Being a fitness professional has to be one of the most rewarding jobs on the planet. You get to watch your clients develop and change in front of your eyes. You are there for their emotional highs – and lows – and you get to experience a sense of real accomplishment together each time they break through a new barrier. There’s something incredibly powerful and motivating in those moments.
Unfortunately, like any business, it can be incredibly frustrating as well. Sometimes the hours, days and weeks of work you put into growing your business are coming to nothing, and you’re struggling to fill your client book. How on earth can it be so difficult to get clients? There are so many people desperate to get their weight under control, fitness levels up or even get competitive.
Fitness is a business like any other. No matter how passionate or great you are, if you aren’t treating it like a business, you’re not going to get very far. Here are seven things that might be slowing or preventing your growth – and a few tips on how to change things.
Eventually most fitness businesses just get “stuck”
1 – You haven’t identified your niche
Who’s on your roster right now? A wannabe Olympic lifter? A mother of three looking to get her shape back? Maybe you have a couple of university-level athletes wanting to become professional sports players. All rounded out by one or two older folks trying to reduce the effects of ageing. How many different types of people are you working with?
It can be tempting to grab whichever clients you can when you’re starting out. However, it can eventually become detrimental to have too broad a client base. Those mothers who want their pre-baby bodies back want someone who understands their needs and is experienced with people just like them. Those varsity athletes want someone with a reputation for turning potential into professional.
If you really want to get your business growing, it’s time to work out what your niche is and start promoting yourself as such. And don’t just go for the glamour niches, either – if you’re really good at working with the retirees, make that work for you!
2 – Your positioning is off
Much like with finding a niche, you need to position yourself uniquely. Don’t just do the same thing as everyone else. The danger of coming across as too similar is that everyone is competing by lowering their prices, instead of creating a unique market for themselves. You need to give potential clients a reason to come to you, rather than the other guy.
You can position yourself in the industry using one or more differentiators, such as: specific services, unique benefits and gains, any awards or competitions you’ve won, years of experience, a positive reputation among clients and peers. And it certainly helps to develop strong relationships with your peers and make sure they understand your positioning – there’s no better referral than another professional sending a potential client to you because you are known for being “that” person.
3 – Boring, unemotional messaging
Much as we like to pretend otherwise, people make most of their decisions emotionally. That includes their choice of fitness professional to work with. If your marketing messaging isn’t grabbing them emotionally and motivating them to come to you, then they’re going to someone else.
Find out from your current clients what motivated them to come to you in the first place, what emotions help keep them motivated, and play on that. This is one of those areas where it’s a good idea to spend a bit of money; hire a copywriter and designer to help create your marketing for you.
4 – No clear lead generation strategy
You can’t make sales or get clients without leads, it’s that simple. Generating those leads, however, can be a tricky business. You need to develop a clear strategy for bringing leads in regularly, or your trickle of customers is going to dry up.
There are hundreds of different ways of generating leads. To develop a strategy, choose a few that will reach your niche market, fit in with your positioning, and will appeal to your potential customers emotionally. It could be regular motivational tweets, writing a weekly blog post, or building relationships with your local gyms to get referrals. Whatever it is, you need to develop that strategy.
5 – Poor lead sourcing
To keep generating leads, you need to identify sources that will provide you with a consistent flow of leads. And you need to make sure you have a few sources, so that they balance out one another’s ebbs and flows. Don’t be afraid to test out several lead sources until you’ve found the few that work best for you.
So what is a lead source? Anything that reaches your potential customer, of course! It can be anything from social media to flyers in the local shopping centers, but it needs to be something that reaches your niche audience.
6 – Inconsistent lead generation
You may be noticing a trend here. That’s because leads = customers, so focusing on them is vital. No matter how good your strategy and no matter how strong your sources, if you are wishy-washy about working on lead generation activities, your well is going to dry up eventually.
Even if you are super busy and cannot take on another customer, keep the lead generation going. If it means you hire a junior to help with the extra clients, or refer them to a trusted colleague, keep it up. If you don’t maintain your activity, you will eventually find yourself without enough customers, and desperate to fill up your client book again.
7 – Follow-up failure
The last thing your potential clients want is to wait for days or weeks until you get back to them. As we said earlier, people’s decisions are usually based on their emotions. They certainly don’t want to feel like someone who they want to entrust with their health and fitness isn’t interested in them.
Just like you need to be consistent with your lead generation, you need to be consistent with your inquiry follow-ups. Make sure you check each of your sources daily and respond to clients in a timely manner. That’s not to say you should be answering emails and texts while with a client! Make sure to set aside a specific time of day, every single day, to respond to all inquiries – even if those responses are “thank you for your inquiry, I can’t help right now, but my colleague Jim can.”
The follow-ups can also be important to reputation building. Not every point of engagement with a potential client will be a hot lead, but that could develop over time. Reply to comments on your Facebook posts, engage on your blog, do whatever you can to keep interest alive. It will be worth it!