Physiq Fitness: Pivoting to Retain and Create Member Demand
March 2021 Club of the Month, presented by ABC Fitness Solutions:
Physiq Fitness, est. 2007
Oregon’s Physiq Fitness is a great example of a club that pivoted quickly in the wake of the pandemic to retain and create member demand by delivering a personalized digital experience to members.
Here, Landon Burningham, the owner of Physiq Fitness, shares the ins and outs of their video-on-demand and live stream offerings, and why the need for a solid, long-term virtual strategy that’s focused on creating a sense of community and connection is undeniable.
Tell me a bit about the challenges you’ve faced since the start of the pandemic operating in Oregon. What’s the status of your gyms in regards to reopening?
LB: As with everyone in the fitness industry, life has been challenging since the beginning of the pandemic. In Oregon, we were originally shut down in March and we expected the shut down to only last a few weeks, but it ended up being nearly two months. In an effort to best serve our members, we turned off all client billing and quickly turned to video on demand and offered live classes for free in an effort to keep customers engaged.
After reopening Physiq Fitness we hoped things would return to normal but we were put on strict capacity limits, had to keep our kids club closed, and had mandatory mask wearing. This, along with the stigma that all gyms face as being “unclean” caused usage to plummet. This in turn caused auxiliary sales to come to an all-time low. This became a perfect storm and was a catalyst for mass cancelations and freezes with people deciding to wait until things “returned to normal.”
After a few short months, we started gaining in-club traction until we were again mandated to shut down for indoor fitness in November. This lasted through the end of January 2021. This shutdown impacted our business nearly twice as hard as the previous shutdown because not only did we lose the revenue from the closure, but we were closed to indoor fitness during our busiest time of the year. We are currently open under strict capacity and usage limits.
How have you pivoted as a result of the pandemic in regards to digital offerings?
LB: Prior to the pandemic, our digital offerings were minimal to non-existent. Upon our first closure, we quickly set up live stream classes utilizing Facebook and Instagram live, as well as Zoom. In addition, we began building our library of pre-recorded, video-on-demand classes. By the time we hit our second shutdown, we were able to pivot to a full schedule of live-streamed classes and have an extensive library of video-on-demand classes accessible for our members anytime, anywhere.
We also utilized the Myzone platform with MZ-remote classes to continue bringing our heart rate-based, team-training style classes to our members in a virtual setting. Along with the above we have created virtual personal training that can be used as a stand-alone product for members and non-members alike or in conjunction with current personal training clients to curate unique, personalized, flexible routines that allow both in-person and virtual training modalities.
The last part of our virtual strategy at Physiq Fitness is our virtual fitness challenges. After offering them, they quickly became one of my favorite offerings and have shown to be truly engaging for our members both in and out of the clubs to create that connection and sense of community.
What are the best practices you can share for delivering digital member engagement?
LB: Here are things to keep in mind:
- Utilize and value your instructors and trainers. If you don’t, they’ll find their own platform to teach on and take your members with them.
- Communicate. Your members and staff need to know what you’re offering and how to access it. Make it as easy and simple as possible. Include links, access codes and schedules all in one place so they don’t have to go searching for the information.
- Know the rules. Make sure you know and are following the rules around music. Use royalty-free, purchase the rights to the music, and be sure you have music licenses through the correct companies to make sure all bases are covered. Don’t stress and worry so much about the quality of music. If it’s bad, skip the music altogether and focus more on the quality of sound in regards to the instructor’s voice. People working out from home can turn on their own music, but if they can’t hear the instructor’s coaching and cues, they’ll miss out on so much more.
- Double dip when you can. You will get the best quality for video-on-demand when you have a professional camera and audio system, but oftentimes clubs don’t have the resources to have their own professional equipment or team. So when you can, record live stream workouts even if it’s just on a mobile phone so you can double dip and add that content to your video-on-demand library without the extra cost.
- Start with something. Even if you don’t have a huge budget to make a digital platform, it’s important to know you can make a big impact and don’t have to spend a lot of money to do it. For example, for video-on-demand, you can save videos to YouTube via hidden links and share them on private Facebook pages or even embed them on your website all for little to no cost.
- It doesn’t have to be perfect to start. Just start. Then you can build and tweak as you go.
What are your thoughts on virtual fitness’ role in the future of the industry? Will it continue to play a role at your club down the road?
LB: My thoughts on this are simple: The need for a solid, long-term virtual strategy that’s centered on the member is undeniable. I don’t think it matters if you are a small to medium size operator or a very large company — you need to have a virtual strategy and be prepared for it to be around for the long haul. It does not need to be an expensive product that takes all your time, money or manpower, but it does need to be offered to some extent. So, whether you dip your toes in and provide the minimal offerings or dive all in will depend largely on your operations and what you take on without overwhelming your business. The key is just to engage your members and your community — both when they are in your brick-and-mortar locations and when they are not. At Physiq Fitness, we plan to focus on keeping virtual personal training, virtual fitness-on-demand and virtual fitness challenges as part of our ongoing business model for the foreseeable future.
What are you most proud of in regards to how you and your team have navigated this time?
LB: The thing I am most proud of is how our team at Physiq Fitness all came together to take on new and unfamiliar challenges to grow the business in a time of so much uncertainty. Most of our team went from doing their own job to doing their own job plus two or three others overnight. On top of this, they worked tirelessly to learn and develop new strategies for our virtual content to keep our members connected and engaged, as well as operations for when we would be allowed to reopen. Ultimately, it was the amount of positivity and camaraderie they all showed to pull all of this off in the face of so much adversity. It was truly inspiring.
What’s the best piece of leadership advice you could give to other operators?
LB: Have you ever been on a plane experiencing turbulence? Typically the pilot will get on the overhead and in a calm voice, state that you should stay seated and buckle up because it’s going to be a bit of a rough ride for a moment. Now, imagine being on that same plane if the pilot got on the overhead in a panic and started sharing all that could go wrong. The flight crew and passengers would likely panic and cause even more turmoil than the turbulence ever would. The same goes for running a business. It doesn’t matter whether you are starting or growing a business, pivoting and switching directions, or even standing in the face of failure, it’s important to stay calm and be optimistic, not only for yourself but for your staff and customers, too. I always tell my team to remember “positive thoughts create positive words,” and combined they create positive actions and outcomes.
Created in partnership with ABC Fitness Solutions. Visit abcfitness.com for more information on how they can help your fitness business.
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