Workout studios, gyms, and individual fitness instructors have an opportunity to seismically grow their business by digitizing their offering and leveraging fitness software.
The reach offered by online communities far surpasses that of any local, offline community. And many fitness businesses in 2020 may have recently experienced an insight into the potential of ‘going digital’ as a result of necessary rapid digital acceleration in a new, socially-distanced world.
To this end, fitness coaches looking to grow their enterprises are looking at fitness software to not only manage their existing clientele but also grow their coaching businesses.
Fitness software can help coaches maintain and grow their businesses through a number of different features and functions specially built for the fitness industry. There are many different types of software models available with differentiators in purpose, licensing, cost, and functionality. This article explores more.
Front Office Functions
The fitness training software industry is a competitive one, giving fitness coaches many options to choose from. When it comes to finding a solution, it can be helpful to start by considering two different functions that software can play:
- “Front office” fitness software – what clients see and interact with, and
- “Back office” software – which practitioners such as teletherapists and online coaches can use to grow their business.
Practice Management Features
Rapid advancements in mobile and digital technology mean there are more and more features for consumers and healthcare practitioners to choose from when shopping for fitness software.
Most fitness software these days will offer one or more of the following sales and office management features:
- Booking functionality, allowing clients to book appointments from the front end, whether that’s an app or a website.
- Calendar capabilities – e.g. those that enable clients to view coach availability, thus decreasing the amount of back and forth communication.
- Point of sale (POS) systems – streamlining payments and allowing clients to buy products and additional services, including add-ons.
With built-in booking and purchasing, fitness software can thus likely increase client attendance by offering schedule visibility and the ability to book appointments on-the-go, directly through an app.
Boosting Engagement and Commitment
Some fitness software, like most behavioral health systems, is also designed to encourage more user engagement. These may include:
- Custom websites and user profiles, which can encompass reporting to drive greater client engagement and thus revenue and better results.
- Clients can also be given access to diet plans, to ensure they stay on track, while providing much-needed motivation.
Marketing tools can also be a nice feature to have, more so if you’re a one-person coach.
Patient health engagement can be increased through marketing campaigns, diet plans, user profiles, and client-focused functionality. All of which are aimed at delivering better results.
Rapid advancements in mobile and digital technology mean there are more and more features for consumers and healthcare practitioners to choose from when shopping for fitness software.
Back Office Functions
In managing your fitness coaching practice, back-office functionality makes all the difference. To this end, fitness coaching software, like therapy software, may include such functionality as:
- Contract set-up and billing, which can reduce the stress these tasks can generate. Contract setups and waivers can also help you ensure you’re legally covered.
- This billing can be done in a number of ways, including taking online payments or through POS functions built right into the software.
- Commission payments are also available on some platforms or apps – a nice feature if you happen to have a large team.
If you happen to own your own gym, solutions that are centered towards gym or practice management might be more suitable for you.
Keep an eye out for additional features that are designed to improve your daily efficiency and ensure you truly maximize customer lifetime value. These might include:
- Membership expiry reminders
- Inventory management capabilities and
- Reporting and analytics features – which can help gym owners ensure they are meeting their targets.
- Employee management functions – to assist you in managing other staff, such as personal trainers, that work with you.
- Event management software – to help you organize different events, be it competitions or open days to attract new customers.
Back-office functionality can help you run your business more smoothly, whether you’re a freelance fitness coach or run your own gym.
Software solutions will have different functionality sets, so we do recommend taking the time to understand what is most important to you and your business before purchasing.
Fitness Software for Remote Clients
The proliferation of smart devices and mobile applications has led to an increasingly wider adoption of fitness apps, whose market looks set to grow at an impressive Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of around 20% between 2019 to 2027.
Fitness coaches have already begun targeting remote clients as a way to expand their business and tap into this growing market.
Many fitness instructors simply adapt to the platforms their consumers are using, perhaps offering classes via Zoom or even Instagram Live. But to make remote fitness training a success, coaches need to choose a strong platform that is built for this purpose. This will not only make their job easier but also successful for themselves and their clients.
Online Fitness Coaching Models
When it comes to online fitness, there are essentially three models that coaches can follow.
Developing Proprietary Tech
In the first model, the coach develops a proprietary technology (app) through which fitness coaching services are offered. Out of all models, this one requires the largest investment, be it money, time, or energy.
There are numerous benefits to having your own software platform of course, including the ability to design the entire user experience from the ground up, the ability to integrate data from smart devices, and the possibility of bigger revenues if the app is a success.
The second model involves having an online program or a training blog. This low-touch model allows coaches to sign-up more clients than a one-to-one program, although the revenue per client is going to be much lower.
Clients can access their daily workout plan online and, depending on the software option chosen, may be able to feedback results to the website or on social media.
