Tobi Pearce, CEO, Sweat
From humble beginnings to fitness empire, Sweat CEO Tobi Pearce tells us what it takes to run a multimillion-dollar business and grow a powerful brand with a significant other.
At just 26, Tobi Pearce has accomplished a lot. He’s the CEO of Sweat, a fitness app that’s been downloaded 30 million times. He’s engaged to his business partner and Instagram fitness star Kayla Itsines. And together, they’re worth an estimated $486 million, according to Australian Financial Review.
But just a decade ago, Pearce was homeless and struggling to get by on $45 a week, something he revealed in an Instagram post in July 2017. “I am not posting this for sympathy and this is not a sob story,” he wrote. “I just thought it was time some of you got to know ‘me.’”
To get to know Pearce is to discover many unexpected facets. While he’s popular for his fitness empire, prior to all of that, he was a “nerd” who grew up in a small town in Australia and loved playing classical music. From what we’ve seen on social media, he can just as easily shred it on piano as he can in the gym. On his Facebook page, he posted a video of himself playing a complicated Chopin number, writing, “I used to be embarrassed to tell people I played piano as a kid because it wasn’t ‘cool’ or classical music made me a ‘nerd.’”
Today, Pearce has plenty to be proud of. In addition to his upcoming wedding to Itsines, TechCrunch reports that the couple’s fitness company is on track to bring in $100 million in revenue this year.
From Classical Music to Fitness Classes
Pearce began his foray into fitness when he started working as a personal trainer to pay his way through college. He and Itsines met at a gym and began dating around 2012. Eventually, the pair became business partners, too, with Pearce taking over the marketing side, helping to promote Itsines’ popular Bikini Body Guides ebooks and grow her Instagram account (today she has more than 10 million followers).
Not one to be easily satisfied, Pearce then set his sights on expanding the business “to kind of shake up the industry.” That’s when the Sweat platform was born.
“My whole career and this particular field has always been about trying to push boundaries and kind of see how far we can move the dial and how big we can build things,” he says.
Originally dubbed “Sweat With Kayla,” the Sweat app provides workout videos, meal plans, and progress-tracking tools to its subscribers, for $19.99 a month or $119.94 a year. It targets millennial women with programs from bikini body to post-pregnancy workouts and boasts well over a million monthly active users.
The Appeal of an App-Based Business
Moving from ebooks to a mobile app, what made Pearce choose a new platform for Sweat? As he tells Foundr, there were three main reasons:
First, he wanted a better user experience. Originally, Itsines’ workouts were being shared through ebooks—not a very interactive platform. Pearce wanted a way to have more control over the user experience, including being able to gather user data to improve the product.
Second, he wanted to meet the needs of millennials. Most of Sweat’s customers are in that age group, so Pearce knew that meant the content needed to be mobile-friendly.
Finally, he wanted to be able to scale. To be able to make a real impact on the health and fitness industry, internationally, Pearce knew Sweat needed to switch business models.
“The big move was, yeah sure, from ebooks and a website to an app,” he explains. “But it was also a huge migration from a single-purchase service into a subscription business. And subscription business economics are completely and fundamentally different to that of a traditional ecommerce business.”
Combating Churn With an Engaged Community
As with any subscription business, churn is always a concern. One way to combat the tendency for members to cancel their subscriptions is to cultivate an engaged community. For Pearce, this is a no-brainer: He’s seen how it works from his personal training days.
When he was a personal trainer, he often picked up on the social habits of the people he was training. At 8:30 a.m., for example, a few women attended a 30-minute class with Pearce, while another group of women had coffee together downstairs awaiting their 9 a.m. slot. Once 9 rolled around, the groups would exchange spots, and by 9:30, when everyone was finished with training, they’d all go to the beach together.
“Fitness actually brings people together,” Pearce says.
But how can you recreate the social aspect of in-person fitness classes in a mobile app? The Sweat team knows people feel their best right after they’ve exercised, so within the app, users are prompted to invite their friends once they’ve finished a workout. They can even share their trophies and achievements, as part of what Sweat calls “social currency.”
