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Why you should build an online fitness subscription (and how to do it)

Youll's CEO Alex Bejan discusses the power of recurring revenue.

Subscriptions aren’t a new business model — even in the fitness industry. For decades, people have been paying monthly subscriptions to attend gyms or clubs.

Yet, most fitness professionals haven’t realized the value of subscription business models.

It’s easy to get stuck in the mindset of selling your time for money through live classes, on-demand content, and one-to-one training.

But subscriptions can help to build more sustainable and profitable fitness businesses. And the opportunity is going to keep growing with Global Market Insights noting that online fitness programs will grow by 30% through 2026.

Today, we’ll give you everything you need to get going and build a fitness subscription business of your own.

The rise of the subscription economy

This subscription economy is a way of describing the shift many businesses and creators and making towards recurring subscription business models.

According to a report by subscription management platform provider Zuora, the subscription economy has grown nearly six times (more than 435%) over the last nine years. The report also found that subscription businesses have consistently grown 5-8x faster than traditional businesses.

But subscriptions aren’t just for big companies like Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon. Individual creators are making thousands of dollars (even millions in some cases) on platforms like Patreon, Substack, Buy Me a Coffee, and Memberful — or through building their own subscription apps using a platform like Youll.

And the opportunity to build a subscription business in the fitness industry is huge.

Membership models are a win-win both for the client and the coach. Subscriptions are often a lower price than one-to-one coaching, but the coach can also work with a larger number of people.

Monthly Recurring Revenue: The heartbeat of the subscription economy

Monthly recurring revenue is the #1 metric subscription businesses focus on.

Your Monthly recurring revenue (commonly abbreviated as MRR) tells you how much you’re making each month based on your subscriber numbers and average revenue per subscriber.

The MRR calculation is pretty simple. All you need to do is multiply the number of subscribers you have by the average amount they pay you per month.

So, if you have 150 subscribers that all pay $10/month, your MRR would be $1,500.

Why MRR matters to fitness professionals

Running a business is hard. Especially when your income resets to zero each month and you have to grind all over again to keep clients on board and make new sales.

However, if you focus on building a subscription business and scaling MRR, you can build a much more sustainable business with unlimited growth potential.

Here are three key benefits from focusing on generating recurring subscription revenue:

1. It helps with budgeting and forecasting

As any fitness professional will tell you, sales aren’t always predictable. There can be seasonal fluctuations and, sometimes, situations out of your control that can massively influence your revenue (for example, gym closures).

With a subscription business, you’re better prepared to weather any storms and quieter months. The more customers you have on a subscription model, the more you can rely on a set amount of revenue coming in every month.

For instance, say your business is split evenly between online subscriptions and in-person training. If your MRR from your online subscribers is $2,000, you’ll always have that income, regardless of how many new in-person clients you might get each month.

2. It lowers the barrier to entry

Subscription-based business models make it easier to convert leads into customers.

One-to-one personal training can be expensive (hundreds of dollars per hour in some cases), whereas monthly subscriptions are priced much lower (often between $10–$50/month), so it’s much easier for customers to assess the value offered by a service—and a much easier decision to take the plunge and purchase.

Booking a set of personal training sessions for $500 is a big decision for most people. But trying out a $10/month subscription isn’t going to weigh too heavily on most people’s minds.

3. Stronger customer relationships (and higher lifetime value)

One of the biggest bonuses of a subscription business is the relationships you get to build with your customers.

When someone subscribes to your service, they’re likely going to come back on a daily or weekly basis to engage with your content. This can help to build strong customer relationships and increase loyalty. This consistent interaction and engagement can help to make your business a part of their regular workout routines.

Further down the road, the trust you build up with each subscriber can also help to increase revenue through upsells and other products you might launch.

How to build a subscription business

One key shift you need to make to build a successful subscription business is to move away from selling your time directly for money. Instead, you need to be thinking about how you can build once, sell multiple times.

Let’s break it down:

If you do two hours of one-to-one coaching at $70/hour, you can make $140 for that time. But once those hours are over, you have to spend more time coaching to make more money.

But if you were to take those two sessions and create on-demand video lessons of the workouts as part of a digital subscription, you could make more money from those sessions by selling subscriptions time and time again.

So, how can you get started with subscriptions? There are three steps.

1. Understand your customers

The first step to launching a successful subscription business is understanding your customers’ needs and wants.

