Adam Podber, Senior Director of Technology, Blink Fitness
The Motionsoft Technology Summit is a club-only event for club professionals in the health and fitness industry. The Summit helps educate club owners and operators by bringing together really smart people from amazing companies to discuss the challenges and opportunities of technology in the fitness industry.
Over the next few months leading up to the 4th annual Summit, we’ll expand and evolve our education mission by publishing interviews with CEO’s, CFO’s, and technology executives in the fitness industry. Our first Technology Summit Thought Leader is Adam Podber, Senior Director of Technology, at Blink Fitness. You can follow Adam on LinkedIn.
Founded in 2010 Blink Fitness is a premium quality, value-based fitness brand with more than 70 locations open or in development. Blink Fitness puts Mood Above Muscle™ that celebrates the positive feeling you get from exercise, not just the physical benefits. Each club employs the company’s signature Feel Good Experience™ that highlights enthusiastic staff members, a clean environment, an open, spacious, and colorful design, energizing music and fitness training that is motivating and affordable.
Todd Tweedy, the co-host and moderator of the Motionsoft Technology Summit, will lead interviews with industry thought leaders. If you have a question you’d like to ask, please email Todd.
Technology Summit Thought Leader interview with
Adam Podber, Senior Director of Technology, Blink Fitness
Our inaugural Technology Summit Thought Leader interview with Adam Podber addressed how to support your members’ club experience with emerging technology, how to stay current on technology innovation, planning from the perspective of driving business results rather than projects, and build-it or buy-it insights that you won’t want to miss.
|Todd Tweedy:||First Adam, I want to thank you, again, for your support of the Motionsoft Technology Summit and for volunteering your time and energy as a member of our Technology Summit Thought Leaders. As I’m mentioned, our goal is to share your insights and valuable pointers on technology innovation so that other clubs and our industry can learn from your experience as a technology executive addressing the day-to-day business challenges of technology innovation in the fitness industry.|
|Adam Podber:||This is a real honor for me and, for Blink so thank you. And, congratulations to Motionsoft. The Technology Summit is one of my favorite events in the fitness industry.|
|Todd Tweedy:||Thanks. That really means a lot. It was a pleasure having as our guest. So where do we start? I know you’re in the middle of working on your 2017 budget. If you don’t object, let’s start there and explore how Blink Fitness is looking at investing to support your members’ club experience with emerging technology and how you’re staying current on technology innovation.|
|Adam Podber:||Sure. Everyone wants to invest in emerging technology. I more than likely will not spend 2017 attending fitness trade shows. I won’t do it. There will be plenty of us that will. Plenty of people will look towards a cardio machine that’s connected and has some sort of screen on it. Plenty of companies will focus on basic CRM or connected Cardio. Personally, I’m going to go to events like Mobile World Congress. I’m going to go to Consumer Electronics Show (CES). I’m going to try to find the blender that’s connected in the kitchen and find the way that I can take that and make it work in fitness.|
|Todd Tweedy:||Tell me more. I’ve heard of a few clubs looking outside of traditional fitness events to find inspiration for technology innovation like CES. Do you think as an industry our events are falling behind in terms of presenting emerging technology trends?|
|Adam Podber:||No, I don’t really think so. Actually, I think the problem is that everything you see is “me-too.” When you go to SIBEC or you go to an IHRSA conference, you get a lot of really great product information as well as industry insight. Those potential partners hawking their goods are a wealth of knowledge and their offering could be fantastic and “just what the Dr ordered”. If you want to be that disrupter, and I know that we all hate to use the example, but if you want to be the Uber of the fitness industry, you’re not going to do it by using only technologies that have been created for the fitness industry. You can use that as secondary technologies to help you along the way, but if you’re looking for that crazy new thing, it doesn’t exist. That’s the key. It doesn’t exist in our industry, so go we are looking to other industries to try to find it.|
|Todd Tweedy:||What are you trying to find?|
|Adam Podber:||That’s easy: anything that will drive meaningful member experiences.|
|Todd Tweedy:||How does an emerging technology solution help you communicate member experience?|
|Adam Podber:||We’re using technology to communicate that we have a superior product. If a club’s member experience is a cut above or differentiated, then you don’t have to worry about communicating to your members. What I mean is that you can engage your members without having to worry that you’re just going to remind them to cancel their gym membership. You can do things like promote good behaviors make your club part of the member’s lifestyle.|
