As fitness obsessives and marketing professionals, we get to see a lot of both sides of the broader health and fitness industry.
We’re very happy to see that this is a sector that’s growing faster than ever. Just as we love to see progress in our marketing, as well as in our training, we thought we’d share a few interesting observations from the year so far.
Integration is everything.
The online booking technology that was once the reserve of big brand chains has now trickled down and is easily accessible to solo personal trainers. People want to book with two taps of their smartphone, and if they can’t do that, they won’t bother. Now it’s possible to get simple, powerful and pretty platforms to do this for any kind of fitness business, from personal training, to yoga classes and physiotherapy sessions. Even better, it’s easier than ever to integrate these booking platforms into your existing website. While websites should certainly be mobile friendly by now (more than half of web traffic is from mobile devices) it’s just as important to make your booking platform accessible on any sized screen.
There are a ton of platforms out there for fitness professionals of every shape and size, so it’s important to find the one that’s best for you. While the ubiquity of MindBody is well established, there are a bunch of cheaper alternatives which may work better for smaller business owners. The platform you pick will be a long term commitment so make sure it can cope with the functionality you need, be it direct debit, automatic class booking or different price packages. Another key feature to think about is how well the platform will integrate with your fitness or gym website design as the combination of website and platform may not always make this easy.
Less maximal, more optimal.
In our opinion, there has been a slight shift in the tone of fitness marketing over last 12 months, and it’s a shift that’s picking up pace. A few years ago, fitness brands boasted about how beastly they were, the more torturous and painful the better. If the workout didn’t cause you to sink to your knees in sheer agony and exhaustion it wasn’t worth doing. Sufferfest is a brand that was ahead of the curve in satirising this masochistic approach. We think the appeal of brutal boot camps and sickening spin classes is now past its peak.
Maybe it’s just because we’ve all shifted in our approaches to how we train, but we think there is definitely a shift away from working out purely for pain, towards an approach that’s focussed on progress. Be it endurance athletes training for a marathon, or strength athletes gunning for a higher one rep max, coaches are talking more about the risks of injury and over training. This isn’t surprising, while you get a good buzz from next level HIIT classes, doing this once a week wont transform your body and its easy to fall off the wagon.
What’s the alternative? It’s hard to say. We still love a tough workout. We just want there be a performance or physique benefit from all the hard work, rather than endorphins alone. It’s very possible that the more contemplative approach of the heavily overlapping “well being” industry is starting to rub off on PTs and gyms. There is no quick fix to physique or performance. So why promise the impossible? Fitness professionals and their clients will both benefit from slow, steady sustainable progress rather than going all out for a month and then giving up.
Equality is on the up.
Perhaps a side effect of toning down the aggressiveness, we find marketing brands are increasingly becoming more gender neutral and more accessible to athletes of all abilities. Gyms are moving away from the cliched, hyper-masculine red and black colour schemes to more welcoming hues. Phrases like “strong is the new skinny” are no longer controversially counter culture and women are increasingly seen more in the squat rack. As are completely novice lifters who are starting to realise that strength training works. This is very good news indeed. Although there’s still a lot of work to be done. On the other end of the spectrum, yoga and meditation are becoming more socially acceptable for people of all ages, genders and beliefs.
There are more startups than ever.
With funding platforms like kick starter and eCommerce systems more accessible than ever, there’s never been a better time to start your own fitness brand. Be it an athleisure line of clothing, a new protein supplement or your own online PT programming service, the costs and skills required are minimal. People who are having great ideas are more able to get them out there and start innovating. It also means there’s more competition.
Having a website is no longer enough. You need a really good website. Having a few thousand followers on Instagram is no longer enough. You need to have a system to monetise that engagement. Having a mate throw together a blog isn’t enough. You need a super consistent brand identity every time someone sees your brand. How many times have you instantly dismissed a novel brand or product because it could be quickly judged as being “unprofessional”? It can take a lot of time and effort to keep on top of social media management so it’s important to make sure this is a good use of your time. Don’t get fooled into thinking that this alone will support your entire business.
Yes, it’s easier than ever to begin a startup… but it’s never been easy to make it successful.
Content is still king.
As inbound marketing evangelists, it would be wrong for us to not reinforce this marketing mantra. Content is what gets people to follow you on Facebook, it’s what drives traffic to your website, it’s what converts visitors to long time customers and keeps them coming back for more and more. To be fair, this makes it sounds a lot simpler than it is, but there is no better way for you to convince your clients of your value and expertise than the creation and promotion of as much high quality content as possible.