Beyond the friend-invite feature, Sweat has a community forum where members can share stories, find advice, and get motivated.
“Not seeing much progress 🙁 starting to panic,” wrote one bride-to-be on the Motivation & Encouragement forum.
“There is such a difference between the two photos,” replied another member. “You’re definitely making progress so keep up the good work!”
“There’s all these different stories,” Pearce says of the forums. “But there’s hundreds of thousands of women that can connect and relate with one another, and that really brings them together.”
On Chasing Growth Without Sacrificing Quality
While Pearce is aiming for growth, he’s not willing to do it at the cost of top quality and a strong brand. Sweat’s trainers, for instance, are carefully curated.
“We’re not really looking to have like a hundred or a thousand different trainers and programs,” Pearce says. “We’re kind of looking to have best in house and best in class.”
A prime example of this is Kelsey Wells, who joined the Sweat team over a year ago and leads the weight training and post-pregnancy programs. Beyond her finesse in the gym, she’s excelling on Instagram with 1.4 million followers. Her brand growth and depth have impressed Pearce, who says, “We’d much rather work with 10 people like her in their own specific categories than a thousand people that are just generalists.”
With a team of talented trainers who are also Instagram rockstars, does Sweat have aspirations of acquiring influencers abroad to boost international growth? “There’s definitely a potential for that,” Pearce says.
How a Fitness Power Couple Finds Work-Life Balance
Google “Tobi Pearce” and you’ll find plenty of headlines referring to him as “fiancé of Kayla Itsines.” From the start, he’s been comfortable doing the behind-the-scenes work while Itsines steps into the spotlight for the Sweat brand. As soon-to-be spouses and current business partners, how do they strike a healthy balance between work and personal life?
“It has its testing moments, that’s for sure,” says Pearce, adding that he’s obsessed with the business aspects while Itsines loves handling content creation and community interaction.
“She’s able to switch off,” he says of his fiancée.
Pearce, on the other hand, not so much. “I’ve always been probably a little bit too interested in ,” he says. “If I’m not talking about it, I’ll be reading about it. If I’m not reading about it, I’ll be listening to something about it or learning one way or another.”
Pumping Up Your Personal Brand
In recent years, a movement to build your “personal brand” apart from your company or product brand has taken hold of the entrepreneurial world. Big names like Gary Vaynerchuk and Neil Patel come to mind; both social media powerhouses use their personal brands to funnel clients into their consulting agencies.
Sweat has a similar story. It began as Itsines’ personal brand, which Pearce helped grow into the formidable Instagram presence it is today. Recently, Forbes named Itsines as the top social media influencer in fitness. Many of her faithful fans have followed her to the Sweat app, too, where she leads high-intensity workouts based on her Bikini Body Guides.
So what’s the secret to building a powerful personal brand? “Content and messaging are really king,” Pearce says. That means content that is high quality and messaging that creates interest.
“There’s so much crap on social media,” he adds.
In the fitness sphere, he says it’s more than just looking good and posing for the camera. You need to create content in an intimate and authentic way. Just take a look at @kayla_itsines on Instagram. Instead of polished, picture-perfect content, it’s a mixture of motivational quotes, funny memes, before-and-after praise for her clients, and of course, workout videos—all with conversational captions where Itsines’ personality shines through.
While Pearce is hesitant to give a one-size-fits-all strategy for growing your Instagram—”Every industry is different,” he warns—there is one Instagram tip he recommends for fitness brands: lay off the endorsements.
“It’s all well and good to sell a product or do endorsements, sure,” Pearce says. “But if that becomes everything that you do, it really becomes a bane of your existence and it’s actually quite saturating for your personal brand. It’s impossible for you to maintain credibility and authenticity as a brand if every second post that you do is talking about a new deal that you’ve done.”
Instead, says Pearce, focus on what you’re good at. Let’s bring Gary Vee back into the discussion. Take a look at his social media accounts. How many times does he mention his agency?
