Business-to-Business Case Story: Bokwa Fitness
Bokwa® is a group fitness program developed by international fitness personality Paul Mavi, a leading Los Angeles based Group Fitness Instructor. Tapping into his native South African roots as a dancer and musician, Paul developed Bokwa® for his own classes over an 8 year period. Within a Bokwa class, participants draw letters and numbers with their feet, while moving together to music in free form rhythm. From 4 year old kids, to men and women in their seventies, to guys with “2 left feet”, to world champion dancers, Bokwa ® engages participants of all ages in the same class and to the same music.
In early 2012, Paul partnered with a seasoned direct response television and fitness entrepreneur to grow the business internationally. Since then, Bokwa® has developed a loyal following across the globe with certified instructors and participants in dozens of countries. The Bokwa Fitness business model offers certifications to Independent Group Fitness Instructors who are offering Bokwa® classes to students in some of the largest health club chains, independent studios, schools and community centers.
Bokwa Fitness became very popular very fast in Los Angeles. The program was an alternative to other music-based programs, like Zumba®, and offered a wider selection of music (not just one genre). The instruction was also intuitive to anyone who knew the alphabet so adoption and retention was greater than programs where a new language or choreography was required.
Paul and his partner had Bokwa well positioned for an accelerated development cycle. Bokwa would certify Instructors by teaching them the program and generate revenue from certifications. The Instructors would teach students in their own classes to generate their revenue. Between Bokwa and the Instructors they would generate interest and demand in the program.
Paul was a personality with personality, and his enthusiasm with the program came shining through. His partner came from a direct to consumer background and had been very successful with taking products to market internationally. These were some of the big draws for the Instructors who had taken Bokwa in Los Angeles – experience and excitement – what both were trying to leverage to grow the business.
The following Bokwa was able to generate in Los Angeles demonstrated the program was successful, and the interest of the Instructors that took the classes and wanted to teach their students Bokwa showed there was an opportunity to grow.
The question was, “How?”
Paul already had a following in Los Angeles, and a number of his students were international: Some from the UK, some from Australia, and some even from Taiwan. They had shared Bokwa with their friends and colleagues, and that was a great start in the US, but the real opportunity was to build the business outside the US. There are more people outside the US than inside, and if the business was going to be successful – really successful – then it needed to have as many people interested, from as many places, as possible.
The vision was to take what has worked in Los Angeles and introduce it to the world.
There are two audiences for Bokwa (the company): Instructors and students: Instructors, because that was the source of revenue for the company (the paid classes and certifications), and students who were interested in taking Bokwa classes from the certified Instructors. If the latter didn’t come the former would not renew their certifications.
Bokwa would have to build their brand to create a demand for the certifications while creating awareness and demand for the program.
Promoting the program in Los Angeles was easy: Paul and his team had been in the business for years, they knew the who’s who in the market, and knew how to grow a local following using word-of-mouth and personal recommendations. Promoting the program internationally would take more people, more organization and require communications channels to the Instructors, their students and prospects (people who had not ever heard of Bokwa). His partner had been successful with using paid media in the past (direct-to-consumer television) but to achieve the exposure they required with TV would be cost-prohibitive: just too much money.
This is where we joined the team. His partner wanted to know if we could use social media to replace television, and I said, “it depends on your goals.”
1: Identifying The Goals
When I met with Bokwa we discussed the issues they were having with preparing to launch the business internationally. They had the program, they had the certifications, they had early adopting Instructors and they had a list of goals they needed to address. What they needed were answers to questions, like how could they…
- Build the Bokwa™ brand, and promote the Bokwa program
- Identify and certify Instructors that could build a following for Bokwa
- Attract students to the Bokwa program and help them find an Instructor.
2: Understanding The Audience
The Instructors, as an audience, are high-energy people who make a living off of their passion for fitness and exercise. Their knowledge and energy get them in shape, while their contagious enthusiasm and leadership is what their students pay for. Most Instructors were female (80-90%) and younger than older (20-35 years old).
The students are a mixed bunch: some are people who are as energetic as the Instructors and keep pace every class. Some don’t have as much time to commit but work to include it as part of their life. Others, the largest market, workout every so often and wish they did more. They don’t participate in a fitness program because it doesn’t fit into their schedule, or the program they have tried are too complicated and requires coordination they don’t think they have. Demographics showed women were the majority (75-90%) of the market potential, and the age range for potential students of organized fitness programs were 18-65.
3: Creating the Strategy
Paul and his partner had a great start on building the Bokwa® brand: a know subject matter expert and personality in the space, a unique name, and a colorful logo with an origin to Paul’s Swahili roots. Now they just needed to apply these assets, in one way or another, to every type of channel and communication with their audience. From a branded web site to branded merchandise, Bokwa would be consistent in the presentation of its corporate image. From personal posts on Paul’s Facebook page to videos on a YouTube channel, the energy and excitement Paul had in the classroom would be amplified on social media.
- Goal: Build the Bokwa™ brand, and promote the Bokwa program
In a YouTube video titled, “What is Bokwa?” Paul, his family, and Instructors introduce the program to the world with the story of how they started in “trend setting” Los Angeles, California and how they’re advancing around the globe. The video leverages the brand origin (Los Angeles) and the countries (not cities) where they have already begun teaching with the Instructors they certified based in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan.
