EPISODE 8: THE VALUE OF THE OMNI CHANNEL EXPERIENCE WITH MARIA PARRELLA TURCO
One of the many huge shifts in the past couple of years, in the way that content and services are delivered and consumed, is that people expect now to be able to choose, at any point in their relationship with a provider, how that content or service is accessed- live and in person, on demand, or by live-stream. It’s called the Omni Channel experience.
Today we get to hear one of the fitness and wellness world’s top entrepreneurs and visionaries, MyFitPod founder and CEO Maria Parrella Turco, break down what it all means and why it's critical to the success of independent fitness pros that they learn to navigate this new and expanding territory.
You can listen here or on any major podcasting platform by searching "The Independent Fitness Pro Podcast".
Maria Parrella Turco (01:08):
My name is Maria Parrella Turco and I'm in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
James Brown (01:14):
Welcome Maria. Uh, you and I both have something in common and that's that we started teaching before. There was such the thing as online yoga classes. We won't say how long before, but now, now I only teach online, but, but we're here today to talk about something that's different from both of those teaching options, teaching online or in-person, and, and that's the omni-channel experience first. Can you tell us what omni-channel means?
Maria Parrella Turco (01:43):
Sure. Omni-channel is a term that's always been there, but it really started to grow after COVID and it's this concept and not even a concept anymore, it's a, it's a validation that consumers want to consume, not just fitness, but even their visits with their doctor and anything that they potentially can, you know, their coaching sessions, um, sometimes online, sometimes on demand and sometimes in person. And so when consumers are looking at their options for education or fitness or health, they are assessing well, what's the most economic convenient way that I can interact with this provider. And so Omni channel means that as a business, you want to be relevant and in order to be relevant, you want to deliver your services in an omni-channel way, which means you want to meet the consumer where they are at and what they want. And sometimes that's in person, sometimes that's on demand and sometimes that's live stream. And that's what we define as omni-channel what I define as new channel.
James Brown (03:09):
I think a good example of that is, is my, my grocery shopping experience. So I, I start by making a grocery list, and I don't know how I'm going to get it filled yet. I can go to the store with that list and buy the stuff. I can order it online and have it delivered, or I can order it online and go pick it up. And so, in addition to, you know, recognizing that we have these different options also, omni-channel I understand means that the consumer can change at any point in the transaction, how they're going to have that service delivered.
Maria Parrella Turco (03:47):
Oh my God. James, you are so right. In fact, you just, you just a little light bulb for me. I just want to comment on that because I didn't really look at it that way, but it's such a great analogy because in fact, this past Sunday, I have a, I have a daughter she's, um, her name's Addison she's 13. And, um, you know, I said to, to my husband, I said, Hey, I'm going to order groceries online so we can be efficient and pick them up. And then she chimed in and she's like, mom, I want to go to the grocery store today with dad and do the shopping, you know, myself. And I was like, okay. So it's very interesting that you say that because it's 100% accurate. And I find James that our yoga students, right. For you and me that teach yoga sometimes like if there's a six class class, six o'clock class with you, and they just got off a conference call at five fifty five, they don't even have time to make it to your studio or, you know, and so they want to just pop on the live stream, but yet maybe on the weekend where they have some more time, they want the Prada and the energy of the in-person experience. And so that's a really great analogy.
James Brown (04:53):
Well, thank you. Well, it was, it was your description that, that brought me to it. Um, so, so do you recommend that fitness pros embrace this omni-channel experience instead of sticking to one thing like live streaming, uh, which is really the only thing I do right now or on demand, um, or in person do, do you recommend that fitness pros?
Maria Parrella Turco (05:15):
It's not even a recommendation. It's, it's a requirement. I would go as far as to say, it's not just my, my recommend it's my strong recommendation, because it will be a requirement. You know, online fitness, digital will, will be, is a $61 billion Tam. And for those of you don't know what Tam means, it's a total addressable market, meaning that in the next five years online fitness and this omni-channel experience is going to be a $61 billion industry that is at which the speed it's exponentially growing. And so, James, you know, to your question, it's, if you even want to be relevant in five years, you know, you're going to have to offer this omni-channel experience in your fitness, in your fitness delivery. And so it's kind of the same thing of saying, like, let's imagine, you know, in the eighties and if you were like, I don't, I don't need a website and I don't need the web.
Maria Parrella Turco (06:09):
Right. Um, it, it's almost like burying your head in the sand and saying, oh, I don't believe that people will ever want their fitness online and on demand or live stream. They're going to all come back to the studio or they're going to come back to my in-person classes and that's just not true. And so if you're sticking your head in the sand and thinking, well, I'm going to say old school, then you won't be relevant in five years. So in order to even have a viable business, you really need to think about delivering in an omni-channel way.
James Brown (06:43):
So, so just to sort of restate that where I think one level, a sort of base level of this conversation is, Hey, we did everything in person and then the pandemic happened and we did everything online. And now if the pandemic ends, we're going to go back to in person. That's not true where we now, now this is the standard to offer your services in a multiple, in multiple modalities.