“I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen him do that,” Pearce says. “The point that I’m making there is that if you do have a product, it’s very often what you’re trying to do is sell yourself and sell the opportunity, sell the dream. You’re not really actually trying to sell the product itself because telling people to buy stuff is irritating.”
The Sweat brand steers clear of hard sells. That’s no small feat in an industry that’s always pushing guarantees of six-pack abs, a celebrity body, or a nice rear-end. “We would never, ever do that,” Pearce says of his company, “because reality is that it instills the wrong cycle of mindset in consumers. It predicates the wrong perceived mindset before consuming a product and that only actually sets up consumers for failure.”
How to Sell Without Selling
If people hate being sold to, how do you get them to buy? Sweat focuses on the benefits, not the features. For instance, instead of promising you amazing abs, Sweat’s messaging would tell you how you’re going to feel more confident and develop better relationships by getting healthy with its app.
“The best car salespeople are the ones who actually don’t try to sell you anything, but they make you feel like you really want to buy the product,” Pearce explains. “They’re telling you why this car’s going to be perfect for your family. … They’re not telling you that it’s got 19-inch rims and blah, blah, blah.”
For Sweat’s Instagram account, Pearce focuses on posting educational, credible content that adds value: healthy eating tips, user-generated content, and motivational quotes, with a few posts highlighting the Sweat app sprinkled in.
“It pitches us as industry experts—which we rightfully are—but then it makes people turn to us when they do want to spend their money on a product that’s actually going to help to solve these problems in their life, rather than going for the one that just says six-pack abs, because no one actually believes that crap.”
And Pearce doesn’t get fixated on the one-off purchases; he’s looking to create long-term users and repeat buyers, which is something the Sweat platform is built to nurture. “They develop friendships with other members of our product and that builds our community.”
Working Out What’s Next
For the next year or two, Sweat will be focusing on reducing churn and improving the product, namely, getting more quality content and keeping users engaged.
Long-term, though, Pearce hints at something more. He says there are three big pillars in the fitness industry: facilities (think studios and gyms), trainers and therapists, and content. “We obviously kind of only play in the content spectrum of that at the moment,” he says. “I think in the longer term, we’ll probably, hopefully, get a chance to play in some of the other areas as well.”
- How he met Instagram fitness influencer Kayla Itsines, who’s now his business partner and fiancée
- How he scaled the brand beyond Kayla’s Instagram account
- The advantages of developing a mobile app versus a strictly web-based platform
- The growth strategy that catapulted Sweat to about 30 million users in two and a half years
- What it’s like to run a business with your significant other and how to make it work
- Tips on growing a personal brand and becoming an influencer on Instagram
- How to promote your business on Instagram without being salesy
- His strategy for fostering a strong Sweat community and reducing churn
- What’s next for Sweat
Full Transcript of Podcast with Tobi Pearce
Nathan: The first question that I usually ask everyone that comes on, Tobi, is how did you get your job?
Tobi: How did I get my job? Well that’s a very, very interesting story there. I mean, how much detail do you want? How far would you like me to go back?
Nathan: I’d say, a couple of minutes just sharing, yeah, how you found yourself doing the work you’re doing today.
Tobi: Yeah, so I’m not sure how much you kind of have read online. I write a lot about it, but I mean, way back when, in another lifetime almost, I was a personal trainer and got into personal training and then kind of progressed through that into a few different areas of that industry and eventually kind of ended up in the online business with Kayla, my fiancé. Over a period of a few years, we kind of worked together on building her business and I saw this opportunity to kind of do something, I guess, a little bit bigger and a little bit broader and kind of … I guess like an attempt to kind of shake up the industry a little bit.
Yeah, so then we rolled out the Sweat platform, and over the last couple of years we’ve basically just been trying to build and grow that. That’s probably a short version.
Nathan: Yeah. I see. Look, you guys are doing an incredible job and obviously Kayla is … She’s brought a tremendous personal brand and I think it’s really genius what you guys have done with this Sweat app but at first it was Sweat with Kayla but then you’ve kind of given it that kind of broader appeal and it’s not so much, I bet, I guess, 100% about Kayla, so you’re now really building a scalable asset. Now, I read online that you guys are approaching the $100,000,000 annual recurring revenue mark, so it’s obviously growing very, very fast. I’m just curious, was the plan always to, I guess, build something here like you said, a little bit bigger than just off the back of Kayla’s brand or just kind of, it just kind of happened that way?
