Editor’s Note: Almost a year into virtual fitness, Chris Beer hit a slump. She needed something to reenergize her routine as well as expand her perspective as a fitness business consultant. So she decided to virtually “travel” to 50 remote fitness classes across the country, and now she’s offering tips to other fitness professionals based on what she’s learned:
When I set out, I had a few ground rules for myself. It needed to be a "new to me" fitness studio and I needed to pay for the class, as my small way of supporting the industry that I love. Along the way, I learned a lot about what happens in the early stages of a client-trainer relationship. With this challenge, I joke that I went on 50 first dates in 2 months!
When it comes to creating an exceptional virtual experience for your clients and nurturing those relationships (both for the newbies and your loyal veterans), I’m offering tips based on my virtual fitness tour to help you succeed. Let's jump into this.
Tip #1: Understand how virtual fitness is different
Let's start by talking about what's different between a virtual fitness class and an in-studio experience, in terms of what your clients are seeking.
Current research shows an explosion in interest in snackable workout. Wait, did someone finally create a fusion class of snacking and stretching? Because I'm IN. All dad jokes aside, I'm referring to classes that are shorter in duration than usual. In your case, we may be talking about a 30-minute training session instead of the usual 50-60 minute time block. Why? Because when your client is tuning in from home, they may be dealing with a host of work and family distractions. We want to offer an experience that allows them to stay engaged with their workouts and sets them up for success.
Now, as we're talking about what clients want, let's close with one important thing — they want you to start and end on time. Simply said, they may be squeezing in your training session between conference calls or homeschooling. Make it easy for them to get in, get out and feel great.
Tip #2: Embrace the differences
Another benefit of virtual fitness is that there is no room for gymtimidation. Gymtimi-what? Have you ever invited a friend to join you for a workout, and they get that nervous look on their face and come up with some lame excuse? It's normal for clients to avoid trying or re-starting a new fitness routine because they are self-conscious about their appearance or physical fitness. Virtual fitness allows clients to try your class in a safe environment (their home), even going camera off if they wish.
Tip #3: Set the stage
Next, let's talk about your setup as a virtual trainer. No one has the perfect “workout from home” space. It’s totally normal to have a kid or pet wander through a client’s workout space. That being said, trainers should do their best to be in a quiet, distraction-free environment while teaching. Take a quick "edit" of your filming space and focus here on what you can do to make the environment more pleasing. You don't have to spend a lot of money - just a plain wall (perhaps even a fresh coat of paint or a curtain) with neutral colors (which makes it easier to see your bodies). Cut the visual clutter by removing technology (TVs, cords), adding a few simple staging props (plants, artwork) and choosing a location away from distracting areas of the house (beds, bathrooms).
Tip #4: Always be courting
Here’s a tip based on the fitness studio pitches offered to me. After taking 50 remote classes, I’m enrolled in about 30 welcome campaigns from various fitness studios. Most businesses pitch an unlimited month as their suggested next purchase after the first class. I’d recommend making that commitment smaller, like selling a three-pack of training sessions. You wouldn’t go on a first date to proposing marriage, would you? Ease into the relationship, or you may have a runaway bride, aka the consumer.
When you have clients that are loyal to your training, ask for referrals. The best way to build your business is through word of mouth from satisfied customers. Ask loyal clients to invite friends to take a class, as suggested previously. These days, your referral network isn’t limited to your geographic neighborhood. Clients could invite friends and family from across the world, expanding your potential audience.
Do you need help with your messaging? Tech partners like TrueCoach and Trainerize can help. They cue messaging based on customer behaviors, guiding them toward the next step in your sales cycle. They run your messaging while you run your business.
Tip #5: Continue to challenge yourself
Keeping your virtual fitness programming engaging presents challenges, which can be exhausting. Anyone can become stuck, hit a plateau or face a creativity block. For me, taking classes from 50 different studios around the country widened my perspective, enabling me to see the world through the lens of fitness business owners and instructors in a variety of communities. It was rejuvenating! You can break out, too.
Continue to challenge yourself, getting out of your routine and your comfort zone. Take it to social media and ask your clients what fitness workouts they’ve been loving lately. Try new fitness programs. Be open to sharing your experiences. You don’t have to complete 50 remote classes as I did, but you can find your own way to improve your business for success and satisfaction.
The fact that you're reading this today shows that you are a fitness professional who is committed to honing their practice in a way that best serves their clients. Keep up the great work!