Sales in the Time of COVID-19: What People Are Buying and How to Sell It

Sales in the Time of COVID-19: What People Are Buying and How to Sell It

Mike (00:02):

Deep into the COVID crisis, gym owners are realizing they need to sell something to stay afloat, but many are struggling to do so. Is online training worth anything? Will anyone buy it? What do I sell and how? If you have questions like this, we have answers. I’m Mike Warkentin and I’m back with sales expert Jeff Burlingame right after this. The coronavirus crisis is creating chaos and it’s hard to know what to do. To help, Two-Brain Business has put together a page of essential resources for gym owners. We’ve got articles and podcasts just like this one as well as info on loans and government aid. You’ll also find the free guide, “How to Add Online Training in 24 Hours.” Head to TwoBrainbusiness.com and click COVID-19 in the top menu. The page is updated daily, so bookmark it and check back regularly. Again, this is Two-Brain Radio. I’m Mike Warkentin, and certified mentor. Jeff Burlingame is here to help with selling during a pandemic. For the last weeks, Jeff has talked to a host of his mentees and he’s heard about the problems owners are having as they try to move online and completely revamp their businesses. In some cases, owners are trying to sell stuff they’ve never sold before or invented and set up a week ago. Today we’ll talk about common problems and Jeff will offer solutions to help you make some sales as fast as possible. So, Jeff, how are we doing? I know it’s a tough time. How are things going in the community right now?

Jeff (01:19):

Yeah. Hey, things are, well, they’re tough as most would expect. But you know, the surprising thing is I guess less surprising because of the amazing group that is involved in Two-Brain, but seeing these gym owners persevere and just really fighting through this thing. I guess it’s important to keep in mind that it is hard. It’s hard on everybody in all different industries, but you know, when you’re deemed non-essential, it’s very challenging to, to accept that. But you know what I’ve seen with the Two-Brain family and the Gym Owners United group is just people really getting after this thing, moving online, doing the work. And for the vast majority of them it’s working out in a good way. And a lot of them as we were talking like right before the podcast here is like we’re seeing a new opportunity that might be the opportunity that we go with. Maybe we change our business model afterwards. Who knows?

Mike (02:19):

Yeah, we’re in uncharted territory here for sure. But it’s, I hear you. Gym owners and entrepreneurs are some of the hardest-working people and no one who owns a small business has ever shied away from a long work day. And I’m sure there are a lot of those being put in right now. The goal here over the next little bit is for you to help people not necessarily work hard, but work smart and answer some questions because I know you’ve got a ton of sales experience and I know a lot of gyms right now had their, you know, the thing that they sell has been taken away, which was in-person group classes or personal training. And now we’re trying to figure out a way around that. So let’s get right into it and try and help some people. All right, so we’ll start right into it. Two-Brain has recommended owners pivot fast to online coaching. We’ve spoken to dozens of clients since gyms started shutting down around the world. What are some of the speed bumps that are holding people up right now? What are the challenges?

Jeff (03:08):

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think the number one challenge is pivoting the program. It’s the actual thing we’re telling them to do because this is, as you said, unchartered territory for a lot of people. It’s something new, something different. I think it’s important before we even jump into this to recognize that this is not the first time this has ever happened in any industry. Like this is not new. This has happened under different circumstances, not necessarily a pandemic for example, but it’s happened. Industries pivot, industries change, the fitness industry and landscape has changed decade over decade for years and years and years. This is nothing new. And if we can get past that initial problem that we’re kind of looking at, staring us right in the face as this big, hairy, scary thing that’s happening, we can potentially dig deep enough to find the opportunity. And I think there’s a huge opportunity.

Mike (04:04):

We want to be, we want to be Netflix, not Blockbuster Video, right. People aren’t going to the video store to pick up that tape anymore. They’re clicking online and so hopefully our gym owners can figure this out too.

Jeff (04:15):

Yeah. And I mean, to be fair, they tried to pivot. They just, they may be ran into these speed bumps and gave up. So some of the things that we’re seeing out there is, you know, number one, they’re just posting programming. So it’s kinda like pivot to online. OK, cool. I’ve moved my workouts online, they’re online now, I’m done. But that’s just your programming and that’s not enough. So what we’re asking, yes, is more work. And this is where I’m hearing from gym owners a lot. It’s like, man, it sucks to be back to the Founder phase. And yeah, absolutely it does. But you’re essentially in new territory as we keep saying, you’re running a different business right now and you have to understand that. And your other business still exists its Farmer or maybe Tinker phase form and we’ll go back to that when you reopen your doors. And I will say when, because I’m going to uphold positivity here as much as I can.

Mike (05:10):

I like it. I’m going to grind one ax and I’m just going to say as a gym owner and a guy who used to think that, you know, my programming was amazing, I don’t think programming is all that important anymore. I understand that there’s bad programming, there’s good programming, but I also understand that the programming is not the thing. What we’ve learned now is it’s accountability and it’s motivation. It’s helping people. It’s building relationships. You can tell people to squat 40 times, 50 times, 60 times. We don’t actually know which is optimal. Your special workouts maybe aren’t the thing anymore. And I think big part of that may be letting go and if gym owners can start doing that, maybe we’ll move on here a little bit faster.

Jeff (05:46):

Yeah, we’re kind of in an area of forced acceptance here. We’ve been saying at Two-Brain for years that it’s not about the quote unquote community or programming or location or shiny equipment or any of that. It is still about coaching. And here’s the surprising thing. If you move online, you’re still selling coaching. Coaching is still the primary resource here and we’re still pushing that and that’s why it’s still has value. So with that, you know, if you’re just posting your program and you’re not adding value or even novelty, like the novelty of it being online. And I received my workout through my phone, I mean most gyms have already been doing that in the gym. Like if you’re on some of these membership platforms, like you’re getting the workouts, so that’s nothing new. There is no novelty there. So, the next speed bump is not adding value or novelty and associated with that speed bump giving them everything all at once, which is too much novelty in one dose.

Jeff (06:45):

So when we’re talking value, what we’re talking about is providing coaching to your current members. So not just saying, all right guys, here’s the workout of the day, text me if you need anything. See you later. No, it’s text that person. Get ahead of it. Say, Hey Susie, hopefully you saw the workout today. Are you going to have time to do that? Yes or no? And if they say no, this is where accountability comes into play where you say, why not? Do you have time? Yeah. Susie has time. She’s at home not doing anything, so we’re going to help her make time for this. How can we help them with their schedule? Could we provide a sample schedule? There’s some added value to here’s how you should manage your day when you’re stuck at home. New to working from home? Here’s how we manage that too, right?

Jeff (07:25):

And just help them provide that guidance, that accountability. That’s huge for value. And then on top of that, once we get ahold of Susie and we know she’s doing the workout, then we say, Susie, here’s how I want you to do the workout today. What equipment do you have in your house? I don’t have any. OK. Susie, do you have a backpack? I do. Do you have some books? I do. OK. Put the books in your backpack. You have a weighted bag now. Right? So we can provide value in that way. Nobody else is doing that. And if you’re just posting programming, the reason you’re missing the point is because every other company is posting programming right now for free. And you can’t compete with free because you need your members still to be paying you so you’re bringing in revenue so you don’t go bankrupt.

