Are there any blue oceans really left in the fitness industry?
Maybe everything has already been played out — same pig, new lipstick.
With over 100,000 active studios and over 38,000 health clubs in the U.S. alone, the road to profitability for most new concepts is becoming longer and longer. Giants like Orange Theory, F45, Barry’s Bootcamp and many more have the funds to play that game but the truth is that they are anomalies in the sea of options out there for consumers.
Whether or not the current franchise bubble will burst somewhere in the near future is a conversation of its own, but history has shown us time and time again that crisis drives innovation.
I’m not saying fitpreneurs should wait until the next financial downturn to start their business, but being poised to deliver new solutions to emerging problems and pain points for clients is the best place to be in times of change.
The good news is that there are a few principles any fitness professional can focus on to withstand the onslaught of new competition as well as continue to stand out in a sea of mediocre fitness offerings:
Double Down on Relationships
Build a business that’s founded in the love and development of people and members will never outgrow you. You have to continue to grow and evolve of course, but with the right focus on people, your clients will organically become the drivers of change.
The best fitness businesses maintain an active dialogue with their community and crowdsource their experiences to continue to advance and improve. Feedback is a gift! This means not losing sight of the human element of what we do and building a team that gets it.
It’s easy to get caught up in the focus of scale and creating processes and lose sight of relationships. Keep in mind that they don’t love the brand, they love the people and community that make it special.
Nobody can compete with that no matter how big their marketing budget is.
Service Experiences Will Win Out
Check out Heath Brother’s book The Power of Moments for a masterclass education in this category — for deep insight into why just meeting customer expectations will not work. This is tough if not impossible to proceduralize and needs to be embedded into the core values of your business.
Doing things like creating moments of surprise, elevating the stakes and breaking the script of how they expect most gym experiences to go are all unique ways to make an impact. They all can’t be accomplished every time someone walks in the gym but if embedded into your client journey can make all the difference.
This is where smaller nimble businesses can gain an edge over their larger counterparts so get creative and have fun building the kind of experience and environment that speaks to your people.
If Mark Fisher can walk around in a Unicorn Costume inside the gym, I think you can come up with a few ways to flip the script.
Not all tech is created equal, but the wave of the future in our industry is riding on it. It’s about understanding the user experience and problem-solving how you can continue to remove friction and make doing business with you an easy process.
Are VR trainers going to replace in-person studios? Absolutely not, but opportunities to grow and serve more consumers with less overhead is just good business. Technology continues to provide more opportunities in this direction.
Innovators in the fitness industry of the future will get this and not be late to the table when it comes to understanding how new technology and software can play a role.
The growth of studios and industry boom is no longer a new trend but the truth is that the white space is still out there. Enlist help from those in other industries, continue to question the way we are doing things, and don’t get too comfortable in times of growth.
Because if there’s one thing that’s constant — it’s change.