Retain Your Members During the Coronavirus Shutdown with Smart Virtual Solutions

In recent weeks, it has become more evident than ever before that a digital platform armed with virtual training solutions is an essential tool many health club and studio businesses will need to survive during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

Club Industry’s April 1 virtual town hall event featured a panel discussion that highlighted various strategies for enhancing your member engagement via virtual solutions. The webinar—featuring Emmett Williams, president of Myzone; Ashley Podoll, marketing manager at Intelivideo; Jillian Cohen, CEO of Virtual Health Partners; and Elizabeth Tuzzolo, director of partner success at Gympass—is now available for free on-demand viewing.

Highlighted below are a key takeaway from each of the panelists. View the full hourlong webcast for more insights.

1. "Keep top of mind as a brand for your members. Keep engaging them and then encourage them.” -Ashley Podoll, Intelivideo

Many facility operators, out of necessity, have been more willing to adopt and prioritize virtual solutions during the last month, but understanding how to replicate their signature offerings in a digital space remains their most-asked question, Podoll said.

“That is always the biggest question,” she said. "'I have this really thoughtful in-studio or club or gym experience. How do I create the same brand standard, and how do I make that as valuable from a digital sense through apps, through content, etc.?'"

One of Intelivideo's largest clients recently grew its digital subscriber base by 60,000 users in one week after offering a specially priced promotional offer that was attractive to displaced exercisers, Podoll said.

Free trials and discounted programming packages remain effective means of acquiring new digital customers, but the quality and creativity of your content always wins the day, Podoll said.

Consider how you can meet the specific needs of your members and prospective members. Podoll cited one example of an Intelivideo client offering “soul stroll” podcasts that users can listen to while getting out of their home and talking a walk.

2. “People have different needs. You have to offer content for your audience and understand and know your audience.” -Jillian Cohen, Virtual Health Partners

Cohen recommended offering content for all types and levels of exercisers during this time. She also suggested incorporating nutrition and lifestyle elements into your offerings. This adds value for you and the user, and it also differentiates your platform. Specifically, consider offering meal plans and mental health support during this time, if you have the resources to do so.

Cohen also warns against underselling your offerings, particularly for extended periods of time.

"I don't think people expect things for free forever, and if you give it to them for too long for free, when are they going to come back and pay for it?” she said. “So I think there's this really fine balance there."

3. “What problem are we now solving? Last week, we were solving the cash flow. This week, we're solving for a different problem, and that problem statement is this: How do we get as many members as we've got to come back into our gym within the first 30 days of reopening?” -Emmett Williams, Myzone

Williams discouraged facility operators from thinking about virtual solutions in a vacuum. Instead, think about how any service you offer now will ultimately drive your members back to your brick-and-mortar business in the future.

He also warned against delivering too much free content and instead implored operators to consider the ways in which they can add value to their virtual offering.

"The way I see it working is like a funnel,” he said. “You have your members at the top of the funnel, and you bring them down through. And you can charge for this content. You can turn around to your members and say, ‘Yes, we've got free content on Zoom and Facebook Live, but if you join our private Facebook group at [a certain price point] per month ... we can give you nutrition advice and give you one-to-one [consultations] so that we can work on your state of mind.’ And you start laying it up and pricing it as such. And then, when you get back to normal time when the gym is open again, you now have this digital solution that complements the physical solution, and you go about business in an omni-channel way.”

4. “We're not just going to reopen like we're turning a light switch on. You may be in a class at Snap Fitness in a few months, and there may be a camera in the corner and some people are [streaming] live and some people are in person.” -Elizabeth Tuzzolo, Gympass

Some operators may be concerned that new digital offerings could diminish their future in-person offerings, but today’s new digital opportunities only serve to keep members better connected to your facility’s culture and community, Tuzzolo said. Think of it as if you are gaining, not losing, something, she added.

"[Virtual training] is an opportunity as people trickle back into the systems,” she said. “They may not feel comfortable coming to in-person classes right away, so they want to do live classes as well. I understand why some people would be scared that this might take away from their in-person clients. However, I think that this is actually [a strategy] to retain, then maybe engage new clients.”

Click here for more on Club Industry’s virtual town hall events, and click here for more coronavirus-related resources for fitness professionals.