Tobi: I think very early on, that was a strategy that I identified as something that could be pretty plausible in the future. My whole career in this particular field’s always been about trying to push boundaries and kind of see how far we can go, move the dial and how big we can build things. Obviously, while kind of making sure that we’re managing important business fundamentals. Not just trying to actually achieve growth. Yeah, I mean, the goal was always to the same . We launched Kayla’s stuff so that … In very early 2014, and so as soon as that became really successful, I guess in my career, I haven’t really trained several thousand women as my own clients. I kind of recognise those different training styles that appeal to different women and I thought that it was very important that we’re able to provide a holistic product that doesn’t have like a monopolistic content type. Obviously, so it doesn’t just have Kayla’s stuff. It has other stuff.
Gym workouts, since it is body weight or it has yoga and pilates or whatever it is, so that’s kind of how the thought came about.
Nathan: Yeah. That makes sense, and out of curiosity, why did you guys choose to develop an app and not just perhaps a web-based platform? What was the strategy there? Out of curiosity.
Tobi: There’s probably kind of three things. I think … I mean, first thing’s first, it’s all about user experience, right? We used to sell E-books and although that’s a great content format and such, we really didn’t have control over the experience and we also weren’t able to collect enough data about our users to learn how to improve it.
I think the second thing is obviously again, sort of around the user experience. All of our customers, or a majority of our customers are kind of in that young millennial or ageing millennial demographic and they’re on mobile, and so we kind of had to be mobile and had to be digital. I think thirdly, when we looked at the notion of wanting to be able to scale a business to a size that was going to have a truly significant impact on the health and fitness industry and on women’s health, I guess internationally, we need to really be in a business model and in a platform that allowed us to act like a team that scales.
The big move was, sure, from E-books, a website to an app but it was also a huge migration from a single-purchase service into a subscription business and … I mean, subscription business economics, so completely and fundamentally different to that of our traditional E-commerce business.
Nathan: Yeah, a hundred percent. When it comes to the app, are you able to share kind of numbers on users or just kind of give, I guess, our audience an idea of the kind of scale? It’s really impressive what you guys have done.
Tobi: Yeah, some stuff that we can share, we’ve had, over the last couple of years, so we’ve had the app now for probably about two and a half years. We’ve generated in total of about, sort of 30,000,000 users, a bit over that, yeah since launching that app. We have like well over 1,000,000 monthly active users at the moment, which is pretty awesome. I guess, for now just kind of, yeah we’re prodding along, trying to figure out, obviously, how we can poke and grow that more without sights set quite high.
Nathan: Yeah, so does that mean, obviously a lot of traction has come from Kayla’s personal brand but some of the other instructors that you have, are you guys planning to scale out the amount of instructors that you have and is that something that you’re using as a growth strategy? How have you grown it so fast?
Tobi: I think there’s a couple of strategies there. In terms of bringing on more trainers and different types of content that’s most certainly one strategy and that, yes, spread across a couple of reasons along the lines of different people motivate different consumers, obviously and different types of content. Different consumers, so that’s kind of our thought process around that immolation to growth. I think also, you’re looking at the other end of the spectrum, we’re not looking to really have 100 or 1000 different trainers and programmes. We’re kind of looking to have, best in house and best in class. When you look at someone like Kelsey who we’ve been working with for the last, a bit about of 12 months now. She’s just gone from strength to strength and we’ve been able to help her achieve that.
Her social growth is phenomenal. Her brand growth and brand depth is really progressing. We’d much rather kind of work with 10 people like her in their own specific categories than kind of 1000 people that are just…We really want to be that quality platform.
Nathan: Yeah. No, that makes sense just from a curation standpoint as well. Does that mean that you guys potentially might look at working with more kind of international, perhaps health and fitness, I guess, influencers or thought leaders?
