The Ultimate Guide to Marketing for Personal Trainers
You're a personal trainer and you want to know how to get more clients. That's why you're reading this, right? Not only that, but being smart you don't want to waste your time on inefficient methods. You need to know what really works. The greatest return for the least amount of time and energy. Well you've come to the right place. In this guide, compiled from extensive research, interviews with successful PTs, and our own experience in using these same techniques to establish our business (to the point where we now rank on page one of Google for many searches relating to personal trainer queries) we'll show you the best tactics to achieve your goal. So get a cup of tea, relax and enjoy.
Firstly we need to cover the difference between advertising and marketing. Advertising is passive and marketing is more active. Direct advertising has recently gone out of fashion in favour of aggressive marketing but, as we shall see in a later section, it should not be overlooked. Indeed, both of these strategies are important. Master them and you'll be well on the way to in building a solid client base and a successful business.
Marketing vs hype
It seems that nowadays the world and his brother are marketing experts. There's a plethora of advice out there – but is it all good or relevant to your business? I recently read a long article online from a marketing guru addressed to personal trainers, and by the end I realised that I now knew a lot of marketing jargon – but he hadn't offered one practical technique for getting more clients. Don't worry, this article contains many real-life tactics and techniques that are directly applicable to your business. Some of them may surprise you but they are all well-founded.
In the world of marketing a popular buzz-word is 'branding', and we're not talking about cattle in the Wild West. The idea is that if you're selling your services you need to create a brand that people can easily recognise and enjoy. Now I have a problem with this. It's fine if you're a major manufacturer like Levi or Nike, but for an individual I don't think it's appropriate. In fact for a personal trainer I suggest it's against the ethos of the profession. Branding is turning a person into an abstract idea, but we need to keep and emphasise the 'person' in 'personal trainer'. This is one element of a marketing strategy, which we'll look at in more detail.
Because marketing is active, you do have to put in time and energy to achieve results. The ideal solution, if you have the money and not much time, is to hire a marketing manager. However, if you're a PT with only a little spare cash you need to be more creative.
You could check out the nearest college that offers an MBA. Go there and talk to the tutors and see if you can find a recent graduate who would be willing to work a few hours a month on your business marketing.
If you decide to do it yourself you need to be systematic. Schedule a few hours a week just for marketing and stick to it. It's a long-term game so rewards are not immediate. Mindset is important. Be confident in yourself and in these proven ideas.
To begin, you need to ask yourself some basic questions. What exactly are you marketing? Who are you marketing to? And lastly, where are they? The answer to the first question looks obvious – your services as a personal trainer, but what makes you special? Why should someone choose you over the competition? Maybe you've done some CPD courses and so can offer some specialised training. Or perhaps you like to do workouts in the open air. This needs to be made abundantly clear in your marketing material so you stand out from the average trainer.
Who you are marketing to is closely linked to the first point. If you specialise, that will necessarily narrow your target audience. For example, if your speciality is Olympic lifting then your target audience is likely to be predominantly males between 20 and 35. That determines where you should be looking to direct your marketing. If you have knowledge of treating obesity your prospective clients will be somewhere else.
You should also know your competition. You can learn a lot from them. Google knows everything! Do a search for 'personal trainer area' and follow up all the relevant results. Look closely at their websites – are they impressive or cheap? Check out their social media pages.
How long have they had a profile, how many followers and how much engagement do they have? What's their content? Is it blatant self-promotion or interesting? How would you do it better? This brings us neatly on to the online part of your marketing strategy.
Yes, you still need a website
It should go without saying that you need to have your own website. Your website is where you showcase your talent and present yourself to the wide world. And it needs to look good. Unless you happen to be a web wizard, find the money to get it professionally designed. It needs to be optimised to be findable in search or it won't be seen except by your family and friends (one reason Instagram isn’t a substitute for your website is that social profiles don’t rank well in Google search). Basic Search Engine Optimisation is not hard. If you're going to do it yourself, check out keywordtool for finding keywords for search queries, and QuickSprout for a guide to SEO. You might also check out Fiverr where people offer small services for...a fiver. It can come it very handy for little design or research items where you might not have the software you need.
