changing COVID-19 Landscape? We Talked with Three Business Owners—Here’s What They Said
By Lauren McAlister
COVID-19 is on everyone’s minds. As a fitness business owner, we know this is all-consuming and stressful. This is an unprecedented event and no one has all the answers. But we hope that if we can connect you to your peers, you’ll get a better understanding of how others in your industry are handling a temporary closure.
There are a couple of things we do know; in times like these, people need to prioritize healthy behaviors more than ever. That includes adequate sleep, proper hydration and nutrition, and regular exercise. And people will crave community more than ever before. Those who are in quarantine, or working from home, will feel isolated–so how can your studio create a sense of virtual community, encourage healthy habits, and maintain a connection to clients without being in your physical space?
We spoke with Mindbody business owners about the steps they're taking with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Terri Fry, The Hot Yoga Factory in Chelmsford, MA; Mona Meline, Bliss Fitness & Health in Oakland, CA; and Eric Pierra, YogaBody, Chino, CA. You can also connect directly with Terri, Eric and Mona in the Mindbody One community).
Here’s what they said:
Communicate–more than ever before
Communicating with your community is essential. Use all forms available to you to keep connected with your customers and community, including:
Social media posts
Good old-fashioned phone calls
Let your community know you care and what you’re doing to put their health at the forefront (e.g. online classes, virtual workshops, Facetime personal training sessions, etc.)
As the situation unfolds, you'll need to communicate more than you usually do–and that’s okay! It’s your responsibility to provide updates to keep your community in the know and show you care.
(If you want to see examples of the communications other business owners are sending, follow this link to the discussion thread in Mindbody One that has examples of communications you can review or add your own).
Know and be clear on your policies for cancellations, memberships, and intro offers
Clients likely have questions during this trying time. Make sure you clearly communicate policies for:
Intro offers: Will you extend your intro offers after you’ve reopened? Terri Fry, of Hot Yoga Factory, is planning to do so at her studio.
Memberships and autopays: Will you offer suspensions for people who are on memberships? Have a clear and consistent approach to how you will handle requests for a freeze or suspension. (And our business owners said they would prefer to have their clients freeze or suspend memberships versus having someone cancel outright). Some members may want to support you during this time to keep revenue flowing—encourage them to contact you. Check out our blog post with best practices on what to do about memberships during COVID-19.
Stay connected to your community
Take to the screen
It’s more important than ever to keep up with one’s wellness routine. Although your physical space might be closed, let your clients work out with you at home. Post videos of workouts on YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, or even Instagram TV. These can either be quick workouts or a recording of a full class.
You can even live stream your classes or host online workshops and share them with your community. You can do this on Facebook Live or YouTube Live. Just make sure your clients know when to tune in! Post live streams on your YouTube account or on your website after your class or workshop, too.
Pro tip: Keep in mind that recording a video with ambient music can be tricky. You might want to consider going sans your usual tunes. If you're determined to keep the beat, you’ll want to know what music you can post legally. Your best option might be royalty-free music.
Leverage social media so your members can keep in touch
Even during a temporary closure, you want to make sure you keep your business top of mind. Consider posting Instagram stories or Facebook posts showing cleaning efforts and modified workouts (without the usual props). Make sure you make announcements about any modified schedules. Ask your clients to post how they're keeping active.
Give your clients a way to stay connected with each other, too. This might be a great time to set up a Facebook group for your members. If you’re kicking off a new group, make sure to make all your clients aware. This keeps them connected with the community you’ve built together.
Take care of your team
Make sure your employees are kept up to date throughout your closure. Have a list of admin tasks your team can tackle (either at the studio or remotely). That way, they still get paid and you're getting things done. Terri Fry, of Hot Yoga Factory, in the back of her head, is already thinking about some tasks she can delegate—one being the Mindbody software certification.
Use it as a chance to do all those things you’ve procrastinated doing
Were you planning to do a detailed marketing plan and budget for the year? Get a better understanding of how to use social media (and learn what the heck Tik Tok actually is)? Get more proficient in your software? If you’re faced with a closing, consider it an opportunity to catch up and plan for the future.
Use your extra time to take online leadership courses and network (virtually, that is) with your peers. You might also research how to use Video on Demand and/or live streaming and create video content to engage with your community.
Encourage your staff to use this time wisely, too. They can work on continuing education units (online, of course) and/or create new programming for when their classes are up and running again.
This is fast-moving and your response will depend on your location, the type of classes/services you offer, and your community make-up. Mindbody One gives you the chance to talk with your peers, hear how other business owners are approaching unique situations.
This is a stressful time: Two final things our business owners wanted us to share
1. You are not alone. We have thousands of customers who are faced with the same issues you are. Talk with your peers in the Mindbody One community.
2. Health and wellness will be more important than ever before. Wellness businesses are a critical epicenter to many communities and provide outlets for consumers to better their mindset, physical and mental health, so we are optimistic about a rapid recovery once public health is no longer a top concern.