Credibly: How can a new franchise brand get attention in a crowded industry?
TODD MAGAZINE: The first thing you need is a differentiated proposition. In a crowded market, you’d better have an idea that feels unique to what’s already out there, if you’re not the first mover.
You also have to demonstrate the success of the model before you go to franchise. By the time Blink Fitness began selling franchises, we already had 35-40 open corporate locations that we owned, which gave us credibility in the marketplace. It helps to give people some sense of the reality of what you’re ultimately promising.
So what was Blink Fitness’s “differentiated proposition”? The fitness franchise market is about as crowded as it gets.
At a high level, the difference between us and everybody else is the quality of the experience. The conventional wisdom of value is that you get what you pay for. If you’re paying $10 or $15, you’re going to get a $10 or $15 experience — and there are people who are fine with that. They expect the equipment to be dirty and they expect the people in the gym to not be very nice, because they’re paying a lower amount of money.
Our difference was to bring more of a luxury experience and higher expectation to the value segment, staying in that low price segment but making the experience dramatically different. In other words, giving guests more than what they paid for.
Then at a strategic level, the way we position that to prospective franchisees and finally the consumer is this idea of putting “mood above muscle,” which is really about the emotional and experiential benefits of exercise, as opposed to just physical fitness. Everybody talks about six-pack abs and losing weight and big muscles. That’s the convention in the industry. We’re talking more about how exercise makes you feel.
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What are some up-and-coming trends that could have a major impact on the fitness franchise industry?
I think the broader awareness of health and wellness in the country is one macro trend that’s in our favor. More and more people are trying to become healthy, and the digital explosion has enabled people to have more information at their fingertips on how to eat healthier and live a healthier lifestyle.
At the same time, the cost of health care is coming to a point where it’s choking the country — that’s why there’s so much political debate right now about insurance and who should be responsible for paying for what. I think that the conversation is slowly starting to shift from treatment to prevention, and part of that conversation on prevention is going to clearly include exercise.
On a more micro level, the fitness industry has been growing, and we’ve been riding on the coattails of that growth. Fifteen or 20 years ago, there really weren’t that many gyms in the market. Now there’s a gym on every block, right? Whether it’s a mom-and-pop or a boutique gym or a full-service gym, gyms are everywhere.
The last change that’s in our favor is the explosion of value fitness. Ten years ago, $10 or $15 a month for a gym membership was not even in the equation. Most of the gyms that existed in the marketplace were $30, $40, $50 a month or higher. Today you can join a gym like ours for $15 a month, and that didn’t exist historically. It’s a huge change.
How does Blink Fitness intend to support its franchisees to keep them successful?
Number one is our operations manual, which is a critical part of the franchising business; it’s the playbook on what the franchisee needs to do. Every franchise has an operations manual, but ours is incredibly well-balanced and very rich because of our history of experience in the fitness space.
Number two, we are offering a level of training that’s well above our competitors. The way that training is articulated in the franchise world is through hours. Blink Fitness offers 150 hours of training, both in the gym and in our training center. Most of our competitors in the market are only offering 40-60 hours, so we’re by far the most significant in terms of the investment that we’re putting into training our franchisees.
Anybody can open a franchise. But our whole point of difference is about experience, so we’ve got to train our franchisees how to deliver it, and that’s why our training hours are best in class.
What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to someone who’s starting a new franchise business?
Realize that getting the first franchisee is going to be the hardest. It took us about six months to get our first franchisee, which was a lot longer than we expected, but as I look back it’s not all that surprising. Nobody wants to be first in the pool.
Even though you might have a great business, potential franchisees want to hear it from the people who are already operating and working with you, to see if you are, indeed, a good partner to them. But when you’re a new franchisor, you don’t have that luxury. There’s nobody for them talk to.
So, getting the first one or two franchises sold and open is really critical, because you need them to be advocates to future franchisees and franchise candidates.
Todd Magazine joined the Equinox family in 2012 to manage several of the brand’s innovative businesses including Equinox, Soul Cycle, Pure Yoga, and Blink Fitness, where he currently serves as President. With over 20 years of experience in both small and large companies, Todd combines his big-picture approach with a passion for rolling up his sleeves and digging into critical details.
Prior to Equinox, Todd served as President of the North America Consumer Healthcare division at Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company. Prior to Pfizer, Todd spent nine years at the iconic PepsiCo where he held a variety of top executive positions, including President of Gatorade and President of Quaker Foods. He spent a similar amount of time at Procter & Gamble working on well-known brands such as Max Factor, Cover Girl, Sunny Delight, Crisco and Jif.
After receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of Michigan, Todd went on to earn an MBA in Marketing and Finance from Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.
As a competitive runner, recovering golf addict and aspiring tennis player, Todd brings a hearty passion for fitness and athletics to his role as President of Blink. He also makes it a priority to work out with his Blink personal trainer for an hour, twice a week
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