The Guy Who Already Moved His Fitness Business Online Forever

Ashley Mak-BLOG

Mike (00:02):

The COVID 19 crisis forced many gyms online and some are going to stay there forever. Today our guest is Ashley Mak, who decided to get rid of his bricks-and-mortar location to go to completely digital. If coronavirus has you rethinking your business model, Ashley will tell you how and why he made the move to go 100% online. We’re back with him right after this. Two-Brain Business has put together a page of essential COVID-19 resources for gym owners. On it, you’ll find the free gym-saving guide “How to Add Online Training in 24 Hours” as well as links to government loans and other critical info you need to navigate this crisis. Head to twobrainbusiness.com and click COVID-19 at the top menu. The page is updated regularly, so bookmark it and check back often.

Mike (00:43):

All right, welcome to Two-Brain Radio. I’m Mike Warkentin. Today we’re talking to gym owner Ashley Mak of Hudson River Fitness. In March, the gym was located at 1320 Adams Street in Hoboken, New Jersey. Today, the address is only Hudsonriverfitness.net. We have entered the fitness matrix and Ashley, a certified Two-Brain mentor, moved his gym completely online. He’s going to tell you why and how he did in case you want to do the same thing. Ashley, welcome. How are you doing?

Ashley (01:08):

I am doing great. Thank you so much for having me.

Mike (01:11):

My pleasure. I saw you post about this and I knew I’ve spoken to at least one other gym owner who was having the same thoughts about online moving online completely. We all got shut down but some of us aren’t going to go back to brick and mortar. I am so excited to talk to you about this. I’m just going to get right into it because I think this is an amazing topic. As I said before we started recording, I think you might be the first person who’s announced that you’re just going whole hog online and not going back to it. So give me the short version of Hudson River Fitness. How long has it been open, where and so forth. And I know that you moved to becoming a remote owner. Give me the short history of the gym.

Ashley (01:46):

Yeah. So for starters, my background is in physical therapy, so I’m also a licensed phyiscal therapist and I got involved with the fitness world back in 2015 and I opened up Hudson River Fitness, my gym, in 2017. And I didn’t really know what to do or I didn’t know anything about gym ownership. I just knew how to sell, how to coach and how to do PT.

Mike (02:07):

The selling part, turns out you knew more than anyone else.

Ashley (02:11):

Yeah, I know, right. It’s crazy. And from there, pretty much evolved and I was going through Two-Brain mentorship and evolved and really grew as an owner to the point where I had a full staff. And, the summer of 2019, my wife and I actually had the opportunity to move across the country from Hoboken, New Jersey, to north of San Francisco for her job. And so when we ended up making the move in 2019 that was a whole new list of challenges. I became a remote owner, had a full staff really running the show there. And so already at a point I was pretty much running a gym or like really taking more of the backend operations of the business already digitally. So it was already something that we’ve been doing. And even before COVID-19 happened, we were already having on platform being able to coach our clients and it’s been really helpful. It wasn’t a large part of our business, but it was a small portion of our business. And then from there it got us to the point where we’re at today.

Mike (03:09):

So when were you officially closed down? I know there’s kind of been waves of things around the world. When were you guys officially closed?

Ashley (03:16):

Yeah, so we officially closed, March 17th actually, which I do believe it was a Saturday. And Hoboken New Jersey was actually the first town in New Jersey. I do believe probably the East Coast that actually shut down as a precautionary measure and now as a response measure to the spread of the virus. And so got the phone call slash email notification saying that the gyms were going to be closed for two weeks. The great thing was was that the Two-Brain family and everyone was getting ready to pivot online anyway. And so the minute I got that email, I call it all the coaches and I said, the gym is down, but we already have a plan in place. I was telling them the weeks before of what we were going to be doing and getting the coaches in line. And then from there I called every single client that weekend.

Ashley (04:08):

And it was funny because my wife went to go work out and I was like, OK, cool. I’m gonna work out in a little bit. And she came home from a workout and everything. I was still on the lines, just talking to the clients being like, this is our plan. And that was a really big, proud moment of ours because talking with these folks and saying, this is the plan for you versus we’re coming up with a plan for you instills a lot of confidence between you and the clients. And so in essence, we’re pretty much, I mean at that time we were saying we’re transitioning. This is what we’re doing. I think maybe one or two clients actually had to put their account on hold. And the reason was because they pretty much lost their job immediately.

