Zoe Knight runs the website musclenerds.net, which provides in-depth health and fitness education to fitness professionals.
Her platform of choice is Kleq, and to show how the tool and a membership subscription model are applied to the booming fitness industry, James has invited Zoe to tell her story.
Zoe shares her business’s unique take on fitness pro education, and how they went from one-time course to offering a subscription program.
She and James discuss the delivery approach of Muscle Nerds, as applied to their one-time product and to their membership.
And they talk about the people and the tools that go into making a subscription product a success.
Table of contents
1. The fitness pro education market
2. Addressing the issue of stress
3. Giving clients what they really need
4. Where Zoe was when things locked down
5. Is there an advantage to having more stuff?
6. Delivering a lifetime solution
7. How the subscription program came about
8. Discovering the Kleq platform
9. The people that make up the community
10. How do the clients come in?
11. Have people been staying on the program?
12. The difference in delivery
13. The final advice you can take away
The fitness pro education market
James is seeing a significant expansion in the fitness pro education market, largely driven by increased focus on health and wellness across societies.
Zoe affirms this. The growth has been amplified by social media and increased access to information, creating space for a wide variety of voices, from well-known YouTubers to business professionals, all sharing advice on fitness and calorie counting.
Traditionally, says Zoe, fitness education had been more directed towards athletic development and advanced training methods. However, a shift was observed when Muscle Nerds, among others, began focusing on educating people to train the general population.
This market included individuals with varying lifestyles and stress levels, and required a different approach, placing greater emphasis on stress physiology, recovery, nutrition, and stress management.
The recent global health crisis prompted many in the industry to transition into the online space, further contributing to the growth of the sector. This shift enabled more individuals to become educators, influencers, and coaches, offering an array of options for people seeking continuing education in the health and fitness space.
Although it appears to be an easy and lucrative option, Zoe says, the industry demands considerable work, ensuring a continuous increase in the quality of offerings.
Addressing the issue of stress
Stress physiology sounds like a great market to be in at the moment, says James.
It is super cool, says Zoe.
Stress physiology is becoming a focus in many health and wellness fields, as people are often unknowingly living in a state of heightened stress response. This can affect their response to exercise and nutrition, making it something essential for fitness coaches to understand and address.
When stress is effectively managed, significant improvements in health can be observed. This demonstrates the relevance of training principles rooted in stress management.
Stress manifests differently in individuals, Zoe says, resulting in varied responses and coping mechanisms. Where some people turn to binging or comfort eating in times of stress, others may lose their appetite entirely.
Understanding these differences is crucial to tailoring health and wellness strategies for individuals.
Giving clients what they really need
In the entrepreneurial field, James observes, stoicism and toughness are generally celebrated. However, during the pandemic, many people drew strongly on their support networks. This triggered increased reliance on coaches and mentors, using them as resources to navigate through difficulty.
Individuals have likewise started to lean into fitness professionals to help correct the course of their health and maintain wellness.
The fitness industry is diverse, says Zoe, with subsets ranging from bodybuilders and powerlifters to movement specialists. Many professionals, however, are now working to understand the core principles that are common across all fitness domains.
This involves a deep understanding of the basic functioning of the human body, down to the cellular level, which helps fitness professionals make better-informed decisions about their clients’ needs.
Recognizing the unique needs of each individual is a prime tenet of this approach. One needs to disregard personal dogmas or preferences and focus on what the client truly requires.
This involves understanding the reasons behind each tool’s effectiveness and applying them appropriately to different individuals, essentially giving the clients what they really need.
The industry is not without many biases, with practitioners and clients subscribing to certain health and nutrition trends. A central source of objective education for fitness professionals could counter these tendencies and ensure that clients receive the best possible advice and guidance based on their unique needs.
Where Zoe was when things locked down
Zoe and her husband, Luke, started delivering online fitness courses back in 2018, after years of traveling the world and hosting in-person seminars. Their unique situation, being from different countries and unable to live together legally, led them to a nomadic lifestyle where they provided fitness education globally.
When the couple finally settled down, they decided to move their services online, offering a comprehensive program design course that evolved over time into an extensive program with over 160 hours of video content.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdowns, they saw an influx of people purchasing their online education courses. People did not then realize that their income and employment opportunities would dwindle, so at the time Zoe and Luke enjoyed a boom.
As people started realizing how long the pandemic would last, there began to be strain on the fitness industry, especially on gym owners. Zoe and her husband, unfortunately, purchased a gym in Brisbane just five days before the lockdowns began.
