Many personal trainers who work in a gym or fitness center assume that they don’t need to personally develop and implement a fitness marketing strategy.
They assume their passion, intelligence, and physique is all they will need to build a successful career.
I was no different when I started my journey in the fitness industry as a personal trainer over 2 decades ago.
My first week of working in a gym was a complete disaster.
I had spent the week talking to members, racking weights, cleaning, greeting members at the front desk, and giving people “free workouts”.
And I didn’t have a single client to show for it.
If anyone would have asked, I would have said that my first week was the “marketing” stage of my personal training career. I was planting seeds with customers. They’d buy something from me next week.
In reality, I was ready to give up on my dream career after my first 12 hours of work.
Why weren’t clients lining up to purchase personal training sessions with me?
I was passionate…
…in great shape.
…studied exercise science.
…I could even explain the Krebs cycle!
And I also had noble motives. I truly wanted to help people improve their lives through fitness. Why couldn’t customers
After a frustrating and stressful first week, my Fitness Manager sat me down to have a talk about my performance, or lack thereof.
Even though it was more than 20 years ago, I remember the exact words he said to me, as if they were spoken to me yesterday.
“Joel, nobody is going to buy from you just because you exist. If you want to build a successful personal training career, you have to learn how to market yourself!”
At first, I was confused.
If what he said was true, why wasn’t I given the heads up in my Kinesiology classes or my personal training certifications?
Passion & Science Aren’t Enough To Turn Your Prospects Into Customers
Anyone who wants to build a successful personal training career needs to learn how to market themselves.
Now instead of being confused, I was overwhelmed.
I didn’t really know what the term “marketing” even meant.
Maybe you’re in a similar place in your fitness career. You know you need to do some fitness marketing but you’re not really sure what marketing is relevant to your career.
Is it advertising in the local paper?
Or figuring out how to get 100 thousand followers on Instagram?
Maybe it’s running a Facebook advertisement?
Your first step in developing and implementing effective fitness marketing is to understand what the term “marketing” means.
What Does Marketing Actually Mean?
Here is my best effort at stripping away the confusion around marketing and illustrating what the term means:
Imagine you have a brand-new gym opening up and want to “market” yourself to potential customers and prospects.
You start your marketing initiatives by wrapping your car with the message – “New Gym Opening Up in 2 Weeks”. That’s called advertising.
Next, you drive your newly wrapped car into the busiest part of town and circle the most populated areas for several hours. That’s promotion.
Driving in circles through the busiest part of town, during the busiest time of day, where nobody knows you, but you hope someone is intrigued by your advertisement. You’ve promoted to cold traffic.
Taking your newly wrapped car to your church, community group, social club, or any other organization with members who know you, like you, and trust you to show it off. You’ve promoted to warm traffic.
When you give people you interact with valuable pieces of information about fitness, nutrition, and health. That’s content marketing.
If you park your car in front of a busy store and start doing squats, crunches, and bicep curls on top of the car, and the local paper does a story on it. That’s publicity
Now, you get people to laugh about the exercise stunts and the mayor of the town happens to be one of them. That’s Public Relations
When the people who saw the car and the stunt go to your gym, receive a great tour, get to ask questions, and end up buying. That’s Sales
And if you plan the whole thing. That’s Marketing
Of course, there are additional aspects to your marketing plan like positioning and branding that we won’t discuss here.
Once you have a good understanding of the complex nature of marketing, you’ll be able to determine where you want to place your efforts to produce a return on investment.
Marketing Examples For Fitness Professionals
Here are some examples of specific examples of tactics you could implement as a personal trainer or coach related to different aspects of marketing:
- Create a clear, concise and easy to understand message describing who you are, what you offer, who you’ve helped, and a call to action. Practice reciting your message, so you are more prepared to communicate your message to any customer at any time.
- Carry a professional business card or promotional flyer with you wherever you go. It should include a piece of your advertising message. A potential customer should be able to look at the document or card and know what sets you apart from your competition. You’ll want to have your promotional document handy and place it in front of cold and warm traffic as frequently as possible.
- Create and distribute educational content to your friends, family, and clients every week. Your content should solve some of the burning questions people have about fitness, nutrition, and health. Your content could be in written, audio, or video form and include your contact information.
- Workout at your gym. Part of your workout should include exercises that are fun, challenging, creative, or different than what most people do in the gym. You are trying to build publicity by showcasing why someone would want to train with you.
- Make friends with some of the fitness influencers at your gym. Every gym has what I call the “Mayor”. There is usually a mayor or two in the morning, afternoon and evening. Offer them and their friends a free session or another free service. When you make strong relationships with the “Mayors”, other people notice and perceive you as an authority.
- Fitness people are notorious for shying away from asking for a sale. “I don’t like to sell, I just want to help people” is a term I’ve heard a gazillion times. Think of everyone you interact with as a big MAYBE. Maybe they want to work with you, and maybe they don’t. If you want to help someone, you need to turn their little “maybe” into a gigantic, YES. They aren’t going to ask you for the sale. You need to ask them.
Your product or service is probably great but if you aren’t creating a marketing plan, and implementing marketing tactics, customers won’t buy from you.
There are thousands of great products and services that have failed because they didn’t have a good marketing plan.
Never assume your customers will buy from you simply because you exist.
If you start strategizing your marketing activities and implementing the tactics in your plan, you’ll be doing more than 95% of your competition.