Ashley (04:53):

So it was something that was kind of out of our hands. But then also at the same time, we created this free four week online program that we were able to share pretty much with the community because we knew that there were a whole bunch of different gyms that were closing. So being able to help the community stay active during a time like this and they said for two weeks and and here we are, you know, things are still closed down and just being able to help those folks around us is really huge.

Mike (05:20):

Can you tell me the date again of the closure?

Ashley (05:24):

Yeah, it was March 17th.

Mike (05:27):

  1. I think you and I are almost exactly the same. And where I’m at in Winnipeg, Canada, they hadn’t told us to shut down, but we saw it coming. And we decided to close down and it was kind of public pressure where people were starting to get nervous and you know, there was that whole thing. So we just had to shut down. March 14th? So you’re a little ways before us, but we had the same experience where we saw it coming because we were in contact with Two-Brain. We saw everything happening across the world and we had a plan. So we shut down officially one day before we were actually ready. So I had one day where we did Facebook classes online and so forth, but then we moved to Zoom right away.

Mike (06:02):

And again, that’s not what Two-Brain exactly recommends. Two-Brain is not recommending Zoom and Facebook classes. What they’re recommending is a complete pivot to online coaching. So we found in the data that these Zoom classes and Facebook classes, the retention is not super great. They might have a novelty effect. So what we did was we doubled down. We just decided to keep doing the Zoom classes. We had the ability, but we did exactly the Two-Brain plan of contacting every member. We’re offering them customized workouts. Some of them are attending Zoom classes, some are not, but we’re in constant contact with them. We divided it among the coaches, the whole deal. And if you guys are interested in that plan, I’ll direct you again to the COVID-19 page on TwoBrainbusiness.com. You can get the guide, find out how to move online in 24 hours. We literally did this and ton of gyms did that. You can get that thing going fast. So go to that page. So you were done March 14th, pretty early on in this thing. Now talk to me about, I mean, we all got forced online, but you very swiftly made the decision that you’re not coming back. So tell me about how you made that decision.

Ashley (07:02):

Yeah. And so, long story short, we had an agreement with the landlord that he pretty wouldn’t charge us rent if we were to vacate the premises. It wasn’t like we had a bad relationship, but it just seemed like it worked out perfectly. And, I mean at the time, when we had this discussion, there were a bunch of things going through my head and I was trying to figure out, well, what were our legal rights as a tenant? And it turns out that discussing with my lawyer, everything actually worked out OK. Because he was providing this opportunity for us to move out. And so I was thinking about multiple different avenues.

Mike (07:44):

  1. So tell me about, you know, we all got closed down, but you’ve decided very quickly that you’re not going to open again in your physical location. How did you come to the decision to move completely online and were there any interesting circumstances that helped you do this?

Ashley (07:58):

Yeah, so one of the biggest things was, I mean just like many gym owners, I was really trying to figure out how we can navigate this from a financial standpoint. One, when we were going into this, we knew that if we put a really good system in place, we’d be able to retain our clients, which is great. Our recurring revenue has been really, really strong, especially going into this. And we had savings that actually allowed us in the event that we were making no new revenue or no revenue at all. That would last a couple of months. But with that being case that there was that original thought of in my head of, well, do I want to be able to continue to dip into our savings or what was the next step? And I realized that the biggest thing was having this rent hovering over head actually created a huge barrier and prevented me from actually doing what I needed to do best was lead my team and also work with Two-Brain clients. And so we were in a position where we were able to actually exit pretty swiftly, at no penalty. And we’ve had a really good relationship with our landlord. But really the big thing was, OK, here we are. And really the big driving decision was the fact that having this rent hanging over my head, even though we were able to pay it caused a huge barrier from allowing me to do what I needed to do in order to help our clients and also to help my staff.

Mike (09:22):

Yeah. It’s such a huge expense, right? It’s a huge expense when you start looking at it and saying, OK, this giant, probably my biggest expense is not giving me any return on investment because I can’t use the thing. Right. So a lot of people are gonna be in that same situation. The thing with you of course though, is, you know, you’ve got some lucky timing there where you were able to exit at least some people may not be able to, but then you can start looking, and this is where you’re working with lawyers and accountants. Can I get out of a lease? Can I talk to my landlord? Can I make adjustments? And Chris Cooper has advised people to do that. Contact your landlord, see what you can work out. In other cases, if your lease is coming up for renewal, you’ve got something that you’ve gotta make a decision on and really you can start doing some risk management.