Zoe was particularly concerned then for individuals who relied on exercise for their mental health. As lockdowns continued and the financial realities set in for many people, their online education business started to see a decline, particularly with their higher-ticket items.
To adapt to the circumstances, they started offering shorter, more affordable courses. They observed that many personal trainers struggled to train their clients without gym equipment, so they tailored their education to cover this gap.
Their teachings on core concepts, like tension and mechanical advantages or disadvantages, helped trainers find innovative solutions for training clients with minimal resources, like bands or light dumbbells.
Is there an advantage to having more stuff?
James is curious. Does having 160 hours’ worth of content mean Zoe can charge a higher course fee than if it were, say, 10 hours?
Zoe agrees that it could, explaining that their course has a considerable amount of content due to the depth and breadth of the subjects they cover. They aim to provide comprehensive and sometimes repeated explanations on complex topics like biochemistry and anatomy, making the learning process more manageable for their students.
In addition to the core content, they conduct live group calls, record them, and add these recordings to the course. Zoe notes that these interactive sessions often enhance learning as they mimic a conversational format, allowing for stories, real-life examples, and applicable scenarios. These discussions often venture beyond the core curriculum, touching on subjects based on the students’ questions and interests, which adds to the volume of the course.
Despite the extensive content, they’ve maintained the same price for their program design course since its inception in 2018. The course costs 4000 AUD if paid upfront, and 4500 AUD if on a payment plan.
Zoe emphasizes that their philosophy is to value and reward their existing clients rather than focusing solely on acquiring new ones. As such, clients who enroll in their program design course receive discounts on other courses and coaching services, along with free resources.
Delivering a lifetime solution
James points out that Zoe’s model of taking the lifetime customer value upfront and then serving people indefinitely is like delivering a lifetime solution.
Zoe confirms this – once a client purchases a course, they retain lifetime access to it. This access is maintained even in the face of technical challenges or platform changes.
Currently, the main course is delivered via a WordPress plugin on their website, but due to technical issues, they plan to move to the Kleq platform.
A platform like Kleq, says James, can allow for lifetime access to a one-time course while also permitting recurring subscriptions for ongoing programs. Zoe’s transition offers a way to better manage and deliver their lifetime solution.
How the subscription program came about
Zoe decided to develop a subscription program in response to dwindling sales of their big-ticket items. At the same time, she conceived an idea for software, something unique in the fitness industry.
To finance the software’s development, she considered a subscription-based service, capitalizing on the trend she observed of the market moving towards lower-cost, higher-value items.
Instead of one-on-one mentorships, which had been a significant offering of their business, Luke suggested a one-to-many model through the subscription service. They hoped that this would not only allow them to reach more people but also provide a recurring income to fund the development of the software.
The new program also served to accustom Muscle Nerds’ clientele to a subscription model, as opposed to the one-time payment arrangement they had previously used.
They chose to host the subscription program under the new software’s business name, Cerebro Coach, instead of the original business name, Muscle Nerds. This was meant to familiarize people with the new brand and to separate it from their website’s technical issues.
Thus, the subscription program was born out of necessity, market observation, and strategic business decisions.
Discovering the Kleq platform
Zoe discovered the Kleq platform through a series of events, starting with her interest in the concept of paid lead magnets. A social media ad led her to sign up for a mailing list of a Kleq user, who spoke about the platform’s benefits and differences from other platforms.
Even though Zoe didn’t initially have a subscription service in mind, she saved the information about Kleq for future reference.
When Zoe finally decided to start a subscription service, she revisited the saved information about Kleq. She was drawn to the platform for its customization potential and her desire to make her business stand out amidst the increasing number of online educators and influencers. She wanted her service to feel different and unique from others, and felt Kleq could help her achieve that.
Zoe’s decision to use Kleq proved a success – they now have members paying a recurring subscription.
The people that make up the community
Zoe describes the community built through their subscription service as comprised of truly passionate and dedicated fitness coaches. These coaches are not content with surface-level education and are willing to invest the time and effort required to grasp their more in-depth and comprehensive approach.
These individuals genuinely want to understand the “how” and “why” of their methods and apply them correctly for the benefit of their clients. They are motivated by the desire to create positive change in people’s lives, rather than the sole prospect of easy money.
Zoe contrasts their community with the broader fitness industry, which often seems more focused on image and quick gains. Instead, their group places a higher premium on knowledge, education, and the fundamental principle of being an exceptional coach.
This emphasis has resulted in a network of like-minded professionals who appreciate the more substantive approach, making their interactions with each other refreshing.
