Earlier this year my 15-year-old daughter, Roxanne, came home from a meeting of one of her afterschool clubs to tell me that they were hosting a fundraiser at Orange Theory. “Will you donate $30 and take a class there to help us raise money?” she asked. How could I say no?
As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m no athlete. In fact, for many years I was convinced I could not exercise (7th-grade gym class had a very bad effect on my psyche). But as an adult, I’ve slowly learned that, in fact, anyone can move their body and everyone should.
There’s an Orange Theory location right on Central Street here in Wellesley. and I’ve walked past the storefront probably a hundred times, but I figured it was some sort of swanky gym for super athletes and therefore not a place my uncoordinated self belonged.
If you’ve never heard of Orange Theory it’s a group fitness company founded in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2010 that now has over 1,000 studios all over the world.
I dreaded the day of the fundraiser class and nearly canceled, but thought that would set a bad example so I went despite my trepidation. I know you’re about to get annoyed with me for being such a quick convert, but I’ve been both fascinated and obsessed with Orange Theory ever since. I’ve just completed my ninth class and I’m headed over there later today. It’s brilliant.
First, I had to download all the podcast interviews with Orange Theory founder Ellen Latham and listen to them one after the other. How did she come up with this?
This company makes going to the gym rewarding in all the right ways. Every time I walk in there my mind starts churning thinking about all the aspects of Orange Theory that could be applied to creative small business. There are so many.
Whether you’re an Orange Theory devotee, or you never plan to set foot in there, here’s what I see that’s applicable:
First, what got me to walk in there was a free class. Actually, it was a charity event so it wasn’t technically free, but Orange Theory’s policy is to give away the first class for free.
Generosity is so important. It’s an opportunity to begin a relationship and build trust. Once the customer is inside they can see all you have to offer, but first, they have to open the door.
Pay for Prime Real Estate
Orange Theory is right on the main street in our town. It’s a franchise and I have no idea how they regulate location choices, but they do seem to choose prime real estate for their locations in all of the surrounding towns, too.
To me, this is the equivalent of choosing good hosting for your website (like WP Engine), a premium ecommerce provider (like Shopify), and a good quality email service provider for your newsletter. Don’t be skimpy.
Build Anticipation and Control the Start
I’ve been to lots of group fitness classes (I was a step aerobics fan for a while in the ’90s) and in most of them, the door to the studio is open before class. Students go in, claim a spot, and maybe do some stretching. At Orange Theory the door is closed and everyone waits in the hall. When class is about to begin the instructor comes out and greets the class. Then everyone gets a fist bump or high five on the way inside. Anticipation builds to this controlled, almost theatrical start where the whole team begins at once.
For me, this is like an open/closed cart for an online class: create that sense of urgency, and community. Get in there and go! We’re a team, working together during this hour to improve ourselves. The controlled start creates palpable energy.
Give People Easy Data and Make Goals Concrete
Data is at the center of Orange Theory. This is brand new in group fitness (there was no data in step aerobics class). Orange Theory sells its own heart rate monitors. You strap the monitor to your arm and then look up at TVs in the studio throughout the workout to see how you’re doing. When class is over they email you your results.
Nothing is more motivating than real-time data and when you make it a game, everyone is motivated to win. Orange Theory’s data is simple to understand. It’s a percentage of 100 so all you’re trying to do is get above 80% and stay there. For each minute you do, you earn a point. The goal is to earn 12. It makes working out, which can feel so intangible, totally tangible.
In your own business, whether you’re running an affiliate program or selling products, a simple points system for your customers with rewards can be really powerful.
Something for Everyone
When you hear founder Ellen Latham talk about Orange Theory one of the things she says is, “If you can walk, you can do this workout.” Every exercise has a modification and power walking, rather than running, is totally acceptable. I’m not kidding when I say that I’m the slowest person in the class every time. I’m improving, but I’m not athletic and it’s fine.
The lesson here for small business is to meet people where they are. Explain the rules so there aren’t insiders and outsiders. This isn’t 7th-grade gym class. This is a group of adults investing an hour in themselves. Make sure that vibe permeates so that everyone feels welcome.
It’s rare that I interact with a business that’s as immersive and innovative as Orange Theory. Perhaps I need to get out more? But really, there are lessons here for all kinds of businesses including creative ones like ours.