For health and fitness business owners and local business owners, 2021 continues to present the same challenges as the previous year. Lockdowns and restrictions on gyms, spas, personal trainers, and yoga studios have forced entrepreneurs to think outside the box. Taking action now is vital to staying ahead of changes in policies, customer behavioral changes, and overall economic downturn.
But even if you're not affected or you simply want some ideas for creating a sustainable fitness business (online or otherwise), it pays to make plans for the future.
Distinguish yourself from competitors, avoid the online traffic pitfalls, and find success with these tactics for your fitness business in 2021.
Note: I cannot offer financial advice or legal advice on how to operate a business that is facing economic hardships. But I can offer free advice on improving your online presence, your business marketing, and your business processes to help you operate more efficiently and productively.
Offer Your ‘Physical' Services Online
The world is moving online and more and more people are used to buying products, consuming courses, and interacting with other people from their laptop or mobile phone. The online course industry is gigantic and growing bigger every year. It wouldn’t be a surprise if 2020 is the year when the online education industry blossoms into one of the world’s biggest industries.
Take a hard look at the services you offer and decide if it’s possible to offer online services both in the near and long-term. Even if you believe that the downturn will pass quickly, the benefits of testing, building, and releasing online services will future proof (some of) your business. In the short-term, online services can be the lifeblood that keeps the company going.
Offer a technique coaching service for current clients. Accept video submissions of your clients performing yoga movements, lifting weights, or self-myofascial release and send the videos back with comments and critical advice.
Physiotherapy & Osteopathy
Online Physiotherapy classes are popular in many countries. Once clients understand that physio services do not always have to be “hands on”, they will be happy to continue, especially if you offer a discount or added benefits such as online material. A high-profile client of ours in Australia has embraced the online physiotherapy concept to prepare for the impact of Coronavirus closures or restrictions. Another client in New Zealand created an online Osteopathy service which is a fall-back income stream when “hands-on” services are unable to function.
Teaching Yoga online has been a popular way of delivering classes for many years, especially on platforms like YouTube. But using a platform like Teachable or Uscreen is a better way to serve courses with high-quality, ad-free video and materials to customers and clients.
One of CrossFit’s attractions is the ability to do a workout with minimal equipment. Set up a daily kettlebell fitness challenge for people that have the time and space to workout at home. You could create a daily video or a live stream.
Build A Membership Site
While few people can venture outside for anything but essentials, the trend in membership sites and paid groups is exploding. Businesses are waking up to the idea that customers are willing to pay for premium content and a sense of community during times when face-to-face communication is next to impossible. Creating a membership site for your community is the perfect side hustle and can even be a viable alternative to the bricks and mortar business model.
This might sound like a lot of work but it's really not. Especially if you use an off-the-shelf membership product like Memberstack. Build your membership site quickly and start a community of paying members.
Which types of fitness businesses can benefit from Membership or Community sites?
Personal training, weight loss and dieting advice, health coaching, wellness coaching, and dance studios, are just some of the traditional businesses that can work as online fitness businesses relying on community and good leadership. Even massage therapy businesses, which appear to have no place online, can work. The key is to think outside the box. Offer specialized training, videos, self-massage technique tutorials, advice areas, and even teacher training. Virtual fitness businesses can outperform physical fitness businesses in terms of scale and revenue with almost no upfront costs.
Blog About What You Know
Blogging is alive and well, despite the growth of social media. Blogs can generate millions of dollars of income for even solo entrepreneurs with the skills to create great content. And that last bit is the key. Create great content that answers people's questions and you've got a potential business on your hands.
Blogs can be monetized through ads, affiliate marketing, sponsorships. They can also be the acquisition channel for fitness professionals that sell courses, memberships, or newsletter subscriptions. Blogs with good traffic levels and steady revenue can sell for up to 45 times their monthly profit. Affiliate marketing websites in fitness are popular with investors and website buyers. Promoting products and services that you use and like through helpful content is a common way for bloggers and influencers to make money in the online fitness space.
Up Your Content Marketing Game
Business owners and employees with nothing to do can use their time to write guides, articles, and Frequently Asked Question posts that will help customers.
Brainstorm with your team common questions people ask. Read through the comments on Facebook. Check your email correspondence and read messages on Facebook, Instagram, and Google My Business. You will see common questions and get ideas for helpful blog posts. Answer your customers' concerns or talk about common misconceptions around your industry, services, or business. Give detailed How-To guides on topics related to your industry.
All of this content will not only be useful for referring people, it will also generate organic traffic in Google. And that will help your company in the long term.
Ideas for communicating with your clients:
- A blog post about the effects of Coronavirus on your employees, your reasons for closing, and your plans for the future.
