We’ve worked with a ton of fitness businesses over the years. Many of them have built successful brick and mortar gyms or one-on-one personal coaching businesses. However, these types of fitness businesses can be stressful and time consuming as they grow. As a result, we’ve helped a lot of fitness teams transition their business online.
First, let’s discuss why you might consider an online fitness business.
The biggest advantage of an online fitness business model is buying back your time. By moving your content and offerings to the cloud you have a major advantage of distribution. This distribution can help you and your team get more time back by offering DIY (do-it-yourself) resources.
- You can offer a DIY exercise/workout library.
- You can offer DIY training programs or courses.
- You can offer an archive library with recordings of previous training and workouts.
- You can manage an event calendar with LIVE classes.
Having an online membership site can open up new opportunities for time savings and automation. Which leads to our next point.
Running a fitness business can be extremely labor intensive, especially if you have multiple coaches and class types. By moving to an online model you can simplify and automate some of your processes.
- Consider a transition to 100% online classes, or at least group classes. This eliminates the need for expensive space (rent) and logistics of accommodating people in this space. A Zoom room is far more economical than a 10,000 square foot facility.
- Leverage an online scheduling system to automate the registration side of your business. This eliminates the need for executive admin staff and confusion.
- Automate your client payments and billing by letting them pay online through your membership site. This eliminates the need for accounting staff and financial complexity.
Moving to an online model will allow you to eliminate previous labor expenses and further automate your business.
The last major advantage is expanding your revenue lines. Traditional in-person gyms have limitations and constraints on how you can drive revenue. Most of this revenue is tied to group classes or one-on-one coaching sessions, both of which have human labor dependencies. In other words, your in-person revenue lines will always be tied to a coach-per-member ratio of some sort. This usually leads gym owners to opening up multiple locations in order to scale revenue. Every gym owner knows the stress and headaches associated with managing multiple locations.
Instead, consider moving to an online model where you can expand your offerings and generate more passive income without the need for more space and coaches.
- Use your pre-recorded content as the foundation for passive income. This might include exercise/workout videos, how-to recordings, and pre-recorded LIVE classes. None of this content requires new work or labor.
- Offer different online membership options for different levels of content. This gives your members similar options to previous in-person packages based on volume.
- As mentioned above, offer DIY courses for specific types of training. This allows your members to move through guided fitness programs at their pace without all the scheduling and rescheduling issues.
- Offer one-to-many online group classes. This allows you to maximize revenue group packages without the limitations of class size.
All of these examples offer your members the same type of value with passive revenue streams that aren’t tied to labor dependencies.
Great, now that you understand the benefits and advantages the next question is how to get there.
Here’s our general framework for gyms and fitness businesses –
Pricing & Offerings
The first step is outlining all the things you plan to offer online. This includes the type of classes or fitness training, what it includes and how it’s priced.
Here’s an example:
Tier 1 / Basic membership
- Access to exercise/workout library and pre-recorded group classes
Tier 2 / Community membership
- Everything in Basic, plus:
- Access to weekly LIVE group classes
Tier 3 / VIP membership
- Everything in Community, plus:
- Access to DIY training programs
- Access to schdule private 1-on-1 coaching sessions
- As one of our member(dev) clients, Isaac Kuhlman from GTR, explained – there is a significant difference between “coaching” and “teaching” (or training). Coaching is intimate and personal via 1-on-1 mentorship. Teaching is something students can consume by themselves. So make sure you price your offerings accordingly.
- If you decide to offer 1-on-1 coaching be sure to leverage that time at higher price points. This coaching time with you and your team is extremely valuable and should be priced at a premium to differentiate the offer from group classes and DIY training offers.
Content Planning & Production
The next step is establishing your content production plan. This includes your content schedule, production workflow and distribution strategy. If you already have existing content this step should be a breeze.
A well thought out content plan generally includes the following:
- Workout planning / class type spreadsheet
- Workout calendar or spreadsheet
- Video content production playbook or SOP
- Social media promotion integration (i.e. Buffer or similar tool)
This will keep you and your team organized as you plan, produce and promote your content.
New Content Production
If you’ve never created online content before this will be your biggest effort in the project. Creating video content takes time, especially if you’re new to the game. But don’t let this discourage you! Everyone has to start somewhere. Below are some quick tips,
Video Content Production tips:
- Outline your process and put content production time on the calendar.
- Your video content does not need to be perfect or “production quality” in the beginning. Just hit record and get your initial reps in (no pun intended).
- Keep your videos short and concise (i.e. 5-10 min), especially for a workout/exercise library. You can always create longer videos with deeper training after you refine your process.
- Get your team on the same page for LIVE group led classes. There should be an outline or playbook to follow so everyone is clear on the general process of setup, recording, and final production.
- Defer full blown trining programs unless you have significant time set aside. Programs take much longer to record and package than traditional “library” content.
The goal with video content is to establish a proven workflow and commit to a schedule. For example, commit to 5 LIVE classes per week. Do this for 3 months and you’ve got 60 videos ready to go. Combine this with some basic exercise videos and you have your foundational library. Now you can offer tier 1 and 2 plans with confidence.
