Building a Brand 101 in Fitness

What should you name your fitness class, studio, live streaming program or product?

Building a Brand 101

In fitness we are always faced with the decision of which brand to attach ourselves to versus creating our own. There’s also the option to simply work with an established commoditized idea without any branding at all.  Examples of all three look like this; “I teach Barre Above”, “I teach Tricia’s Barre” or “I teach Barre” – All three of these describe something similar but will all have a different effect on  your business model. Understanding your “why” when deciding which brand direction to choose is very important for building your following and future business. All three can work but there are certainly upsides and downsides to all of them. Let’s look at all three.

Because barre is my  wheelhouse, I will use it as the example as we analyze the different pros and cons.  This process of evaluation works for almost any fitness concept from a HIIT class to website design.

First: Personalized Brand – Tricia’s Barre Workout

Let’s say you began teaching a few years back and you immediately realized that your personal connection with your members or students was one of your true gifts. Your students are drawn to you, they love what you offer, and they are willing to trust you personally. Your brand has now become YOU, the person as well as the services your offer. You have created a circumstance where you decide you can tie your name to the business brand.

Upsides!

  • People who love you and who are your biggest fans, will love this. There’s an incredible podcast by Tim Ferris called 1000 True Fans which really helps you see the value of serving and inspiring them to be your early adopters and voices for the growth of your business.    https://tim.blog/tag/1000-true-fans/
  • This brand will be exclusive to you and your students will feel as though your workouts can only be found through you so they may be willing to pay a premium.

Downsides!

  • It’s hard to expand your business if your name is attached to it. What if you need subs or want to add more classes or build more studios/clubs?
  • For the same reason your name could bring them in, it can also keep them away. Let’s be honest I’m not everyone’s cup of tea so anyone who doesn’t like me, likely won’t walk into Tricia’s Barre Studio. 
  • It’s extraordinarily hard to franchise or scale a business with an individual’s name attached.

Second: Commoditized Idea – I teach Barre Classes

Years ago, when barre first moved into major markets other than New York and LA, the high-end franchises were dominating the scene. Our group fitness director, Danielle Sharp, at the time wisely decided to simply offer “Barre” classes and for a lower price than all of the high-end brands and the commodity shopper came in by the hundreds. She understood how important it is to recognize how valuable the commodity shopper is. Many luxury brands sell high end products but make their money in their commoditized sales pathways. The club, Community Fitness – Seattle WA had immediate success and packed classes. Many billion- dollar product and sales companies have made their margin in awesome generic products.

Upsides!

  • Inexpensive because there are zero branding expenses associated.
  • You can reach a larger audience and make fitness more affordable for larger markets of people.
  • Your investment costs are minimal.

Downsides!

You have to create a great experience and hire the best staff; you have to create an experience consumers will brag about being a part of.  Think about how often you might brag about hitting “Target”.  This is no easy feat but it’s possible especially if there are tons of high-end brands in your area.

Third: Brand Connected – “I teach Barre Above”

Upsides!

  • Perceived status and social signaling occurs naturally when we associate ourselves with a high-end brand. When you have a well-known brand on your schedule or even a highly recognized certification like ACE next to your name there is a perceived social status from your customers. Think about when you see a house with a Tesla in the driveway, you immediately perceive them as a home of means even if that’s not the case.
  • Members of any facility feel comfort with well- known brands. The familiarity can often times drive them into your facility or even specifically into classes.
  • There’s also higher perceived value with high end brands. If I spend more I am getting more. Not necessarily the facts but perception can often be a person’s reality.

Downsides!

  • If you have a high-end brand and you make a mistake, it goes viral.  A herculean effort to protect your brand. If one person doesn’t like your brand, they can really make their mark with this new technology age.
  • Collateral is very expensive to produce between logo, website, marketing, trademark, etc.

It’s more important than ever to process the decisions we make when it comes to deciding how to brand our classes and services or even facilities.  Try to look at the positives and negative and think through your long-term plans.

Tricia Madden, Co-Creator of Barre Above, Founder of Homeroom Fit and Award winning industry speaker.

To FREE or not to FREE … that is the question. How to charge for your classes in this crazy time?