On the technical side, the website should load fast and be intuitive to navigate. Visually it should be engaging and inviting. One large dynamic image plus some clear text on the home page is a good idea. It encourages discovery. Do not go crazy with the colour schemes. Understated is best. A sharp black and white image is perfectly suited to emphasise muscle contours and body shapes. Here at Personal Trainers London Ltd we've checked out literally hundreds of websites in the industry, and really, some people must be colour-blind. I've seen a couple that made me feel physically ill.
Your site should be personal to you and make you stand out from the crowd (in a good way). So have a great photo of you at your peak and list all your abilities and specialities. A few reviews/recommendations from clients is cool but don't overdo it. Of course all your contact details and location should be clearly shown, not hidden away somewhere. The main Call To Action is to get in touch with you. But don't forget to include social media buttons where visitors can go straight to your latest posts as well.
As Tom Jankowski told us in a recent article on digital marketing 'In your early days, your website probably won’t rank for many keywords with a solid commercial potential. Yet, you may take advantage of other, already established websites that receive loads of traffic.' Those other established websites we'll consider later in the direct advertising section.
As you won't get much of an audience initially you have to promote your website across other channels. This means primarily on social media, but don't forget to put your site address on your business cards. Yes, that's right – real physical business cards. Unlike mobile phones they always work, and handing one to someone is a personal gesture and a symbolic gift. They're not expensive so make sure they look classy and attractive with an eye-catching design, and prospective clients are more likely to keep them.
I have only one thing to say about keeping a blog – don't. The main reason being that it takes too much of your time to keep it going and there's no real reward. I've seen so many sites where they've started a blog with enthusiasm and it peters out after a few entries, then it just looks sad when the last post was three years ago. If you have something topical or timely to say, use your social media pages and keep it short. That's what they're for. So let's have a look at...
Even if you don't use it personally (and I wouldn't blame you – how many pictures of cute cats do you need to see in one lifetime?) you'd be a fool to ignore the potential of social media to build a profile and reach prospective clients for your business.
According to an article on the respected site Forbes.com 'Top 10 Reasons Your Business Needs to be on Facebook', 80% of marketers use Facebook, which is their most popular social networking site and has over 40 million small business pages.
The Salesforce State of Marketing Report says that 'consumers expect businesses to be on at least three social media platforms.' I would totally agree with that. For one thing, your customers might search on their favourite social network for a trainer, not just on Google, so you at least need to be there in order to be found. Here at Personal Trainers London Ltd we've found that Facebook, Twitter and Google+ work best for us. Some trainers find that Instagram is useful, especially if they upload a lot of photos and short video clips, which would just clutter up a website.
When you set up social media channels, your initial goal is to acquire as many followers as possible. How do you do that? Both Twitter and Facebook have search functions which you can use to find the types of people you want to follow, who should then follow you back. Based on your choices, Twitter will make recommendations to follow, which can be useful. You might also try Hootsuite which allows you to search these platforms based on location.
Your profile page on these platforms should, like your website, look classy with a high quality photo. Of course it must also give the live link to your website.
To keep followers, your choice of content is vital. It should be relevant to your industry in some way, engaging and visually attractive. Always use photos with text – it drives engagement way up. Do not just post your session schedule or what you had for breakfast. I've seen so many boring PT social media profiles and their lack of followers reflects it. One Twitter profile just had dozens of links to their Instagram posts, nothing else – unbelievable!
As an information site, we post only the best informative articles we can find on all channels. As a PT you'll want to mix it up – interesting self-promotion pieces alternating with outsourced information posts. You must post regularly in order to maintain interest. At least twice per week.
Larger outfits can post twice a day or more; we do and it works. Our Twitter fan base has grown to more than 2,000 in less than 2 years, organically (without advertising). If you do want to use social advertising, just put a search in YouTube and you'll find some instructional videos. In your ads you need a clear call to action. Try three different ones and track which works best, then switch to only that one.
Top 5 social media tips
- Post quality content regularly.
- Use analytics and track successful posts then repost the best ones at intervals.
- Respond to any real messages you receive quickly – Facebook rates you on that one.
