Small Business

How To Create a Future-Proof Business Model

By Andy Swansburg, TSG

It’s no secret COVID-19 has affected countless business sectors—including the boutique fitness industry—and within boutique fitness, there are concerns that some studios won’t be able to survive in a post-pandemic world. It’s a frightening thought, but luckily, this past year has shown us that the right customer journey and marketing automation software can help studios automate CRM and client messaging. That way, studios can do more with less, retain their members and keep building a community.

There are several business tools and trends that will drive innovation, and can give B2C companies—including boutique studios—the competitive edge needed to keep and win customers.

What does the future of the fitness industry hold?

It’s a question every gym and studio owner has asked amid the mix of studio closures, reopenings and shifts to digital workouts. But three key trends have emerged: transparency, new models and deep customer relationships.

First, communication will be more transparent than ever. Through COVID, at BrandBot, we’ve seen that our clients are seeing that retention and loyalty are the most important things when it comes to growing and maintaining your business. The brands that win will be the ones that can build the right customer relationships, like how recently deceased CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, built his entire business on the idea of ‘delivering customer happiness’ in order to successfully compete with the world’s largest ecommerce brands.

Business models and customer experiences will shift. Boutique fitness is one of the only industries where people show up to the same place three to five times a week. With COVID, this concept shifted, if only momentarily. That means studios need to re-examine their value and deliver it through other channels like retail and virtual workouts—like other industries have implemented—whether that’s a complete at-home system, an expansion of retail offerings, restaurants adding delivery options for the first time, or moving public events outdoors.

Communities will expand into the digital space. Boutique brands will become lifestyle businesses. While the fitness industry, for example, has always been community-driven, virtual communities will be just as important, since social platforms now provide the social proof and platform to share milestones with peers as a form of accountability and gamification.

What role should CRM and data play in the future?

If a company hasn’t dug into customer data, it’s time to start. The more a brand knows about its customer behavior, the more it can reach them at key moments and build trust that resonates on a human level.

Plus, when it comes to reopening strategies for physical storefronts or businesses, a CRM platform can help companies see everything on the back-end—like scheduling and capacity management, cleaning regimes, and contact-free check-in or payments processing to minimize the risk of virus spreading. The more data a brand has, the more it can communicate and restore customer confidence.

Savvy organizations can also gather feedback in real-time, either by surveying customers to determine how they should refine their offerings, or sending automated follow-ups. CRM can also help build authentic relationships. Customers want to interact with businesses in real time—and with two-way communications, so they know there is a person on the other end.

The innovation-driving tools & trends worth your investment that’ll make your business future-proof

Implementing a robust CRM platform is vital for gathering rich data to inform future decisions, regardless of one’s industry. But these platforms offer so much more—including native integrations and community-building tools.

  1. Dynamic Customer Management: A powerful CRM platform involves everything from swift membership freezes and reactivations to data analytics and behavior driven segmentation tools for personalized messages and emails and tailored membership offers.
  2. Real-Time Data: For studios, members want to book a class instantly, and get quick responses to questions. Studios can no longer wait for slow, overnight batch updates to bookings and data. The power of real-time data means small business owners can fill empty spaces or appointments quickly and notify customers immediately if spots become available. If your provider can’t offer real-time data, find one that can.
  3. Native integrations: Many small businesses still rely on a combination of software tools to manage their business and customer engagement. But more seamless alternatives can eliminate the need to manually re-enter data, use different logins, or consolidate data for reporting. In the case of boutique fitness, studios should look for premium CRM software options that integrate with studio management software. That way, they can benefit from a single sign-on as well as a single source of accurate data on their customers and business, and flex their models to offer virtual workouts or retail options. Any small business owner that interacts with customers on a daily basis should consider this as well. Don’t settle for clunky integrations, manual workarounds and having to rely on a multitude of vendors. Look for an all-in-one solution provider that takes an API and mobile-first approach.
  4. Customer Experience Technology: Booking ahead of time and ‘picking a spot’ for class or an appointment provides peace of mind both during the pandemic and the months that will follow. Avoid ‘bottlenecks’ at the front desk with features like contactless and geo-check-in, which allow customers to check in when nearby.

Why is a strong CRM system so important?

Today, the experience customers have when using studios is more amplified and sensitive than ever before. Customers expect a quick, seamless, mobile-first booking experience, and to engage or attend at a time and place that suits them. Exceeding these expectations will build confidence, and give your business that competitive edge. When it comes to retention, CRMs make it easier, quicker and cheaper to keep existing customers than to win new ones.

Additionally, knowing more about your customers also means better outcomes, like knowing when and how to reach your customers, and talking to them in different ways through behavior driven segmentation. A strong CRM system will offer real-time insights, drive new revenue, and most importantly, help small businesses—regardless of their industry—build and maintain a loyal community.

About Andy Swansburg

Andy Swansburg is Chief Product Officer, Boutique Fitness at TSG, responsible for developing innovative products and solutions tailored for boutique fitness studios and personal trainers. Before joining TSG, Andy led the team at BrandBot, a Boston, MA-based fitness technology platform offering customer journey management software for the boutique fitness and wellness industry.

An avid product designer and part-time artist, Andy founded BrandBot in 2015 after spending years helping his mom run one of the most successful yoga studios in the greater Boston area. In the last five years, Andy has helped BrandBot grow its client base to 2,000+ studios across 15 countries, via integrations with leading studio management software providers Mariana Tek, Mindbody and Pike13 – culminating in the acquisition of BrandBot by TSG in 2020.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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