In a matter of two weeks the Corona Virus has changed the face of how consumers experience fitness. As the announcement of social distancing hit news outlets across the country, fitness instructors and trainers woke up to the new reality of how they make a living, and live their daily lives.
Fitness instructors are built to teach and inspire people to move their bodies. After nearly 30 years of teaching fitness, it feels weird to not boss people around every day. Like most instructors and trainers my natural instinct was to quickly adapt and start streaming workouts to my wonderful fit tribe members around the Pacific Northwest. They have been loyal to me over the years, and I wanted to make sure they were still moving.

I quickly realized that might be a hasty decision affecting my long-term employment and well-being. Afterall, we have spent our entire careers trying to prove to the world why we are valuable and should be paid accordingly.

If you are making these decisions right now for yourself or your facility – think through your WHY? Why do you want to post content? Is it to serve loyal clients, is it to grow your social media status, or is it to keep yourself busy? BTW, there’s no wrong answer. Once you define your WHY, you can make the best decision for yourself.
I decided to look at the long-term outcomes of putting my content online. I work for three independent facilities and one large brand (CorePower Yoga) and the ability of these businesses to re-open when this is over will affect my personal finances for years to come. I teach and educate for a living, so this was one of the bigger decisions of my life.

I also had a hard conversation with myself since there is already incredible content out there for free! In the age of Peleton and Beach Body it is nearly impossible to compete with video quality, music and overall experience. If someone isn’t in my Fit Tribe here locally why would they choose my streaming over some of these awesome content providers? I do a mean posterior lunge – but I’m not sure it’s much different than most other lunges.

After some consideration I decided to work with each of my facilities independently to understand what their needs are, and if they could compensate me or if my contributions would help retain memberships and jobs after this is over. In all four cases, I worked with the clubs to establish best practices. So far, there are four distinctly different scenarios happening and hopefully this list helps you make some decisions.

  1. Denali Fitness: a small independently owned health club here in Seattle.
    Inviting members to participate in online classes included with their membership if they retain it during the closure. The owners are compensating all the instructors who teach these classes.
  2. Earth Wind Fire, an independent yoga studio
    Charging for classes but considerably less than the in-studio practice classes. It’s working very well. They are compensating at our regular rate which is very generous and the attendees seem to be very happy to practice with their favorite yogis.
  3. Community Fitness, large group fitness only facility.
    Streaming 4-6 classes per day and asking membership to donate for each class. They are compensating the instructors, and it’s making a difference and keeping the community happy.

From what I can see so far the donation based offering is working the best for generating revenue for the clubs. The views and users for my classes at that facility are above 70 so the “pay what you can plan” is working the best. Right now, everyone’s financial outlook is very different. Some families and individuals are relatively unaffected and some are devastated. Pay what you can allows everyone to participate however the Virus hits their pocket book.

Keep in mind; these clubs will not generate the revenue they would for in person classes, but this small amount might just help cover their run rate and keep their doors open. For the instructors teaching 3-4 classes a week via live streaming it is not the same compensation as my regular 9 classes per week pay but it keeps my clients engaged. At least it pays for the needed toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Knowing my regulars are working out with me is also very motivating.

I also teach for a corporate yoga chain offering all of the instructors two weeks’ pay because they have on-demand classes already available to their members.
While there are endless options and business models, what if none of these scenarios match you? Maybe none of your clubs want to take on streaming, or they simply can’t afford it. What if they need to furlough you? If you want to do what you love you may want to look at more unique ways to offer your gifts. Instead of competing with high-end on-demand programming that is now in many cases free, consider giving your services to those in need.

Everyone knows family members who are truly self-quarantined and craving connection and exercise. Maybe your parents need to move and don’t know what to do? Maybe their friends do as well? Why not provide them movement three or four times a week.

Know any parents who would love a 10-15 minute recess exercise video they can do with their kids? How about teaching twice a day to your children’s school friends? This free service would be an incredible treat for your kids to connect with their classmates. Incredible apps like zoom can help them see their friends move, and communicate together.

