Are you grappling with whether live-streaming is a worthwhile investment of your time?
The industry is in crisis mode. The decisions that you make now and what you choose to spend your time on can determine whether your business lives or dies. So, can live-streaming save your business?
The short answer is – quite possibly.
Some of you may already be doing it and some may not have thought of it. To help you decide whether to invest time going there (and perhaps to reassure you if you already have), here are eight reasons I think it makes sense:
- Simplicity & Keeping Your Existing Revenue Stream
- It’s Great For A Specific Type Of Client
- New Programming
- New Revenue
- You Need This For Your Mental Health
Simplicity & Keeping Your Existing Revenue Stream
Studios have long talked about moving virtual. Those with the resources have developed streaming models that allow them to push content from their studios for a monthly subscription price, or they have created paywalls that keep recorded sessions of their content behind internet locks that only their members can access. However, most of the businesses that have been able to do that have been planning it for months, if not years.
If we all had resources, that’s what we might do … but most of us don’t. And most of us are scrambling in a game-changing scenario that none of us could have predicted.
As a result, the simplest and fastest way to help your business survive is to shift your existing classes to streaming and implore your customers to support you while you figure out the rest.
This approach has a few benefits:
- It staunches some of the bleeding immediately
- Most of your regular members want to support you and will
- This can tie your community together creating a bond that can help you get through this
- You can keep your existing prices and set-up, at least in the short term
- You don’t have to master a whole new business model
- It delays, for at least a few weeks, an exodus of clients, giving you crucial time to master the format, shift your mindset, and plot your next moves
Ever heard of Tik Tok or Instagram Stories? These platforms provide a world of selfies and authentic video – and they work. Your videos do not have to have the slick Hollywood production quality you had imagined for your studio right now..
We are in a disaster situation! Your clients are in a disaster situation!
Do you think they want something that looks like it came off the lot of Warner Bros.? No! They want something that’s just as gritty as their situation is. Personally, I’m not sure that perspective will go away, even after the crisis. Personality and authenticity are in.
It’s Great For A Specific Type of Client
Some clients may care about amazing video and sound quality. Some may need your production to sound like the last season of American Idol. Some might care that the instructors have great stage presence and are always aware of the camera and glance at it from time to time.
I, personally, don’t.
Most of the time my instructors don’t have the time during class to acknowledge that I’m there. It’s rare when one looks my way, besides checking my form, generally. Still, I have a favorite studio. I even have favorite instructors. The studio is around 20 minutes away from me and the classes I can get to, given my schedule, are early in the morning, so when there’s a heavy work day, I just can’t get there. When I’m motivated I do a jog or hit the treadmill in my apartment building, but would I rather be doing my favorite workout? Absolutely. Do I care that the video is 4D quality? Absolutely not. It just has to be visible enough for me to be able to follow the movements and clear enough that I can hear. I’m there for the cadence, for the method, for the instructor, for the routine. Give me that and I’m good to go. When I want the full experience, I’ll go in person.
Now, I am a specific type of client – a little more of a regular – and a lot more interested in the substance than the form. However, I assure you – there are many like me. So for studio owners out there who are looking to supplement revenue but don’t want to make video a core competency, know that there is a whole group of clients (with a slightly different perspective) you could be serving that you might not have paid attention to before, but whom you can pay attention to now.
Live-streaming allows you to be flexible with your costs. You can have all of your instructors do it. You can have some instructors do it. You can scale back completely and only do it yourself. However, what I will emphasize is that the decision around what you should do shouldn’t come from only a concern about the expense.
The main goal is to keep your clients fully engaged.
If they are engaged they will pay. If they pay, you have a business, and you have flexibility. So what does that? Is it just you, streaming all day? Is it a few of your instructors? Is it all of them? Only you know the answer to that question. Play with it a little and see what happens.
This can be a time to get your clients to bond with you. Depending on the streaming solution, you can have clients see each other (as well as the instructor) in class.
It’s one of the reasons why FitGrid chose Zoom as a solution partner. In Zoom, there is “Gallery Mode” which allows people to see each other. While we can’t get together in a room, we can certainly simulate that, which can be just as good. And if it’s a bad hair day for someone? Well, that person can turn the camera off and, frankly, keep it to themselves.
In any case, there’s something about visually seeing your instructor – seeing him or her there with you; hearing them exhort you to try more, to go harder, to sweat or meditate out your fear or frustration.
And if you choose the right instructors, this bond that begins to happen can pull your clients right through to the other side of this crisis.
Guess what? It’s never been so inexpensive to test new content! Throw up an Experimental Class: Couch Yoga. Ask whoever signs up to give you feedback. We’ve always been so concerned about losing existing clients by experimenting with new programming because it takes slots in our precious schedules. However, we rarely think about how you can keep an in-person schedule but use live-streaming to create tiny little Petri dishes for new content. Now we’re forced into it.
Some of you (cycling studios, etc.) may be forced to develop different content during this time, but it can be content that complements being on the bike and that can even live as permanent additions to your schedule once things are back in order. For those whose content can fit perfectly (yoga, mat pilates, dance), you’re lucky. However, you can still experiment. Try adding Nt’s Vinyasa Yoga to your schedule. It’s the bomb! (I’m kidding. I’m Nt. Please don’t go searching the web for Nt Vinyasa :))
But seriously, take this time to develop all the content that’s going to make you blow up when things come back around!
Yessss! New revenue! Does your studio have a reputation in your community, but people simply can’t get to it at a convenient time, or your classes sell out in the prime time slots?
Create additional classes online. These revenue streams can come at very little additional cost. For example, you can stream a class from your living room (yes, yes, we’ll talk about brand a little later) and those who like it join and those who don’t, don’t.
You Need This for Your Mental Health
Honestly, we all need to feel like there is something we can do instead of just letting circumstances take a hold of us. We need space and time to think. Moving quickly on live-streaming – especially if it’s in a way that is semi-automated and minimizes your needed investment in the technical aspect (see FitGrid’s solution and hopefully other solutions that are being created out there) can help you feel a little more in control while you figure the rest out.
What about My Brand?
I get it. In-person, you produce extremely high-quality content with extremely high-quality sound. You’re known for that and you take pride in it. You want whatever you put out there to be an extension of your brand.
Think of live-streaming (and honestly even recorded products) as a new business. When you started your business were you in the perfect location? Did you have the perfect instructors? Did you have to build an audience that accepted it for what it was and grew with it? Of course, you did.
This is no different. Enroll your clients in the journey with you. This situation gives you the perfect excuse to be imperfect. Everyone understands. Start small, and as you become more comfortable with it, invest more. Remember that this is a different type of client who will be drawn to this, and remember that live-streaming does not imply cheap. You can do it at a low-cost level or a very high-cost level.
There is no question we are in a crisis. The human toll COVID-19 is taking and will continue to take on us is likely to be devastating. On a personal level, we will hurt.
On a business level, we will hurt as well, but we aren’t defenseless. We have assets – ourselves, our clients, our instructors, our methods, our energy. We may need to shift them to another medium for now, but sometimes that’s just life and business.
Remain flexible. Remain strong. Remain together. You can do this. We’re with you all the way.
Nt Etuk is the Founder & CEO of FitGrid and Co-Founder of BFS. The team at FitGrid has been working around the clock to create a simple, more automated live-stream solution FitGrid LIVE – that automatically connects Zoom and MINDBODY, for group fitness studios, in response to the crisis hitting the industry.