Tobi: Yeah. I mean, there’s definitely a potential for that. Although we’ve been really fortunate to achieve a decent size in the business and we’ve kind of grown really well over the last couple of years, we’re actually still, I mean, we’re still really early on in our business’ life cycle. I mean, a lot of these things, although we have a really clear plan and strategy, they’re also kind of … We’re learning on the fly. I think any business at our age to kind of say otherwise would probably be a little bit dishonest. A few years into the business, there’s still so much to learn, so we’re learning as we go.
Nathan: One thing I find interesting is even for myself, Foundr’s my sole kind of singular focus but I help my girlfriend, partner launcher, kind of business on the side and it’s kind of taking off and I’m kind of helping behind the scenes and helping drive that and help her with strategy and stuff like that. I’m just curious around I guess, do you guys, you and your partner, Kayla, do you guys just are talking business all day or any …? What is it like working, making sure you have that good healthy balance and I guess trying to always be present and not talking about business? It’s really exciting and stuff too, you know?
Tobi: Yeah. I can definitely relate to that. I think with Kayla and I, I have always kind of been the really business focused person. Literally, my entire life, I have always been probably a little bit too interested in it, so if I’m not talking about it, I’ll be reading about it. If I’m not reading about it, I’ll be listening to something about it or learning one way or another. Whereas, Kayla’s focus has always been specifically, really on a couple of things. One on the actual content that she puts out and the second thing on, I guess, connecting and interacting with her communities. They’re really her focus. She’s not necessarily really hugely focused on business in its most traditional sense.
She’s focused on truly to her area of that. For her, she kind of does that stuff and she’s able to switch off and I mean, you can probably relate more to me in that regard where I’m sure you’re probably quiet.
Yeah, you’re interested in business and thinking about it 24/7 because you see the opportunities and you’re quite passionate about it.
Nathan: Yeah, but it’s not a challenge for you guys to have that, to have a good balance? To be honest, for me, it is sometimes, which is yeah.
Tobi: Yeah. It has it’s testing moments. Yeah, that’s for sure. Obviously, they’re going to come more often when it’s not the best times, through business and there’s ups and downs and whatever but I think, Kayla and I, we’re engaged. We’ve been together for six years and whatever, so we’ve always been very busy like with working before we had a business together, so I think we’ve kind of struck that balance very early on.
Nathan: Yeah, okay. That makes sense. Awesome. When it comes to, I guess, what’s next? I’m curious with, I guess, you said you’re helping Kayla behind the scenes in the early days and she’s grown like a massive personal brand. There’s a massive kind of movement and kind of desire even you see like for example, Gary Vaynerchuk, he’s massive on his personal brand. He develops a personal brand then that attracts clients for his agency. Fortune 500 clients for his agency and there’s just this massive movement of people starting and developing personal brands. You and Kayla have done a fantastic job of really developing her personal brand and being a really like one of the market leaders in the health and fitness space, especially online around social work.
Is there any kind of tips or strategies or anything that you could share with our audience? I know this is something that is definitely growing. It’s a growing movement. Not just for someone that wants to build a personal brand and a business around their personal brand, but also let’s say they have an asset-based business or they have a start up and they … People are much more concerned now and interested around the person behind the product more than ever.
Tobi: Yeah, I know. I can definitely agree with that. I think, and also building a personal brand is very difficult and I think the sort of people that are able to kind of successfully do it in their niche areas, it is a pretty big deal. I mean, I think there’s really a couple of things, a lot of the stuff you probably … I think Gary probably thinks similarly to me in many ways about this sort of stuff but I think content and messaging are really key. Content, it sounds like actually putting a decent amount of relatively high-quality content, and then the messaging, obviously being stuff that actually adds value and creates brand depth and creates interest from users. It because there’s so much, maybe for luck of a better word, but there’s so much crap on social media. The people that are actually putting the effort and energy into not just producing your click bait content, but producing stuff that actually adds value. Actually has brand depth.