Knowing your WHY is more important than ever as you respond to this crisis. By providing your services for free, you may make it difficult to charge for your talents later. You are NOT FREE, your talent is very valuable. As the old saying goes WHY buy the Cow when you can get the milk for FREE? This could never be more true.

Good luck, stay healthy, stay focused and make good decisions for today, tomorrow and next year.

15 Ways to Keep Your Group Fitness Class Safe

A Seattle instructors viewpoint on simple changes to consider for your next fitness class.

In a matter of days our care-free world here in Seattle changed when the Corona Virus was first detected in our state. Up until that point, grey sky’s and the typical gloomy February were our biggest complaints as a community. Now, our lives are changed for good.

Maybe we should have been this diligent before? YES, the flu is dangerous, and how inconvenient is it to catch a cold? Think of all the times we could have prevented the passing of other gnarly viruses!

While we are in the thick of this epidemic here in the PNW, health clubs are open and most classes are taking place. They are smaller in size as we have convinced our community to stay home even if all they have is a sniffle. However; it’s not business as usual. We are not digging our heads in the sand and pretending nothing is happening. We are taking action as a community to protect our clients and students. The following suggestions are simple approaches to teaching my classes right now. This is how I hope to operate year round with or without a contagious virus moving around our community.

Keep in mind, my typical customer is healthy but some have weakened immune systems and they may have friends, parents or grandparents they care for at home. This is why it’s important not to downplay staying healthy in group fitness.

From everything I’ve read, these steps below could significantly reduce the possibility of the virus spreading in a fitness class:

  1. When clients arrive, have them wash their hands.
  2. Remind students to bring their own mats if they own them.
  3. Do not provide any hands-on assists. Test your verbal communication skills.
  4. Arrive prior to your students and cleanse any equipment you are utilizing in class. Clean weights, balls, etc. in advance. Make sure the cleanser you are using is known to kill the virus. Consider whether it needs to dry etc.
  5. Teach a bodyweight class. I have a class in Seattle where most of my clients are over 65 years old so for the time-being I am teaching body weight only.
  6. For goodness sake, NO circuit training!! HELLO!
  7. Have students’ clean mats and equipment both before and after using.
  8. When lying on the ground, have students keep hands face up.
  9. Remind students that even the smallest sickness should keep them from attending.
  10. Set up your students so they have 6 feet of space in front their body and as much space around them as possible. Clubs should limit attendance to accommodate.
  11. In Hot classes encourage students to wear Barre Sox for coverage. I am biased here as it’s the company I work for. barresox.com
  12. Remind students to not touch their faces and encourage them to wear their hair up as it will help them not touch their faces.
  13. No high fives, no hugs, no touching. This will be difficult for most of us.
  14. Ask your clients to wash their hands as they leave as well.
  15. It’s your class – Take control.

 

Let your students know you are serious about all of the above and if they don’t comply they will not be allowed to participate. I had a client in her early 70’s last week tell me she’s not worried when I asked her to clean her mat because “she doesn’t get these things.” My answer “well, other people do.” While we are still learning about this Virus, these are my simple go-to’s for doing what I can. I want citizens to continue exercising since we know exercise, great nutrition and rest are the best tools for combating any virus. Hopefully these ideas will help all of you. Please don’t wait until your part of the world is in crisis. Start healthy protocols now.

Peloton Killed the Cardio Star

 

The problem with old home workouts, was even if you ignored the terrible music and often watered down movements, you quickly ended up debating a load of laundry, making dinner or just sitting down to watch. For the last 30 years these videos were short fixes, never considered better than the real thing. Part of the so-called “Pain that came with the gain” was the struggle to get to the gym in the first place (traffic, parking, baby-sitters, gym-bags). Home workouts were like Mrs. Watts, the high school substitute teacher of fitness. They helped you through the day, but you ended up making fun of it, rather than learning anything.

Even the big stars had a hard time making in-home fitness productions pencil out and the only way to create truly awesome in-home experience was invest largely. You had to be a Tami Lee Webb, Jane Fonda or Kari Anderson to know you could invest in the quality necessary to see a return.

As a gym fitness professional, you were never concerned about your members simply choosing home-videos over a live class if proximity and affordability were no issue. Having filmed many such DVD’s, I never once lost a customer to a “home version” of myself.

