If your business relies on face to face experiences, is it possible to grow a strong, loyal community online during the global pandemic? And how easy is it to navigate new services and audiences when you’ve never marketed to them before?

John Hall (better known as Hedge), founder of Access Parkour believes it’s entirely possible to do both. He talks with Katie about how he’s pivoting the business into new directions, taking on new challenges around growing his community base online and asks the question we’ve all been wondering lately…is Katie Goudie a real person?

This is episode 51 of The Whin Big Podcast. We’re delighted to have you here. Let’s jump into this week’s episode.

Today’s episode is sponsored by our Instagram MOT. This 20-point checklist will take you through all the most important things you need to get right in your Instagram marketing. Click below to sign up for the free training and download the checklist.

As always, the show notes are a guide to what’s in this week’s podcast episode, so click on the link to make sure you don’t miss out on the extra resources and tips inside. 

Access Parkour – on a mission to help people move better

Hedge and Katie discuss the early days of Access Parkour – a company that delivers accessible moving classes in Edinburgh, the Lothians and Dundee.

When it started, the idea was to bring parkour to as many people as possible. This idea has expanded into a company that supports people from all backgrounds to enjoy parkour. This includes teaching children in schools and after school clubs, running outdoor classes for people looking for adventures and even reaching out to people who have been turned off by exercise and movement and helping them find joy in it.

Taking the leap to start a business

At the age of 25, Hedge was half way through a science related PhD when he realised he was on the wrong path. With over 40 hours a week in the lab, his studies took up so much of his time, but he still found time to teach climbing and parkour to young people. He loved it and knew he had a tough decision to make.

7 years on, he’s never looked back.

“I thought, if you don’t try now you’ll never try. So I left my PhD and started Access Parkour.” – Hedge

Becoming a small business owner

Hedge clearly loves the business he’s built and his role inside it. He thrives on challenges and in the 7 years he’s been self-employed he’s taken on new skills and adapted as his business grew. 

“Every year is different. You’re constantly learning and constantly challenged. That’s a really cool part of what I do. I’m a better business manager and leader than I was 7 years ago because I have to adapt all the time. That’s both the best bit and the most difficult bit about what I do.” – Hedge

Adapting with shifting trends on social media

Hedge is currently navigating the challenges of marketing on social media. His biggest challenge is the change in the 35 year old and under market leaving Facebook as his main communication platform.

He doesn’t feel that TikTok, SnapChat and Instagram are the best platforms for Access Parkour because his services are localised.

Strengthening their community through the pandemic

While the country went on lockdown, Hedge and his team offered free parkour sessions online. The result was a strong sense of community and a stronger bond between the coaches and the people taking the classes.

To strengthen that relationship further, the team moved all communications to Slack for everybody to communicate with each other and feel connected during this time.

Why Slack wasn’t the best platform for community building 

Initially the team wanted to foster a sense of community through a closed group. They wanted people to join the group and commit to growing the relationships together, rather than simply ‘drop in’ but the platform didn’t allow for the deep connection that Hedge wanted to create. 

Community building on the Discord platform

The team is now looking at Discord which allows for a deeper connection between users, as building relationships between the Access Parkour team and their clients.

Discord is similar to Facebook groups, closed environments where people sign up to be part of the community as opposed to being posted ‘at’ on open pages. The difference is that Discord is chat based with video and voice functions, so it’s a great place to foster relationships and grow a loyal community.

The power of word of mouth

 The biggest marketing challenge for Hedge and the team is balancing the reputation of Parkour as a dangerous, thrill seeker sport versus the reality of it being a fun, safe and enjoyable exercise with qualified instructors. Parents have to trust that it’s safe to send their children and can find that difficult when they see parkour stunts on Youtube.

Word of mouth between parents and other users is the best way to foster that trust – backed up by a solid website and strong testimonials.

Adapting content for the right audience 

The content journey for Access Parkour has shifted to move with the way their audience consumes content.

The sport is very visual – people want to see it in action, rather than read about it in blogs – so Hedge posts videos to YouTube. Facebook and Instagram. They’re considering moving into Instagram Reels too.

“On Instagram it’s not a perfectly targeted audience for you, but you can use location tags and hashtags to reach your targeted community” – Katie

The real advantage for Access Parkour is that the coaches and customers already ‘get’ the visual aspect of Parkour, so they create content as an add-on to the activity. This means there’s a constant bank of content for Hedge to tap into and share on their platforms.

Pivoting services and utilising LinkedIn

Hedge has reignited an old LinkedIn account to support Access Parkour’s latest pivot plans.
The pandemic has opened some issues for people working from home, that Hedge feels parkour can solve. There are three key areas that he’s identified as pandemic problems:

  • Breakdown of teams: they’re not as connected or working together as well because they’re now individuals working in their own settings
  • Mental health: with people stuck at home, they’re not accessing the benefits of engaging with other people
  • Fitness: there’s less movement for people as they work from home

This means businesses have to think more about employees wellbeing as a whole. Access Parkour can solve this is offering online or outdoor movement classes for teams and organisations to do together as part of their routines.

This concept meant adapting to Business to Business marketing – and for Access Parkour, that’s where LinkedIn steps in. The team is transitioning with the change in tone of voice and adapting messages for business sales, so it’s a work in progress.

Katie and Hedge discuss identifying customer personas, business types and sizes to target on LinkedIn in the episode. Don’t forget to listen to this Whin Big Podcast episode to learn more about how you can apply similar methods for your own business marketing.

Looking to the future for Access Parkour

Hedge looks for the upsides in times of crisis or challenge. Access Parkour is a business that thrives when their community is strong, he believes that getting smarter with strengthening relationships with that community is the key to driving Access Parkour into continued success.

Business books inspiring Hedge on his business journey

The Lean Start-up by Eric Ries

“It’s one of those books you should definitely read, but definitely not follow blindly.” – Hedge