Maria Parrella Turco (07:09):
Yes. And a different word that we can use that might land a little bit better is hybrid. So you should be able to, um, you know, ensure, teach in a, in a physical space that people come to, it could be the beach. It could be your living room that, that people can come to, or it could be a studio. You should be able to have a camera that is filming. You live a big TV that you can see your students at home. So the students at home become an extension of your classroom. And then you should simultaneously be recording that content so that you can recycle it online later. And so now you literally, your one hour is optimized with in-person students, students that are live streaming from you in the comfort of their own home. And then you're recording it at the same time to, you know, to make money while you sleep.
Maria Parrella Turco (07:54):
I like to say, um, later for those students who couldn't make it to your class, oh, I'm so sorry. I couldn't make it. Or your personal training session. It doesn't have to be a class. You could be a trainer, right? So for the I'm so sorry, I couldn't make my session. No problem. I recorded it for you. It'll be on demand in an hour. You can absolutely participate in the session that in a good provider is going to be able to, you know, an omni-channel provider, like my fit pod is going to be able to do all of those things, simultaneous leave for you. Um, and you want a good technology partner that will do that. That way you can, you can have a platform and a tool to schedule your clients, bill your clients, and make sure that you can offer an omni-channel experience all through one platform, ideally, as opposed to being for free on YouTube, trying to collect via PayPal or Vimeo or Venmo, um, you know, there's more and more technologies being developed out there.
Maria Parrella Turco (08:54):
And there's business in a box solutions like MyFitPod that can help you make sure that you're iterating these things and getting them out to your audience and earning a living and learning, earning a really good living wage and a good partner will also help you market your services to write and get more leads. And that's the beauty about all this is that now, you know, your services are not limited to just people who drive six to eight minutes, your services can go worldwide and you can really serve a much bigger audience and, um, be the Peloton personal trainer, be the Peloton group fitness instructor, because you can do that on your own, and you should be able to with the right partner,
James Brown (09:41):
In your role as the founder of MyFitPod and Salubrity and Honor Yoga. You you've helped a lot of fitness and wellness professionals succeed in this, having one foot in the online space and the other, um, in in-person offerings. What advice do you have for somebody who wants to get started with this, whether they're not teaching yet, or maybe they're only in one of those modalities?
Maria Parrella Turco (10:36):
Oh, I, you, you know, I, that's a really great question. You know, I, I want to tell you that it took a lot of like soul searching for me because I remember when COVID hit honor, yoga took all of our, our classes online within five days and we curated a schedule of 250 monthly classes, but James, we can only like employ 10% of our teachers. And we actually had an application process and video production, you know, audition. And we selected 10% of the teachers that were the best at what they did presented the best online. And like 90% of the teachers at honor were unemployed. And so were most of my trainers at crutch. And I was like, wow, this is not cool. I was like, this is, this breaks my heart. And then I, although some numbers were like static, especially the elderly and the immunocompromised.
Maria Parrella Turco (11:36):
They were like really happy to just be able to interact with us online and live stream. A lot of them said we saved their lives. Many of them were like, oh, but where's James. Like, he's my favorite teacher. Why is he not here? You know, um, on the live stream schedule. And so I had to like dig really deep and that's where the concept of my fit pod was really born because I believe that every single trainer and teacher can have these tools and I've really kind of, you know, struggled with, well, am I competing with honor yoga by doing this? And so I saw that the teachers and I still see it now, and I'm sure many of you who are listening are going to be thinking about this. Like, well, I teach for Gold's gym or a teach for honor yoga or a teach for, um, you know, this great, um, Y YMCA, how, how am I going to really, you know, balance all of this and because they don't do that and I want to do that.
Maria Parrella Turco (12:36):
And here's what I would tell you is that first of all, always lead with love and everything that you do, and always lead with ahimsa, which is non harming. And, but that means non harming for yourself first, right? And you are, you are a gift. You have a brand, you have something to offer the world. And when you work for let's say Honor, Yoga, for example, Honor Yoga has 10 class core styles, gentle flow, roots, you know, Crunch, they have their own formats. And so when you teach for a brand, they have the formats that they want you to conform to, but you, you can, you can not only promote your classes that you teach there. You can also go out and start to branch out and find your niche. Maybe you're recovering from cancer and you want to teach, you know, um, you want to be a trainer that focuses on clients that are recovering from cancer.
Maria Parrella Turco (13:29):
Um, maybe even more specifically breast cancer, as an example, to help build upper body strength. So know that you can build your brand simultaneously to also working in the industry and that they'll all those things can be true. And so my advice to you would be to be very transparent with where you are, know where you want to go. And if you are teaching in a gym or a studio, and you're concerned about conflicts, have a conversation and say, Hey, can I record here? Or can I build my own brand outside? And, you know, be very mindful of the non-competes that you signed and just know that you want to work with. And for people that have an abundance mentality, and that don't want to squash you your gifts or your brand, and that if anything, we'll partner with you to help you share those gifts with the world.