Mike (10:01):

Start saying, OK, how long can I afford to run this thing without any income from my space? Right? So you had that situation where you were able to make that decision. Others are going to have to think about that a little bit more carefully if they’re not able to make that decision right away. Now tell me like, was it like an endless long night kind of decision where you sat there like, man, I’m going to pull the pin on this or was it very clear for you or how did you feel about this? Cause this is a huge change.

Ashley (10:30):

It is such a huge change. I mean, I got a voicemail and I had this conversation with the landlord on a Thursday and all day Thursday I was just brooding over this thinking about what are these possibilities? What do I need to do? And it was a lot of just, let’s just say that it wasn’t a very bright place I was in, but I think I needed to be in that place to be able to understand what the opportunities were. So I had an opportunity. So I talked with my lawyer the next day and she provided even more clarity saying like, these are the routes that you can do, these are the opportunities. But then, especially with that, we have our online platform, it wasn’t entirely new.

Ashley (11:18):

We weren’t doing it from the beginning, but it allowed us to truly double down in that. So I would say it was a span of yeah, probably 24 to 36 hours where it got to a very, very, very like dark and brooding to very clear, I know exactly what I need to do and it turned into really more so excitement because I wanted to tell everyone immediately, but I knew that we have to be very tactful with it because especially with so much change and with it being so early in the shutdown, there was still a lot of uncertainty. But then as we started to get a little bit deeper into this, it started to become a little bit more new normal and it made it a lot more sense to be able to spread the news and share that we are going a hundred percent online, a little bit later into the shutdown.

Mike (12:07):

I want to ask you about how you did that. But the question I want to ask you first, cause I know you’re a caring guy, you must have sat there and thought what’s best for my clients, right? You’re making financial decisions, but I’m sure that you sat there and said, how can I serve my clients best? So tell me how you decided. Because there’s a lot of gym owners right now, they’re thinking, Oh man, online coaching sucks. There’s no value to it. How did you decide that you were able to serve your clients and give them health and fitness online?

Ashley (12:31):

So I looked at it and going back on the big tenet of the fact that we’re a coaching business, we’re a coaching practice and if you guys aren’t familiar with or if you’re not familiar with Hoboken, there’s pretty much a gym on every single block. So the access of fitness facilities is not the problem. The big problem, which I feel it has, that is challenging most folks is not access but coaching and clarity. You look on the internet, there’s a bunch of free workouts online, but people don’t know what to do. There’s so many free options online, but there’s still a lot of people who are sick and unhealthy. And so going into this, I said, well, providing this online avenue can be really helpful because people during a time like this need guidance and they need clarity in a time of so much uncertainty.

Ashley (13:27):

They need some sort of leadership, even if it’s something like health and fitness. Because when they get that leadership in health and fitness, they’re able to improve their energy and they feel a lot better. They’re just overall better humans and it’s actually going to be able to really help affect their feeling, affect their lives and affect everything. And so my thought process was, well, there’s no gyms that are open right now, so let’s continue to ride this wave. And from there, if in the event that these folks, the clients that we have want to eventually get back into, say, a brick and mortar location, I’m very happy to direct them to the gyms that are still open. The ones that I have relationships with, the ones that are the ones that I know that they will end up having a really great home. And that’s what made me feel really confident in this decision, because with everything going on, being able to provide them that clarity, that direction, regardless of what they need to do really made the most sense to me.

Mike (14:32):

So now let’s get back to the other question. How did you roll this out? How did you talk to your clients? How did they respond and did you run into challenges? Like how did this whole thing go when you tried to actually tell people, OK, so by the way, no more, no more physical location.

Ashley (14:46):

Yeah. So first of all, I had to talk to my mentor first because I had all these different ideas. And then, I mean the great thing was my mentor was like, Whoa, Whoa, slow down. Like let’s focus on these big tenets. And a lot of people say that I’m a really positive person, but I think one of the biggest things that I think my biggest thing is the fact of well what can we do about this? What are the action steps and every challenge, every obstacle in our way is more of an opportunity.

Mike (15:21):

You’re tactical about this whole thing.