- Instagram stories and daily posts about life outside of work. If you run a yoga studio, create short daily instructional videos. If you run a gym, host YouTube Live training sessions. CrossFit gym owners, publish WODs on your blog and all social channels!
- Start a live Q&A webinar to answer customer questions about their health and the therapies or treatments they are unable to enjoy during a business lockdown.
Use your email list
Your email list is one of the most valuable marketing channels available to you. It’s been shown consistently that email converts readers to customers and customers into loyal fans. Of course, this only applies if it’s done right.
Take a look at your email marketing provider. Are you using Mailchimp with a list of over 1000 people? It might be time to switch to a better and cheaper email marketing platform like MailerLite.
Newsletters are one of the fastest-growing marketing channels in 2021. Who would have thought that in the age of free information on the internet, people would still subscribe to newsletters? But it doesn't stop there. Many entrepreneurs have built lucrative businesses out of paid subscription newsletters.
Some examples of successful fitness industry newsletters:
It’s time to learn how to automate your business. This isn’t about firing employees or letting the robots take over. It’s about putting systems in place to improve efficiency by automating repetitive and menial tasks to free up your time and the time of your employees to do more engaging and important work.
Tools like Zapier, Process Street, Pabbly Connect, and the excellent Uncanny Automator for WordPress can really help you streamline your business, create standard operating procedures (SOPs) and save money in the short and long term.
And here's an opportunity for a savvy entrepreneur who understands both automation and the fitness industry.
Fitness professionals often have other things to focus on. Automating their business might be a long-term goal but it's not a priority for many. There's a business opportunity for people who can help fitness professionals automate their business using the software I mentioned above or other time and resourcing-saving tools.
Maybe your next health and fitness business startup is helping fitness businesses work smarter.
Start a Podcast
Podcasting is becoming one of the most powerful forms of marketing and audience building. Podcasts help you connect with your audience in many ways. It shows the personal, human side of your business and can be a great way to build trust. It can help you talk to your audience even if they can’t meet you or your employees in person.
And the great thing is that thanks to modern technology, you can schedule, record, and produce everything yourself without leaving your home or spending money on fancy recording equipment.
- Descript – edit audio and video like a Word doc. The easiest-to-use podcast editor.
- Call Recorder – record both ends of a Skype audio or video call
- Type Studio – innovative text-based podcast editing suite that runs directly in your browser
- Podhacker System – learn everything you need to start and grow successful podcast show
- Podcast.co – host and deliver your audio to listeners in one easy-to-use platform.
Sell gift cards and vouchers
Your customers don’t want to see your business fail. One way they can support you during this difficult time is to buy gift vouchers to use when your clinic, studio, or gym opens again. Selling vouchers and gift cards online has never been easier and doesn’t require employee hours to process if you automate everything. Businesses with WordPress-based websites can take advantage of the free WooCommerce plugin, a robust and powerful e-commerce tool that lets you sell online through your own website.
Give back and support your local community
Are there restaurants and cafes near your local storefronts that are feeling the pinch? Do you have a favourite cafe nearby that needs help? Think about the businesses in your area that indirectly funnel customers to your door. Think about the local eateries and hangouts that, if they were closed tomorrow, would leave a void in your local area.
Support these businesses by donating or buying gift cards or pre-paid vouchers for meals. Local businesses must support the other SMBs in the ecosystem, and this is where helping your neighbour will also help you in the long run.
While this isn't about being self-serving, there are a few benefits to this approach. One is the possibility of getting a backlink from local businesses or media. This not only helps create “trust signals” or authority in the Google algorithm but can also drive traffic and leads.
Adjust your ad spend
Digital advertising is great for generating customer leads and driving traffic. But if nobody can buy your products and services, it’s a waste of money. However, for many businesses, now is the time to make big changes in ad targeting. For others, now is the time to increase spending.
According to WordStream, these 7 industries have increased spend and have improved results from Google Ads since the Coronavirus outbreak began to affect the world.
- Non-profits and charities
- Health and medical
- Business management
- Beauty and personal care
- On-demand media
- Greetings, gifts, and flowers
It’s not surprising that the hospitality industry, travel, live entertainment and sports industries have seen the biggest drops in terms of ad spend and ad performance. Nobody is looking for the best restaurant in Paris right now because it’s not open to the public.
Go through your Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and any other advertising campaigns and turn off the ones that do not offer at least 30 days return on investment (ROI). Many businesses offer discounts for impulse buyers or local shoppers. Turn these off until you open the doors again. This can save a lot of advertising budget that you can use to ramp up interest when the storm has passed.