The personal digital approach that's helping Vision PT ride out the crisis

CEO of Vision Personal Training talks through the digital shift it's made to keep engaged with customers

The COVID-19 crisis forced thousands of businesses across Australia to either fundamentally re-evaluate their business model or risk shutting up shop for good. But at Vision Personal Training, it’s served to stimulate digital transition that could have long-term benefits.

Vision Personal Training operates a network of 58 franchises in eastern Australia and Auckland, focused on small studios where every member works with a personal trainer. According to CEO, founder and personal trainer, Andrew Simmons, the personalised hands-on Vision model ensures results for clients, and also means studios an operate profitably with only 200 active clients, as opposed to the thousand or more required for  a standard gym.

“Rather than having to have thousands of members, we provided a result guarantee for our clients,” Simmons told CMO.

That model has also enabled Vision and its trainers to forge strong personal relationships with its clients.

Like many other companies in the fitness industry, the company has relied on direct debit payments from its clients as its primary flow of revenue. So when Simmons received a call from his direct debit provider to say it would cease collecting money as his company could no longer provide a service, he had other ideas.

Andrew SimmonsCredit: Vision PT
Andrew Simmons


“We said there is no way you are doing that - we are going online,” he said.

As a devotee of the author and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek, Simmons said he had already been thinking about the reason why Vision exists.

“Our overarching ‘why’ is we build communities transforming people’s lives,” Simmons said. “As a personal trainer, I know it is not what you do inside the gym that counts, it is what you do outside. If we can focus on helping clients get those other things right then what that means is that we can help them get the result they want.

“By going online, it still enabled us to fulfill our ‘why’. We could still provide the service because our people are the service.”

While a report from Illion & AlphaBeta has found consumer spending across the fitness industry plummeted by 96 per cent during the COVID-19 crisis, the revenue decline at Vision was only around 40 per cent.

Simmons said much of the credit for that outcome lies with his head office team, and particularly to the work that went in to communicating with trainers and clients to explain the changes and how the service would operate.

“We have a great marketing team at headquarters, and we have put out over 80 pieces of communication over the COVID period to our network to let them know that it is going on,” Simmons said. “It was video messaging and emails with instructions around what they need to do.

“People are hearing, either through our network or their friends, that this online PT thing works, and you can get a good result. A lot of people were really willing to give it a go and were pleasantly surprised by how well it went.”

In some instances, Simmons said the new model has helped Vision win new clients, including from overseas.

“We had a former client who has a very important job in India, and who found out about the online training and called up his old personal trainer and asked if he could start training him on Zoom every Sunday,” Simmons said. “That is not unusual. All over the world we are hearing stories of people starting to do it.

“What it has done is it has been a great lesson to us so that now when someone ever goes away on holidays or for work there is no reason for them to stop training.”

As Australia and New Zealand begin to emerge from lockdown, Simmons said the focus is on communicating the correct safety protocols to trainers and encouraging clients back into the studios.

“We have done a lot of work in social media,” he said. “We’ve sent out COVID safety packs to everybody to make sure they display them in the studios and have given them instructional videos on how to do everything in the studios.”

And despite trainers not having been able to be ‘hands on’ with clients during the crisis, Simmons said the decision to stay engaged using technology has helped them forge closer relationships.

“Personal training is about being passionate about other people, and we were always about engagement with the client, so they didn’t undo the good work they had already done,” Simmons said. “Part of our ‘why’ is to build communities, and people often want somewhere to go to do that. But in the same breath, people are seeing there is another opportunity with this as well as the studio.”

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