Ashley (15:23):

Yes, very tactical. And really the biggest focus was being able to show as a new amazing opportunity being that we’re able to still help these folks. And so when I sent the email, when I sent the messaging, really the biggest focus was saying, here’s this new opportunity for us. We’re actually going to be 100% digital. Once this is all said and done, there isn’t going to be a brick and mortar location. But that does not mean that we can’t help you and it doesn’t. And in fact, we’re going to be able to help you better because we’re going to be able to focus 100% of the efforts on you versus having to maintain a space in which that we’re trying to spend a whole bunch of money. And, if anyone’s ever read my emails, I use like four exclamation points at the end of each sentence.

Ashley (16:13):

And I really made sure that I was showing that I was caring about folks and being able to provide an avenue and really it’s like, OK, here’s what we’re doing. But then also the big part here’s the plan. Like this is a plan for you. And that was the biggest part because not only was I telling them the news, but telling them, showing them the news and how it’s going to affect them and what they can do and the action steps that they could take. I didn’t necessarily say like, if you want to cancel, cancel your membership. It was really more so when we transition, we’re transitioning online. We’re transitioning online. As you continue, this is what you’re going to be getting. This is how you’re going to be benefiting.

Ashley (16:54):

And then for the folks who wanted to actually cancel actually reached out to me individually and just said, I appreciate it, but my ultimate goal was to go back to another gym. So online training isn’t for me. And what that allowed me to really focus on was it’s OK because of the fact that everyone has their own specific preferences and specific goals and everyone prefers their own way to get fitness delivered to them. And so again, I voiced to them that it’s perfectly OK and that, especially with the transition, I’m happy to help them out too.

Mike (17:29):

So you’ve got, I’m going to get into the numbers here a little bit. Do you have any rough or hard numbers about how many of your clients decided to make this transition and how many canceled? I know Two-Brain gyms who have moved online coaching and that quick pivot are seeing retention in and above 90%. Which is amazing what’s happening. What was your experience?

Ashley (17:51):

Yeah, so you know, we look at it and in a light where trying to—it’s interesting to figure out, well why are these clients staying on and doing online coaching in the first place? Are they staying online with online coaching because they are using this as a means to an end as a way to think if I continue with online coaching, I’ll have some sort of a semblance of fitness and then also doing this online coaching is going to be able to support this gym so I have a gym to go back to. That’s where, and if that’s the case, for those—if a client had that mindset, then they most most likely would cancel, with me, particularly, with Hudson River Fitness. For the other folks who are, what I found the folks who were the most busy, who actually had a lot of trouble coming into the gym in the first place even when we were open, they actually got a lot more value from us because this provided even more flexibility, even more accountability than what they would actually end up getting a in the event that they were paying for just a regular group class membership. So I would say a large part probably, let’s see if I were thinking probably close to about 40% or more of our clients actually ended up canceling because those were the folks who actually wanted a facility.

Mike (19:24):

Yeah. They want to come back and do heavy snatches and drop the barbell.

Ashley (19:26):

Yes. Yeah, exactly. And the folks who actually ended up canceling like they gave me the reason like that and every reason was consistent, was saying I was originally going to stay because like I really enjoy the community and I really enjoy like going to a gym and the gym was across the street and I know that I can’t do this on my own and I love being around people. And that’s something that you can’t provide with online coaching because of course, like you don’t have an actual facility. And I think that if I kept my gym open, I would probably would have taken that personally. But because of us making a pivot, we’re heading—it’s the same direction that we’ve been heading. But I think if anything, it’s opened up our borders, it’s opened up our borders because we’re not being restricted to the walls of our brick and mortar location.

Mike (20:16):

Yeah. And did a great job where you had a plan, right? So you expected this and you knew, like you were saying, there are gyms around, there are gym owners that I know and trust and like, and I can recommend to these clients and say, OK, John, you know, I’m really sorry to lose you, but I totally understand that your goals are not going to be served by online coaching. When things reopen, I’d like to, you know, recommend that you talk to Jennifer down the street or whatever and you know, you can make that switch. But the other side of it is really fascinating. I was talking to your buddy, Mateo Lopez. About this and we were talking marketing a couple of episodes ago and it’s very interesting where exactly what you said people, some of the greatest problems in the fitness industry got solved by COVID in the sense that you’re probably working from home now.