James’s membership follows similar principles, emphasizing high values and long-term commitment. The quality of a community, he believes, greatly depends on the methods used to attract members – rather than using hype or large-scale promotions, their growth has been organic, attracting those who align with his philosophy.
How do the clients come in?
Zoe describes the initial success of Muscle Nerds as largely dependent on her husband’s established reputation in the fitness industry, Luke having been an educator for a well-known fitness education company.
When they started their venture, there was already a large group of coaches worldwide eager to work with Luke. They experienced organic growth for the first five years, mainly through word-of-mouth. Their business strategy focused on delivering quality education, which led to their coaches experiencing significant benefits.
In recent years, Zoe acknowledges the need to become more strategic in client acquisition, as they’ve nearly exhausted their initial network. While they were able to fill seminars effortlessly in the early days with a single Facebook post, she recognizes that such approaches won’t work anymore.
To tackle this, Zoe has hired a business mentor to help her develop strategies for attracting new students and advertising effectively.
Zoe points out that they currently have about 120 subscribers, mostly from their initial launch, and she is working on becoming more active on social media and email marketing to boost these numbers. She’s candid about the need to learn more about these aspects of the business, as their early success didn’t require them to develop such skills.
They’ve never used techniques like brand ambassadors, referrals, or hype for marketing, so this is a new area of exploration for them.
James suggests that their goodwill in the market should be leveraged, possibly through a book or a report and a small paid traffic campaign. He also stresses the effectiveness of traditional methods like emailing directly or sharing phone numbers for more intimate, less friction-filled communication.
James encourages Zoe to utilize resources such as guest appearances on industry podcasts, and using their wealth of free knowledge as lead magnets for potential paid subscribers. He believes that with these strategies, as they increase traffic, their subscriber numbers will rise.
Have people been staying on the program?
Zoe says they have retained the majority of their subscribers since the start of the program. There were only a few cases of people unsubscribing, often due to unique personal circumstances. One subscriber, for instance, had to leave when a pet attacked his grandmother.
James highlights the importance of retention in a subscription membership model. He uses the analogy of a bucket – if subscriptions don’t deliver, they will leak customers, and over time the churn rate might exceed new subscriptions, resulting in a loss. If the churn is low and new subscribers are added consistently, a steady growth and a successful business can be maintained.
Zoe states their focus is on getting as many people as possible into their program. Since they do not focus on one particular topic, they can cover a broad range of subjects within one service, such as nutrition, training, and program design. This variety of topics caters to the needs of diverse subscribers.
James shares an effective strategy that has worked for him – splitting a training or course into several segments, and sending each out daily to subscribers via email. This can result in high open rates and allows for educating and building value for the subscribers before they make a purchase.
James also suggests Zoe upsell her membership to anyone who has ever bought their course, offering them a loyalty coupon as a token of appreciation.
The difference in delivery
The delivery of Zoe’s subscription service, involves releasing a new module on the 1st and 15th of every month. The module is broken down into two categories: one is derived from the syllabus of Luke’s one-on-one mentorship and covers various topics.
The other category, dubbed “people’s choice,” involves subscribers voting on the topic they want to learn about next. Subscribers have demonstrated surprising agreement on their choice of topics, says Zoe.
The material is delivered through videos in each module, which can either be a single long video or a series of shorter ones.
An active forum is also part of the service, allowing subscribers to engage in discussions, ask questions, and request clarification.
The goal is to increase the delivery as the program grows, possibly even releasing four modules at a time in the future. This could justify allocating more of Luke’s time to the program.
James proposes incorporating features like ‘mark as complete’ or ‘trophy points’ to enhance the user experience. Zoe initially sees this as more suitable for lengthier content, but agrees they could work for shorter modules as well. James highlights that these features make the learning process fun and allow members to track their progress.
Tools like push notifications, says James, are great for fostering user interaction and improving retention rates. He also suggests it might be worth starting with less content, to better cater to the needs of a new type of audience.
The final advice you can take away
Zoe’s final advice to those transitioning from in-person operations to a subscription-based business is to start as soon as the idea forms. She wishes they had established their platform much earlier.
Zoe acknowledges it’s not a low-effort endeavor, but it’s highly leveraged, providing substantial benefits to the end user due to the continuous learning opportunity it offers.
James agrees with Zoe and highlights the success of her business, which is already generating a six-figure income and has the potential to grow further. Zoe has done well in having a valuable offer and a leveraged delivery system that allows for balance with other tasks. It’s a great business model, says James.
If you’d like to see an example of a great subscription membership business, especially within the fitness sector, check out Zoe’s site, musclenerds.net.
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