How to Start an Online Programming Business
In 2021, The American College of Sports Medicine’s annual fitness trends survey ranked Online Training as the #1 trend of the year. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened an already increasing interest in consumers to find workout programs online that they can follow along to from their homes.
At Wodify, we have seen successful online programming businesses use Wodify Core software to manage everything from initial client sign-up to ongoing workout access and client engagement. Businesses like Paragon Training Methods, Dead Boys Fitness, Chalk Performance Training, and more all have built large online communities of engaged members without having a physical location.
If you have a passion for fitness, expertise in a specific style of programming, and a desire to put in the work required to build a successful online community, then there is nothing stopping you from creating a thriving business. Here’s our advice on how to get started with your online programming business:
1. Find your niche
One of the pitfalls that many online fitness entrepreneurs make when they first start is trying to create a generic program for anyone looking to get in shape. When you set out to build a program that works for everyone, it can be very difficult to stand out from the online noise and get to a critical mass of early subscribers. It’s better to start with a very targeted program(s) that solves a specific need for a smaller audience and then grow from there.
To find your niche you should ask yourself where you already have an audience. Do you have a social media following of people interested in a certain type of programming? What about personal training clients that have similar needs? Tailoring a program to fit people you can reach immediately is one of the best ways to jumpstart your online business.
Here are some examples from other online fitness businesses:
“This program is best suited for intermediate and advanced athletes who have some powerlifting and olympic lifting training and have access to a wide range of equipment.”
Street Parking Postpartum
“4-Week Postpartum Recovery Program. 4-Week Postpartum Core Rehab Program. Postpartum Rebuild Guide + Suns Out Guns Out Mamas Edition. Access to Private Facebook Group - SP Pregnant/Postpartum Moms. Support from SP Prenatal/Postpartum Coach, Carolina Stone”
Chalk Big Booty Blueprint
“This program contains a variety of movements that are specific to only this program, which will change your glutes faster than anything else out there. Guaranteed!”
By narrowing your focus to a specific niche, you can have targeted marketing, engaged members, and ultimately a more successful launch!
2. Plan your programs & pricing
After you define your niche, it’s time for the real work to begin. Planning out your program(s) and pricing in advance is key to starting your online business. It’s important to consider not only what kind of workouts you’re going to provide, but also what equipment will be needed and what technology you will need to use in order to distribute your workouts.
Consider each of the following when planning your programming strategy:
- What are your equipment constraints? Pro tip - create a new client buyer’s guide with a list of the equipment they will need and links to purchase.
- How long will the workouts be? This should be consistent for each program, so your clients can build the workouts into their regular schedule and stay consistent.
- Will you include videos with each workout? It’s a great idea to include video content as a value-add to your program.
There are two approaches you can take with videos - either short movement demos or full ‘follow-along’ workouts. If you’re just getting started and don’t have a large team, it’s a good idea to start with simple movement demos. You can even find publicly available demo videos on YouTube and share them with your workouts.
- How are you going to deliver the workouts to your clients every day? We may be biased, but we’d recommend going with Wodify Perform. You can provide your clients with a custom branded app that seamlessly delivers your workouts along with the ability to track their performance over time. There are even community-building features included, such as social interactions and a digital leaderboard.
Lastly, you must determine how to price your online offering. Typical online programs are priced between $10/month to $50/month, with some coming in even higher if there is any personalized coaching involved.
When building your pricing model, keep in mind that one of the key differences between online and in-person fitness businesses is that there is very little increase in overhead as your business scales. For that reason, we recommend having a lower price with the goal of building a large community with thousands of clients.
3. Create a community strategy
One of the most important elements of an online fitness business is fostering a strong & engaged community. Each of your online clients should feel like they are part of a greater network of people going through the same program as they are, no matter the distance.
This can be harder than building a community with a physical location because you can’t easily do in-person ice breakers or events. However, with the right strategy, your online presence can be just as strong! Here are some ways to do just that:
- Create a members-only Facebook Group
- Encourage your clients to record their results and share their progress (use the Wodify Mobile App to make this a breeze)
- Run an online nutrition or fitness challenge to get people engaged! Check it out - we have a free product for that as well: Wodify Rise.
- Send out weekly newsletters highlighting a member of the week!
- Offer prizes based on the number of workouts logged. For example, a sticker at 25 workouts, a t-shirt at 100, and so on…
As long as you do the groundwork and put the right pieces in place, you will be set up for success to have a thriving community as you add more and more new members to your online business.
4. Build a marketing plan
Just because you started, doesn’t guarantee you members… As important as your workouts themselves, you need to have a solid strategy for how you are going to acquire your online programming clients. A marketing plan doesn’t just have to be about spending money, you can invest in organic marketing that, if done effectively, can get you paying clients without having to spend a dime.
Here are a few tactics to consider when creating your marketing plan:
- Organic social media
The best place to start marketing your business is where you already have an audience. Even if you are starting from scratch, Instagram and Facebook are great places to share content, build a following, and ultimately convert people to paying customers.
In order to leverage social media as a marketing channel, you should have a plan to build your brand organically and aim to provide valuable & entertaining content to your audience. Do this by using relevant hashtags, posting free workouts/workout tips, and connecting with influencers to share your content. Here are some examples of online programming businesses that are crushing it on social media: Dead Boys Fitness (51K followers), NCFIT (97K followers), Ryan Fischer / Chalk Performance Training (235K followers).
- Email marketing
The next best thing to getting a new paying customer is getting someone’s contact information. Once you have an email address, you can send useful content and earn the business of people who weren’t quite ready to commit.
To build your email list, create ‘gated’ content that requires a form to access. For example, a workout planner, diet template, or free video library where an email address must be shared to gain access. Having a large email list will set you up for success if you run sales promotions or launch new programs down the road.
A great way to reach people is through Podcasts that they follow. Depending on your area of expertise you can find related podcasts and contact the host to see if you can come on as a guest. This won’t work for every podcast, but even one or two guest appearances can give you the chance to establish credibility and promote your online programming business.
If possible, line up a few podcast episodes that air right around the time you launch your program to get an influx of new clients.
- Paid digital advertising
This is towards the bottom of the list intentionally, as many people mistakenly see it as their first (and only) option. Using the Facebook Ads Manager tool to build an audience and pay to reach them with your ads can be an effective strategy, but should be balanced against how much you are willing to budget for those efforts.
If you are willing to spend at least a few thousand dollars on paid digital advertising, then it is worth testing the channels (Facebook, Instagram, Google) and measuring the success. Be sure you have a system to track where your leads are coming from before launching your paid ads, otherwise, you may not know whether or not your efforts are working!
- Referrals/word of mouth
Lastly, once you have even a small base of paying clients, you can implement a referral strategy. Online programs lend themselves particularly well to a double-sided referral incentive. For example, a customer that refers a new paying client could get one month free as well as the person they referred.
Overall, the most important thing when starting a referral program is simple - just ask! This could be via email, calling customers directly, or in a private group Facebook post. If your customers are loving your programming, then they will probably be willing to tell their friends about it!
5. Launch and get feedback!
Now that you have everything in place, it’s time to get your online programming business out there in the wild! Launching something you’ve worked so hard on can be nerve-wracking, but you will never know what is working or not working until you’ve tried it. So don’t be afraid to launch and start getting feedback.
Odds are you will need to make adjustments to all of the things listed above, but as long as you are flexible and stay in close contact with your community, you can make improvements without losing any paying customers.
Ready to start your online programming business? Give our team a call to learn more about how Wodify can help and get a free business consultation. Book your call here.