Grow your personal training business on a budget with partnerships

No fitness business exists in a vacuum. As a company founder, it can be difficult to lift your head up from the day-to-day in order to work on your business, not in it, but the rewards can be great. Forging strong partnerships can help you reach potential clients on a shoestring budget – so make that first conversation count.

I’ve spent the past 12 years working in partnerships in online marketing, for tiny startups as well as £100m+ tech companies. In that time, I’ve learned there are four ways to make your message count and build great partnerships, and I’m applying those rules to my own startup now. Here they are:

1) Define your niche

Before you even start approaching companies, it’s so important to think through who you’re targeting. How would you define your perfect client? What’s your unique selling point, and the core strengths of your training style? Perhaps you’re a kettlebell specialist. Maybe you’re great at helping young mums to return to fitness. Maybe you get a kick out of motivating busy office-based clients to succeed on their weight loss journeys. You don’t have limit yourself to just one audience, but pick too many and you lose your impact.

Really think through who these people are. What problems do you help them to solve? What technology do they use – are they on their mobile a lot? What companies do they use? What other sites or apps might they spend a lot of time on? At my company we talked to real people in our target demographic to understand their problems and then drew up a persona to describe them.

Now think through what other companies can best help you target these perfect clients for your niche. For example, if you’re looking to reach new mums, how about local nursery schools? For busy office professionals how about a nearby co-working space or some friendly small businesses in your area? How about making connections with the teaching faculty at a local school, or with the staff at an estate agent or a local bank branch?

2) Get them to listen

Kicking off a conversation on the right foot is important. Once you’ve found your target company, the way you contact them makes a difference.

I would rank face-to-face as the ideal way to start a conversation, a phone call second, messaging on social media third – and email a distant fourth (how many people get too many emails to read these days?).

Getting partners to listen is key

When you approach the topic of a partnership, the best way to frame a conversation is to make it all about them. Imagine you were trying to approach the staff at a local school to offer fitness classes. You could go to them and say “I’m looking to grow my business and would like to work with you,” but, to be blunt, why should they care?

Try reframing this to be about their needs, and ask questions to get a “yes” along the way. Perhaps…
“Are your staff looking to get fit?”
“Do your teaching staff find it hard to fit exercise around their busy schedules?”
“Would fitness classes based at school be easier for them to get to?”
“If I could offer a special class just for you as a group, would that be interesting to try out?”

3) Find your proof point

If you get positive signals back from a potential partner, it can be easy to get over-excited. Don’t run before you can walk. The next step is to establish a proof point that shows your idea works for both them and (importantly) you. Let’s take the example of targeting a mother-and-baby group, to recruit new mums as clients. The group leader has said they’re really interested. It could be easy to get caught up in the idea and become their official fitness partner, print leaflets, set up a special discount and reserve time for them. But if you move too fast, you might end wasting your time or scaring them off.

What’s the smallest, easiest-to-run test you could do together to prove you’re onto a good thing? For the new mums class, how about offering the group leader to run a half-price taster session or a free one-on-one sessions with one of their mums who can report back to the group? Once you impress one client and get them hooked, it’ll be so much easier to set up a larger deal.

4) Build to success together

You’ve got a partnership set up with a target company. Fantastic! But now what? The next stage is to nurture that relationship over time. You should have a main contact you’re dealing with but, if the company is big enough, make sure there’s a second point of contact who knows about the arrangement. People leave companies all the time, and you don’t want to lose all that work.

Ask your main contact about the best way to stay in touch. Would they like a quick chat on the phone every few weeks? Can you take them out to lunch every month or so? Or maybe drop an email each week? They’ll appreciate being asked, and you’ll know you’ve got the best method.

Now, within those guidelines, keep talking to them. Share information on the number of sessions run, client progress you’re seeing, feedback you’re getting from their members. Ask for more opportunities with them – can they distribute marketing material for you, perhaps with their branding on it too? Do they have new members they should be telling about your deal? Or perhaps they have links with other local businesses and could make an intro?

Be generous in return. Ask them what you can do to make their lives easier, too. In this way, you’ll be an active member of your community and have a tried and tested template to grow your personal training business to success.

With the right partnerships, your PT business will thrive


Have you used partnerships to grow your personal training business? Do you have any other tips? Let us know in the comments.