|Todd Tweedy:||It sounds like you’re using technology to shift communications from just talking about “your club” to more focused conversation concerning your members’ fitness behaviors. What recommendations do you have for clubs that want to try this approach out for themselves?|
|Adam Podber:||Interestingly enough, I don’t ever think that one should come before the other. I believe it’s honestly an omnichannel experience. I think that in order to engage correctly you need to engage through every channel possible. It seems that the easiest channel to engage a member would be within the four walls, but I don’t know if because it’s easier, it should be the first thing you do. The reason why I would say that is when they’re in the gym, they’re working out. Their mind is on working out. Their entire attitude is about getting results, and doing the right things, and feeling good about being in the gym. When they’re out of the gym, it’s the furthest thing from their mind. Matter of fact, for a lot of people it’s actually a detractor because if they think about the gym, they’re just going to think about the fact that they haven’t gone.|
|Todd Tweedy:||Do clubs need to create a marketing plan to guide member or prospect engagement? Where should they start from a technology perspective?|
|Adam Podber:||Here’s where I’m going to put my Agile hat on. There’s no such thing anymore of saying should marketing handle this or should technology handle this? Technology is a vehicle and enabler to a good communications plan. If we’re using technology to use an app, or we’re trying to plug ourselves into S Health, or we’re simply partnering with Nike or Samsung on a different offer for those who come into a store, or just simply creating a bus ad that said, “Have you done your 10,000 steps today?” it all of it ties together.|
|If you plan it with your stakeholders correctly, if you have your marketing people involved in what projects technology’s involved in, and you have your technology people involved in what projects marketing’s involved in, you wind up with this cohesive thought process that drives business results rather than projects.|
|Todd Tweedy:||“Driving business results rather than projects.” I may have to borrow that quote Adam! It’s actually an interesting transition. What can independent single location club owners or even operators of a single franchise location do to use this technology-enable approach to drive business results? What would you say to a smaller club trying to figure out some of the bigger stuff that you’re working on?|
|Adam Podber:||If you think about it this way, you’ve got two different types of industry leaders. You’ve got build-its and buy-its. When you’re at a certain size, building it is prohibitive. Building it has some advantages and you can differentiate, you can customize, you can create something that is your own. Buy-its are, “Hey, listen, I don’t really have the capacity to build it myself. I don’t know if I’ll be able to differentiate it correctly or even execute it.”|
For the buy-its of the world, you’ve got a lot of different platforms that satisfy 10, 12, 15 different communication needs, and then you can just buy an off-the-shelf product. I wouldn’t necessarily ever discourage anyone at any size of company in this industry from buying a product. The reason why I would say that is this: If you buy a product, you don’t necessarily need to deliver it with your message in the same way as the hundreds of other clubs who’ve bought the product. Gym A, Gym B and Gym C can all the have the same, let’s say, off-the-shelf application white labeled to themselves with different coloring but the core of it the same application. Why is Gym B better than Gym A or Gym C? This is what discourages many clubs. They don’t want to buy it because if they buy it, they’re just like everybody else. Everybody is in this me-too race, and nobody’s innovating.
|What I’ve come to the reality of, and this is honestly through a lot of pain and slamming my own head against the wall, is that all of these technology tools, even if you buy them, can be completely different in the way that a club messages and engages member versus your competition. That is where your special sauce comes into play. If you are a training gym like Blink and you’ve got a really good set of workout programming which can be your special sauce. If you are the gym who is very engaging to your customers on a friendly level, the way you word your challenges, the way that you word the language inside of a mobile application can be your special sauce. Those two things can be the same without having to build it yourself, and you can still put your personal flare on it as long as you believe your personal flare has enough juice to be worth the squeeze.|
|Todd Tweedy:||I think more than a few clubs are headed back into the kitchen to work on their “special sauce” recipe right now. Adam, thank you! These are the kind of insights we want to share with other club operators across our industry so that they benefit for your experience and expertise. Thank you!|