Jeff (08:08):

So you can’t just post the program. You have to coach them through that. And then you have to provide some form of novelty. So you know the DIY equipment is an example. Give them some running programming because everybody’s running. Not everybody has a rower or a an Assault air bike in their basement, but it’s like they got to do something so they’re probably going to run at this time. So coach them through that, coach them through yoga, give them some like added value resources, something different that you normally maybe wouldn’t have time for or didn’t know where to fit into your schedule when you had the physical location open. And then there’s, you know, tons of other amazing things that the Two-Brain family’s come up with too as far as novelty goes. But the important thing that I also mentioned is don’t give it to them all at once.

Jeff (08:57):

So what I’ve been doing with a lot of mentees that I work with with Two-Brain is we come up with a schedule for this. We call them phases. Sort of say like, Hey, phase one is like week one. Week one, you just moved the program online, divvy up your clients amongst the coaches, hopefully if you have coaches to help you. Otherwise it’s the you show, that’s the founder phase, we’re back to that. We just do that online. We contact every member that week. Phase two, week two, we’re going to add running programming three days a week. Phase three, week three, we’re going to provide yoga. Phase four, so on and so forth. Right? So spread it out over the course of this, however long this lasts.

Mike (09:37):

You’ve only got so many treats, right? So you’re not giving the whole bag away right at the start.

Jeff (09:42):

Yeah, exactly. Because that’s the thing with novelty is we’re seeing, and this is now data-backed, that this wears off. Novelty wears off. And I think we can all accept that because we know that and we’ve seen that in our lives in other examples, it’s like I’m finally got this thing and then two weeks later, like whatever, it’s a normal part of your life, right? So we have to say, here’s this thing and next week there’s this thing, and even release the schedule ahead of time and say here’s like our next six weeks of amazingness because you want them to keep their membership. So give them something to look forward to. Especially in such uncertain times as these.

Mike (10:22):

Yeah. This is nothing, honestly, I’ve heard you say this before when it wasn’t the COVID crisis because you still have to maintain novelty even in your gym. Right? I think all of us did a poor job of that at times where we were just, you know, putting up Fran and Helen and doing the workouts and not doing these in-house competitions and WOD and wine and you know, the pancake breakfast and all these different things that you can do and sort of affinity marketing retention tools. Now it becomes even more important to do that because you don’t have that in-person fist bump anymore. You’ve got to find ways to keep generating that novelty with something that’s like, I’m in my basement, I’m in here all the time. You know, you’ve got to find ways to do that.

Mike (10:57):

So I’m definitely with you. And we tried to do that, coming up with ideas that we’re rolling out, at our gym. Same thing, just ideas to get people engaged. And then, this is again, this is something that Chris has talked about. The Catalyst Games, Chris has run it at his gym. That was something I think he, I believe he developed in summer to help with retention in summer where it was a slow time cause everyone’s outside. I think he set it up, if I’m not mistaken, for August or September or something like that, to give people a reason to train, you know? And so that’s the exact same principle now applied here. But you’re saying don’t give them just programming and then don’t give them everything all at once.

Jeff (11:35):

Yeah. Spread it out if you can. And you’re right. Like this is a time where weaknesses will be exposed. I mean CrossFitters should be pretty familiar with that concept. But this is an example in terms of business where that’s happening. Again like going back to the Blockbuster/Netflix situation, like you’ve got to pivot and you’ve got to go with the data-backed information if you can find it. Luckily we’re lucky enough at Two-Brain to be able to collect some of this data from our affiliates that are in highly effected areas like China where they dealt with this long before it even got to the States. So you know, we’re almost 10 weeks deep into the understanding of the situation there for example. And that’s helping a lot.

Mike (12:24):

So when we’ve got, specific issues with sales, I’m going to get to that in a sec, but we’ve just said that we’re asking owners or recommending owners pivot to online coaching. So what I’m seeing is a lot of owners, and I’ve seen discussions in various Facebook groups and all over the place, public and private, some gym owners are really not seeing the value of online coaching. And I think we’ve talked before with you on sales. Sales is about confidence, right? You have to have this belief that this thing is worth the money and I’m going to sell it to you and it’s awesome. It’s life-changing and I believe in it. If you’re like kind of wishy washy about the product or service, you’re probably not going to sell it really well. And I think a lot of our owners are struggling with that. Am I right? Is that what you’ve seen in your calls?

Jeff (13:03):

Yeah, unfortunately, yes. So here’s a thought on that, right? And this is maybe I dunno, a little more abrasive or callous.

Mike (13:12):

Let’s do it, it’s the time for tough love.

Jeff (13:12):

But here’s the deal. If you honestly don’t believe that you can’t get your members results from home with no equipment, then how can you call yourself a coach? You have to be able to do that and to be fair to you, too, like, did you not get into this business to help people get results? And how is an obstruction like just being at home and not having all this shiny fancy equipment available to them something that’s going to prevent you from doing that? You can’t let that happen. So I firmly believe that with no equipment I could get people results. You know, and it’s just a matter of accountability, coaching them through those movements or the whatever programming you’re providing for them.

Jeff (13:59):

But having that one to one approach to it makes such a huge difference. And that’s why I find it valuable. And this is something that I think, you know, even if we had physical doors open, this is starting to help us realize that there were people out there that normally would have never approached your physical space anyways, no matter what you did.

Mike (14:18):

Because it looks scary in there.

Jeff (14:18):

Yeah, exactly. But they still need to get these results. They still need to be healthy and well, and we know that we can provide that for them. We just have to change our tactics and approach to it. So I firmly believe like when we go back to physical doors open, any gym that sticks to the online coaching could provide these solutions for people that normally would never come to your gym and effectively grow a whole new revenue stream that is really valuable.

Jeff (14:49):

But you’ve got to get past your initial, I guess these mind-blocking thoughts that you have, this value block that you have in your brain right now. There’s no way this isn’t valuable. There’s no way that just because they don’t have equipment, they can’t get results. There are businesses built around calisthenics and it’s been an industry forever. It’s nothing new. And the fact that you can DIY most of the most effective equipment implements means you have more than just body weight. So quit getting hung up on that. Like you don’t have your shiny equipment, you don’t have a barbell. It’s gone. The rower’s gone, the bike’s gone. There’s no rig. We have to get over it. We don’t have a choice. So give that up, accept that you can still get people results even if they just have themselves as the only implement.

Mike (15:43):

So we’ve all grown up here, quote unquote in the, you know, the gym business believing that our clients come for our gear and our space and our in-person cues. But it’s not about that right now. Right. Because we don’t have any of that stuff unless you’re doing online, like in video, you know, training, which is not really what we’re recommending. We’re talking about giving people programming and personal accountability. So talk to me about the value of that accountability, personalization and constant contact in the client’s mind. Cause again, there’s gym owners out there that are just saying, Oh, all the stuff, my gear, my space, everything’s gone. In a client’s mind, what is that value? How valuable is accountability? Constant contact and personalization?

Jeff (16:24):

Yeah. I would say this. Think about a member in your class right now. So you’re coaching class. You have 10 people in the class. How much time do you dedicate to each individual that is 100% coaching conversation and help and guidance.