Once you have content ready it’s time to think about the platform you will use for your online membership. There are various types of platforms and offerings on the market. It’s important to figure out which of the types below you fall into:
DIY = Do It Yourself
This is the type for people who want to roll up their sleeves and configure all the things. It will be the most cost-effective and the most time consuming. You will learn a lot with this approach.
DWY = Done With You
This is the type for people who want a coach or guide to help them along the way. Our member(dev) platform offering is a great example of a DWY package. This is a great approach if your budget is flexible and you value an expert helping with setup.
DFY = Done For You
This is the type for “busy” professionals who want minimal responsibility in the project. You simply want it done and you’re willing to pay a premium. Your role in these projects will be minimal but it will likely be a significant financial investment. We also execute these projects with qualified clients.
It’s also important to evaluate your platform feature set and ensure it will meet your current needs. Below are some common features to look for as a coaching business:
- Member registration / checkout
- Member CRM
- Content library (for exercise/workout videos)
- Courses (for training programs)
- Event / Calendar management
- LIVE streaming
You’ll also want to make sure the platform you choose can integrate with the following:
- Payment gateways (i.e. Stripe, Authorize.Net, PayPal, etc.)
- Email marketing tools (i.e. ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, Mailchimp, etc.)
Anything else will be icing on the cake.
- Don’t think too far into “future” land with your needs and requirements. This is a common trap that keeps people in purchase paralysis. You can always upgrade or migrate to another platform when the time comes.
- Most platforms offer similar features. Choose one that feels “easy” and aligned with how you work so you can stay focused on your content and marketing, instead of being bogged down with technical configuration.
Once your platform is built the final step is to prepare for launch! This is where you strategize how you’re going to reveal your new online fitness platform to the world. If you want to optimize sales and revenue, the launch process for any membership or online fitness program is critical.
Here are some important pre-launch tasks you should consider:
Be sure to test all the major features of your platform as if you were a paying member. This includes registration, checkout, content access, group class attendance, etc. You should have basic knowledge of how things work so you can properly support your members when questions arise.
2) New member onboarding
Your members’ first interactions with your platform will set the tone for their online membership experience. Put time and effort into a proper onboarding experience to make them feel welcome and appreciated. This can include a welcome email, personalized video and getting started steps inside the platform.
3) Email campaigns
Email is still the most effective way to reach audiences whether they’re existing members or future prospects. Be sure to craft a new member email campaign at a minimum. This will support your onboarding and help with retention metrics.
4) Waitlist & Pre-launch pilot
If you have an existing audience that is hungry for your new online platform you may entertain a “waitlist” period to build your pipeline. This can be combined with an early “pilot” period to gather early usage and feedback before official launch.
5) Launch offers
If you plan to drive significant revenue during launch you’ll want to strategize true “launch” promotion offers. This should include:
- Scarcity (i.e. 100 spots)
- Time restricted (i.e. 48-hour window)
- Discounted (i.e. 60% off normal price)**
Check our our membership site special sale offer video for more guidance on launch offers.
**For special [discounted] offers like launch promotions we always advise to make the discount compelling. People take action when they feel like they’re getting a killer deal, and these early member sign ups will be crucial to early revenue and feedback. You can always charge more later.
Now that your pre-launch tasks are complete there is only one thing left to do – launch!! This is where you get to see your hard work come to life.
However, the work is not over! This is also where you need to kick your marketing into full swing. Launching a membership platform is a critical step to building your online business. Marketing is the next step that will help you achieve true growth.
Here are some launch tips:
1. Launch on a weekday morning, preferably Tue-Thur. Here’s why:
- People are busy on Monday… they won’t have time to react.
- People are shutting down by Friday… they won’t be as purchase ready.
- They are checking their emails regularly the other days of the week 🙂
2. Have launch emails ready. This should include:
- Email 7 days before launch
- Email 3 days before launch
- Email 1 day before launch
- Email on launch day
- Email before launch period closes
3. Leverage social media to support your launch.
- This is where most people hang out online so be sure to supplement your email efforts with social media posts.
- Incentivize other people to share your launch via their social profiles and/or email.
Once you’ve completed your launch period take some time to rest and reward yourself. This is a big achievement that most people never accomplish. So it’s important to fully acknowledge that before getting back to work.
After launch you will have a new business model that needs attention and support.
Here are some post-launch tips:
- Focus on member feedback early on. They will help inform the future direction of content and online content you provide.
- Don’t stop marketing! This is what makes or breaks the membership businesses that grow. Invest in email, SEO, content marketing and/or paid traffic to keep people coming in.
By now you should have a better idea of all the major considerations for your online fitness platform. This is not a light task, especially if you’re new to managing online platforms. However, it will be well worth it in the long run as your clients seek online options.
Need help launching your online fitness platform?
Are you a gym owner or entrepreneur looking for help with this type of project? If so, get in touch via our “Get Started” button below!
We’ve guided hundreds of clients through this process. We’ll provide you with a free platform demo and then schedule a quick intro call to see if we’re the right fit for your project.
Ali is the founder of MemberDev. He's a serial entrepreneur and software engineer with over 15 years of experience building technology. Ali's spent the last decade focusing on membership websites and the subscription business model. He enjoys helping small businesses with early stage development and growth.