People will engage with them in a much more intimate and authentic way, rather than people who are just good-looking and posing for the camera and uploading it on social. That will only ever obviously get you so far. I think being able to provide a decent amount of content, high quality and also being able to have some decent quality messaging that adds depth to it, is very important.
Nathan: Was there anything else that you guys strategically did that perhaps our audience can learn from or draw from for you guys to kind of build Kayla’s brand to being a leading industry authority in this health and fitness space? Just because there are a lot of people doing this. Besides great content and great consistent content, what do you guys, is there anything that you guys can share that really has helped you, set you apart or any decisions that you made early on as this movement is rapidly growing? Obviously, timing is key, but yeah, was there anything else that you could share?
Tobi: I think, I could be here for ages talking about that sort of stuff. There’s no two ways about that, but I think what a lot of people will do is online when you’re looking at personal branding just as its own individual aspect of marketing or business development, a lot of people are very interested in trying to consume all of the opportunity at the same time. What I mean by that is someone’s going to generate a few fans online and then, yeah, they’ll do a travel deal, a clothing deal and this endorsement, that endorsement, blah blah and because that’s what generates the money, right?
I think what that actually becomes is a really big distraction for who they are and what they’re actually trying to achieve. It’s all well and good to sell a product or do endorsements, sure, but if that becomes everything that you do, it really becomes a bane of your existence and it’s actually quite saturating for your personal brand. It’s impossible for you to maintain credibility and authenticity as a brand if every second post that you do is talking about a new deal that you’ve done or some new endorsement that’s come in.
I think a really big tip is, focus on the things that you’re good at exactly who you are and what you want to be and don’t sacrifice anything for the … Don’t saturate that by doing other things that detract from your brand, because your brand value really does go up and down. Obviously, it’s kind of a difficult thing to quantify but your brand value does go up and down based on the actions that you output publicly.
Unfortunately, continually doing promotions is not actually good for your public profile because obviously people get over it. You’ve only got to look at the deteriorating returns from traditional influence of marketing at the moment to look at a representation of that in practise.
Nathan: Yeah. Look, I would like to go deeper on this because this is something I think you guys will be one of the best in the world at and so I would love to hear more. Please keep going on if you have more to share.
Tobi: Yeah. I don’t know what I can, I guess, outlay in a concise manner, but when I think of what I said then about not saturating things, you could go on about that for a really long time but it’s really kind of hard to answer in a really general or broad sense because every industry is different, for example, a of strategies that we have executed for example, with Kayla or with Kelsey and even stuff that we’re doing with Sweat, that’s not necessary going to work for your Kim Kardashians of the world or the Beyoncés of the world, because they’re different products, different industries and different brands.
If you zoom in, kind of specifically on the fitness, I spoke just a second ago about not doing too many endorsements and miss that and the other because it definitely saturates your brand. It’s also kind of no different to, if you’re selling your own product, like Gary Vee is actually probably a good example. How often do you actually see him advertising his own agency and telling people to sign up as a client? I don’t follow him intimately but I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen him do that.
Yeah, and so the point that I’m making there is that if you do have a product that’s very off from what you’re trying to do, is sell yourself and sell the oppurtunity. Sell the dream, you’re not really trying to sell the product itself because telling people to buy stuff is irritating. You’re going to go to talk to people about real estate agents and hard sales, people would understand that hard sales pitches and frequent reminders to buy shit is actually pretty irritating.
Saturating yourself through endorsements is the same as saturating yourself through sales and social media. I ran a, at all our marketing Rockstars in Germany early this year. I think it was in February and I kind of spoke about some of the similar stuff there and just a bit of content around stuff like this. Not trying to continuously sell your product because it’s absolutely saturating. If you want to be able to develop a sustainable marketing infrastructure, you shouldn’t actually need to sell your product, your brand should sell your product for you.
If you look in the health and fitness industry specifically, how many companies have tried to sell things, guaranteeing people six pack abs or a celebrity body or a nice bum or this, that or the other. We would never over do that because reality is that it instils the wrong psychological mindset in consumers and it predicates the wrong, I guess, perceived mindset before consuming a product and that only actually sets up consumers for failure.