Mike (16:40):

Yeah. In a class, you’re probably, depending on the size of the class, you’re probably rolling around maybe three times in 20, 40 seconds, something like that. Maybe

Jeff (16:49):

Five minutes. Three to five minutes of class is what you’re providing. The conversations you have before or after class, likely most of the time, not coaching related, not helping them in any way. So let’s be real. If you can contact them personally for five minutes plus, you’re doing what you did in the gym, in the physical space, if not more. So how is that not valuable? Right. It’s just the conversation itself. Like again, going back to Susie as the example, it’s like, call up Susie. You say, Susie, doing the WOD today. If no, why not? That level of accountability already, highly valuable. Now we know she’s doing it. Hey, but I don’t think I can do these squats this way as it’s written. That’s OK, Susie, I’m going to have you do it this way. Now we’ve modified the movements for her. Now she knows she can do the workout. She’s found a more customer personalized approach to it. So she feels more comfortable doing that. And then maybe we even have her send us a video of what she’s doing and we can coach her through that. That’s something you would normally offer with personal training. Now you’re doing with this program again, value, value, value. Like you just keep building. Maybe we help with nutrition, maybe we coach her through running or yoga. Like all of a sudden it’s all these different things that they weren’t getting before, or at the very least they would have to receive from multiple other media outlets. So rather than going out and finding this information, which takes some level of proactivity and energy that they may not have right now, let’s really recognize how we’re all feeling at this moment. They need accountability right now more than ever. And that’s what you can provide with online coaching, which is what makes it amazing.

Mike (18:34):

You make an interesting point. You make a really interesting point where people’s routines are just annihilated right now. Right? So you’ve got people who every time they used to get up at 6:00 AM and the kids went out the door at 6:30 and they were at work by 7:30 or whatever it was, and they didn’t get home, they went to the gym at this time, blah, blah, blah. None of that exists anymore. We’re all, I mean, I work in a bathrobe. I’ve always worked in a bathroom, life is fine for me here, but the general person has been booted out of a routine. And what I’m finding, what we’re hearing with our clients at the gym is they’re dealing with huge amounts of stress, too, whatever industry they’re in has been affected. They’re struggling with this, they’re struggling with kids at home, they’re struggling with all this stuff. What I’m hearing from clients is that this hour of accountability and this escape from my daily slog right now is the best thing I can have.

Mike (19:19):

And people really seem to enjoy that and that. So that accountability to me is like, you know, I said this to Chris Cooper yesterday. I was like, man, I wish I had been texting my members this much all the time, even before we got shut down. Right. If we’d been doing that, I think our retention would’ve better and our clients would have gotten better results. And again, we talked about how sustainable is it if you’re running a full slate of classes and so forth, but still the constant contact and accountability has, we’re visibly seeing people perk up and do more stuff. They’re coming to more classes, they’re doing things. Would I be wrong to say that online coaching is at least if not more valuable than group class prices?

Jeff (19:57):

Yeah, it’s easily more valuable like by a landslide when you include the accountability and communication aspect to it, they’re getting more out of that. Now, you know, I’ll say insanely more valuable if they have some equipment that they can acquire over time, that will definitely level it up. But just with body weight, it’s more valuable.

Mike (20:20):

How many gym owners do you think see that? Do you know a percentage, when you’ve spoken to people, how many of them get it?

Jeff (20:25):

A low percentage.

Mike (20:25):

So they have to change that, right, they really need to start reframing it in their minds and realizing that it’s not about the gear, it’s not about, you know, the shiny thing. It’s not about the whiteboard. It’s really about the accountability, the relationship modification, the personalization and the delivery.

Jeff (20:39):

Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, we’ve created a limiting belief because we’ve had all of those shiny things for long. Even gyms that have been open six months at this point are probably just wracking their brains for this. And I get it. I get it. It’s challenging, but you need to zoom out from the situation. You need to understand. Again, just accept the shiny stuff’s gone. You can’t have it. You can’t have it for the next two to six weeks. We don’t know, but you can’t have it. So you’ve got to roll with what you can have. And what you can have is online coaching. And again, if you don’t believe that you can make it in your head valuable, then I don’t think you can call yourself a coach.

Mike (21:19):

And there is, you know, that’s another great point where you do have to make it valuable, right? It’s not just like, you know, texting a workout, I’m an online coach now, you have to do the effort and that effort is like here’s a resource, here’s a video, do it like this. Send me a video, I want to see it. Send me a picture of your pantry. I want to see what’s in there. Throw that thing out, keep that, eat two of those after your workout. That kind of stuff. You know, putting in that effort, your client should feel like there is value there and you really have to work for it, and again, there are ways to scale that up. I think Chris wrote an article the other week where saying, as people first start online coaching, they’re dedicating six, seven minutes to each client kind of thing.

Mike (21:56):

And it feels like a lot of work, especially if you’ve got a huge number. As they get better at it without seeing a decline in quality of service, they’re able to reduce that to like two, three minutes, still servicing the client to the best degree. But they’ve found ways to make it a little bit faster. You know, they’ve got say a library of links where it’s like, here’s my squat demo, here’s my press demo, here’s whatever. And they can quickly scale up on this. So then for them it’s much easier but the client doesn’t notice any decline in quality.

Jeff (22:21):

Yeah, I think that’s huge. And like just to hover on that point for a second, if you are a gym owner and you’re struggling to make the time to do this, I want you to think of a couple of things. One, like if you have coaches and they’re just not helping you, I’m doing air quotes right now cause they don’t want to help you also in air quotes, they do want to help. They don’t know how to help most likely or they don’t know the why around online coaching. Much like most gym owners don’t find online coaching valuable. So again, get your head right first, then get their head right, the same way that you know, give them tough love like I’m trying to give you, if that’s what works, fine, cool, do that. But at the same time you need to get them on board with the new normal that is right now, this is the situation.

Jeff (23:12):

This is where we’re going to be for the next two, six plus weeks. You know, we have to accept that your coaches have to accept that. If your coaches want to get paid anything, they need to participate and then we can get them on board because at the end of the day, hopefully your coaches are coaches because they wanted to help people and this is one of the most amazing times to provide that help for people. One of the times that they need help more than ever. You know, like we’ve lost a lot of the luxuries that we’re used to and people are struggling mentally with that, you know? So they can help a lot in the situation. That said if they can’t help, there are many people, many people that are out of the job right now that need a job and they are a part of the non-essential crew that you’re a part of now.

Jeff (23:59):

So we have this blood brotherhood going on right now, so you could provide that job for them. You need a bunch of links for videos, pay somebody an admin wage to do that. You need to contact a bunch of people, create a message for them to send out to all those people for you. And then from the responses you just do the responses. Like there are ways for you to save time and help others, both your members, your coaches, and potentially people that don’t have jobs right now because they got laid off. I think there’s a huge opportunity there.

Mike (24:31):

I agree with you. There are people who are out there that can definitely help. And honestly, one of the things about personal training is you really, I think it was Greg Glassman, I believe who said this, you just need a 150 people to like you to have a successful gym. And that’s honestly what it is. There’s a lot of other stuff that comes with that of course. But, you need to be likable. And so if you can be likable and connect with people, we can teach the fitness part. And Two-Brain coaching can ramp up coaches pretty quick. So if you found a really great person who’s great on text, you might be able to put someone through a coaching course and help that person get through it very quickly and then get some results. Because we all know that if you do any workout, it’s better than doing no workout. So if you have the skill of making people do things through accountability, you are highly valuable at this point. Moving to this next one, you told me that some people that you’ve talked to aren’t selling what people are buying. I want to ask you, what are they selling that people aren’t buying? And more importantly, what are people buying right now and how do we sell it?

