Pivoting Your Business Model Based on Customer Feedback


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Koko Fit Clubs are the health center franchisees of the Koko Fitness cardio and strength training system whose creation is the subject of this week’s article. The Koko Smartrainer weight (and later cardio) exercise programs are 30-minute interactive exercise regimens done on the Smartrainer machines, which include visual instructions and realtime visual feedback as well as a dashboard of how you’re doing—against your goals, your former sessions, even against your friends! The sessions are all self-guided and personalized, and they change as your body and fitness levels change. (To see more about the experience of using the Koko systems, see the video, Welcome to Koko FitClub – The World’s Best 30 Minute Workout). The clubs have a loyal and vocal fan base, as evidenced by the endorsements:

“I absolutely love it. I think this is exactly what I need. Thank you for making it so affordable to have personal training. I love that I don’t have someone watching my every move, making me feel uncomfortable, but I have the guidance and support of a personal trainer.”

– Michelle

“This is exactly what I was looking for. I needed a quick workout on my way home, without all the hassles. Koko workouts only take about 30 mins three times a week. They are guided by a computerized trainer that tracks your every move on a thumb drive. The key seems to be going slow (not seeing how fast you can blow through a set). No crowds to dress for and your entire workout can be done on one machine in flipflops. Stop by for a demo! “

– Michael C.

“I joined Koko FitClub 2 months ago and already have experienced a 35% strength gain. The workouts are focused, effective and designed specifically for me. I feel better. I sleep better. I have more energy. What makes Koko FitClub so great is that it fits into my ever changing schedule. I don’t have to “hurry up” or “kill time” waiting for an exercise class to start. I can work out when it is convenient for me. Koko FitClub’s virtual personal training is the wave of the future: fast, effective and personalized.”

– Kathleen M.

“I love Koko! Every other gym I’ve tried never gave me the same satisfaction. I never knew if my workouts were doing me any good. I’m also very competitive and I had no motivation to keep going back to my old gym. I love how the machines tell you what to do so I can achieve the body that I want. I also love how Koko let’s you know how you scored after every workout. It makes me want to try harder. I’m addicted to Koko! “

– Emily T

“93 lbs lost since last Thanksgiving. Last November, I finally got sick of being overweight and I got busy. A member of the Y, I started by stepping up my cardio with their elliptical struggling to get in 30 minutes most days… I knew, though, that I was losing muscle mass as well as fat. A hydrostatic body composition test (considered by most fitness experts and my Dr) as the most accurate test that is readily available. The test confirmed that I had indeed lost 42 pounds but that almost 40% of that was lean body mass (muscle). That also explained why, even though I was only eating about 1,200 calories per day, my weight loss had stopped. With less muscle, my metabolism had plummeted. Then in February, I joined Koko FitClub. I revised my goals away from just my weight and focused on percentage of body fat. Since Feb 19, 2010 with my regular and focused Koko workouts, I have lost another 51 pounds. More importantly to me, with the resistance training and less cardio, I have now reached 13% body fat. That is rated “excellent” for a 58 year old male. While I have long since gotten below my original goal of 211 pounds, I love wearing 33 ” slacks (rather than 50″). My 3X shirts have long since gone to Goodwill and I enjoy wearing Large shirts instead. My Dr is also amazed. My resting heart rate averages about 53, my blood pressure averages 88/60 without medication. No more lipitor for my cholesterol. which is now under 120 total. My triglycerides have dropped from over 300 to 58. I was working hard at the Y. At KOKO, I am still working hard but much much more effectively. I am a fan for life. By the way, I was paying more for the YMCA plus $70 per hour for a personal trainer. Please feel free to let anyone contact me if they want more information from a satisfied customer. I love your program! “

– Don B.

There were dozens more endorsements to choose from, but I selected these because they all pointed out the difference of going the Koko route from a standard gym or heath club experience. This feedback, combined with extensive interviewing and observation, led to a major pivot in the Koko Fitness business model within two years of the company and product launch.

Originally targeted as a product for traditional health clubs and as upsell opportunities for personal trainers, the founders, Mary Obana and Mike Lannon, got terrific initial feedback and good uptake among health club owners. However, after a short while, and after talking to the end-users as well as the target paying customers, they realized that the market strategy wasn’t working as well as it should. Personal trainers saw the Smartrainer as competition, since the end-users were successfully guided through their workout sessions. Health club owners were trying to satisfy their instructors (aerobics, spin classes, etc.) and their trainers. And, because they had only one or two Smartrainers, they were quickly claimed, and the customers waiting didn’t want to work on other pieces of equipment.

Even more significant, end-users weren’t happy with the gym experience. They wanted an atmosphere that was less chaotic, and one that focused on what they were trying to achieve with the Smartrainer. They didn’t want to have to “dress” for the gym experience, struggle to make schedules, or have someone looking over their shoulders.

Mary and Mike had a testing facility near their headquarters that they configured as a health club. They soon noticed that there were people lining up to get in. They didn’t want to test the machines. They wanted to use them every day! So did their friends! So, they opened up their testing facility as a newly designed Koko Fit Club, primarily in response to customer demand, and they saw that the model worked. They designed the environment to be a calm oasis, dedicated to personalized, self-guided training, where the staff understood the exercise regimens and the customer goals. They stopped selling to health clubs and began offering franchises to the quickly growing Koko Fit Club opportunities. Today, there are 30 clubs open in 20 states, but over 150 club franchises have been sold; 50 new clubs will be open by the end of 2011. And the others should be open in 2012.

The Koko Fit Clubs are a contrast to the chatter and chaos of typical gyms. Members work their 30 minute programs without trying to impress anybody. Before and after their workouts, they might chat with the Club personnel or with other members arriving or leaving, but it is far from the “pick up joint” atmosphere of many high-end health clubs. Visiting a Koko Fit Club, I was impressed with the relaxed and clean atmosphere. I was almost inspired to exercise! Almost…

(To hear from franchisees, view the video, Franchising Multi-Owner Perspective of Koko Fit Club.)

It’s a brave decision to completely abandon your original business model and replace it with one that is so different and that requires a lot of work to get going. But faced with the reality of a mismatch between what was being offered and what end-customers really wanted, Koko Fitness made the break and moved wholeheartedly into the world of franchises and the management commitment that entails. Not only did the company listen to end-users when designing the product, it also listened to them regarding the environment in which they wanted to use the product.

A Best Practice Example of Applying UX Principles to Product Design and Development
Koko Fitness Demonstrated How to Do It Right Back in 2005!
By Patricia B. Seybold and Ronni T. Marshak, Patricia Seybold Group, June 16, 2011

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ronni Marshak
Patricia Seybold Group
Ronni Marshak co-developed Patricia Seybold Group's Customer Scenario® Mapping (CSM) methodology with Patricia Seybold and PSGroup's customers. She runs the CSM methodology practice, including training, certification, and licensing. She identifies, codifies, and updates the recurring patterns in customers' ideal scenarios, customers' moments of truth, and customer metrics that she discovers across hundreds of customer co-design sessions.


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