My story today is about the journey of Nerd Fitness – an online fitness coaching academy selling courses, a superhero habit tracking app, and most importantly, a thriving and fun community.
Nerd Fitness started as a fitness blog in 2009 where the founder Steve Kamb wrote on different aspects of fitness- including strength training, eating right, working out, and more. Steve created Nerd Fitness when he found that the fitness industry was burgeoning at all seams with get-fit options, yet left many people disappointed and discontent with their efforts to becoming fit. Not to mention all the money, effort, and time spent in futility. In other words, there was a gap in the industry to have a go-to fitness site that was relatable for a lot of everyday folk like him. People with desk jobs, folks who espoused the nerd culture, and enjoyed one or many of the following- games (actual sport and online games), books, movies, comics and anime universes, fantasy fiction, and the world of super-heroes! He aimed to help such folks get healthier while at the same time getting to hang out with others with similar interests, thereby making the journey an enjoyable one.
In my mind, the story of the growth of Nerd Fitness to transform into an online tribe of like-minded folks is akin to Frodo stepping out of the shire and reaching Rivendell to find his fellowship.
At the start, Steve adopted a content strategy similar to other bloggers of the times- putting out content related to fitness five times a week. However, for the first nine months, his subscriber base did not grow as rapidly as he had expected it to, despite the large amount of content that was being published. At that point, Steve tried to understand the world of blogging better to grow his reader base. He realized that he was writing short 250 worded articles as he had assumed people would not want to read longer articles. He also realized that by simply doing what everyone else was doing at that time and with no clear brand identity or positioning, he was not standing out in the crowded milieu of fitness blog writers.
He revamped his strategy. Steve started writing long and well-researched articles (sometimes even 3000 words long) twice a week. On top of it, he let his readers into his world- a world of nerdiness, comic books, movies, goofiness, and adventure. Every article had a lot of these references. These helped in establishing the brand positioning and creating an identity for Nerd Fitness. Over the next few years, the blog evolved into “an active, like-minded community of nerds, ninjas, and mutants.” Everything on the site has a comic/nerd reference and a certain level of gamification. Even joining is termed as “joining the rebellion.” Some examples: there is an angry birds workout, quest levels for attaining mastery over every movement- say lunges or pull-ups, and heck, even a batman workout! The community interaction on the forum has something to whet everyone’s appetite and choice—check it out here!
Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring
While Nerd Fitness started as a part-time gig, Steve then jumped into it full-time and was a solopreneur- doing everything by himself. He realized the power of creating a team and turned to his community to do so. He hired Staci full-time as Head of Ops. Her story helped the community attract more women. Nerd Fitness also hosted a fun and nerdy event called “Camp Nerd Fitness”, letting the community members meet in person, have fun, and do stuff together. On one side, the brand identity of Nerd Fitness was getting established as a fun, nerdy, reliable, and relatable source of getting healthy. In parallel, Steve continued to write his bi-weekly blogs, offering in-depth articles on a myriad of things around the intersection of the world of nerds and getting healthier. Here is a sample: eating more vegetables, doing yoga, cooking meals, 20 seconds of courage to do something especially, when you are an introvert, and what not!
Consistency and connection grew. Nerd Fitness Coaching -the online coaching business- was launched. True to its brand identity, there was a gamified approach- replete with the users getting to choose the coach to work with based on a quiz about their goals, a character to choose from so that they could embark on their fitness “quest” with the tribe, and multiple quests to go after. “Leveling up your life” as Steve puts it.
Today, the site has over 1.5 million monthly visits, has 45 full-time nerds as employees with 25 trainers, and >50,000 satisfied customers*.
Taking a Dip into the Penseive
While from a business perspective, Steve’s evolution into an entrepreneur is a great case study and learning, from a marketer’s lens, the biggest takeaways for me are:
- Staying ahead of the curve: Being in the digital business, Steve mastered the content game long before it became mainstream to talk about the relevance of good quality content. Also, Nerd Fitness has always had a slew of free resources and has always been advertisement-free. Consistently writing two articles per week ensured that Steve was covering everything fitness while at the same time emerging as a reliable source of information. Additionally, many articles on the site have great videos, and all the posts have fun memes providing a broad mix of content.
- Differentiators: The nerdiness and referencing differentiated him from the rest. He was writing for the average Joe who was trying to get healthier at a time when fitness bloggers were writing for the Gym Rat. Creating a tribe to join the rebellion ensured a ready audience to act as buyers.
- Continuous Customer Engagement: On one hand, Nerd Fitness + Steve are both active on social media, hosting fun Insta lives and keeping in touch with their customer base. These have helped them listen to audience feedback and create more content and programs relevant to their community. On the other hand, Steve regularly writes about customer and community success stories, taking the readers through the lived experiences of community members who have leveraged Nerd Fitness to become healthier versions of themselves. Both of these add to the relatability factor as well as showcase customer feedback.
- Brand Identity– The brand’s identity has always been a fun overlap of multiple elements of the nerd culture with good health.
Nerd Fitness is the first health and fitness blog that I started to follow and continue to even today. As an engaged reader and follower, I wish them more epic quests and adventures!
Hope you liked what you read! As ever, have fun until next time!
Oh, while you are here as a mark of cheering Steve and Nerd Fitness, read that comic book, or watch that fantasy movie, or anything nerdy that floats your boat while dropping down for a set of 5 squats or holding a plank or cartwheeling or running or just take it with you when you jump into your new week!
*These number are taken from the Nerd Fitness site. It is perhaps not the latest. Will update if Steve, who has promised to read this post in a few days, has other numbers to share.
Other sources for the post apart from Nerd Fitness: