Interestingly, while trainers have a vast number of forums for acquiring additional knowledge in anatomy, kinesiology, and functional exercise, there are very few career-building offerings for expertise in marketing. Marketing can be thought of as a game, with the payoff being new business. In other words, it’s a game with actual prize money, but in any game you have to know the rules.
In this article I’ll offer you six foundational marketing ideologies, six separate guiding rules, that can power up any trainer marketing campaign. In fact, if you live by these six marketing ideals, this might very well be the only marketing education you’ll ever need.
I won’t hold back. I’ll give you the six rules right out of the gate. Here they are:
- Recognize that Nobody Wants a Trainer or a Workout
- Be an Expert
- Be a Resource for Basic Understandable Truth
- Do Not Advertise, but Market Passionately
- Recognize and Utilize your Outreach Opportunities
- Make your Achievements Visible
I could conclude the article right now and you’d have all that you need . . . almost. Listing the rules is probably not enough. Providing some clarity on each of the six and backing each one up with an example or two should take you from the point of memorizing the rules to the point of actually applying them, and that’s when the fun begins. In quest, therefore, of fun . . . and profits . . . I’ll address the “rules” one at a time.
Rule #1: Nobody Wants a Trainer or a Workout
The reality is, people don’t want to workout. I know some of you will tell me you enjoy working out, but you’re not in the market for a Personal Trainer. You’re not typical of those you want your marketing to compel. The people you’re attempting to win over, the people who could truly benefit from your services, are not going to enjoy the experience of working out for its own sake. They are, however, full willing to go through the process of working out, if there is a payoff. In other words, they don’t want the workout, they want the result. Your marketing, therefore, should not sell “you,” but should sell that result.
Every day a few thousand people walk into Sears and buy a quarter-inch drill bit. Not a single one of them wants a drill bit. They all want a quarter-inch hole. Every day thousands of people walk into health clubs to workout. They don’t want the workouts. They want to lose fat, shape up, and enjoy life at a higher level. They want to feel better about themselves. They want to know achievement. They don’t want a workout!
In order for your marketing to be effective, don’t play up your certifications or your personal achievements. Don’t play up the “workouts” or the number of sessions you’ll offer at a specific price. Play up the benefits your clients receive from investing in your services. It makes the difference between creating compelling marketing and struggling with impotent attempts. Your marketing should not be expected to “sell” your services, but rather to get people intrigued in that which you have to offer. It’s then up to you to turn interested people into clients. Remember, when creating your marketing, nobody WANTS a trainer . . . People want a result. Compel them with the potential for the result they seek and they suddenly see the hiring of a trainer as a wise investment.
Rule #2: Be an Expert
Anyone can advertise. Anyone with enough money or credit to cover ad rates that is. As a trainer, it’s important that a distinction be drawn between advertising and marketing. Advertising costs money. Marketing doesn’t have to cost a cent. Advertising is perceived as advertising. Marketing shouldn’t be.
If you were to run an ad, and in that ad you referred to yourself as the World’s Greatest Personal Fitness Trainer, would those words have impact? Probably not very much. Sure, they’re powerful words, but consumers are pretty smart. They know that you paid to say whatever you want. After all, that’s what advertising is. You’re buying time or space and deciding what message you want to send. Conversely, suppose in the middle of someone’s very favorite local talk show, you show up to share “the truth about weight loss.” Suppose you are introduced as someone who has a phenomenal success rate in helping people lose weight. The perception is very different than it is in the “ad” example. After all, you didn’t pay to say that. You are being called upon as “an Expert.”
Marketing, therefore, if it is going to be compelling to those who make up your potential market base, should present you as an Expert.
Independent trainers would find great value in connecting with local TV, radio, and print media to provide information of value to consumers. It might sound intimidating at first, but the reality is that radio talk shows need to fill time with interesting chatter. TV news programs are always covering health, diet, and fitness information, and if you have something interesting to say, you should send Press Releases out to producers of local shows. Follow up the Press Releases with a few phone calls, and it shouldn’t be long before you’re a media fitness expert. You won’t be paid for your appearances, but if you ask, they should be more than happy to mention your phone number and that’s worth far more than any paid advertisement.
If you work in a health club, it’s even easier to gain that expert perception. You can write an article for the club’s newsletter, or if the club doesn’t have a newsletter, you can initiate it. You can write information-based articles, laminate them, and post them in the club wherever you have a captive audience. Hanging laminated articles on short chains on the handlebars of the cardio pieces can rapidly escalate you to “expert” status within the club. Be careful not to make these marketing pieces (article) look like advertising. They should provide valuable information and include contact information for those who would like to learn more. You can also post the article (which should be updated frequently) over the water fountain, over the urinals and on the back of the toilet stall doors. Hey, wherever you have an audience, capitalize on it!
