LIVE-STREAMING THE KEY TO MEMBER ENGAGEMENT AT THE FIT STATION
by Les Mills Asia Pacific
Kelly Dennis is the Owner and Managing Director of The Station and believes LES MILLS Programs contribute to the success of the facility by being a well-known brand that everyone recognises. “Les Mills classes attract people who may not have otherwise looked us up. What members love most about LES MILLS programs is the vibe and the different types of training you can get across all the programs.”
As an Instructor herself, Kelly says “the training that Les Mills provides is the best I've ever had and this shines through with the quality of our Instructors who, in turn, have people coming back to the classes.”
“In the first lockdown we played around with Facebook,” explains Kelly. “But Zoom is much better. We splashed out on a quality audio system so we could live-stream from the Fit Station and have proper sound for those sessions. So we have 22+ live classes, which is made up of live-streamed Les Mills workouts and freestyle classes, which we save to create a sort of ‘on demand’ service for members, which they can go back and replay. We find that most of our members do this because they can access the sessions around their own routine and demands. We also provide Home Workouts, which are usually strength-based and programs that I write out for those who have equipment available at home.”
“We did hire out our equipment to members, for a one-off cost, and it was available on a ‘first in, best dressed’ basis, and we were totally cleared out!”
While her participation figures are impressive, Kelly says The Fit Station has never been about numbers and it never will be. Instead, sustainability for everyone has remained their number one priority.
“We are a small business so we need cash flow, of course; but the biggest thing for us was creating something sustainable for both us and our members. Unfortunately, many lost their jobs in the beginning or have had their hours reduced, so our priority was always to create something that would keep members engaged and keep them moving at a sustainable price point. I feel we’ve done it quite cheaply because at $20 a week for an online membership, we offer a lot in return with the Weekly Challenges, recipes and prizes. We’re not about the money here; we’re all about the fitness and the love! Our business has a real community fitness family vibe and so it was great to have the community show their support of us by moving their memberships over.”
The Fit Station has always been focused on feedback. “Every week I say to them ‘is there something else you want to see or try or do – reach out to us and let us know?’ says Kelly. “You have to listen to your clients; you can’t just deliver the same thing over and over and over again. This is what makes our unique business proposition – we are people talking to people. And I think that’s what’s kept a lot of people on board with us, because yes there are other on-demand apps, and while they may give them more variety in some areas, our members are sticking with us because we’re listening to what they want. And we’ll continue to do that even when we reopen.”
Kelly works on her business plan frequently, so when lockdown occurred in March, she knew it was coming and had pre-planned for it.
“The announcement was on the Sunday or the Monday and we were online on the Tuesday,” she explained. “So we moved pretty quickly to get our members moved over to the online membership. The second time around it took us a day or two because the first time around, we automatically moved them to the new membership model; but this latest time around we let them choose. Fortunately for us, almost all of our [very supportive] members came over – and we actually even picked up another 50 members on top of that!”
“Online training has enabled us to reach a different market because a lot of those 50 people are previous members; ones who have moved away and can’t actually physically get to The Fit Station; for example, one of our members is in Denmark! So we have people from overseas as well as all over Melbourne. We’ve found that word-of-mouth from our current members to their friends (who may live elsewhere and would therefore never ever have come to The Station to do a class in person), are now training with us online as well. It’s become a whole new referral tool.”
“With some of the online programs, some members may feel a bit funny about doing a particular class if they feel uncoordinated or like they don’t know what they’re doing. And whether it’s because of the timing or because they’re doing it at home on demand (as opposed to a live class), they don’t feel like everyone’s watching them and so they feel more comfortable, which leads them to getting used to it, and liking it! Online workouts are allowing people to get into programs that they may not have tried at an in-club class.”
“We wanted to keep the variety so the timetable is still pretty full; all of those programs that we’re allowed to stream online we do. We’ve even brought on new ones that we were going to launch in the future; we’ve been able to bring them online so members can get a taste of them first before they come back to the Station in-person. BODYCOMBAT® has been popular, and people are loving BODYJAM®.”
“Last time we streamed while we were teaching live, but we learned from that experience that it’s too hard to floor coach as well as teach to camera, so we may not do it that way next time. When we reopen we’ll probably also not do as many virtual classes as we offer now, simply because we do want to become a face-to-face business again. But that said, we will definitely continue offering some online workouts – especially for those outside the area, such as Denmark!”
The question remains: after seven months of lockdown in Victoria, people are desperate for the socialisation in a virtual setting, so how can Clubs interact and gain that community experience that members go to fitness facilities to receive?
Kelly says, “COVID has definitely opened up a whole new world for us that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise explored. Nothing will ever beat the group fitness class vibe, but Zoom allows members to still see each other in person, even if it’s via a screen. For now it’s working but I am really looking forward to getting back in the studio! COVID has made people realise how important fitness and mental health are; the fact they haven’t been allowed to go to the gym they might think twice in future about not going when they should or can.”
To find out more about The Fit Station visit https://thefitstation.com.au or to discuss how to use live-streaming and other digital/technology-based solutions to engage your members and attract new ones, contact your local Les Mills Asia Pacific Business Partnership Manager in Australia or Southeast Asia.