Ask yourself who your audience is and what they’re looking for:

  • Are they busy office workers?
  • Are they training for specific events?
  • Do they want nutrition advice or just workouts?
  • Are they a certain demographic?
  • Do they all live in a local area?
  • What types of workouts do they enjoy?

Try to learn as much as you can about the individuals that make up your audience to ensure you can build a subscription that meets their needs.

To start with, you can simply speak with an existing client or someone who takes an online class with you, asking some of the questions above and getting to know more about them and their fitness goals.

As you speak to more people, you can begin to shape products that will appeal to your audience and help them to achieve their goals.

2. Set up the infrastructure

This is where most people get a little stuck — and it’s a big part of why we’re building Youll.

Setting up a subscription business can be quite hard and confusing. Platforms like Patreon, Podia, Substack, and Youll make it much easier.

With Youll, you can build a premium content library that acts as the base of your subscription offering. So, if you’re a trainer who specializes in kettlebell workouts, you can create an on-demand library of kettlebell workouts and exercises. Or say you’re a breathwork coach, Youll enables you to guide your community through a curated playlist of content.

Youll App

Youll helps you drive subscription revenue for your fitness business.

Before Youll, you might have had to piece this all together using a range of tools to manage payments, videos, email management, and subscriber engagement. But now, it’s all in one place, and built to offer everything you need to share engaging content and keep your community coming back for more.

3. Create subscriptions that scale

With your audience needs clearly defined and the infrastructure in place to help you launch and manage your subscription business all set, now is the time to build out your subscription offering.

When it comes to creating product for a subscription, there are two things you want to keep in mind:

  • Affordability. As we covered earlier, subscriptions can feel super affordable compared to one-to-one personal training. This is because you know the customer will (hopefully) continue paying for months on end and also because you don’t need to directly sell your time for money to serve each subscriber. Try to build out an offering that feels like an incredible deal to your subscribers.
  • Ongoing needs. For a subscription to work, it needs to provide value for customers on an ongoing basis. For example, libraries or workout videos and meal plans can continually provide value. Whereas a one-month “couch to 5k” running plan isn’t going to be needed once the customer has benefited from the initial value.

The 3 ways to grow subscription revenue

There are hundreds of tactics you can use to grow your business, but almost everything you do will be aiming to impact one of these three ways to scale your subscription revenue.

1. More customers

The clearest way to grow your subscription business is to generate more customers. This often relies solely on marketing and ensuring that your subscription is reaching as many potential customers as possible.

One of the best ways to get more people interested in your subscription plan is to offer something for free. You could use a free trial, promo codes for discounts, or offer a free workout video or product in exchange for joining your mailing list.

For example, Joe Wicks’ Body Coach app offers a seven-day free trial for new users with unlimited access to the app. Following the trial, there are three subscription options to choose from: Annual, Quarterly, and Monthly.

Body Coach App

2. Higher revenue per subscriber

In software, a key metric businesses look at is the average revenue per user (ARPU), and with a subscription business, one of the best ways to grow is to increase the average revenue you make per subscriber.

You can do this by offering tiered subscription plans with more content and benefits for people on more expensive plans. Demonstrating this, Dr. Rhonda Patrick offers a subscription plan for her Found My Fitness community. Subscriptions start at just $15/month, but anyone who pays the top level of $250/month gets access to an exclusive Google Hangout each month.

Found My Fitness

3. Reducing churn

Churn measures the percentage of customers who stop paying for your subscription each month. For example, if you had 100 subscribers in April and then 90 at the end of May, your churn rate would be 10%.

So long as your growth rate is bigger than your churn rate, your business will continue to grow. But if churn overtakes new subscriber growth, then you’ll see your income start to shrink.

To combat churn, you should ensure you are constantly keeping your subscribers updated with new content and building closer relationships with each member of your audience. The stronger your relationship with each customer and the better their overall experience, the less likely they are to churn.

Are you ready to get started?

So, there you have it — everything you need to get off the ground and launch a fitness subscription to help grow your business and drive that all-important monthly recurring revenue.

Growing a successful subscription business can take time, and you likely won’t make it big overnight. But if you want to scale your business and start making money without directly selling your time, it’s a business model you should definitely explore.

Get started and build your fitness subscription business with Youll today — book a free demo and strategy session here