Mike (20:56):

You can’t really go out. Your excuse of not having time is probably not around anymore. Like you’re not going to baseball and football games and hockey games and stuff, right? Like you have not a lot of stuff going on, so now there is a real opportunity for some people who, like you said, couldn’t make it to your physical location because of travel time or whatever reasons. Now it’s like you could offer them that workout and say, OK, whenever you have 25 minutes, here is the perfect program for your goals. I’m going to check in with you afterwards and before and make sure everything is cool. I’ve got your modifications laid up. You only need 25 minutes and you don’t have to take the subway. You know, and you can make that pivot really fast. So that’s fascinating. And a thing that I want to say, I guess now is financially right, you were prepared probably, I’m sure you did the numbers to look and say these clients have left. However, my rent is no longer a thing. I’m not paying for heat or air conditioning. I’m not paying for, you know, streaming music services in my gym. I’m not paying for water and all the other utilities and so forth. And then staffing costs. Talk to me a little bit about your evaluations of your fixed costs. How did things change in terms of staffing and the fixed costs related to bricks and mortar?

Ashley (22:04):

So from a cost perspective, and that in itself was the biggest weight that was lifted off of me. Because yeah, as you said, fixed costs are really, really high and especially, I mean, Hoboken Jersey is right across the river from Manhattan, so you’re looking at Manhattan level expenses, but you just get a little bit more space. And so, what would you like for me to share some like some numbers with you?

Mike (22:30):

Do you have any general numbers that you want to throw out? We’d love to hear them.

Ashley (22:33):

Perfect. So looking at the past couple months, our fixed costs, not including staff costs, is about 12,000 a month. And that includes rent, utilities and everything in between that requires us to be in brick and mortar. When going through this entire process, it turns out we were able to set save $10,000. $10,000 in fixed expenses. So now our fixed expenses have dropped down to under 2000 a month.

Mike (23:00):

What was your square footage?

Ashley (23:00):

1800 square feet. 1500 of that was actually usable. But we were actually really lucky because we were the only gym in Hoboken that actually had a parking lot. So at the time I had no problem paying a little bit extra to have that parking lot convenience, which was really helpful. And especially during the warmer periods, you can like push sleds and everything.

Ashley (23:32):

Yeah. But we dropped our expenses pretty much about 10,000, which was awesome. And so looking at that, it was kind of like a no brainer, like doing just that evaluation. It was like, it was a no brainer. And so from there, when it came to switching over to staff costs or changing over staff costs and trying to just get a little bit of a better understanding of how to make it possible. Because another big thing was that my coaches were relying on me to pay to pay them. And that was another concern is like, I didn’t want to, like, I didn’t feel right closing the gym down completely and not giving an avenue for these kids—not kids, these coaches, these coaches who were relying on a paycheck to help provide for their income.

Ashley (24:20):

So what I like, I mean, just like many gyms, we pay them per coach per class, per class and per session. But because you’re in an online program, you’re not really doing a session or classes. And so we switched to a percentage per revenue generated by clients. So we were going very similar off of the 4/9ths model. Being able to focus on making sure that we were able to continue to pay our coaches a fair wage, but then also being able to have the percentage meet the needs of the business too. So we ended up switching that up and it was really helpful because now these coaches are able to make an income, but then even for them, it’s a new avenue because here they are being able to generate an income without having to be at the gym. And that was really exciting. It’s providing a new opportunity and in essence, if they wanted to go back to in person training, they absolutely could at another gym in town. But then also they can make this as well. So from an opportunity standpoint, these coaches were able to make an income while also being able to have the flexibility because of working with clients individually, online.

Mike (25:31):

And that’s the burden of ownership, right? Where you can look at the dollars and cents and you can make these decisions. But when it comes down to it, staff costs, those are human faces and friends and colleagues and all the people that you know, you love and care about that you feel the burden to take care of. But the reality is, and we’ve had to have these conversations I think all over the world now, is that if the business goes under, no one gets paid. So the business, you know, ultimately has to come before the staff, which is an unfortunate reality. However, the cool part about what you just said is that if there is no online option and you don’t give them anything to do, there’s no work and they don’t get paid, period. Right? So you’ve now at least said to them, I know this isn’t what you signed up for, however, it’s the new reality in the world.

Mike (26:11):

Can you, and do you want to do this? And if so, let’s roll. If not, we part ways and/or I recommend you to a physical location, you know, with a ringing endorsement as soon as that that happens. But that could be, you know, 60, 90, who knows how long that’s going to be. What was the response from your coaches? Were they pretty into this thing cause this a huge change. People that were asked to be the big person in front of whiteboard are now being asked to like completely change delivery methods and systems. How did they go with that?