Jeff (25:31):

Yeah, so I think the most important thing right now is that you need to, as I’ve been saying this whole time, get away from the barbell. So if you’re one of the gyms right now going like, Oh man, I missed the gym. Aw shucks. And here’s a picture of somebody doing a snatch with a barbell. Realistically, your members don’t have a barbell. The vast majority, if not all of them, none of them have a barbell. So you can’t keep selling CrossFit or group training because nobody’s buying that right now because of social distancing. So what they are buying is at-home coaching and that’s what you need to pivot to sell this. That’s this whole conversation has been about pivoting to sell that. So if you’re marketing CrossFit group training or anything that you were really marketing before we stepped into this whole crisis, you need to stop doing that and pivot to selling what people are buying, which is the at-home fitness.

Mike (26:21):

So no, Smolov squat program right now with my personalized touches.

Jeff (26:27):

No. Like I wouldn’t even post any pictures of your gym at all. And like none of this, I miss this, blah blah blah. Like that’s only making it worse for everybody involved.

Mike (26:35):

We all miss it.

Jeff (26:35):

Yeah, exactly. You’re just stating the obvious and like if you’re selling memes right now, like that’s not going to work either. Get away from all that stuff and start focusing on what does work and what can work for people right now, which is the at-home fitness. So your marketing should reflect that. And we, you know, for our marketing for Two-Brain, when we work with our clients, we’ve already pivoted all of that. So it’s like no longer the gym with the rig in the background and your big logo on the wall. It’s now a living room that’s well lit with Mrs. Jones doing a workout with no equipment. You know, maybe her dog’s sitting comfortably on the couch in the sun or maybe there’s two kids screaming in the background fighting over Legos.

Jeff (27:20):

I don’t know, like it’s play to the pain points if you can. Like you can kind of vary that up a little bit, or maybe the kids are getting involved and they’re also working out and you’re representing that the whole family can do this thing together. That’s really what you need to be selling right now. So a lot of that can be done organically. You can just pivot and change your images, add some videos, post, you know, screenshots of your Zoom classes if you’re doing Zoom classes or Zoom one-on-ones, you know, whatever works. So just kind of vary that up a little bit. And then we can’t obviously sell the same intro process that we did before. So if you did a consultation or no sweat intro in person before, we can’t do that because social distancing, so we’re kind of shut down on that.

Jeff (28:06):

But what we can do is we can sell a virtual no sweat intro. So ideally what we’re doing then is just letting them know that, Hey, you don’t have to go anywhere for this. Obviously you can’t, otherwise they’re just going to put that off. Like don’t feel that they’ll just assume, Oh, no sweat intro. That’s probably not in person right now. Make it obvious that it’s not in person. Say it’s a virtual intro, will be done over Zoom or Skype or whatever, you know, just pick your video format of choice.

Mike (28:32):

God forbid we use the phone too, right?

Jeff (28:34):

Exactly, like some format of just conversing with somebody remotely.

Mike (28:42):

We have the technology.

Jeff (28:42):

It’s all at your fingertips. It’s all available. So yeah, really pivot on changing up your marketing and your approach to sales in order to get people to still, you know, fill out a lead capture form or book that appointment, and the ones that are doing this right now, we are seeing a lot of success with that.

Jeff (29:05):

There are people selling right now, believe it or not, there are people that are making 10 grand a week right now. I saw that in Gym Owners United the other week. Yeah. There are people that are making money right now.

Mike (29:15):

Join that group if you’re not in there.

Jeff (29:17):

They’ve accepted the situation and they’ve pivoted. Those are just the early adopters, like you can do that. If you’re listening and you haven’t done that, you can do that right now. But you have to commit.

Mike (29:27):

Is there a gear shortage in Michigan, equipment, fitness equipment? Is there a run on that right now? Up where I’m at in Canada the stores are empty because everyone’s working out at home. I’m just curious, have you seen that or heard that?

Jeff (29:39):

Yeah, and I think it falls under, so Amazon’s policy right now is like, they’re prioritizing like health, not fitness as far as health or wellness. But just like other necessities, they’re prioritizing like I guess face masks and hand sanitizer, cleaning solutions and you know, medical supplies. That’s what they’re prioritizing for shipments. So if you want anything that’s a non-essential, then it’s going to take you, I don’t know, four weeks or so I think at this point for even Prime shipping. But yeah, stores are sort of just kind of empty, supplies are low cause it’s kind of, I mean the companies that we get those things from are not able to either A ship them out or B manufacture more of them. So we’re kind of struggling supply-wise. I’m just going to say like you can DIY most of that stuff.

Mike (30:33):

The reason I was asking is that, you know, we’ve been kind of figuring out ways to create some marketing and so forth and figure out how to sell what people are buying. And it’s tempting to haul up, you know, I’ve got a few dumbbells and, you know, things around the garage, it’s just tempting to pull that up. But the reality is that a ton of people don’t have that stuff, nor do they really want it, nor can they find it at this point. So, we’ve been kind of working on body weight stuff, doing exactly the thing that you said, like stuffing—we actually use like packing chips so it wasn’t actually heavy and we could do the movements properly, but a backpack, right? So things like that. Backpacks, body weight movements, some common household items. I mean CrossFit’s been putting out workouts with jugs and stuff at home. And he used all these different things. We’ve kind of done that, but I’m always tempted to go grab that dumbbell and throw it in the picture. But I don’t know how many people actually have one and acquiring one right now is not going to be easy for the next four, six, you know, 30 days, I don’t know, six weeks. Who knows? So that’s an interesting one. So people are buying online fitness, at home fitness, body weight workouts that is working?

Jeff (31:31):

Yeah, 100%. We have gyms that are being successful with it. Again, the most successful ones are doing paid ads on it and we have pivoted with that, like I said, with Two-Brain, so we’re looking to put a paid ad out there. Like there’s a different template for that. The copy changes, the image changes, as I mentioned, like you want a living room, a brightly lit living room with a family doing the workout with no equipment. Like you just mentioned, like you don’t want to have a kettlebell in there. You don’t want them to assume that they need that equipment because again, like you also said, they don’t want to just buy that stuff if they normally, they’re not quite into the new normal yet. Like if we never are allowed to open again for example, if there’s like this final thing goes out and we’re all quarantined forever, unfortunately, then there’ll be like, OK, we need this equipment, but right now we’re all assuming we’re going to get back to it at some point.

Jeff (32:27):

And they would therefore have to like sell that equipment, right. So they don’t want to just buy this junk that they have to hold on to. So, yeah, like don’t include any equipment in those images, organic ads that you’re posting or the paid ads that you’re posting because we don’t want people to assume that they have to buy equipment, because they don’t want to most of the time. I picked up some equipment, like I owned a gym for a really long time and only recently sold it. And I don’t keep equipment in my house. I don’t have a home gym. I go to that gym to work out and now that I have this equipment, where does it sit? It’s just taking up space in my basement, like in the way, people don’t want that. It will just collect us and then they have to sell it when this whole thing ends because they’re just going to go back to the physical gym. Most of them. Now don’t get me wrong, like if they’re going to be a long-term remote client, like I mentioned, there are going to be people that would have never come to your gym anyways and they need to be online. They might be open to buy it, but don’t put that up on the marketing assuming that everybody that sees that will either A say, yeah, that’s fine, that works for me. Or B, do I have to buy equipment?

