It’s one of the strange quirks of the internet that fitness and online communities are so closely intertwined. The fitness and supplement industries were some of the first to realize the potential for online customer communities, and sites like T Nation and Bodybuilding.com are in their second decade of life. The huge community at Bodybuilding.com is a large part of the reason why the company sees $400 million+ in annual revenue. Nothing to sniff at, certainly. The industry is, of course, still seeing huge amount of growth. Between wearables (Fitbit, Apple Watch, Pebble etc) large-scale exercise classes (Zumba, Crossfit) and exercise and diet apps (MyFitnessPal, Fitocracy, Nike Run), the market for fitness related products and services shows no sign of stopping.
How Fitness Communities Help Customers Succeed
Success in the fitness industry relies heavily on community, one way or another. For some businesses, there’s almost no separation. As great as the programming of an exercise class is, the appeal for many is the the spirit of camaraderie the group setting offers. There are people there to see you improve, to share successes and failures and to help you with the advice you need to ensure your hard work pays off. The hardest thing about fitness is compliance, and having people who know your name and goals holding you accountable is a powerful factor in keeping that motivation in the long term.
Not every fitness product has the built in community of an exercise class, but the principles are the same. Fitness products and services are reliant on their customers being successful. The benefit from a successful customer is twofold:
- If they can attribute a great result to you, they’ll keep returning to maintain that result. If something is working for them, they’ll be less inclined to change it.
- The first question a successful customer gets is “how did you do it?”. Your product is going to be one of the bullet points in that conversation, perhaps the only one
In the fitness market, the internet is the most important social element of sales. More than the workplace or even face-to-face socialising, the internet is where the conversation around fitness topics takes place. Just search for weight-loss pictures or “before and after” on Instagram to see how busy the conversation around results can be.
Community Builds Successful Customers
The dirty secret of fitness is that there’s no easy option. There are no pills that do the work, no program so effective that it will get great results no matter what. That’s why investing in the success of your customers is so important. They need a place where they can be supported by other customers, and provide support in turn. They need the motivational kick from seeing other customers talk about their success with their products. They need the pressure to succeed that comes with the public discussion of goals and methods.
Exercise can be intimidating. It can be hard to start and hard to keep going. Very few people are able to go it truly alone. If you want to see successful customers in the fitness market, it isn’t enough to fill a great niche and make things easier. You have to provide you customers with the social tools they need to become walking advertisements for your brand. With all the shady dealings and ineffective products that some companies are known for, it’s hard to persuade new customers that what you’re selling works. Don’t persuade them, show them. Make it undeniable. Fill your community with brand advocates who know it works, who can be testament and can spread that success wherever they go. Build a community.