Feedback allows a sense of community and client engagement to develop between remote users. However, one drawback of using this model is the lack of program customization to individual client’s needs.
The third model involves one-to-one remote coaching. This model is what most people think of when they refer to online coaching and, as such, tends to get the most attention.
There are a number of different videoconferencing solutions available in this regard, along with ad-hoc solutions such as Skype and FaceTime. In any case, even if making use of these ad-hoc technologies, a system that manages the practice and possibly provides positive reinforcement to clients can go a long way in achieving results in both the short as well as the long term.
Which Model Is Best?
Each model is going to have its pros and cons and different monetization strategies and as such, there is no blanket “better” option.
The first and second models will require stronger social media strategies, while the second one might benefit more from stronger coach-client relationships.
Partnerships can also help you boost your income, in which case there needs to be adequate functionality within the software to enable the display of relevant ads or hosting an online store.
Whichever model you choose, different pricing models might be made available to you which we will also discuss shortly.
Fitness Software for Local Clients
Targeting local clients is a different ball game to reaching remote ones. Again, the software needs to reflect the needs that working face-to-face with clients entails.
While personal communication can drive up engagement, the software functionality required is going to be different.
We will take a look at some of the different functions you can expect from fitness software by looking at a number of different solutions that can help you optimize and grow your practice. It’s important to note that the features mentioned below are not exclusive to one specific app.
The onboarding process starts when a potential client hears about you to the moment they sign up for one of your programs. Software such as SimplyBook.me offers integrated websites whilst MINDBODY offers marketing automation tools and branding functionality.
Automating tasks can help you drive down the customer acquisition costs while freeing up your time to take more revenue-generating clients or tweak your programs.
Moreover, software such as GymMaster works from any device helping you be more productive on the go without being tied to your desk.
|Manage new and ongoing appointments with scheduling functionality when you use SimplyBook.me for gym management. Add clients and amend appointments, send notifications, and remind clients through this app’s built-in communication tools.|
This app is designed to sync with your Google Calendar as well as design and present your health coaching services in a simple, convenient way for Android and iOS devices.
|Good For||Scheduling, Client Management|
|MINDBODY offers basic but scalable business management tools for fitness and online health coaches. Clients can schedule drop-in classes or sign up for deals, invite friends, and search for activities in their areas using filters – a good marketing feature for business owners.|
Syncable with fitness trackers, MINDBODY also connects with Google Fit and offers good client support for fitness trainers and professionals. Clients and users, on their end, can save their frequently-used classes, gyms, and wellness practices for easy re-booking.
|Good For||Marketing, Business Management|
|With GymMaster’s most basic account, you’ll be able to enroll and book as many casual clients as you like for your services. The platform streamlines billing processes and has inbuilt payment processing, online signups, and real-time reporting.|
Clients and practice owners can use an online portal to manage their experience, and customer support is available to help you get set up. Users are able to track their workouts and measurements as a way to measure their progress.
|Good For||Class Management, Scheduling, Bookings|
When it comes to attendance, there’s a lot of functionality that can help you run your practice more smoothly than ever before. From schedule management to member management, you’re likely to find the tools to help you grow.
Applications such as FitSW can also help you build workout and diet plans to ensure a more holistic approach to fitness. Apps such as CoachAccountable, let you track workout metrics and goal progression by uploading files and other media.
Contract management is another important feature included in a number of different apps.
|Improving engagement with accountability is CoachAccountable’s premise. It offers practice management systems for easier resource and class preparation, such as automated workflows, client payment management, scheduling, appointment notifications, and data tracking.|
Good for large and small businesses alike, CoachAccountable also offers some marketing capabilities to help health coaches advertise and grow their business.
|Price||$20+ USD monthly|
|Good For||Practice Management|
|Nutrition and diet planning, data tracking, and workout builders are all included in FitSW, which comes with both free, basic, and paid plan options. Clients can plan their meals, book and amend appointments, and make online payments through the app, helping personal trainers manage their daily business more easily.|
Fitness fans, in turn, can use more detailed features such as an integrated interval timer, goal or task tracking, and even before and after photos to improve engagement and encourage better results.
|Good For||Personal Training, Client Management, Workout Management|
Whilst online payments can certainly make it easier to get paid, having POS functionality can help you take payments before the client starts the session thus reducing payment defaulting.
Apps such as Virtuagym also offer automatic membership renewal, which can go a long way towards reducing awkward conversations.