Mike (33:36):

Yeah, you’re narrowing your audience for sure. For sure. Got ya. Garage sales dude are going to be lit come, you know, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days. At some point there’s going to be a lot of dumbbells and kettlebells and things rolling around the people. Just like, I don’t need this anymore. Assuming we are allowed to open, which I hope. Let me ask you this. So for gym owner resisting right now, and I know there’ll be some who have not made a single sale since the COVID closures came in, what are the steps? What would you recommend? What are the steps to do right now? What can this person who’s listening and saying, I have not made a sale. I need to break the drought. What are we going to do right now to start?

Jeff (34:17):

The first thing you need to do though is you need to pivot your current clients online. So the first thing that we recommend if there’s an order of triage here is like number one, protect your revenue stream. So everything we were talking about at the beginning here, we’ve put out, you know, free guide to going online in 24 hours. So I’d recommend that to start, get your current people online, take care of them and coach them. Don’t just post your programming. So like number one, protect your current clients. Number one thing you can do, get your revenue in check. Number two would normally be like check your expenses too. So get deferments on loans and your lease and you’re going to have to have some tough conversations with like your landlord and your bank and examples like that. But those tough conversations are working. When people, you know, muster up the courage to go do it.

Mike (35:05):

And Chris Cooper has given resources for how to do all this stuff, if you check our COVID-19 page on TwoBrain business.com Chris has given templates, even like say this to your landlord kind of stuff and it is working at times. Your landlord isn’t obligated to give you free rent, but he or she might and might defer it. You have some options, but Chris will tell you exactly how to do this stuff. So those things that Jeff just mentioned, that guide, all that stuff can be found on the COVID-19 page on TwoBrainbusiness.com. All right, step three. After those two.

Jeff (35:33):

Sell. So now we get into the selling stuff. The next thing you would do is change your marketing, right? So we started talking, get rid of anything with a barbell, rig. Like forget that stuff ever existed. It’s gone for right now, just for the sake of the situation. So change the marketing, brightly lit living rooms. Ask your members for pictures, ask your coaches for pictures, get yourself in a picture. Get families involved in those pictures so we can really vary this up. And you might play to a bright side of things with like, Oh, happy family working out. You might also play to people’s pain points. It’s like going insane at home with their kids and they can’t escape them. So yeah, exactly. A Nerf battle going on while you’re trying to do pushups and burpees and stuff, like it could happen. So play to their pain points too, but vary it up so that you can sort of A/B test these things and see what’s working, what’s getting the most engagement, and then go to the one that gets the most engagement. So if you’re not paying attention to your analytics at this point on Facebook or Instagram or Google or wherever, do that, start paying attention to that

Mike (36:36):

As Mateo Lopez, our marketing expert has told us, you don’t have to figure it out yourself. You just fire in all these pictures into Facebook’s dynamic creative and Facebook will figure out based on the response, which are the winners. You don’t have to do anything. All you have to do is have five different pictures, put them in and Facebook will start serving them out and it will decide which ones are the best and they will be seen more. It’s actually quite amazing to see. I was just reviewing some actually today and seeing which ones, it’s never the ones you think, you know and all of a sudden, wow, that’s the one people are clicking on? So you do not have to be marketing wizard. You just have to take five different pictures and you can do exactly what Jeff said. Happy guy, sad guy, guy with kids, guy with dog, you know something else. And then you do the female version of that as well. And then all of a sudden you’ve got 10 pictures, away you go, that’s marketing campaign.

Jeff (37:22):

Yeah, 100%. So from there, change your offering, right? So again, we’re offering at home fitness now. We recommend that you do something like a 21-day challenge. So the reason we recommend that and you would charge for it and it is not a bait and switch, very important to lay this out. So charge an appropriate fee for it. But the 21 day challenge is exactly what people are looking for right now. Don’t kid yourself that they’re looking for online coaching. Yes, it’s valuable. We’ve already, hopefully you agree on this by the end of this podcast, but hopefully we can all agree it’s valuable. And you can get that mindset straight. But 21-day challenge as with before this crisis, people are always looking for the time determined challenge. That’s sort of, it’s a thing for a reason. It just works. So yeah, exactly.

Jeff (38:16):

Now it’s their LBO, your low barrier offer, and it’s slightly lower price in your current membership, but it’s also not going to take a lot of work from you. So it’s still high profit but extremely high profit if you’re not paying your rent right now, good on you if you can do that. But yeah, you offer that as a form of like a lead capture. So now people are like, Oh, that sounds good. That sounds like, they’re in their home. You know, eating potato chips, yelling at their kids, watching TV, trying to figure out what to do with their lives and you’re like 21 day challenge, let’s get healthy. It’s more important now to be healthy than ever before, right? Kind of prevent yourself from getting this particular virus or whatever. So we put that out there, that’s going to get their attention.

Jeff (38:57):

That’s important. Now what we need to do is get to talk to them. So we can’t, normally we’d say the purpose of our social media marketing is to get them off of social media into a seat across the table from you so that you can actually sell them something. Well, they can’t sit across the table from you. They’re going to sit across the city from you via Zoom. So we’re going to change that up a little bit. So that’s where that virtual no sweat intro comes into place. So make sure we offer the virtual no sweat intro. So again, it’s obvious that we’re not meeting in person. Never assume that they just understand, you know, I’m still seeing ads for things that are like big group gatherings. You can’t do that anymore.

Jeff (39:40):

No one has pulled that ad and that is a problem. So yeah, so make sure you’re offering the virtual no sweat intro and then, you know, you just follow the exact same no sweat intro process that you’ve laid out in the past. The only difference is like if you did a workout before, you don’t do a workout now, don’t even do it over Zoom, you don’t need to. You’re not doing a gym tour, hopefully you weren’t doing that before. I’ve said why not in the past, but don’t do that. And we’re going to spend a little more time building and developing trust here. So we are going to do a few things different within that no sweat intro. And the reason we have to do a few things different is because you are at a disadvantage when you’re over video or worse, just voice to voice over the phone.

Jeff (40:24):

So in person there’s a lot of nonverbal cues that we use to communicate and develop trust. This goes back to like fight or flight kind of ideas, but it’s just in our nature to interpret those things as humans. So what we can’t do is use a lot of body language because as you can see right now, like on Zoom, well, you can’t see if you’re on the podcast, but you get the idea, we’re like torsos, right? So you can’t see my whole body. So I can’t do a good job of body language. If I want to talk with my hands, I have to have them up in an awkward position to use them. So number one, you’re at a disadvantage for a lack of body language communication, which is used to develop trust with people. So we have to do something different. What we recommend is you sort of kick off the call with something not related to what you’re about to try and sell.

Jeff (41:13):

So just like simple conversation, don’t talk religion, politics or weather not allowed, but just comment on or compliment on something that they’re wearing. So I might say, Mike, I really like that hoodie. What’s that brand on there that you have?