- Ask clients to write reviews on your pages.
- Search for and join groups on Facebook relevant to your industry.
Tools of the trade
There are some great tools to help you with all different aspects of managing your social media profiles, like tools that schedule your posts, so you can batch it once a week instead of always being on your phone. One good piece of software is Mention, which will monitor your name online in real-time and tell you where it crops up, so you can interact if appropriate. Many apps generally have free or time-limited versions, then require a small monthly subscription fee but they are well worth the investment. You might also consider investing in some good software especially designed for personal trainers. Depending on what you buy, it can automate regular events with email reminders to clients and interact with social media so you can monitor everything from one app. This frees up your time so you can go to work and earn some money to pay for these apps. There are a huge number of these apps to choose from, and we'll be publishing a Guide to PT Apps in the near future so stay tuned.
These days you can do a lot better than sticking a card in the newsagents' window when it comes to direct advertising. For a one-off fee you can have your profile in an online directory, which is always available everywhere. But it it worth the outlay? We researched several marketing sources to find out and the answer was overwhelmingly positive. One source states ' As a small business, you can’t afford not to take advantage of online directories to make your presence known.' Another said, 'If online viewers aren’t able to see your website, they likely don’t even know it exists and they probably aren’t going to purchase your products or services.'
As they say, the best place to hide a dead body is page 2 of Google search results, so having your profile in a directory that ranks on page 1 is a smart move. A third industry leader also recommends them but adds a word of caution – Local business directories can be valuable assets for your local business marketing. Be sure to do your due diligence in researching the right directories for your business.' Certainly there are directories and 'directories.' The free ones are a waste of time as they are more interested in the ads they carry than the content, which is you. There are general trade directories like Yell.com which contain hundreds of thousands of entries from all professions, and there are a very few that cater specifically to personal trainers. You'd be well advised to sign up with one of these. Ideally you want one which has a clear focus on showcasing trainers and does not distract their visitors with a variety of different paid services on its website. In this way they are focussed on helping you succeed as a PT by maximising your exposure to prospective clients who search for personal trainers on Google. The directory will carry your photo, your profile, contact details, location, and specialities. They may also allow you to upload videos.
Back to the 'real' world and how to promote your business there. One of the best ways to get new clients is by networking. Get out into your local community and find local business partners. People who might bring you prospective clients include health food shops, fitness stores, sports shops, clinics, coffee shops, sports clubs, or martial arts clubs. Many of these will be interested in mutual advertising. You can also host events at each other's place of business to the benefit of both – talks, raffles, free trials, charity events etc. The more involved you become in the community the more your reputation will grow. Don't forget to post all these events on social media, both before and after the event, with good photos.
As I mentioned earlier, your speciality will dictate where your target audience are. So if you do referrals you need to drop in at the local clinic, whereas if obesity is your thing, then off to the coffee and cake shops. You should be dropping off special promotion flyers and cards in all these places. Also keep up to date with local events and attend any interesting functions where you can promote your services and hand out business cards.
You should always be thinking up special promotions. For example, give a 10% discount to your regulars for every new client they refer you to. Give a free first session to every new client who signs up for at least one month. Offer package discounts to couples, families, and clubs. Keep an eye on the calendar and use it for promotions. For example, in May offer a 4 week course on creating the perfect 'beach bum.'
All these ideas will only work if you continue to be the best personal trainer you can be. The best advertising is personal recommendation and it's free. So with your regular clients don''t forget to keep it interesting. Vary their workouts regularly so they don't get bored. Keep up with the latest developments in the industry. Do CPD courses to develop your experience and keep your own interest level high. Consider establishing yourself as a niche PT. Identify one you strongly wish to work with and become known as a specialist. This will allow you to charge a higher hourly rate.
Successful PT Alexandra Merisoiu had this to say about the way to increase your income: “I think choosing a niche is the way to go, be the expert in the field, be known for one thing and people will come.”
So there you have it – how to market yourself as a personal trainer. There's a lot of information and techniques in the above. I'm sure that if you implement some of it you will gain more clients. If you apply all of it, you can't fail to achieve success. Good luck!