Please introduce yourself (any co-founders) and your startup?
VARLAH is a global fitness streaming service (think Netflix for Fitness) that was launched in September 2016 by husband and wife team – Alan and Lexy Meyerson (that’s me).
Our business was born from a desire to create something that could give people affordable and convenient access to fitness, and enable them to lead healthier lifestyles.
We have removed the barriers for getting fit and healthy, making it a possibility for everyone. Unlike many other online fitness programs that require you to work through exercises on your own or following a PDF guide – typically with access to gym equipment – VARLAH is a simple ‘press play’ fitness solution where world class trainers take you through every rep of your daily workouts in video tutorials, explaining technique and motivating you along the way.
Much like the old school fitness videos/DVDs, VARLAH is the next-gen, interactive equivalent that lets you access workout programs from any device with an Internet connection, complete with videos, nutrition guides, fitness assessments and workout calendars and forums for each program.
VARLAH addresses some very real issues that prevent many people from making a positive life change.
- Costly gym memberships can be a big barrier, and VARLAH’s affordable one-off fee for each program – which can then be accessed for life – costs less than what most gym chains charge for a single month.
- Gymtimidation – or the intimidation that many ‘normal people’ feel when faced with the impossibly fit bodies at the gym – is another problem that VARLAH tackles; since you can exercise from the privacy of your home, you don’t need to feel embarrassed or self-conscious while completing the workouts.
As the entertainment industry moves more towards a streaming model for music, movies and TV shows, VARLAH is pushing for the same revolution to happen for fitness, enabling its users to have 24/7 access to their body transformation program so they can do workouts at their own convenience.
VARLAH was Australia’s first on-demand fitness streaming service, and it continues to lead the global market today with a variety of body transformation programs and workouts that are suitable for all ages, fitness levels and interests.
VARLAH produces its own fitness content, programs and workouts, and also licenses content from world-leading trainers and specialists in their field.
At present, individual VARLAH programs are available as a one-off purchase, which means users don’t need to pay a fee every month to access the workouts – once they have purchased the program, it’s theirs to own for life. However, following feedback from our customers who are keen to access workouts from different programs, we are in the process of building out a subscription model that will make it more like the Netflix of fitness. For a monthly fee, users will soon be able to access all of the programs and workouts, letting them move between different goals such as cardio endurance, fat loss, bulking up, etc, as their fitness levels improve.
How did you go from idea, to MVP and launch?
Being self funded, we planned to develop our MVP without sacrificing on our values. We knew our product had to get people motivated and get them results. To allow us to create a high value product at the lowest cost, we partnered with a celebrity fitness trainer on a revenue share model.
We then worked with different forms of media on a performance based model to test the demand for our product and to analyse other key performance metrics ie responses, conversion etc. Once we had enough data, we knew there was a demand for our product and we started to gain insights as to where and how we could achieve a positive ROI and to increase our marketing investment.
What challenges did you face during this period and how did you overcome them?
Our first challenge when launching to market was in the way we packaged our offer. We offered a 7 day free trial on DICED, our first product on VARLAH, and limited customers’ access to 3 months once they did purchase the program at the end of the trial period.
We quickly learned from our customers that the offer was confusing as it was being interpreted as several different things by different customers and our customer service was being inundated on all fronts – email, web queries, social media. We used this feedback to reshape our offer, giving customers what they asked for and wanted in the first place – lifetime access to the program for a one-off purchase price and no free trial.
We also introduced a money back satisfaction guarantee to reduce the risk for the customer which is currently tracking at 0.1%.
As soon as we changed the offer even without a free trial, we didn’t see a decline in response and order rate and we saw an increase in overall transactions.
During this journey to build and launch your startup what is one thing you look back on with a sense of achievement?
First and foremost is the product development journey even prior to launching VARLAH. We do and always will pride ourselves on the process of bringing a new body transformation program to market. For each program to date, we have taken two unique pilot groups made up of 40 people through our programs (i.e. through DICED 6 week program and the RAW 8 week program).
We take our program through its paces with real people to get real results. We used these case studies to prove our programs get the results we set out to achieve rather than just cluttering the marketing with more fitness programs that don’t necessarily work.
We’ve also worked really hard in our first year to build a community and this is at the heart of everything we do. A lot of our time, and mine personally as the co-founder, is being the one that responds to the customer queries, all the emails, the Facebook and Instagram messages etc.
I’m proud to say we know so many of our VARLAH customers. We communicate with them personally, we keep them accountable and we’ve got a good enough rapport that many of them go on to share their stories and pictures with us. This has formed the basis of our customer testimonials which I personally have used for PR/ media outreach (if you search VARLAH in the news you’ll see a lot of our customer fitness journeys covered in the media). Although it’s a large task, hubby and I have really stayed at the heart of the business and that’s the people, our customers.
We’re not afraid to admit if a program doesn’t work. We scrap it and start again.. That’s the way we’ve managed to stay so passionate about what we do – it’s because we know what we have created, and launched to date, works.
Offer us one insight, tip, marketing strategy or growth hack that has worked really well for you and your startup?
Don’t compromise on the quality of your product even if it delays your product launch. If we launch an 8 week body transformation program and we have allocated 12 weeks to get the program drafted, guides written, video assets produced and edited, websites created etc. We always knock on the extra 8 weeks to take real people through the program as a customer would when purchasing it to stream from our site.
Our advice – Do not launch a sub-par product or service without putting it through its paces and soliciting real customer feedback.
Although this may make the product development path longer, it makes the product more valuable. Instead of creating a product that “we think works”, we know we’ve created something that “we know works and real people want”.
My background is in Public Relations. I was agency side for 10 years so for me it’s been phenomenal to see how PR can have a direct impact on sales and bottom line. Often on agency side, we could only communicate on results such as number of media articles etc… to our clients but one of our key strategies that took us from being in our own backyard in VARLAH (Australia only) to over 50 countries overnight came off the back of some strategic PR pitching starting with a major online publication. They included a link back to our program page so we could monitor exact ROI – traffic and sales conversion.
How is your startup going and what do you aim to achieve in the next 3, 6, 12 months?
Within four months of launching, VARLAH became a profitable venture, which is virtually unheard of for a startup. We now have members in 54 countries, with active users in every continent. With less than a year of operation under our belt, members have viewed more than 21,223 hours (or 884 days) worth of video content. (although we’d be beyond this count now – likely closer to 40,000 hours of video content viewed).
Now we’re reinvesting to develop more content and adding more body transformation programs and workouts to the VARLAH platform – to stay on track and true to our vision of developing health and fitness content that is suitable for all ages, fitness levels and interests.
Over the next 6 months we will be building out our subscription model and an app. We will still continue to also offer our program as one-off purchases too for those that don’t a subscription model.