Mike (41:28):

That’s Motorhead. It’s my favorite heavy metal band of all time.

Jeff (41:31):

Dude. Awesome. I love that band too. So you just have like a nice, easy little conversation, a little little icebreaker if you will. And then you roll into the questions and if you didn’t ask enough questions before in your no-sweat intro, now’s the time to do it. So you really have to dig and dig and dig and try and find out like what this person wants to do, what goals they have, and more importantly, why these goals are important to them. So we can really narrow things down to their emotional attachment to these changes.

Jeff (42:01):

From there, we do also want to make some micro commitments with them, which is as simple as just getting them to say yes, right? So literally all we have to do at the very simplest form of this is get them to say yes. So we just restate what they’ve said to say. Mike, what you’re telling me is you’re looking for an easy at home workout you can do within 30 minutes while your kids are on their iPads. OK, awesome. We can definitely do that. And then maybe another forum once we level this up a little bit, we want to get them a little more serious to committing to it. So we might go through and present what our online coaching package looks like very quickly because feature selling is not ideal. So like, hey, Mike, with our online program, what we’re going to do is not only provide you with the workouts, but we’re also going to contact you every day.

Jeff (42:50):

We’re going to make sure the workout fits within your schedule, decide when you’re going to work out, and then we’re going to help you determine how you’re going to actually do that workout. Does that sound good to you? So we get more and more serious, right? And then down the road from there, as we progress with the sales conversation, maybe we get to a point where we say like, all right Mike, so we’ve gone through everything and really realistically what we’re looking at with this is the online coaching package would obviously be a great fit for you, but I think it would be best if we also did some one on one sessions, via Zoom, maybe like one of those a month, and it would really be awesome if we could work with some nutrition. Right. You mentioned that nutrition was something you’re really struggling with in this time and if I’m able to provide that type of a package for you, is that something you’d be interested in?

Jeff (43:36):

Awesome. I just happen to have that package. Then we go through and we pitch that, right? So we’ll still have sort of an option close where we can say like, Hey Mike, this is that package I was referring to. This is our gold standard. That one is 495 a month. The other packages I have are similar, but it’s not going to include that one on one session or the nutrition. But I have this one here for 225, we’re still going to contact you every day, make sure that you’ve adjusted the workout to fit your schedule and you modify the movement so it works best for you. And then I have this other package here, which is 145 and that’s just the programming, but it’s something to get you started. So again, we were looking at this gold package. I think it’s going to be best fit for you to get you the best results. Do you want to go ahead and get started with that today?

Mike (44:21):

I do. Easy day.

Jeff (44:23):

Just get them to start saying yes, a little more often. You notice like it’s kind of a softer close than I would do in person just because, hey, guess what? It’s a lot easier to hang up a phone or fake the internet going out on Zoom.

Mike (44:40):

No, no Jeff, my connection is super sketchy.

Jeff (44:44):

Yeah, exactly. So you’re really not coming in just like the candy wrapper in front of them. I would recommend like not being super soft with it, but you know it’s not as direct or aggressive of close as I would do in person because I know it’s harder for people to walk out of a building. I have had it happen before, but it’s socially very awkward, so people tend to avoid that.

Mike (45:09):

So let me summarize that. The first thing you’re saying is for gym owners who have not sold anything yet, you need to retain your clients. You need to get in front of your current clients, the ones that you have, give them the best service that you possibly can in an online manner and show them value in that. Step two, you’re going to look at your expenses and you’re going to start figuring out what needs to stay and what needs to go and your expenses need to give you ROI. And they need to be justifiable right now. So the, you know, subscription to whatever music service that you are not using at your gym right now, that can go. But some of the other stuff like your website, you probably need to keep that one going because that is your lifeline at this point to the public.

Mike (45:48):

After that you want to address marketing stuff. So you’re looking at, you’ve got to figure out an offer and you’ve talked about 21 day challenge, which you have to figure out something that people are looking for right now, which is challenges are always popular, but it’s gotta be at home and no equipment. And then step three is going to be getting that offer in front of people. So that’s going to be advertising. And we talked about you need some photos, you need some copy and this stuff needs to be simple, right? We need person doing lunge or split-squat with back leg on the couch while there’s a pile of Lego on the floor or whatever. It’s gotta be something that just shows a person doing an at-home workout. It can’t require any excessive equipment. It can’t be some elite overhead squat situation. You know, with two giant competition kettlebells in the middle of your living room.

Mike (46:31):

You want to show them real people. I mean not real people. You can certainly use some, you know, athletes and so forth. Even a model if you still had one, but you need to show real people doing stuff in real situations at home fitness with stuff that they’ve got. And I’ll give you one media tip that if you are doing that and you’re using objects and so forth, keep the branding out of it, right? So if you’re running an ad, don’t take a picture of someone with a giant Nike backpack because Nike is going to not be super thrilled with that ad. You want to try and keep stuff logoless, but there is a way to do that if you got a little bit Photoshop skills or just pick a jug of water that has no labels on it.

Mike (47:05):

And then after that, Jeff you talked about just dealing with, once you get these people interested, you’re going to have to talk to them online as opposed to in person. So that means your website, all every, every system that you have needs to point them to that online situation. And it’s got to be the phone or video, whatever you do from there, maybe a slightly softer close or maybe a little bit more, you know, engagement and so forth because you’re on video opposed to like person to person sitting right across from someone. But from what I’ve heard, the sales steps are pretty much the same as they are in person. And if you guys go back in our archives, you will find Jeff talking regularly about how to sell stuff. One of the shows is called save your gym, selling during social distancing where he talks specifically about no sweat intros during this time. But there’s a bunch of other shows in our archives. Anything you see with Jeff will have tons and tons of sales advice and how to move stuff in person. And we talked about how to handle objections, how to close things, how to present offers, how to set your room up, all different stuff like that. Have I got the steps laid out for the gym owner to take right now if they have not sold anything?

Jeff (48:08):

Yeah, 100%. And you know, just a few things that maybe throw some icing on this cake here. Number one, I would say really practice your energy on camera, because Zoom video and a phone actually even a further disadvantage, is going to be toning your energy down. So you need to be more energetic than you probably feel is OK. And that’ll probably put you just on the line where you need to be. Just kind of like channel your inner Spinal Tap here and turn it from a 10 to an 11 and go as high as you possibly can with that thing. But it’s going to be very, very important. You can also work on like voice inflection, how you change the pace that you’re talking at, the volume of your voice that you use, your pausing, reflecting here and there.

Jeff (49:01):

And that’s, you know, vocal gymnastics if you will, to keep people engaged. And of course asking questions every 60 seconds or so, maybe 60 to 90 seconds will also keep them engaged. You don’t want to lose them at any point during the conversation. So all kind of huge. One other thing I’d say that I didn’t mention in sort of the triage steps, one step I’d throw in there right after flipping to online would actually be contact all of your old leads and old members, especially to offer them this either 21-day challenge or to offer them just the remote coaching option, online coaching so that they have something to do during this time. You’re showing that you’re thinking of them. They’re still in mind for you and you’d love to help out. And then when you sell it, sell it at the rates that you’re charging for it.