Saying, “Because we want to create something that’s sustainable, we would never ever do that.”
Nathan: How do you raise awareness for the Sweat app and through the influences that are, I guess, have content on the platform? What is the strategy there? I agree, no one likes to be sold to but people love to buy.
Tobi: Of course, yeah, they love to buy. I mean, it is kind of like the art of sales, right? Even if you look at, again, if you back to class hours, people will take the best class are people that are the ones who actually don’t try to sell you anything but they make you feel like you really want to buy the product, alright? They’re telling you why this car’s going to better for your family or this or this or this. They’re not telling you that it’s got 19-inch rims and blah blah, right?
It’s kind of the same with health and fitness. We’re not necessarily telling people that they are going to get amazing abs and this that and the other. We’re telling them that this is going to solve problems in their life. It’s going to help them feel more confident. They’re going to develop better relationships and so on and so forth but because that’s not what they expect and they’re not conditioned to expect that, they don’t actually see that as a sale’s pitch.
We’re promoting content that’s, again, I spoke about this at the conference but it’s authentic to what we do. It’s value adding. It’s educational and it’s credible. Those four characteristics are kind of fundamental. We’re not selling to people but we’re adding value in this particular area of their lives. If you look at someone’s lifestyle, it’s going to be obviously around how to sleep better, how to eat better and how to train, how to get better results in less amount of time. That sort of stuff.
We’re providing value in that regard and what that does is pitches Kayla or Kelsey or Sweat. It pitches us as industry experts, which we rightfully are but then it makes people turn to us when they do want to spend their money on a product that’s actually going to help us solve these problems in their life, rather than going for the one that just says, six pack abs, because no one actually believes that crap. No one actually sees those ads and actually literally believes that in the long run, “This is going to fix all my issues,” but when they look at the stuff we do, talking about real-world science and being more component and then, how is this going to improve your life outside of the way you’re going to look?
People buy into that. They buy into it in an emotional way, and that’s what helps to create sticky users for us. Ones that not only spend money but they do it for a long time and they develop friendships with other members of our product and that builds our community.
Nathan: Yeah. I think you look at kind of these recurring models and churn is always … It’s just part of recurring revenue. I’m curious, what kind of things are you doing to kind of foster the community within the app? I think that would be extremely important for creating people that are going to stick around.
Tobi: Yeah, sure. Well there’s a couple of things, I mean, one thing that we were known for a long time and one thing I learned during my own personal training, experience early on in my career was that fitness is a very social experience. I very often give the example that I had basically a whole bunch of moms that I used to train, most mornings of the week and they basically used to cycle in and out of the gyms.
I’d have a class of women at 8:30 AM, 9:00 AM in the morning. Two or three women but then there’d be another few women downstairs having a coffee and then when I finished at 9:00 AM with these ladies, those women would go downstairs and basically tag team with the women who were having coffee prior and they come and train with me, and then afterward, they’ve finished all their sessions in an hour and so a lot of them would hangout and go down to the beach, sort of thing.
Fitness actually brings people together, so when we look at how we try to implement that in a software fashion or in a user experience fashion, we kind of relate it to, well we know when people feel balanced and that’s as soon as they’ve finished a workout. We give people the opportunity to invite friends once they’ve completed workouts and share their trophies and share their achievements, maximise what we call, social currency.
Outside the friends invite programme, we have a community forum that’s integrated with the iOS app and the web app that you can access and there’s a couple of hundred thousand women on there each month sort of just talking about, “I’ve got a sore low back,” or, “I’m demotivated,” or, “I’m a military mum, my husband’s currently on site all year.” I don’t know, “I’m a recovering diabetic,” ow whatever. There’s all these different stories but there’s hundreds of thousands of women that can connect and relate with one another and that really brings them together.
From an interaction point of view, and a community point of view, they are kind of two really big things that we do. Allowing people to gift friends memberships and stuff is a really huge thing for us.
