Question :
Hi there,I own a corporate a corporate boxing gym called Boxing Alley.  Some of you may know it as Monty is a huge part of it.When we went into lockdown all of our direct debit memberships were instantly placed on hold.  Since then I’ve managed to get around 20% of our members to voluntarily start up their membership payments again to support the gym.  Our lockdown strategy was to keep our community engaged by going online.  We are now running over 20 online boxing classes a week via zoom.We have had over 500 registrations and are actively training over 100 people a day.These classes are free for all however we do have a ‘donate’ PayPal button on our online webpage.My question is related to the donate button.  How hard should we be pushing this?  It is awkward asking for money…  Especially since we did get a lot of people into the classes by offering the for free.Cheers 

Question submitted 13/04/20 @ 07:20am
Industry: Business Growth
  • That’s an excellent question … with no easy answer.
    On the “push hard” side is the fact that you probably need the money to keep the gym going until we emerge from the lock-down (whenever that will be), and to survive yourself. All of your customers will appreciate the online offering, and some will be in a position to pay, so you should encourage them to do so.
    On the “softly softly” side is the fact that some of your customers will not be in a position to pay due to their own financial constraints. They will, however, appreciate your services being available AND free. Many companies with a service that can be offered online are choosing to make them available for free, counting on the goodwill generated to transition to paying customers when we recover.
    Being too hard on the “Donate Now” message might make them feel bad about not being able to pay, and therefore reluctant to participate.
    So the key is in your messaging. Point people clearly to the donate button, explain your rationale for requesting some payment, if possible, and stress that it is not required.
    Good luck!

    I obviously know a little bit about your business and the community you serve. You guys have been running these classes free for a little bit of time now and so my advice would would be to push it, but instead of pushing it hard, push it soft! Have a 15sec little audio bite that explains your situation, that like so many businesses you’re doing your best to survive with no clear view on when the current lockdown will end. Repeat variations of that message 3 times throughout the class like “don’t forget to give that donate button a fist bump”. Your community love you, I’m sure they won’t be offended if you give it a nudge, at the end of the day, if they don’t want to donate they won’t, so there’s nothing to lose by asking in the right way.

    Any one who operates a business based on a community spirit should not be afraid to ask for help from its members in tough times – so dont feel embarrassed or reluctant to ask for donations to help keep your business going – just make sure the ask is based on transparency, openness and integrity….Have you tried offering a paid subscription service to members or one on one video coaching to clients who can afford it or want it? Im doing one on one Video coaching with my PT my Pilates instructor and now my guitar teacher – its. so incredibly time efficient I may never go back to the old way!

    Good advice above especially on the soft ask.

    Whilst I don’t know your business just wanted to provide some ideas. I haven’t screened these at all so they may not work for your community but in the interest of all ideas are good ideas whilst brainstorming here you go.

    I have seen some baseball firms in the US (my son is big in to baseball) split their offering between free and paid. So they have provided free content, eg baseline drills, some coaching, etc. and then their higher offering is paid but at a reduced rate. This could be 1:1 classes, individual coaching, plan creation, etc. .

    For example, do you have a stay at home base line plan you can provide for free for people but charge for an individualized plan? Could you set up small coaching classes that teach technique? Could you change the duration of classes, e.g. free is 30 minutes but 60 minutes is paid for? Could you film base exercises and/or a do it yourself plan and charge for that?

    Have you gotten any data on how many of your 100 per day are regular members vs new to your gym? Maybe you get that data and that will inform you how you approach the ideas above?

    I also think like many things as this goes on people’s expectations will change. If we got to level 3 on 22/4 and that may mean some gyms stay closed that could be a point in time for you to consider modify your offering and whether people pay or not.

    Just a follow up – I got an interesting email from Anytime Fitness today about a pay it forward strategy to help their local franchises. If you know of anyone that goes there could be an interesting email to read as an example of one way to approach it.

    Hi there – it sounds like you’ve got a great community going and your generosity has brought a lot of mana and new customers your way. Awesome! I agree with comments above about having an ask – openly, transparently and with some storytelling aspect. I would err away from being repetitive with the comms that can run the risk of being annoying and switching people off. Do it once, do it well, with grace. I also agree with John’s comments on creating a tiered value offering. This is really smart – it not only gives you ways to upsell people to a paid offering, but it provides choice and encourages a deeper connection. They key for me is to gather insight to inform what you offer and how you charge. Find out who’s doing what, how long they’re connected in (are they staying for the duration of classes, or signing off half way through?), and most importantly are they an existing or new member. Map out each type of person as a customer segment and work out what UX (offering, pricing) that’s right for each. Test => learn => refine. Rinse and repeat.
    Go well

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