DVD can be a great medium to take your program to consumers all over the US and beyond. But is it right for you? First, you need to consider "why" you want to or should go this route. Once you've adequately answered that overriding question and determined that yes, you do want to proceed, you can move on to "how" to do it. Here in this article, I'll help you to dive in to the "why."
Part 2 of this article, to be released in the May 2010 digital-only issue of PFP, will explain the "how."
So, if you are considering embarking on DVD development, ask yourself the following questions to determine if this route makes sense for you:
What Are My Goals and Expectations?
First, ask yourself what your main goals are in developing a DVD. Is it to get exposure? Grow as a talent or brand? Make money? Reach more people with your message and program? Or even more extreme: to change your career path entirely? And what are you looking to get out of it? It's important to have a good understanding of your main priorities and expectations as you begin to lay out your plan.

Will My Concept Work?
Ask yourself if your program and concept is different. Does it have a hook? A unique selling proposition? Will it translate and work for the consumer at home in their living room? What is the "message" (lose weight, lose inches, sculpt and tone, de-stress, etc.)?

It's also important to know and understand what the fitness DVD consumer is buying. The DVD consumer can be very different from the gym members or your PT clients. Home fitness is a bit of a different animal. Look at what's out there currently on DVD and what's selling. Check out the top sellers on Amazon, Collage Video and other online sites. Try to get an understanding of what disciplines are selling and what titles are selling. Is yours a fit? Again, talk to the experts!

What Do I Know about the Industry, Market and Retail Climate?
It's important to have a thorough understanding of the industry and how your product will fit. This will have a significant impact on the decisions you make and the route you take. The DVD industry at retail is more competitive now than ever before. Huge television and celebrity brands like The Biggest Loser and Dancing with the Stars are taking the shelf space, and retailers are looking to take in product that's already branded, has exposure and has a hook.

Also, retailers are continually shifting how much support and shelf space they allocate for fitness DVDs, and also where in the store they are placing the DVDs. This affects sales tremendously and has a ripple effect on the whole industry. If you are thinking about creating a fitness DVD, do some research. Check the stores to see what's on the shelves, who your competition is, how and what retailers are merchandising the product. Talk to other fitness professionals who have produced and distributed DVDs and get as much input and insight as possible.

What Are My Costs?
You need to know going in how much to spend on the DVD shoot and your return on investment to determine if you can financially support this venture without going broke. Create a line list of all of your costs, and create a budget. DVDs sell for $14.99 to $19.99, typically, and wholesale is approximately half of that. Keep in mind production cost, package design, printing, replication, shipping, other associated costs.

Also note that there are many different ways to produce DVDs, and you should explore them and price them out to determine what will be a fit for your budget and your particular program. You will need to determine all costs and your distribution channels; forecast the number of units you can sell to determine if this option is a fit for you, both financially and logistically.

How Will I Get My DVD Distributed?
This is absolutely the most critical element. You need to have channels and outlets to sell your DVD and get it out to the consumer. While this sounds easy, it can be tricky. Did you know that as an individual, you cannot sell product directly into major retailers such as Walmart, Barnes & Noble, Target and Best Buy?

You need to partner with one of the labels or distribution companies that are set up to sell fitness DVDs into those stores. But in order to partner with a label, you need a distribution deal of some sort. This can be a bit challenging. There are only a few labels that sell fitness DVDs into retail, and they are producing their own programming and brands, so taking on an individual with a program or two sometimes doesn't make sense for them.

However, you can get your product directly distributed as an individual into Amazon and Collage Video. You can sell it yourself on your own website, through your studio or gym or retreats. A lot of great products are being produced by individual fitness talent who are distributing it themselves in this way, and not partnering with a major label. One great idea is to team up with some other fitness professionals on a shoot and share costs. You just need to be realistic in terms of where you can sell your DVD, how many units that translates into, how much money that translates into profit for you, and make sure your income offsets all of your costs and you come out ahead in the end!

What Will It Take?
Developing a DVD involves time and resources along with cost, including research, prep, choreography development, photo shoot (for packaging), hiring the right resources, production, post production/editing, package development, replication, storage, distribution and management on an ongoing basis. It's a lot of work, but it can absolutely be worth it!

Finally, do a little soul-searching before embarking on this venture. Remember there may be other ways to reach your goals too, if you think outside the box. For example, you can start with getting content online versus producing a DVD. Consider writing a book or an e-book. Take your program to the local television and radio stations and start there. You could also take your program to the gyms, local schools, hospitals and corporations to start to expand and build your name. Try to build a fan base online through your website and social networking. Hire a PR specialist.

Just make sure you think through all your options as they relate to your overall goals, resources and budget to determine your plan of action.

Editor's Note: Part two of this article, which outlines how to produce a DVD, is available via the May 2010 digital-only issue, to be released later this month.

Kim Kisner runs her own consultant business, Kim Kisner Consulting LLC, which handles fitness product and DVD development, production and distribution as well as branding and marketing overall for fitness professionals. For more information, or to schedule a consulting session, call Kim at 586.445.3190 or 313.333.2163.