Merrithew™ Co-founder and CEO Lindsay G. Merrithew shares his insights on the opportunities and challenges ahead for fitness professionals and studio owners.
None of us were prepared for a pandemic.
While businesses plan for all sorts of contingencies, a pandemic wasn’t something we’d ever imagined, let alone prepared for.
Now several months into our respective lockdowns or just beginning to navigate our reopenings, we’ve seen just how much the fitness industry has been required to adapt and innovate as a result of COVID-19. While there’s no doubt there will be many adverse impacts on the fitness industry, we’ve also seen fitness professionals and studio owners emerge as leaders and champions during this time of crisis, offering people respite in movement, and the coaching and community they needed in isolation.
We are so proud of the Merrithew™ community for finding ways of serving and connecting with their clients online during this time, and for reaching out to new people who were seeking the stress relief of mindful movement.
As a Canadian company with more than 140 employees, 269 Instructor Trainers, 194 Training Centers and 22 distributors and resellers worldwide, we were also confronted with significant challenges over the last few months.
At our manufacturing plant in Scarborough, Canada, we implemented social distancing measures, staggered work hours and lunch breaks, and extended sick leave. Our Retail Fulfilment, Education and Sales teams have been working around the clock trying to figure out ways of getting our products and services to our customers safely and quickly.
Most importantly, our goal through this has been to continue supporting our community in their quest to live healthy, mindful lives, which has become ever more critical of late.
Here’s how we did it and some key takeaways for other business owners:
- Build off your virtual momentum with convenient, flexible options for clients
The fitness industry has been increasingly moving towards a digital-first offering (look at Peloton®). That shift has only been expedited as a result of COVID-19. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, you should leverage and embrace this boom in online classes and virtual training as a way of complementing and expanding the reach of your in-person business and building up your brand, as long as your programming and teaching standards remain as high and as consistent virtually as they are in-person. If you can continue to cultivate a genuine sense of community among your clients, they will keep coming back to you. We’ve done that with our new streaming platform, Merrithew Connect™, where clients can access on-demand digital workouts and training from our team of international experts anytime, anywhere.
- Know your audience and keep them engaged
If you have some new ideas, why not experiment? We’ve seen instructors coming up with all sorts of creative ways of keeping their clients involved with mini online tutorials and info sessions, Instagram challenges, virtual coffee chats, and workouts of course. In April, Merrithew launched 28 Days of Mindfulness, a daily email campaign with tips, stories and resources to ‘fuel your body, calm your mind and energize your day.’ This was the first time we’d ever done a daily content campaign and our audience responded very positively. This project was highly relevant to our audience’s needs at the time and gave them valuable and tangible self-care resources. It just proves that it’s worth stepping outside your normal in these unprecedented circumstances.
- Bringing the studio experience home
As much as we all want things to return to normal as soon as possible, the reality is, that likely won’t happen for a long time, if at all. Many clients won’t feel comfortable returning to the studio until there’s a vaccine. That means we need to bring the studio to them, whether that’s through continuing to provide high quality virtual instruction or with products and equipment that align with their needs and exercise goals. As an instructor, you not only motivate and provide your clients with an education, you can also help them make smart purchasing decisions. Perhaps that’s by recommending props that they would benefit from at home, or by renting out your equipment until your studio reopens. At Merrithew, we are offering discounts and free bonuses with every Reformer purchase, including access to our streaming platform, Merrithew Connect, so customers can experience the benefits of high quality studio equipment coupled with expert professional instruction in the comfort of their own homes.
There will be many challenges to come for all of us, but I think the industry has shown tremendous resiliency, resourcefulness and leadership over the last few months and I trust that will continue.