How These 3 Fitness Businesses Found Success with Online Classes
By Meredith Simmons
The fitness world has changed a lot in the last few weeks—gone are the packed classes with overflowing waitlists. Instead, businesses across the globe made a quick pivot to teaching online. Here are three businesses that made the change and found success—and their advice to other business owners as they make the change for themselves.
Location: Farnham, UK
Jill Simpson, co-owner of Ebb&Flow, used to run hotels and spas, and knew first-hand how a health crisis can impact a business—so began planning a month before she eventually closed the studio. The studio has found success with streaming just two live classes a day, set up to match what the studio’s regular operating schedule looked like.
“In our first two days, our community loved it,” Simpson said. “We had 200 sign-ups, and by seven days, it was 400 plus. We’ve had messages from [people in] Singapore, Sydney, and Copenhagen to our accounts and the teachers’ accounts, too—all saying they loved the class or ‘thanks for letting me join.’”
Simpson recommends that business owners look at online streaming as a new business model. While it can run alongside a traditional studio model, owners need to approach it differently. This approach is especially important considering the high likelihood of a virtual drop-in from elsewhere on the globe.
Location: San Luis Obispo, California
Gymnazo, a functional training fitness facility, had already launched online coursework for specific offerings and saw the need to focus on instructing online quickly. As class attendance began to dwindle, Gymnazo Co-CEO Paden Hughes realized that something needed to be done.
“We had an email in our clients’ inboxes a week before our city announced a ‘shelter in place’ that showed them how we could migrate their memberships online, continue to support them and deliver the very elements they would be in short supply of: community, structure, and accountability.”
Because of Gymnazo’s quick actions, they were able to convert over 90% of their members to their online classes—and retain their memberships, providing recurring revenue to the gym. As Hughes points out, there’s no reason why other businesses can’t make a successful and revenue-driving jump to online instruction; “There are lonely, anxious members you love who are lost and missing the community you worked for years to build.”
Code 5 Fitness
Location: Sydney, Australia
Code 5 Fitness has three locations across Sydney—but it’s unified all of them with online classes. Owner Connor Pettersson didn’t decide to close the gyms lightly—an Instagram post from the gym called the situation bittersweet, but that it was planning the launch of a new era of Code 5 Fitness online. That launch was successful for the gym—it launched with 300 members maintaining their memberships and joining the online classes.
That recurring revenue coupled with negotiations with landlords to pause rent collection means the gym can retain staff and still stay in the black. “We'll be able to stay slightly profitable for the foreseeable future until we can open our doors again,” Pettersson said.
Code 5 is still prioritizing the coach-client interaction it had before COVID-19. Coaches call each member weekly to check in on progress and goal setting. “That's the route that we have pushed on,” Pettersson said. “You’re holding them accountable. They're still going to be getting results.”
But Pettersson’s COVID strategy doesn’t end with his current customers—he’s running ads and still looking for new members to join the gym. “We’ll get leads at a decent value that I can call and sell someone our online package—and then I can build an online program that sits in the background of the gyms.”
Pettersson’s advice to other gym owners is not to be afraid to ask for your clients to join you online. “You're still going to serve them. You have to believe in that service when you go online and pitch it as ‘If you want a place to come back to and this is all over, then we need to get through this together.’”