How has your fitness business management changed during the pandemic? Jessica Maurer, one of IDEA’s most in-demand subject matter experts on the business of fitness, recently was my featured guest on the IDEAfit PRO SHOW podcast (Season 1, Episode 15). She walked listeners through essential business advice on how fitness pros can create profitable digital, virtual and live products, among other practical ideas.

Jessica is a fitness business consultant and strategist who has presented and consulted for many fitness brands internationally. Her passion is helping fitness pros and businesses reach full potential through education, program and instructor development, as well as brand creation and awareness. In addition, she is the senior director of instructor development at FIT4MOM and she consults for a number of high-profile fitness companies and individuals. Jessica also offers consulting services to locally owned businesses and fitness professionals.

If you like this slice of our conversation about fitness business management, we invite you to subscribe and download the episode (or the whole season). 

Sandy Todd Webster (STW): Your lecture at 2021 Personal Trainer Institute Virtual on how to create profitable digital, virtual and live products was packed with actionable advice. You’ve done a lot of presenting on the fitness event circuit, and you’ve consulted for a lot of companies in the industry. If you had to pick three of the biggest pain points among our pros or in the fitness market in general concerning product development and marketing, what would those be?

Jessica Maurer (JM): Number one is, by far, fear. People are paralyzed by fear of the unknown of not knowing how to start, where to start, and where to go. And this paralyzing fear stops them from making any movement going forward – which ties into the second pain point: not utilizing other people in the fitness industry. We have this fear that we’re in competition with each other.

My stance is that we’re not in competition with each other. We’re in competition with La-Z-Boy! And if we unite, we can actually make a difference in people’s lives. So, if you have a fear of not knowing where to start or what to do, rely on your community of fitness professionals and ask them for help.

If you see someone doing something that interests you, speak to them. Ask them how they got started. There’s always a team of people out there working to put a product or program together. There are ways these people learned how to do it. By asking the right questions, you can learn from them how to do it as well. Another approach is to form meaningful connections and partnerships with people who are doing things that may help to grow your business or take the next step forward. 

The third pain point is that we have it on our minds as fitness professionals that we have to be super targeted. But, we’re coming to realize that we don’t have to be. If you’re authentically you, then the people who speak your language, who wear the “style of jeans” you provide, are going to be interested in the type of fitness you put forward. So we need to stop trying to please everyone.

Instead, focus on the target demographic you want to work with. This allows you to be very true to what you’re creating. It ensures that you are the expert putting together the best product instead of putting forward things that may confuse consumers and not fully expressing yourself authentically. 

STW: In the realm of product development and marketing, what question do fit pros ask you the most? What are they most confused about regarding this aspect of fitness business management? 

JM: The number one question I get all the time is, ‘What do I create?’

I always send people back to the questions, ‘Who do you want to serve? Who is your target demographic?’ Because if you can pinpoint your target demographic, then you can find their pain. And everything you create as a fitness professional in order to serve your target demographic should answer a pain point.

Pinpoint your target demographic and dive into discovering what they’re Googling at 2:00 AM and figure out the big humps they have to get over daily. Then make sure your products or services answer those pain points. This will help you attract the clients you want to work with. Your offerings will be no-brainers to them because they will be exactly what they’re looking for.

STW: Would surveying your base be helpful in this regard? 

JM: Absolutely survey your people, but also look around on the internet. You can do what we call social listening, which is going to social media and seeing what questions people are asking within Facebook groups. What questions are they looking for on Instagram? What hashtags are trending? These are pain points for which people are actively searching for solutions. And if your expertise aligns with those pain points, then you become the person who can provide them. 

STW: My favorite quote from your PTI presentation was ‘ You were reactive enough in 2020. It’s time to slow down, strategize and move forward. Rip off the band-aids from last year and start building with purpose and understanding of why you’re doing what you’re doing.’

Can you share an example of how you see people getting in ruts with their offerings or their marketing approaches? How do they get clear of those things to make progress? And what do you think is holding fit pros back from being more innovative in their fitness business management? 

JM: So, we all did it last year. We all felt this scarcity that all of our clients were going away. Our classes were going away and our gyms were closing. So what did we do? We started becoming ‘yes people.’ We said yes to everything, whether we wanted to teach it or not, whether we wanted this client or not. Whether we wanted to get up at 5:00 AM and do a Zoom call or not. We said yes to everything. The result is that we loaded our schedules with things that weren’t going to be sustainable for the long term. They were sustainable for right then in that moment, when everything was shut down and we were at home. But when life started to open back up, we quickly realized that what we said yes to last year, didn’t align with our goals, didn’t align with our life and didn’t align with where we wanted to be. We just were so scared in the moment of losing it, we just said yes to everything.

So we have to kind of backtrack a little bit and figure out which of the things we said yes to actually move us forward and get us closer to our goal. 

I’ve lived a really good example of that. I’m lucky enough to be the senior director of instructor development at FIT4MOM. When everything shut down last year due to COVID-19, we quickly pivoted and offered shorter virtual classes for our instructors to teach. But again, this was in the moment of, ‘Oh no, scarcity!’ We thought, ‘These moms are not going to have an hour to work out. They’re not going to work out for an hour on Zoom. We need to give them short little snippets,’ but it wasn’t sustainable for the long run.

We had to get back to what we’re actually good at: classes for the 60-minute interactive mom + kid class, the mom + kid-in-stroller classes, and the mom-only classes. That’s what our business model is about, and we needed to get back to that. 

So, many of us may need to look back and figure it out. ‘Okay, I may have thrown some spaghetti at the wall, but what can I actually continue to use in the next year?’

STW: Right. Because the spaghetti might be falling off the wall now.

JM: Probably, or it’s really decayed! 

STW: Essentially, fit pros need to reevaluate everything they did reactively last year and look forward. 

JM: Absolutely. Figure out what is in line with your overall goal and your overall ‘why?’ of being in the fitness industry.

That’s another hot topic we hear quite often: Why, why, why are you here? And if you still have a hard time answering ‘why?’ and what you want to see from yourself in the next 5 years, then pause everything and take some time to dig in over the next few months and really figure it out. Where do you want to be in 5 years? Then you can go back and reassess, ‘What should I be doing to get me there?’