Ashley (26:42):

It was interesting because of the fact that, I mean the gym over the past year has gone through so much change. I went from being a present owner to living across the country and while I was living across the country, we had a huge shift in leadership. And then from there, my coaches, the coaches are amazing because of being able to deal with all this change has been really helpful. And it was interesting because I was kind of almost brought to tears by a text message because I was checking in on my coaches and I was like, Hey, how’s it going? And then they asked me how I was doing and I was just like, you know what, I’m really excited and I’m real, but I’m fried. I mean, this entire process took, it takes a lot of energy, right? Takes a lot of mental energy. And what almost brought me to tears was one of my coaches said, well, you’re really leading from the front. And like, I’ve like never experienced a leader like you.

Mike (27:41):

Oh, wow.

Ashley (27:42):

And then itself was really huge. And I realized that throughout this entire time, being able to provide a clear direction, focusing on the mission and vision of our business and operating within our values and leading from that standpoint, the staff, they were a little bummed. The coaches were a little bummed that there wasn’t going to be a physical location, but they were like, OK, let’s do this. Let’s move forward. And that was the most exciting part. But yeah, it didn’t really occur to me that is was because of me leaving them, that that’s what led them to make this huge shift with me. So that was really exciting.

Mike (28:24):

I think honestly, and this has been my experience as well, I think having a plan, like you said, having something to say to people, Hey, we have a plan is so much better than anything else. And like the perfect example right now is the governments where they are definitely not wealths of information right now for whatever reason. Either they don’t know or they just aren’t rolling it out just yet. But we don’t know what’s going on. And a lot of people that really bothers people. Right. And I get it. We were in the same position where, because we were in the Two-Brain family, we had all this information from gyms and China and Europe, we knew what was happening. I was able to say to my clients, like, guys, we’re shutting this thing down. There will be not one class missed. We have personal coaches assigned to you that is happening.

Mike (29:04):

You will be contacted within 24 hours. We’re going to find out what your space is like, what you have at home. We’ll take care of you. And the response was pretty good right there. Obviously they’re bummed too, right where they may want to come and do, you know, pull-ups on the pull-up bar. They don’t want to like bump their head on the rafters. But because we had a plan, everything was was as good as can be expected. We of course had cancellations where people lose jobs and there’s nothing a gym owner can do if someone loses a job, you know, we have to do that. It’s amazing what a plan does. So you’ve done obviously really well with your staff and clients. I want to talk about the next step of that plan and that’s now the marketing plan and the acquisition of new clients. So, tell me a little about that. Have you started advertising? Have you have programs in place? What’s the response been? Have you sold some stuff and got some new clients? Where are we at with that?

Ashley (29:49):

So yeah, sales and marketing. I mean, we went from a point where we were hyper-local, Hoboken’s a square mile and there’s 20,000 plus people within that square mile. And so we had a really big pot, but then also we developed a brand within the town. I’ve generated a large part of my role at the business is generating content. And a lot of people know me as the person who writes. And so the great thing is that I now live across the country, out in the Northern part of San Francisco. And interestingly enough, like no one’s really advertising at this point. And so the great thing is that we’ve been able to really focus on expanding our reach. But then when you expand your reach, you’re in a really wide ocean. There’s a lot of options. And we run into the same issue but on a grander scale is there’s so many options, it’s hard for people to make a choice in regards to how they can actually, you know, improve their health and fitness.

Ashley (30:48):

So we had to find a way to make it much more specific and we fell back on who we wanted to be able to serve. And so our specific clientele, the ones that we want to serve are folks who are, we’ll say thirties and up, but then they’re also busy parents. Because they’re the folks who might not necessarily have the time to spend 90 minutes to two hours at a gym. They probably would love to, but because of all their other life challenges, you know, they can’t do so. And so that’s our focus. And what that means is that we create our target ad set. We build our audience from there, and then we just continue to focus on developing our content. So that way folks understand who we are because now, yeah, we’re in a larger group, like a lot of people are going to see our ads and they have no idea who we are and they need to know our story. They need to learn a little bit more about who we are. So we need to be able to create, in essence we need to continue to speak out to those folks that we’re trying to communicate with through our marketing message.

