Erin Sanzero opened NOVA Strength & Conditioning in Springfield, Virginia in 2010. The gym, which has about 130 members, started with a strongman and Olympic weightlifting focus, but has since moved to a more general functional fitness approach.
“We are very much about everyday people getting very real nutrition and fitness help in a way that’s sustainable and real,” Erin said.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, Erin took action early. Even before she was forced to close her doors she started to make a plan.
“With friends who own gyms in California, Seattle, and Europe, it wasn’t hard to see what was coming,” Erin said.
“We could either prepare and have a plan, or we could be caught off guard. We actually started moving to a hybrid virtual model several weeks before closure happened in our state. You either lead, follow, or get out of the way,” she said.
Erin worked with her team to come up with standard operating procedures around remote training. She asked her coaches to think about things like: When does the Zoom room open? How do you share your audio? What’s the display? What’s the set-up?
“We want to lead our members so they thrive and prosper,” Erin said. She thought about the best way to make remote classes easy, and how to make coming to class -- from home -- feel simple and easy.
She recognized she has to make working out at home as easy as possible, so she makes sure her members have all the information they need to maintain their health and fitness at home.
“We’ve been packing SugarWOD with movement demos, mindset tips, nutrition information, so we are really being robust and overdelivering right now,” she said.
Selling Remote Memberships
Erin did lose members when she closed. Some of her members lost jobs themselves and can't afford a gym membership.
Among the cancellations, however, is this good news: Erin has sold five new remote training memberships since her doors closed.
Erin got these leads by placing ads on Facebook promoting her remote coaching program, taking advantage of the current low advertising rates. She then entered the leads into UpLaunch’s Remote Coaching Framework, which includes emails, text messages, and reminders to staff to reach out to leads. Erin also tweaked the content to suit her gym -- one of her confirmation texts to leads includes a link to testimonials. (You can get access to UpLaunch's Remote Coaching Framework here. It includes a marketing plan and Facebook ads to use for your gym's remote coaching program.)
When someone schedules a virtual no-sweat intro, Erin and her coaches handle the appointment over the phone,
“We do not do it over Zoom. We do not recommend anyone do it over Zoom. I think that’s one more layer, they have to click the link, join you in your Zoom room. I’m a big believer in just a simple phone call,” Erin said.
Once you have the lead, Erin said it's essential to have a centralized location where you can easily communicate with them. For that, Erin uses UpLaunch.
“UpLaunch has been a great investment,” Erin said, “and we’ve been really happy with it. What was really integral was building out that funnel piece, not the advertising funnel but the follow-up series, all the communication. I could have done it, but it saved me hours to just be able to plug into that so that my focus could be creating ads and get people to that phase of the baton pass. That was really integral, and I think that’s what UpLaunch does really well,” she said.
She said UpLaunch helps her stay in communication with leads and members and makes it easy for her team to reach out to people at the right time.
“You’re not constantly having to Slack someone or text someone and say, ‘Did you talk to so and so and what happened?’” she said.
Erin pairs UpLaunch with SugarWOD and Zen Planner to make sure she’s tracking and communicating with members and leads.
“Zen Planner, SugarWOD, the combo of all of those -- where people can reserve class, you can reach out if they don’t show up, and have good attendance -- this tech is more important than ever because if you are not taking attendance, how do you know who is coming and who’s not coming to class?”
She said if you're signing up new members remotely, you should be collecting digital waivers.
“What's the best way to handle that? The answer is: you can have waivers baked in with Zen Planner and attendance baked in with Zen Planner. And SugarWOD is much better than Facebook at curating the messaging that you want to give to your clients and really being the expert and the authority. It’s your movement tutorials. It’s your athlete notes about your programming,” she said.
Erin advises gyms to make these online spaces about more than just a warmup and a workout — it’s about creating connections and being a source of inspiration and motivation. She's always thinking about extra touches that make members and leads more comfortable with remote coaching, including adding pictures of what Zoom classes look like in her emails.
She understands this new reality might be with us for a long time, and she's constantly thinking of ways to adapt. Her advice to other gyms is to think about all the people who have said to you, “I love what you have, but you’re too far away.”
"Now in the future, can you sell to them?" Erin said, "Can you sell to them by having a virtual option. Can you down-sell?
Her one plea to gym owners is instead of discounting your memberships, find a way to offer value, offer more.
"It's so easy to go into scarcity," she said, "but that’s just not who we are. CrossFit and functional fitness teaches us to have some fortitude and do the work."