Personal fitness is one of many industries taken by storm in our recent digital shift. Gone are the days of needing a personal trainer or class to get your sweat on; there are now an abundance of apps, blogs, and videos that will take you through what you need to know in order to achieve your nutrition and fitness goals. One individual has been particularly successful in capturing a large and devoted audience. That would be Kayla. I challenge you to step into Shad and not find at least 5 people “sweating with Kayla”.
THE EVOLUTION OF KAYLA
Kayla Itsines, Australian fitness guru with a cult following, started with humble beginnings in 2008 as a personal trainer1. As a personal trainer, the number of individuals she could help was limited by her hours in a day. The value Kayla added at this point was teaching her clients how to train and how to eat; she delivered on this by working with individuals. As she gained popularity, Kayla began to take advantage of social media and the web to not only enhance her operating model but her business model as well.
Enter Kayla’s BBG.
In her next stage of growth, Kayla created a 12-week workout program (the infamous “Bikini Body Guide”) that individuals could purchase for $52 and began to grow her internet presence on Facebook and Instagram. By doing this, the value Kayla created expanded beyond your workout to include a community of other BBGers who would help motivate you along your journey. As added inspiration, Kayla’s Instagram is filled with motivational before and after transformation pictures and stories. The community she has created is incredibly supportive; each transformation post has an abundance of comments filled with praise and encouragement. As for her operating model, Kayla was taking a step in the right direction of maximizing her impact.
This community is possibly her largest competitive advantage. While many other online fitness programs exist, none have achieved the same level of support (Kayla has 25 million followers2). P90X, which targets men and women with similar types of workouts, also has an online community; however, the community isn’t as accessible as Instagram and Facebook which is likely why they only have 3 million followers3. Similarly, female fitness guru and creator of Blogilates, Cassey Ho has 3-4 million followers4 despite starting around the same time as Kayla and targeting the same demographic. Cassey focused more on YouTube (which is where she posts workouts) which doesn’t have as strong of a following community as does Instagram. Kayla was very strategic about choosing social media platforms to focus on which has led to her cult following.
From an operational standpoint, taking advantage of digital is brilliant since it allows you to reach more individuals. What is difficult here is keeping individuals motivated. Kayla’s focus on community is what keeps users engaged. Most people using her workouts don’t workout alone; this helps one stay motivated and focused without actually needing Kayla present.
In the latest iteration of her business, the “Sweat with Kayla” app, she takes the benefits from the BBG model to the next level. Her promise of providing you with great workouts and motivation are all captured within an app. The BBG program is only 12 weeks long so you might run out of workouts (something that wouldn’t happen if you had Kayla as your personal trainer) while the app is endless. The app also keeps individuals motivated; each workout starts out with a 10 second countdown with motivational phrases from others in the community. This operating model is also significantly more profitable than the one she used with the BBG. The BBG was a one time purchase (also very easy to share with others) while the app is a $20/month recurring fee.
One of the great things about the fitness industry’s embrace of technology is how accessible workouts have become. As a result, I think the industry faces two main risks (one for the consumers and one for trainers). As consumers, some of these exercises can be dangerous if performed incorrectly; so there is a bit of an onus on those creating workouts to be consumed in a digital manner to make sure their clients are working out safely. Additionally, trainers now face the risk of becoming obsolete and will need to find ways to customize their workouts in order to stay relevant. With the cost of switching so low, it is imperative Kayla keeps her competitive edge by continuing to listen to her core fans as she grows her business.
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