Over the past 10 years, many groups have made huge leaps in improving home workout experiences. Until recently I wasn’t concerned, because while those experiences were getting better, I could still provide my members a better energy and motivation along with the community of their fellow classmates. As Instructors we are now entertainers, DJ’s, and have loyal fan clubs that follow us around coined #fittribes. The change in what all we offer has helped grow our role in members lives.

Then, about two years ago, the word “Peloton” started springing up everywhere. For the first time, my clients were bragging in the locker room about their new bikes and the incredible home workout experience. This was new. The number of clients I know who talk about riding at home, showing off rankings on their smartphones, is growing daily.

Is this a problem? Should we, the group fitness instructor be worried?

I think so, because we have seen this story before.

It used to be that popping in a VHS of “Pretty Woman” was a subpar experience to seeing it on the big screen – it took 10 minutes to rewind the tape for goodness sake. Now, with an “on-demand lifestyle”, your 72 inch plasma TV, fancy home audio system, and food delivery through your phone make your home movie experience quite enjoyable – plus you can hit pause any time to use the bathroom. It is no wonder movie theatres have to woo you in with blankets, recliners, and drinks delivered to your seats to keep you coming back.  

Netflix went around the retail video chains and went straight into your TV. Amazon went around retailers and directly to your front door step. We now see Peleton copying the same model. Flanking big retail gyms, and going directly into living rooms. The sleek engineered new bikes could be the next fitness fad that comes and goes.  We all know there have been large fitness tools that went from Hit to Hanger (literally hanging clothes). In this case, we have a new product coupled with a highly disruptive process that feels like another Airbnb, Amazon, Uber, Netflix. The product is popular, but the process of on-demand teaching and content, much like an Amazon, is a true disruptor. This time it feels different. Much like amazon didn’t stop with books and movies, I have a feeling the bike is just first chapter towards cementing the process for staying in your home for good. Once Amazon got good at delivering books and CD’s to your door in two days, moving to other product lines was an easier step. Peleton will likely follow a similar path, before even accounting for all the other competition in this genre of in-home exercise. 

Of course just copying another process won’t suffice in keeping Peleton in your house, unless the product delivers. And here’s the scary part … it does!

Peloton instructors are beyond entertainers and motivators. They are both inspirational and aspirational, young, but not too young. Attractive but edgy. Peleton mastered the art of hiring in a few short years.

They also created a community many thought wasn’t possible, with an on-line interface that has clients sending photos when they miss my class and instead jump on their Peleton.  

Skipping class and working at home use to be drag, now it’s a chance to BRAG, with verified accomplishments.

What’s wrong with your clients having incredible home workouts? Absolutely nothing, we want them to workout wherever they are. Our motto as an industry is to “inspire the world to move.” So any exercise is good in theory.

Is there a way to get the consumer to both workout at home with these incredible hybrid brands but still remain our members and clients? Only if we get our act together.

Of course, in the health club environment we can provide the truly personal experience with everything from great front desk staffing, and personal relationships. In effect we create the 3rd place, much like the Starbucks model offers. There’s something to be said for walking in a room and having your Norm moment where “everyone knows your name.” Or when we notice a member hasn’t shown up to class in a while and reach out to assure their return. This is the basis for how we’ve continued to grow as an industry for so many years. Personalization could very well save us.

The issue you face is that Peleton also figured out this puzzle. They come straight into your home, provide an incredible workout, and remember to wish you a happy birthday when their done. Additionally, they have created a deep bench of viral stars that can feel like your local barista that knows your order and your name after a few sessions.

Maybe you are right, and those Peloton’s will be collecting dust in a year much like so many big hits of the past. But when I see these texts from my Fittribe members excited to miss the gym, I sense a storm is coming. If you are like me and want to surf the coming wave, I have the playbook to work through this trend and even grow as they do. There are numerous companies moving into this category so let’s not be the Blockbuster Video in a story that hasn’t fully been told.

 

  For a few tips, drop me your email and we can talk solutions. You can also follow me on Insta @murphmadden or twitter #murphmadden