In this case, like a number of other apps, Virtuagym also allows you to scale the app as you grow. This can help you make sure it is cost-effective for you without having to look for another solution when your practice grows.
|All the usual client features can be found in this app, from a calorie counter to exercise tracking and workouts for both the home and gym on the front end.|
At the back end, for coaches and fitness trainers, Virtuagym offers plan templates to help boost your efficiency, client progress spreadsheets, exercise and nutrition coaching tools, scheduling, booking, and remote coaching capabilities. As a practitioner, you’ll also be able to assign customized exercises to your clients one-on-one, and in groups.
|Good For||Templates and Planning, Scheduling, Exercise and Nutrition Coaching|
Supplementing Your Fitness Programs
Incorporating positive psychology toolkits into your fitness training software can help your clients stick to fitness programs and wellness regimens for longer-lasting results.
Staying fit over a longer period of time is not always easy. One online poll found that as many as 73% of US citizens who had set themselves a New Year’s fitness resolution gave up.
Popular Fitness Software Features
In a nutshell, we’ve looked at how fitness software can be a way for coaches to grow their businesses, boost client engagement, and ideally, run their businesses more efficiently. As a recap, these features include:
- Class and schedule management capabilities, which help you to keep track of your own schedule to help you fit in more clients in less time.
- Event hosting functions, such as calendars and appointment logs. These can be a great way to help you get greater visibility and credibility in the market. Look for event management functionality.
- Payment processing features in fitness software – which can include everything from complete automation to on the spot payments, helping to make sure you get paid on time.
Last, but certainly not least, mobile apps in general help coaches to be more environmentally friendly by reducing needless paperwork. They enable them to go paperless by digitizing their workflows and integrating key membership activities into one convenient virtual care platform or app.
When looking for software, keep an eye out for platforms or providers that offer a Free Trial that lets you set up an account and try out all the features before switching to the paid version.
An understanding of various popular software pricing models will help you make better decisions about what’s right for your business in the short- and longer-term:
- Freemium software – offers a basic setup for free, with more advanced functionality requiring an account upgrade to a paid version.
- Monthly software – typically follows a SaaS (Software as a Service) model, where you pay a monthly fee to use the software. Different tiers may be available.
- Annual software – this works in the same way as monthly software, but you pay for an entire year in advance. Discounts on pricing are usually given.
- One-time software – this is usually offered a licensed installation on one or more devices. Such models might not have data syncing capabilities.
Clarifying your business goals before you start searching for an app will not only save you time but eventually, it will enable you to scale up your business much more easily.
Getting The Most From Your Fitness Software
Financially, understanding your short and long-term goals also helps coaches make sure that any software investments can have a positive return on investment (ROI) well into the future.
If you’re planning on growing your practice, make sure the software you choose is capable of scaling up as you expand.
If you’re constantly on the move, a mobile application might help you keep everything updated while out and about. Ensure that the software is able to accommodate your different revenue streams while giving you the opportunity to cross-sell and up-sell.
Last, but not least, fitness software is only able to give you back what you put in, so make sure you always keep it updated.
Fitness software can help you attract new clients by giving you the opportunity to reach more people and offer a number of value-added services. With the right platform, it may also help you streamline your operations while giving you deeper insights into your practice with minimal effort. Certain platforms and apps will also help you reach a wider customer base while offering more value-added services, like general and tailored fitness programs.
As with most blended care technologies, the right features can also free up your time from back-office functions, allowing you to focus more on your core business of providing top-quality fitness coaching. Depending on the software solution you choose, you may even be able to concentrate your marketing efforts by targeting both local and hard-to-reach remote clients.
Have you used fitness software before as a health coach? What were your experiences? Or do you use fitness software as a client? Has it helped you reach your health goals? Join the conversation in the comments, we’d love to hear.
- ^ Watkins, J. A., Goudge, J., Gómez-Olivé, F. X., Huxley, C., Dodd, K., & Griffiths, F. (2018). mHealth text and voice communication for monitoring people with chronic diseases in low-resource settings: a realist review. BMJ Global Health, 3(2), e000543.
- ^ Cision. (2019). Global Sports and Fitness Apps Market is Expected to exhibit a CAGR of 20.4% During the Forecast Period (2019-2027). Retrieved from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-sports-and-fitness-apps-market-is-expected-to-exhibit-a-cagr-of-20-4-during-the-forecast-period-2019-2027-300884026.html
- ^ Kemp, R. (2016). Does remote fitness training work? The Telegraph. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/does-remote-fitness-training-work/
- ^ Nienhuis, J. B., Owen, J., Valentine, J. C., Winkeljohn Black, S., Halford, T. C., Parazak, S. E., Budge, S., & Hilsenroth, M. (2018). Therapeutic alliance, empathy, and genuineness in individual adult psychotherapy: A meta-analytic review. Psychotherapy Research, 28(4), 593.
- ^ Harris Interactive. (2019). New Study Finds 73% Of People Who Set Fitness Goals As New Year's Resolutions Give Them Up. Retrieved from https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/2013-100k-transformation-contest-press-release.html