Mike (49:51):

These are warm leads. I mean, these are warm leads who have some association with your business. And maybe the reason they left was they couldn’t make your class times and maybe they’d love an at home thing. They love you and they love your coaching, but they just couldn’t make those class times. Now if you offer them an online thing, maybe that works. So that is a huge tip. I’m glad you brought that up. Guys, if you have time on your hands right now, contact your past, your departed members, and see if maybe they’re interested in a new service. That’s a great one. That’s a ton of stuff. And in the last, you know, 15 minutes here we’ve given you an actionable plan. Please take these steps so that you can start making some sales here because as Jeff and I talked on a previous show, you’re going to have to sell your way out of this crisis. It can be done. Thanks for listening. I’m Mike Warkentin with Jeff Burlingame and this is Two-Brain Radio. Please visit TwoBrainbusiness.com and click COVID-19 in the top menu. That’s going to take you to a constantly updated page of essential resources for gym owners. We want to help you through this crisis and that page needs to be bookmarked. Check it regularly for tactics, tips and updates from around the world. You can get through this. Thanks again for tuning into Two-Brain Radio. We will be back next time with more actual advice. Thanks.

 

Two-Brain Radio presents marketing tips and success stories every Monday.

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Fragile Franchises: Why It’s a Great Time to Be an Independent Gym Owner

Fragile Franchises: Why It’s a Great Time to Be an Independent Gym Owner

As the COVID crisis deepens, more and more franchisee gyms are asking Two-Brain for help.

I can’t name them specifically because privacy is a core value of our mentorship practice. But if you’ve heard of a fitness franchise, we’ve probably spoken to one of their franchisees in the last week.

They’re hurting.

 

Fragile Franchises?

 

All the benefits of a franchise—a preset model, done-for-you pricing, group purchasing power, brand marketing—those can look pretty attractive to a solo-preneur trying to figure everything out on the fly. In fact, established entrepreneurs often buy franchises because they don’t want to spend years and thousands of dollars trying to figure it all out while burning money.

But in times of crisis, a franchise becomes extremely fragile.

As a franchisee, you don’t have the ability to pivot your core offering. You can’t simply take your business online overnight; you have to wait for the franchisor to act.

You might not have the ability to cut expenses. As a franchisee, you might be contractually tied to a lease or franchise fees or a certain number of staff.

You could easily lose all your clients—and all your revenue—with no way to get any back and no end in sight.

Almost overnight, the value of gym memberships went to zero. No one can sell “access” anymore.

Within a week, the value of exercise programming fell to zero. No one can sell workouts anymore.

Soon, the value of coach-led classes will fall to zero. Clients know how to enter “free workout class” into a search engine.

The only thing that’s retaining its value is coaching.

Two-Brain gyms made a quick pivot to customized online coaching. Spending four to six minutes per client per day to tailor group programming has resulted in a greater than 90 percent retention rate. Some have actually grown in client numbers and revenue already. And many have been able to cut their largest expenses.

They could do it because they’ve built antifragile businesses. Their failures—and their successes—are theirs alone.

Many have licensed the “CrossFit” affiliation to benefit from the branding (and because they align with CrossFit’s values). Others haven’t. But even within that affiliate model, the terms of licensure are so loose that CrossFit affiliates can make fast moves. They’re antifragile.

 

Ready for Change

 

When the world is constant and predictable, it’s attractive to own a franchise. No guesswork, proven models. And someone else to blame if it fails.

But when the world changes—as it always does—it’s far more beneficial to be the master of your own fortune.

And if you’ve already built your plans and playbook, why do you need a franchise at all?

When the world emerges from the COVID-19 lockdown, independent gym owners will find themselves swimming in a larger ocean with fewer sharks. They’ll have new tools: online training, nutrition coaching and a hybrid model we call Flex. They’ll be thinking differently about their equipment and space expenses. The best affiliates will be stronger than ever before, and they’ll have far less competition.

Gym ownership has always been a game of attrition. COVID just knocked five years off the natural progression of the fitness industry. Licensees and solo-preneurs who pivot fast will benefit. Franchisees won’t.

Online Coaching: Systemize, Optimize, Automate

Online Coaching: Systemize, Optimize, Automate

Doesn’t it feel like you’ve started a new business?

Even though your audience is the same, you’ve gone from “pick up your barbell like this” to “here’s how this workout will help with your goals today.” You’ve switched from coaching groups to coaching individuals through customization or personalization. And even if you’re still delivering group classes on Zoom, your business today is different than what it was on March 1.

That means you’re back in Founder Phase again—the first phase. (I wrote about the four phases of the entrepreneur’s journey in my fourth book, “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief.”)

In this stage, the best way to move your business forward is to follow the three-step process that Founders follow: systemize, optimize and then automate.

 

Systemize

 

First, you have to deliver your new service by yourself. You have to know it inside and out.

But you’re not going to be the primary delivery person forever. So as you deliver, you’re going to record everything. You’re going to write the systems that replace you. You’re going to leave “deep tracks” for others to follow.

Start by writing down “here’s when I post the workout” or the very first step you take each day. For me, I start with the absolute basics: “I turn on my computer.”

Test your systems with someone else: Can he or she follow your instructions to deliver your service exactly the way you do it? If so, move on to Step 2. If the person can’t, keep training until you find success. (We call this the “hit-by-a-bus test”: If you were hit by a bus today, could someone deliver your service without your clients noticing that you’re gone?)

 

Optimize

 

After you’ve tested your systems and proven them to be replicable every single time, you can edit them.

I say “edit” because editing your systems is like editing a book: You look for ways to deliver the same service with less effort. You look for efficiencies and cut for clarity.

For me, this usually means asking something like this: “If I put this instruction in the first email every client gets automatically, will it save me having to answer a question individually every time?”

For example, when I scaled Two-Brain Business from 10 clients to 50, I asked myself, “What are the most common things I’m telling everyone?” And then I put those lessons into video form. When new clients got on a call, most of the “teaching” was already done, and we could work together on implementation.

For you, this might mean recording movement demos or sending instructions to set up MyFitnessPal.

It could also mean removing things that aren’t absolutely necessary. For example, I used to send every client a six-page PDF on the Zone Diet. Now I just say, “Here are your macros. Here’s the benefit of eating this way.” They take action faster and make gains sooner.

 

Automate

 

Only after testing your processes and optimizing them should you turn to automation online.

Many coaches actually lose clients because they rely too much on automated texts, emails and prebuilt programs.

Instead of sending a personal text, they set up an automation: “Hey, it’s me. Checking in on you … .” This is sometimes playing with fire. If you send a text about “top tricks to lose weight this weekend” and your client doesn’t care about weight loss, it’s going to become quickly obvious that he or she is not getting your personal attention. Don’t let automations make you lazy in relationships.

Automation can mean software. There are certain instances where you can automate your client journey: housekeeping items (“Here’s your waiver!”), program introductions, FAQs and weekly reminders for routine tasks (“Don’t forget to take a picture of your meal today!”).

Automation can also mean routine tasks for humans. For example, “Text 20 former members every Friday to see how they’re doing.” The task is automated—you don’t have to tell anyone to do it—but not computerized. See the difference?

When automating through a human, you want to put the best human for the task in that role. Not everyone is great at communicating through text, for example. If your coach can’t send a text without spelling mistakes, he or she is not a great fit. I’m not great at using emojis or GIFs, so I have others do the texting for me.