Mike (31:56):

Yeah, I can’t tell you how many ads I’ve seen popping up on Facebook and so forth for me for online training and they’re all over the place. It’s not local stuff necessarily. It’s like who knows where these gyms are, or online, you know, coaches and so forth. That’s just exactly it. You’re now competing in a digital space. You’re competing with everyone who has internet access as opposed to just, you know, your local market. So the response that you took is to completely dial in your marketing and figure out the exact client that you want and then try and build all your ads and all your stories and all your content around that exact client. My question here is, have you found some of them?

Ashley (32:31):

Not yet. Not yet. The only reason, and the only reason is because we’ve been focusing primarily on just, I have to say though, entirely new clients, no, but existing clients, let’s say previous existing clients. So people that joined our gym years ago, but then they had challenges and they couldn’t join our gym and they just loved it. But they were like, actually this was probably the best experience that we’ve had. But like life has just been super crazy and all of a sudden here we are providing it from there. So we’re still getting folks from Jersey because we still have a big name Jersey. And so really excited to be able to focus on developing those markets. But then also looking to the aspects of like working on those relationships too because parents know other parents and we don’t necessarily have to 100% double down on paid advertising, especially if you have those good folks already within the organization itself.

Mike (33:31):

  1. So that’s really interesting. So what you’ve got is the first thing is that you’re basically working retention, which is obviously we always teach that work retention first before you get to marketing. It’s more important to keep your current clients than to get new ones because it’s harder to acquire and more expensive to acquire new clients. The second thing, you echoed something and it’s happening in practice, something Mateo and I were talking about in a previous show, you had all these clients at your physical location who ran into issues and you tried like hell retain them but couldn’t because you couldn’t, they just didn’t have enough time, they couldn’t get your place, they moved away. They, you know, they change cities, change jobs, whatever. Now that you’re online you have these collection of people that know, like, and trust you.

Mike (34:10):

And they probably need a workout program and who better than the online specialist they used to fist bump in person. So that’s a really, really fascinating thing. So I love that. So that’s the two things that guys, if you can take away from this is retain your current clients with the best service and building value. Then contact your old clients who left for whatever reason and see if they’re interested in what you’ve got new, you’ve already got them on the mailing list. That’s exactly what Mateo said in a couple of episodes before. Talk to me. So we’re now spinning up your research and you’re dialing in your audience. You’re doing your ad campaigns. Are you running ads currently right now?

Ashley (34:45):

We are. We are currently running ads.

Mike (34:47):

Do you have any data on what’s happening? Like are you getting clicks through to landing pages and so forth and then you’re just in the process of warming these people through leads or what, where are you at with this whole process of getting people in the door or in the digital door? We’ll call it.

Ashley (35:00):

The digital door. So we have a really wide audience. We’ve been generating between, say like one to two leads a day. Which has been helpful. They haven’t booked an intro just yet. Our process, our sales process, it hasn’t changed. In fact, before all this has happened, our sales process was all through like no sweat intro phone calls. So that in itself was really new. And so we do have a series of drip emails and continue content to continue to warm up these clients. But then also a part of it is also texting and calling these folks too during the time, which was another part of our sales lead nurture process, which hasn’t changed since we’ve opened. And, right now still a lot of people are experiencing some challenges and trying to figure out what their life is going to be given this new normal.

Ashley (35:55):

And with that being the case, we’re still in the warming phase, which is promising. And I think I’m feeling much more confident now because of the fact that we already have an existing client base and it wasn’t like we had to start completely new and from square one. Like I think it’s great if we’re looking at the flywheel is that we have operations, retention. I mean the biggest thing now is generating new leads and leading them into the sales aspect.

Mike (36:30):

Yeah. Like you, as Chris Cooper said in a recent blog, we all got sent back to the first stage of entrepreneurship, which we call into Two-Brain language founder phase. All of us. However, we’re not starting with zero clients, many of us, because we are able to pivot quickly following the strategy, we’re able to maintain or retain a lot of them. And the second thing is we all have tons of experience now where we climbed out of this stage once before. We now know how to do it faster. We have systems and process, we have mentors, which is a huge deal, right? And we’re able to now navigate this faster. So it’s really cool because you literally set up a completely new business, right? Like you said, you had some minor online stuff, but for the most part you’ve totally changed your entire business model. And now exactly like you said, you have the benefit of having retained clients that can support you while you do this lead nurture thing.