Nathan: Yeah, No, amazing. One thing I’m really curious about as well is where are you guys based in Australia?
Tobi: We’re in Adelaide, man.
Nathan: Yeah. I was going to say I thought you might be in Adelaide. I wasn’t going to call it because I thought, maybe it’s Sydney. Is your head office, you guys, are you guys remote or are you guys fully running everyone out of Adelaide?
Tobi Pearce: No. We literally run everything in Adelaide. We got one head office here. Everyone that works or us, works here. We’ve got bits and pieces of contacting work around the world but 95% of the work happens here.
Nathan: Yeah, okay. Interesting, because I guess, you guys have been working on cutting edge stuff. Is it difficult to find great talent in Adelaide that you could bring skills and experience to kind of work these kinds of things out? You know what I mean? Trying to lower churn, trying to increase and do all sorts of crazy customer acquisition strategies and staying on the cutting edge, we’re so sure and producing great content. That must be hard. I reckon it’s hard in Melbourne, it can be done but it must be hard in Adelaide, right?
I’d love to hear your thoughts there.
Tobi: Yeah. It’s definitely one of our bigger issues. Not in the general sense, you’re like, you want a normal social media marketer or people in customer care, those sorts of roles are pretty fine to acquire here. We’ve moved plenty of people from state and overseas anyway, because I think that they’re passionate about what we’re doing and they’re excited about the opportunity but when you look at more of those, senior executive roles are like ultra high impact roles. If you want a COO of a CFO, somebody who can be a VP of product, those sorts of roles that pretty well and possible required, we’re actually hiring for some of those roles at the moment.
I guess, some of those people either live in Sydney or San Francisco and kind of nowhere else. That’s definitely been difficult and it’s impeded us from achieving, I guess an even greater scale but I think at the same time, it also puts a larger degree of responsibility in the office and it also gives them a better opportunity to shine rather than being kind of outshone by people who have been doing it for 15 years.
It’s a balance and it has its pros and cons and whatever, that’s for sure but we’re definitely fortunate to have some really great people here and we’ve obviously achieved a pretty alright amount so far, so I’m sure that we’ll be able to continue doing it at this pace.
Nathan: Yeah. I agree, I agree. I just had to ask you that question because it’s really impressive what you guys have done. Look, we have to work towards wrapping up. Couple of last questions. One, what is next for yourself, Sweat and the company? Where’s the best place that people can find out more about yourself and your work?
Tobi: Yeah, so in relation to what’s next, at the moment, stuff around churn and improving the product and whatever that’s kind of on the forefront of what we do. Over the next 18 to 24 months, we’ll be kind of focused on, how do we get more content and get the right content? How do we develop those fundamental user experiences that are really going to engage users?
We’ve got a lot of interesting learning ahead and a lot of really cool product development opportunities that will come up as a result of that. I think, in the more longterm sort of stuff, more on the visionary side, we kind of believe that within the fitness industry, there’s really only three big leaders or big pillars and they kind of spread across … There’s always going to be facilities, like gyms and studios. There’s always going to be trainers and therapists of some sort and there’s also always going to be content available. We obviously kind of only play in the content spectrum of that, at the moment and the digital aspect.
I think in the longer term, we’ll probably get a chance to play in some of the other areas as well.
Nathan: Exciting, and where can people find out more about yourself and your work?
Tobi: In relation to Sweat, whatever we’re seeing, like if it’s the website, we’ve got a company LinkedIn page and I’ve got my own personal LinkedIn page, if people were interested in kind of keeping up with what we’re doing in the events. We’re all over social, all over the place, depending on what sort of content people are after. Following us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, is a good way to get started.
Nathan: Awesome. Well look, thank you so much for your time Tobi. It was an absolute pleasure to speak with you and, yeah congratulations on your success this far.
Tobi: Thanks again, mate and likewise to you too. Doing really awesome stuff, so keep it up.
Nathan: Thank you so much.
Key Resources From Our Interview With Tobi Pearce
- Visit the Sweat website
- Follow Sweat on Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook
- Connect with Tobi Pearce on LinkedIn