The key to all of this: Don’t jump to automation too fast. Telling a staff person to “text everyone every day” won’t work; you need to test the system yourself, record what works, optimize your delivery and then hand it off. It’s just like any other business process!

 

Online but not out of Touch

 

The great news: Online coaching allows you to move really quickly through the systemize-optimize-automate sequence.

Record your processes on video, share them with your staff and update based on your clients’ results.

Remember: You’re selling relationships more than ever. Don’t try to replace yourself with a robot!

What if You Hate Online Coaching?

What if You Hate Online Coaching?

In the last two weeks, you’ve completely changed your business.

You’ve successfully led your clients through a potential tragedy—the closing of your bricks-and-mortar location. You pivoted to a brand new delivery system. You kept most members engaged, and almost all of them are still paying clients in April. You’ve even gained two new clients, and you can see the potential to scale up this new online coaching service.

But you hate it.

You miss your gym family.

You don’t want to coach people through text and Zoom. You want to see them, hug them, put your hand on their backs to correct movement.

You didn’t sign up for this. And I get it.

 

Missing the Human Touch?

 

While the majority of gym owners are really excited for this new opportunity, others are already rethinking their place in the industry. After all, COVID isn’t going away soon. And shelter-in-place will become the go-to response for the next pandemic or public emergency.

If you don’t like online training, should you get out now?

I spoke with several online-only coaches who have been successful for at least three years. Here’s their advice:

First, give it a month. You’ve just gone through a traumatic period in which it looked like your livelihood would be taken away. You’ve been placed into social isolation. Your cash flow is still at risk. You’ve had to fire people and have all kinds of conversations that made you unhappy. Subconsciously, you might view online coaching as part of that depressing mess. Give yourself the opportunity to try it when things are a bit less chaotic.

Second, know that it will get easier. Imagine if you opened your gym and had 150 clients the first day: You’d be exhausted and overwhelmed. That’s what happened with online coaching: Suddenly, you had to figure out delivery and client management and a whole new system under tremendous pressure. But you’ll get in a rhythm. If online coaching doesn’t take less time than running a gym now, it soon will.

Third, go back to your “why.” If your clients do well online, does that affect your decision?

Fourth, prepare to pivot to the “flex” model of in-person plus online coaching (we teach this in our Online Coaching Course).

 

“I Hate This. A Lot.”

 

Now, if you still despise coaching people online, that’s OK. You have three options:

One, focus on the other side of your business (building an audience and selling its members on your service). Let your coaches focus on the delivery of your online program.

Two, prepare for future shutdowns. Coach people in person but plan to be closed the next time a pandemic or other public emergency hits. Sure, it might never happen again—but “shelter in place” will now be the default response of every government during times of crisis. When this is over, you can go right back to what you were doing. But I recommend you plan for the worst while you hope for the best.

Three, get out now. Build up your business with the intent to sell it when you reopen.

Even if you want to get out, this is the worst possible time. Shoulder the gym through this crisis and prepare to sell it in the summer when you reopen. That means maximizing client retention and systemizing everything so your business is turnkey.

Download our “How to Sell a Gym” guide for free here:But if you don’t want to run your gym through another shutdown, this might be a good time to sell. Just remember that your greatest asset is your audience, not your equipment. It’s hard to build an audience.

You don’t have to pivot. You don’t have to sell online only. But online coaching isn’t going away. That doesn’t mean it has to replace your business. Online coaching can be the “fourth leg on your chair,” with personal training, group training and nutrition coaching.

Soon, you will be back to your in-person coaching. My gym will, too. We’ll all be happy about it. But knowing what you know now, will online training become a permanent part of your business or just something you survived?

What if You Love Online Coaching?

What if You Love Online Coaching?

In the last two weeks, you’ve completely changed your business.

You’ve successfully led your clients through a potential tragedy—the closing of your bricks-and-mortar location. You pivoted to a brand new delivery system. You kept most clients engaged, and almost all of them are still paying you in April. You’ve even gained two new clients, and you can see the potential to scale up your online coaching service.

You went back into Founder Phase again. You ran your business all by yourself. Slowly, you became more efficient at delivering this new service, and now you find that you’re working less and making more.

The lightbulb has switched on: “What if this is actually better?”

“What if I can make the same amount of money without that giant rented millstone around my neck? What if I can help my clients even more than before? What if I can do it without having to manage people? And what if I can do it all before 9 a.m.?”

 

The New Landscape

 

During a recent private webinar with online coach Brad Overstreet, I was asked a question: “If you had to start over knowing what you know now, would you include online training right from the start?”

After thinking about it, I said: “I’d start with online training before anything else.”

In other words, I’d start a new fitness business by getting five online clients and keeping them for a month. Then I’d add nutrition or mindset coaching and try that for a month. I’d learn how to keep people by practicing retention without face-to-face coaching (it’s harder).

After three months, I’d assess whether I still wanted to open a bricks-and-mortar location.

In my case, I’m sure I would. But I wouldn’t base my business on my location and equipment—not anymore.

If you’re absolutely loving this new world of online training, you might be asking yourself, “Do I really need to go back to paying rent, managing staff and selling 150 memberships just to make the same money I’m making now?” Here’s my advice:

First, give it a month. You’ve just gone through a traumatic period in which it looked like your livelihood would be taken away. Then you learned how to coach people online and it felt like salvation. Subconsciously, you might be looking at online training through the wrong lens. This is why people who meet on reality TV shows get married: They’ve been through a one-time traumatic event and “saved” each other. But most of those marriages don’t last.

Second, know that it will get boring. The novelty of figuring out new systems and new routines will wear off. And online training won’t mean complete freedom: You won’t be tied to a 5-a.m. class anymore, but you’ll still be tied to your phone. You’ll get texts and messages at all hours and feel compelled to respond (we teach you how to set expectations in our Online Coaching Course).

Third, go back to your “why.” If your clients don’t do well online, does that affect your decision?

Fourth, your clients might not want to be coached online forever. Your business has to revolve around what your clients want. If you move entirely online, will you keep enough clients to make the change viable? Or can you pivot to the “flex” model of in-person plus online coaching (we teach this in our Online Coaching Course).

 

Wild for the Web?

 

Now, if you do still love coaching people online, that’s OK. You have three options:

One, you can focus on the online side of your business. Build out the flex model and work with those clients yourself. Let your coaches focus on the delivery of your in-person program.

Two, you can build a niche audience online. Deliver your program to water-polo players around the world while you serve your local community in person.

Three, you can get out now. Keep as many clients as you can online. Sell off your assets and negotiate an early exit from your lease. The math might still be in your favor.

You don’t have to go back if you don’t want to. You don’t have to sell in-person training only. Online coaching can be the “fourth leg” on your coaching chair (along with group coaching, personal training and nutrition coaching). You’ll always have these tools when you need to pivot everyone back online.

The “shelter in place” mandate will probably become the go-to response of every government on Earth during future crises. That doesn’t mean it has to replace your business. But online coaching can be part of your strategy to be “anti-fragile.”

Soon, you will be back to your in-person coaching. My gym will, too. We’ll all be happy about it. But knowing what you know now, will online training become a permanent part of your business or just something you survived?