- Goal: Identify and certify Instructors that could build a following for Bokwa
Other target markets were identified in the video that mapped out the growth for the company based on relationships with current Instructors (South Africa, Malaysia, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Brazil, Germany and Norway), and it also gave notice to Instructors outside the community that Bokwa was coming and there was an opportunity to join.
What the video started the web site would complete. The site included information about the program and what made it unique, information about Paul, testimonials from the Instructors and a link to enroll in certification programs to become a certified Instructor. The Bokwa community would share the video, share the web site and share stories of success implementing Bokwa in their classroom. Students who enjoyed the program would tell their friends and the numbers would grow, class by class, to build the number of paying participants for each of the certified Instructors.
- Goal: Attract students to the Bokwa program and help them find an Instructor.
All of the foundational components were in place, tested and verified. Now it needed to scale. As the organization grew so did the number of people who needed to communicate. Paul needed to communicate with more Instructors, and the Instructors needed to communicate with more students.
When we looked to other businesses that had similar communications requirements we saw corporate web sites with logins for Instructors to access an Intranet: a web-based communications platform that provides secure access to business information. For students, we found public pages with links to events and search functionality for Instructor classes and online registration. All of which was helpful, but all that took time and money to develop. Once it was created there was training for the users, and support for the Instructors as new classes and students joined a program.
We knew we needed a communications platform that would enable Bokwa to share content with the Instructors, and that would enable Instructors to share content with their students. We also needed to expose the public to the program and provide a way for them to learn more.
4: Selecting Social Media
In selecting social media, we started where Paul had already built an audience of Instructors and students: Facebook and YouTube. He was comfortable on the platform, it worked for the type of content he had to share and the personal relationships he had developed provided a referral network that was working.
The Instructors were also on Facebook, using their profiles to demonstrate their focus on fitness and to communicate with students. They shared Paul, they shared Bokwa and they shared pictures, video and insights from every class.
Students who were already on Facebook were connected to Instructors, and as the content trickled down they shared with their friends along with comments and endorsements, which expanded the reach of the message: Bokwa was here, and everybody was having a great time.
5: Building Engagement
When we started working on a strategy for engagement we couldn’t help but notice two things: everyone in the audience was already on Facebook, and they were already using it, one way or another, to communicate. The communications platform we had been looking for was already in place, and it didn’t cost a dime to develop. What it would take was structure, and what would provide is engagement.
A Facebook fan page was created for Bokwa; a corporate brand page to be the focal point for information about the business, the leader (Paul), the program and the achievements of the company.
A fan page was created for each country as the focal point for the activity within each of the geographical locations. Denoted by its international country code (US, UK, AU, NZ, TW, etc), the pages were easily identified in Facebook search by the people looking for their country page and labeled in the profile picture for reassurance they had landed on the right page.
Facebook groups were created for each of the countries, as well, for the internal communications required between Instructors. Using the closed group privacy settings allowed leaders to manage who has access to the group, and who does not. Updates, events, certifications, promotions, and best practices: everything necessary to build the brand in the country, and everything an Instructor needed to build their business.
Instructors supported the corporate page by sharing the corporate content, and they supported their country page by engaging with the audience (students and prospects) who were looking to learn more, join the events and share their experiences. Instructors engaged with one another at the local level to create excitement around the new programs, new students and new opportunities to join the Instructors respective programs (generating revenue for the Instructors while attracting new people to the certification programs).
The company supported the engaged Instructors reinforcing their commitment to support their people in the field, offering words of encouragement, acknowledging success in building class size and publicly recognizing the best of the best.
6: Communications Planning
As lessons were learned and models of best practices were identified we developed a communications plan to specifically support the goals of the program. Each post, every status update and any of the content that was shared:
- Build the Bokwa™ brand, and promote the Bokwa program.
Each page was branded according to the corporate guidelines we established allowing us to easily add new pages as they were needed. As one cover photo was update, all were updated to maintain a visual interest in the pages upon arrival. When corporate added a new certification the link was shared globally, across all pages, creating a channel of communication unmatched by any other media. When the media provided a story of success in one country the link was shared with every other country demonstrating the global reach of the Bokwa program and providing an opportunity for every Instructor to start another conversation with students and prospects.
- Identify and certify Instructors that could build a following for Bokwa.
During those conversations, students who demonstrated an interest to learn how they could become Instructors were identified and assigned to current Instructors in the region providing a “next step” (literally) for prospects.
- Attract students to the Bokwa program and help them find an Instructor.
Students joined the conversation, which exposed Bokwa to their friends who saw their recent activity. When they were tagged in a picture or a post this increased the inquiries leading to more business for the Instructor and the company.
7: Measuring Performance
The measurement tools within Facebook provided more than enough data to measure the performance of this program. As Facebook Insights expanded, so did the data available for making decisions.
The company page provided data on the quantitative data, like the number of fans, their location (by country), gender, age, and the types of content the audience engaged most. Every comment, like or share could be traced back to the individual – we could get as much data as we needed to determine the success of this page.
The country pages provided the same, on a more localized level (if you consider a country to be local). The audience engagement on these pages provided a link to the leads Instructors need to grow their class sizes, and the leads the company needed to increase the number of Instructor certifications.
The Instructor pages provided a marketing and sales tool for the Instructors to put their mark on their classes while supporting the company goals. The trickle down made it to the Instructors as the interest grew, both from the interest from their colleagues in Instructor opportunities and their class sizes grew impacting revenue where it mattered most: in their pocket.