Monday, June 3, 2019

A Purely Hypothetical Business Model

What I'm about to describe is totally not something that someone is already doing with great success. There is not someone who is doing this right now and raking in a ton of money in the process. Definitely not.

I want to plant a little seed. Put the following questions at the back of your mind and let them ruminate a bit.

  • Why would somebody sell training equipment equivalent to a $40 loadable dumbbell handle and ~$70 worth of weight plates, for $800?
  • Why would somebody sell a training plan that you can only access for a few months for $80, and unlimited access to the same training plan for $100?
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Before you get too excited about all the money you're going to make, know that this business plan isn't for everybody. There's a key component that makes it work that is non-negotiable - you need both academic and empirical credentials. You'll want to have at least a Masters degree in something relevant to fitness (physiotherapy is a really good one), as well as having worked with a person or group of people who are important, such as a high level athlete or sports team. It doesn't matter for how long or how successfully - you just need to factually be able to say that you've done it. This is very important and the plan collapses without it. Your baseline credibility must be (effectively, if not actually) unassailable.

In any business plan, you need to have a target demographic. Yours has the following characteristics:
  • Male
  • Consider themselves to have above average intelligence
  • Consider themselves to be scientific or evidence based minded
  • Have lived a generally sedentary life or are generally unfamiliar with physical activity and exertion, possibly due to an injury in the past
  • Generally have modest physical fitness goals
  • Generally have an aversion to high levels of exertion and physical development
  • Have probably tried to work out in the past and not got the results they wanted, and generally believe it was because of something they didn't know rather than something they didn't do
  • Has a broad, general fear of injury and doing things wrong
The second and third points are why the credentials are non-negotiable - half of the work of selling yourself as someone to trust will be done by your targets, on their own, just by knowing that you have those credentials to stand on. Think of Dr. Oz - The guy is demonstrably a raging quack and yet people still trust him because they trust "Dr.". The last point is why physiotherapy is a great candidate for an academic credential - it will help reassure them that you have the knowledge to keep them safe and takes down some of the barriers to selling themselves on you.

Now, for the execution.

The primary goal of this business plan is to create a rapport and trust relationship between you and your followers. You want your followers to consider your credibility as unassailable, and your information sacrosanct. You will be able to leverage that relationship to empty their wallets.

To start, you'll need to be producing YouTube videos regularly. YouTube is important for the following benefits:
  • It feels more like a personal interaction to have someone talking to you, visually.
  • It allows you to present information in dynamic and interesting ways, such as demonstrating exercises, being generally charismatic, making dramatic examples, or drawing on whiteboards.
  • It gives you a reasonable excuse to have your own physical development on display at nearly all times.
  • It occupies time in your followers' lives and therefore more of their headspace.
  • Likes and subscription numbers are effectively free marketing.
  • It can generate extra income in the form of ad revenue, though this is a very distant last in terms of importance.
Here are some guidelines for producing the kinds of videos that you'll need to meet your primary goal. Many of these are variations on the theme of Sharing Secret Knowledge. You are letting your followers in to the Inner Circle, where the Secrets that they failed by not knowing will be brought out of the darkness for them to use with great success. This is the feeling that you will be looking to inspire in your followers, but should never say outright. Your target demo considers itself too smart to fall for "One Weird Trick" (even though that's exactly what they want and is exactly what you'll give them), so make sure that's not how you come off.
  • "The Best Exercises For <Body Part>" - These are a goldmine of content. There are many muscles in the body, many ways to work them, and many variations on those exercises. Because your target demo is generally unfamiliar with exercise, you can get away with presenting exercises that are staples to the experienced but uncommon enough that they will be novel. You can reuse this general idea for the same muscle group by presenting it in different ways. You can do "these are the best", "you're probably not doing these", "here's some fun ones" and so on.
  • "STOP DOING <EXERCISE>" - You want to make sure to play on your followers' fears of injuring themselves or doing something that isn't optimal, so pick some common exercises and make videos about why they're actually harmful or not good and shouldn't be done, or should only be done with certain modifications. These types of videos will be especially useful to you if your academic credential is physiotherapy related.
  • "YOU'RE DOING <EXERCISE> WRONG" - A variant on the above, these are your bread and butter "One Weird Trick But Totally Not A One Weird Trick" videos.
  • "THE TRUTH ABOUT <TOPIC>" - Or other "mythconceptions" themed videos. You can stretch these really far simply by constructing a strawman that borders on unrealistic and attacking it. These will be the main opportunity for you to demonstrate that you are "No Nonsense" to your followers - that you are there to dispel the ridiculous myths that plague the fitness industry for them.
  • In general, you should strive to fill your videos with as much information as possible. Simple anatomical and biological information is a great candidate for this. Use established but uncommonly known terms for things frequently but not overwhelmingly. Remember - Your target demographic considers itself to be above average intelligence and will eat up content that makes them feel smart. You want to be feeding them information that they feel they can show off when talking to others, or use as talking points if they get into an argument. They will often completely overlook the fact that this information has very little actionable, practical value to it because they feel smarter by knowing it.
Now, what is this all for? I said earlier that you will be able to leverage the relationship you create with your followers to empty their wallets. Let's put it all together.

Obviously, you need to have products to sell. These should be extremely high profit-margin items as much as possible. Branded supplements, training routines, and diet programs are top tier here. Supplements are dirt cheap to create and can be marked up substantially. Training routines and diet programs can effectively be created once and sold to (tens of) thousands of people at enormous profit for minimal work. You can also delve into training equipment, marked up with the value of your name.

Many of your followers will not purchase your products, and that is by design. Those that don't pay you directly serve as living, breathing advertisements to bring in others who will, and they will do it because you made them feel like you gave them everything they need for free. That is why the rapport and trust relationship is so important. Your goal is not simply to create or reel in customers - it is to create an army of free, "organic" advertising for your products. Word of mouth is incredibly powerful. When your followers are on fitness forums singing your praises, they drive more potential advertisers and customers towards you. And the whole time, they will be thanking you, not realizing that manipulating them into what they're doing is the real reason you did it. Every piece of content you've produced has been for the sole purpose of tricking people into selling themselves on either paying exorbitant prices for what you're selling, or being free advertising for you to find others that will.

The other way that you drive sales is through the good will factor. This is similar to how free-to-play games with microtransactions make some of their sales. Your followers will convince themselves that they owe you support (money) because of all the information (remember that last point from the YouTube section?) you've given them for free, out of the goodness of your heart. They might say things like "He told me all about this routine on his channel, but I bought it for the convenience and to support him". And then they will open their wallets and dump them into your bank account.

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That was a bit of a long walk, wasn't it?

Do you remember what I asked you to ruminate on at the beginning?

  • Why would somebody sell training equipment equivalent to a $40 loadable dumbbell handle and ~$70 worth of weight plates, for $800?
  • Why would somebody sell a training plan that you can only access for a few months for $80, and unlimited access to the same training plan for $100?
You probably thought when you first read those questions that the answer was something like "Because they're a scumbag trying to rip people off". It is, but it's also not. The real answer is - Because they're a scumbag who knows how to manipulate people into being thankful that they were ripped off.

This is totally hypothetical, though. Totally.

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