Mike (37:15):

Because I wouldn’t expect the average client right now to just be online buy, buy, buy. We know that we’re in some economic trouble. People are losing jobs, people are uncertain, people are scared. It’s going to take some time for like the ant farm to kind of like all the dust to settle and people start building their own, you know, the new tunnels again. So I would be curious to see, and I’ve asked Mateo the same question, what happens with that marketing and we’re going to figure some stuff out. So guys, we’re going to talk marketing and data and details and results as we run our tests and figure it out. So keeps checking. Subscribe to this show if you haven’t already, because there will be more stuff coming there. The question I want to ask you, always try and give people actionable advice. If someone is thinking about moving a business completely online and just ditching the bricks and mortar location, what’s the first steps that he or she should do?

Ashley (38:01):

Yeah. So the first step is understanding what you want out of this business. Do you want to just get out because you’re just tired of being a gym owner? That’s one. If you’re tired of being a gym owner and you just don’t want to do this anymore, this could be a like, you know, it’s unfortunate, but this could be a great opportunity for you to end up exiting out like this. And I think that’s important. It’s like if you end up closing, like you’re not quitting, you’re not a failure. It’s just the best option that that is for you.

Mike (38:34):

No one’s gonna fault you for the deal changed.

Ashley (38:36):

Exactly. No one’s going to fault you. And the second part is like if, if you want to continue to help folks and you find that it’s your life mission to continue to help folks through health and fitness and you were just like me where you felt like having those extra expenses actually prevented you from doing what you needed, what you do best, which is help people, then then take it and run with it. If you have that desire to help folks and not be limited by your brick and mortar, then I would say stick with that plan and communicate it with—the order of operations would be communicating it with obviously your landlord first because they’re the ones that’s going to be controlling that huge piece of expenses. But then from there, talk to your staff and let them know where your head is at because that’s where you can make sure that your staff is on board and that you have a very unified message. And again, the biggest thing is that we’re making sure that there’s clarity in a world where there’s no clarity at all. And that is very important to be able to understand that everyone’s on the same page.

Mike (39:48):

So direct me if I miss a step here, but just based on the conversation, I think the first thing you have to do is you have to look inside your soul and figure out what you actually want to do and how you want to help people. You’re gonna need to figure that out and just like what is your life mission? And that goes back to Two-Brain values, mission. You know, what is this business to you and how does it help people after that decision? I think you’re probably looking at probably a lawyer, a lease and an accountant, right? You’ve got to figure out, that’s where you’re going into the data. You have to look at like, what can I afford? What are my terms? How do I get out?

Mike (40:23):

What is my long-term plan? How long can I last at these expenses and can I get out if I want to or can I survive and how do I survive until I can reopen again. And again guys there are government loans being loaned all the time or go to Two-Brain business.com COVID 19 at the very top banner, you’ll find a list of all the stuff all over the world is being rolled over, constantly adding to that. So that’s another step in this chain. And then the next step after that you said is whatever your decision is and whatever you’ve researched with your professionals, you now have to communicate that with your staff and your clients and make sure they’re on board. Have I missed a step in there?

Ashley (41:00):

No. you hit the nail on that.

Mike (41:04):

So the last question I’ll ask you here is what’s your outlook? Talk to me, and I want to get you back on the show, but in the next two, three months, where do you think Hudson River Fitness is going to be?

Ashley (41:16):

And the next two to three months. I mean, I think an essence, our definition of a full caseload, which is going to be the aspects of I mean the coaches, whoever, like the coaches on staff will be able to work with as many clients or as little clients as they want. But then also I get to continue to develop the business from a digital standpoint and be able to grow and particularly, we’re going to continue to help busy parents get healthy and that’s going to be the biggest thing. Um, yeah.

Mike (41:55):

Will you come back and talk to us once we a little further down the line because I want to know, I want to hear more about your market and how you’re attacking it and how as things settle, how people are contacting you, will you come back and join us?

Ashley (42:06):

Absolutely. I would love to.

Mike (42:07):

All right. Thank you so much. This is Two-Brain Radio. I’m Mike Warkentin with digital gym owner and mentor Ashley Mak. Two-Brain Business is in contact with gyms all over the world. And we’re collecting data as they adapt to the COVID crisis and as they recover., We’re going to tell you what works and how your gym can rebuild. For our collection of essential resources, visit twobrainbusiness.com and click COVID-19 in the top menu. Thanks for tuning into Two-Brain Radio, and please subscribe for more episodes just like this.

 

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On Monday, Two-Brain Radio presents marketing tips and success stories. Chris Cooper delivers the best of the business world on Two-Brain Radio every Thursday. 

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