The surprising symmetry of marketing and personal training

by Luke | January 27, 2017 | Health & Fitness Industry Marketing Tips

As we’ve started working with more personal trainers and fitness brands, an amusing pattern has started to reveal itself.

I’m a somewhat keen fitness enthusiast, so it’s not difficult to see the value and challenges of our clients’ work. But what makes me smile is the startling similarity that these have to the value and challenges of the marketing work that we do ourselves. So what do marketing and personal training have in common?

Set Goals

There’s no point starting until you know where you’re trying to get to. This is as true of people hitting the gym for the first time and it is for any marketing. It’s cliched to point out to those who are new to fitness that they will struggle to keep it up or make real progress if they don’t have a clear objective. And as with sports performance, marketing needs a little more direction than an intention to “errr… I dunno, get more clients?”

It’s often good to start this with a thorough assessment of what’s going on. Would you put together a client’s programme without working out their 1 rep maxes, 100m time, max heart rate or at least some kind of indication of what they can currently do? Fortunately there is a ton of data that can be collected on any type of marketing, so the first thing we do with a new client is do a full health check. Facing up to the facts of what’s working and what isn’t is a good way to start focusing yourself on what you want to achieve.

Setting SMART goals should always be a key part of your marketing. Is your fitness brand trying to attract new clients who have never done personal training before, or elite sports athletes? Do you want to reach them through getting more leads from your website, or get them to sign up to your mailing list? Make sure you give yourself some context for how achievable these are and you can then start to work out how to get there.

Get with the programme

Whether it’s lifting two times your body weight, or attracting 20 new clients, you’re going to need a plan to achieve your goals. You don’t just strut over to the weights section, throw some plates on a bar and expect to smash your one rep max PB. You need a proper plan. What are you going to do today? What are you going to be doing next week and how will all of that add up to moving a few steps closer to that quantified goal you lined up?

If you put together any kind of training programme for your clients you’ll know what I’m talking about;

  1. You’ve probably got a tried and tested formula to use as a starting point based on your professional knowledge and experience.
  2. You still have to carefully adjust your formula to every client’s needs, taking into account where they are at and making sure it’s right for what they can realistically achieve.

Marketing is nowhere as mysterious as it sounds. It’s the same process. We have a range of solid strategies to make progress in a number of areas. We don’t just do work and hope for the best – we spend a lot of time and effort making sure that in each application, the formula will take into account the huge number of variables that will influence the final results. Take social media, if you have put together a strategy, you’re much likely to put out regular posts, with a consistent message – which will be much more effective than posting at random. By the way, we can help you do this if you need a hand.

Use Data

We like data. It shows things are working. If things aren’t working, it tells you that too – so you can fix them. Even if you’re just adding an extra pushup each week, or taking a few seconds off your 5k time, you should be able to see the progress.

There is certainly more to life than charts and numbers, but they are bloody useful. Yes, sometimes numbers don’t give you the full story but that’s were experience comes in. Just as bodyweight alone isn’t a true indicator of health or fitness (some heavy people are super strong and lean) marketing data can also be misleading – Facebook likes do not always correlate with sales. A good example of solving this is with what we call CRO; keeping a close eye on your website and slowly making improvements. Focusing too much on a single metric isn’t healthy, but by measuring as much as you possibly can, you can then step back and look at the bigger picture.

Communication counts

Explaining why you are doing something a certain way makes all the difference. I was really reluctant to follow a lot of the fitness advice I was given, even from really reliable sources, until I fully understood why I should do something that way. Both the fitness and marketing industries are full of conflicting advice, technical jargon and promises of sketchy sounding results. It’s all a bit overwhelming.

Admittedly, there isn’t a definitive answer in either areas, the science is a work in progress and all claims should be treated with a healthy scepticism. Just as I would expect a coach to explain their methods to a client, we spend time going over why we do things the way we do them. It’s not witchcraft, although some of it does get pretty nerd.

Motivation matters

When it comes to marketing, some fitness professionals need the sort of backup that they give their clients. Even when you know exactly what you need to be doing, actually getting it done can still be a bit of a challenge. I know plenty of people (myself included) who have chosen to work with a coach, because it gives that extra motivation, confidence and guidance to do what you already know you should be doing.

Even if you know exactly what you’re doing marketing your gym, fitness class, or personal training sessions, it’s still another burden to lift on top of all your other work. For some, marketing is the necessary evil that others would class going to the gym as! There’s a lot to be said for working with someone purely to hold yourself accountable – just like a good training partner.

The big difference

So far, there is only one major difference that I can see between marketing and fitness training. While you lifting the bar won’t make your clients stronger, we can take on some of your marketing load, yet you still get the marketing gains.

Generally a bit over enthusiastic about everything, I’m gonna get stuck in and work out what’s going on whatever the situation. There’s nothing quite like a little analytical investigation followed by philosophical discourse to inspire creativity. I also lift heavy things and ride my bike in a circle very quickly for relaxation.
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