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I'm on a Road to Nowhere: High Five!

Road to Nowhere | MCI United States | EN

March, 10 2020

There are many instances of caving to peer pressure – several unfortunate perms, the need to wear triple pairs of socks and a lot of acid wash are just a few of the results. So, my recent capitulation to my lifelong best friend (shoutout to Mrs. Ferrantino’s 1976 first grade class) isn’t that out of character. For the past month or so, I have owned a Peloton.

For the two people reading this that have somehow avoided it, a Peloton is an exercise bike. But it isn’t like the manual one my parents had in our upstairs bathroom that no one ever used except as a towel rack. It is fancy. Completely silent, sleek, and stylish, with a 22” screen where the magic happens. On my Peleton, I can take a zillion classes with several instructors, go on a scenic ride through the national parks out west, or be brought into any number of types of classes.

And I, like probably anyone else you know who has one, am hooked. This very expensive piece of exercise equipment has me getting up 45 minutes earlier than I used to so that I can climb on my bike, straighten the crown Robin assures me that I have on, and half-sing, half-pant along to any number of playlists. (Based on the acid-washed comment above, it won’t surprise you to learn that the 80’s ride is a fave of mine, although I am also loving a lot of hip hop.) I am high-fiving strangers, checking my stats on the leaderboard, and taking each post-class evaluation process more seriously than our current primary race.

I think we all have a lot to learn from the Peloton model. After all, they have a 96% retention rate. That is incredible, especially considering that the investment in the equipment is more than $2000, and there is a monthly ongoing digital subscription fee. Why is this working, when many associations with far lower price points and a direct connection to things like professional knowledge and industry presence would seem to be more valuable than Ally Love giving you a shout out during a live class?

Here are some observations:

Service Delivery Matters: When I ordered my Peloton, the customer service interaction was fantastic. They sent me emails leading up to the delivery date, reminding me to preload the app and sign in so I could ask questions as needed. On the day it arrived, a sleek Peloton-branded van pulled up and two very fit people dressed head to toe in black Peloton swag set up my bike, made sure my seat was the right height, showed me how to access rides, and gave me their personal recommendations. I asked if they both rode and was told that they have bikes in the warehouse that employees are expected to ride regularly so that they can answer questions. After I got my bike, I realized the full range of the digital app. The notifications and emails are encouraging, yet not annoying, and when my headphones broke early on, I got a new pair in two days with a personal note of apology. The customer service experience matters, and that first impression can be a great opportunity to help show a new member around so they feel more comfortable and empowered to ask for help. The requirement for the delivery folks to be active riders reminds me of some of our client partners that help create opportunities for our talents to spend a day in the shoes of a member – we need to do more of that kind of important investment in our member experiences.

The $100,000 tank top. Peloton is full of milestones – after each ride, it brings up a calendar to show me how many days I have exercised, as well as all my badges. You get a badge for pretty much everything – trying out a new type of exercise, days-in-a-row streaks, setting personal records, etc. When you hit your “century” ride, you are sent a tank top in the mail. People are nutty about hitting their centuries – they often take a live class that day for a shout out from the instructor, and I have lost track of how many people I know who have touted this achievement on social media, etc. You can also buy the tank top online in their store – for $100,000. What a fantastic way to show the value of participating; I love the hubris and messaging around value.

There’s Always Time: One of the reasons the Peleton is successful for me is that it offers almost every type of class in five, 10, 15, 20, 30, 45, and 60-minute options. This is pretty cool – it means that on days I don’t ride, I can do 10 minutes of strength training and maybe 10 minutes of stretching or yoga. The system counts anything you do via Peloton as an “active” day – meaning even using the app’s meditation programs mean I maintain my streak. The wide range of micro-opportunities with zero judgment is a different approach to both exercise and learning, and I also think it encourages people to try something outside their comfort zone. Plus, I get a badge when I try something new, and I like flair.

We all Crave Novelty: My experience with “video” exercise programs is limited to DVDs or streaming YouTube videos from either one company or one instructor, where you quickly get used to the class and timing. Peleton is completely different. There are more than ten cycling instructors, each who offer completely different playlists, levels of intensity, and ride durations. Multiply this same concept across the full spectrum of the classes: outdoor walking and running, treadmill walking and running, bootcamp, cardio, strength training, yoga, meditation, stretching – it is crazy. There is no way anyone can keep up with the content that is generated because live classes are offered multiple times in each discipline daily and are also added to the on-demand library. If you take a great class, you may want to take it again – but you will probably just find a more recent class with a new playlist from the same instructor. We talk endlessly about how we should be leveraging our association partners’ F2F content and adding to an overall curated program of learning, and this model proves how effective it is.

Maximize FOMO and Community: For some, the live ride is everything – you are real-time part of a community of people, the instructor may namecheck you, and scheduling a live ride keeps you accountable to a schedule. For others, they join one of the endless Facebook groups (veterans! Working moms! San Franciscans!) set up to encourage each other to “meet up” for a ride. As I did my first ride, my “feed” lit up with high fives from other riders who were also in my class (which was on demand – one cool thing is you can see where you are placing amongst all riders who have ever taken that class, and also amongst the folks who also happen to be doing it on demand with you at the same time.) Peleton offers you the ability to share every single workout via social media if you want to. (Don’t do this – we all hate these people.) Peleton gives all members an offer code giving the new purchaser $100 off a bike and the referrer $100 towards new Peleton gear. How are we rewarding our recruiters – the passionate promoters of our associations? I really like this equal approach in sharing the love.

Never underestimate the value of production: Music matters. We all know this, but Peleton changes the song about every minute or so, and the instructor is constantly talking to you – either encouraging you to change your resistance or cadence, singing along, telling us that “practice makes progress” or giving shoutouts to other riders. The dynamic content means that even though you are watching a feed of an impossibly fit person riding the same bike as you are in a completely boring black space, you are truly engaged. This is similar to how we impact our event attendees experience via upbeat playlists as they walk into a general session or dramatic walk-on music that makes you inspired or laugh as someone takes the stage.

When I first got my Peleton (which connected to Facebook, meaning that my friends found out I had one basically upon activation) one person jokingly said, “welcome to the cult!” I see that – but I really do appreciate a company that has figured out how to get people to commit to personal development, leverage how we connect virtually, and create passionate promoters. As for me, I have my eye on the century tank top – and I don’t plan on paying for it.

Erin Fuller rides under #erinmichellef and admits that she had to watch several videos to master clipping in and out of her bike.As MCI USA talents moved to a 100% virtual office environment, we have set up #MCIEventRiders so that we can see what rides we are all taking as a team – feel free to ride with MCI!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erin Fuller

Erin Fuller leads MCI USA’s team who focus on nonprofit management and consulting, and assesses business development and partnership opportunities that advance MCI’s mission and model while supporting a culture of creating thoughtful growth and strong career pathways.

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