Maria Parrella Turco (14:23):
Um, and that would be my, you know, my advice is really dig deep, define who you are very specifically, who you want to be, who you want to serve and paint that path backwards from that destination and choose the right partners and people and brands that are going to support you to get there. That's super, you know, important because you know what, in five years, those brands and people that don't will not be relevant because this is the world that we're working towards. And you matter as a trainer, you matter as a group fitness instructor and you will be relevant. You will never go away. Pell Peloton and celebrity trainers will not take over the world. You will take over the world.
James Brown (15:10):
Thank you. Well, that, that is very inspiring for what, what a fit pro can do to get started with this. Is there anything that you would say that maybe they should avoid when, when they're developing their omni-channel presence? Any common pitfalls?
Maria Parrella Turco (15:25):
Yeah. Yeah. Avoid trying to be Jack of all trades and master of none, like avoid saying I service everyone, right? That the more niche you can be because now the world has been unlocked and the world is much bigger and you can access things. And so if people don't really understand who you are and what you do, how you do it and why you do it. And the why is really important because people do want to shop and, and, and patron with fitness professionals that have a strong why and a strong passion, they can feel it, they can see it, they want to support that. Um, and they want to align with you. And so, you know, avoid trying to say, I am here to help people lose weight. That's my specialty. Well, that's kind of like a big thing, right? So, um, really, really taking the time to understand who you are and who you serve and who you want to be and how you're going to get that group results, I think is like the most important thing, avoid being too broad in your offering of who your audience is that you're serving.
I completely a hundred percent agree with that. I I've been in online education for about 12 years now and brought a lot of people on board with it in the early years and tried to convince yoga teachers, why they should be on it. And one of the big reasons was you can be yourself because you're casting such a broad net that whatever weirdness there is about you, there are a hundred thousand people that, that want that weirdness in their life. You know, whatever unique thing you you provide. You know, when I was teaching only live in Santa Monica, um, the way that I taught without going into a lot of detail, it didn't really have mass appeal there, but when I got on the internet, I was able to find my audience. So, so completely agree, um, with, with what you said, uh, bigger, it being online really provides you with the opportunity to be your unique, special, one of a kind self. So, uh, can you recommend any resources to pros who want to move into the omni-channel space? I have a feeling that you have some ideas about this
Maria Parrella Turco (17:44):
Selfishly, but not just because it's a company that I, you know, funded and I'm a part of, and I believe in the people that are running it and, you know, see Rodney Morris and, and James Brown and Amanda, you know, these, these are it's, it's a platform. MyFitPod is a platform built by fitness professionals for fitness professionals. And it's not just, you know, a tech company that decided they're going to come into the space. And so they really understand the needs of fitness professionals out there. Um, it's really great to hear like Amanda, you know, you know, who's a personal trainer, killing it through the platform, say things like I need my clients to be able to schedule their own sessions, you know, with me. And then we're like, okay, let's go, let's iterate that on the tech side and provide that, you know, and to be able to like have a fitness professional, get their own website up in like 10 minutes, that looks beautiful and walks them through the step-by-step process to do that.
Maria Parrella Turco (18:43):
Like, so I'm really, you know, I'm partial to MyFitPod as a platform. Um, especially because we struggle with marketing and sales and we as fitness professionals, um, have not gone out on our own. And we work for studios and gyms because we can't be the program designer, the program deliver the marketing person, the sales person, the HR person, the website developer. And so having a partner that can do all of that other stuff for you, so that you could focus on delivering and focusing on selling and influencing and bringing people to results and a more fulfilled longevity of life is the most rewarding feeling ever. And so I am partial to MyFitPod because they really helped to alleviate a lot of the business requirements that come with running your own business so that you can really impact more people on a day-to-day basis.
James Brown (19:48):
So ju just to, to, um, say some of that back, um, MyFitPod is, uh, is a platform that provides you with, with a website and marketing tools to reach out to people, but that you can teach in your garage like Amanda does, or in a park or in a studio. And people can book through there in addition to live streaming and on demand classes that they can access through the platform.
James Brown (20:14):
Any, do you have any words of advice before we wrap up for about the omni-channel experience that you'd like to leave, leave our audience with?
Maria Parrella Turco (20:23):
Yeah. Fear, fear, you know, it was the only thing that's holding you back, you know, change is not easy and it's easy for us to bury our head in the sand and think that it's just going to go away or it's just going to magically happen. You have to actually, you know, put the time in, you know, to educate yourself and then just to take it one step at a time. And this listening to this podcast is a great step to get you moving in that direction and reach out to your support team, build your team that will help you get to where you want to be. And just remember that all great creations always start in your own mind. Good luck.
James Brown (21:02):
Thank you so much, Maria. That was really helpful. Thank you for taking the time today.
Maria Parrella Turco (21:07):
Thanks for having me, James,