Rule #3: Be A Resource for Basic Truth
People are failing to get fit. Miserably! With more so-called “solutions” than ever. The sad part is, with all of the offerings out there in the media, the legitimate solution appears to be the most painful. In other words, people think, based on the advertising they’re exposed to, that they have choices. They can take the newest fat burning supplement, get on the newest cut-out-a-nutrient diet program, or buy some ab device and watch their fat melt away. Oh . . . and then there’s the option of hiring a trainer and working out.
If we position ourselves as workout leaders, we are at a marketing disadvantage. In order, therefore, to get potential clients to come to us for help, we should position ourselves not only as experts, but as resources. People are failing primarily because they’re confused and misled. They need a filter. A resource they can depend on to help them see through fraud and deception and understand what legitimately will deliver the result they seek.
Whether you set yourself up as a resource in a seminar setting where you can answer questions, in a small group workshop forum, or in a Q&A column posted on a club bulletin board or on a website, if you are viewed as a trusted information resource, you will attract potential clients continually. As people “fall off” their diets and abandon their infomercial devices, you want them to come to you to understand what their options are. As you provide clarity, their perception of the value of a trainer is much enhanced until they realize, not only is exercise essential for the result they seek, but directed supervision by a qualified professional will speed the path to success. If you are their resource for truth, you are of course going to be the professional they choose to retain.
Rule #4: Do Not Advertise, but Market Passionately
Advertising reps for newspapers and periodicals will spell out all the reasons you should invest money in buying space in their publications. Ignore them completely! They are paid commissions based upon the advertising dollars you spend so you can assume they are the least bit biased in their direction. Are they marketing experts for Personal Training businesses? Absolutely not.
You must be fully aware of the distinction between advertising and marketing. Advertising costs money. Advertising is perceived as biased. Marketing doesn’t have to cost a cent . . . and it can benefit greatly by a clear expression of passion. The last four letters of the word enthusiasm can be used as an acronym to spell out I Am Sold Myself. When you market enthusiastically, it’s quite evident that you believe in that which you’re promoting, and that evidence has great power.
When selecting your marketing approach, realize that marketing is virtually anything that puts your name or image out before the public or a segment of the public. When I ask trainers why they chose training as a career pursuit, they always express a passion for fitness. Passion compels! It’s difficult to deliver true passion in a written advertisement, but put yourself . . . live . . . in front of groups of people and utilize your passion to present your value. Set up in-club seminars where you can spell out the benefits of core training. Teach a workshop to strengthen lower backs. Do corporate presentations. Speak at schools. Demonstrate techniques at health fairs.
Anywhere you can be seen and heard, you can take that passion that drove you to pursue this noble and rewarding career and funnel it into a dynamic presentation that demonstrates not only your knowledge, but the excitement you feel for being able to deliver an extremely rewarding fitness result.
Rule #5: Recognize and Utilize Your Outreach Opportunities
Many trainers believe their marketing universe is limited to members that show up for their workouts. They hope to catch someone in mid-set doing something wrong so they can correct the movement and lead into the benefits of having a trainer as a coach and guide. They hope to strike up a conversation with someone on a treadmill and win them over so they become a paying client. The reality is, those people who are showing up regularly are the least likely to need a trainer. The inactive members in a health club are the ones who have without question failed to see the result they hoped for when they enrolled. They need someone to reach out and offer assistance. Trainers should make contact with inactive members a regular part of their marketing campaigns. By “rescuing” those who were about to abandon any hope of achieving their desired results, they can fast become heroes and develop an outstanding reputation as a facilitator of results.
Your marketing Universe can go far beyond only people who have enrolled in the club. Get to know members and you’ll no doubt find some of them own companies, participate in groups, or hire speakers on occasion for corporate functions. These relationships can offer phenomenal marketing opportunities for you to get yourself outside of the club, displaying your passion before hundreds of people who might never have entered your fitness center were they not suddenly compelled by your enthusiasm.
Rule #6: Make Your Achievements Visible
Nothing “sells” like before and after photos. That’s why so many companies promoting weight loss products use them, even if they’re fraudulently manufactured. The nice thing is, as you continue to help people find the results they seek, you’ll come face to face with expressions of gratitude. Learn to document those moments as each one becomes a fantastic marketing vehicle. When a client thanks you for changing his or her life, write down the enthusiastic comments, and ask for the client’s signature. Display these testimonial comments alongside photos on a bulletin board, an easel display, or in a book that you maintain. Be sure to always take a photo of your clients when conducting the initial assessment. You can’t go back and take the “before” shot after they get in shape. The contrast between an overweight “before” and a lean toned “after” is exactly the spark that can take prospective clients from the point of interest to the point of commitment.
I’ve conducted literally thousands of marketing campaigns, both for my own business and for businesses that retained me in the role of a consultant. Without exception, every marketing campaign, every marketing action, found its power in one of these six ideologies. I won’t pretend this is all there is to marketing, but I can assure you that whatever level your business is at, you can raise it up a notch or two just by studying and implementing one or two of the six “rules.” Once all six become ingrained in your marketing mindset, your growth promises to become consistent and ongoing.
Now stop reading . . . and go market yourself!!!!! The payoff arrives only after the actions are initiated! You have the rules, now go play the game!