Content is King: Even If It’s Not Yours

I think we, as a whole, understand that if you want to become a “go-to” resource for accurate, applicable information for your target market, you need to supply them with it on a regular basis. Untitled design (8)There are all kinds of ways that you can do this. You can write articles or blog posts. Creating videos, whether as a vlog (video blog) or simple content snippets, is another great way to share information. Then, there is podcasting. Podcasting is rapidly growing and projected to continue growing for some time. These are all common ways to put out content that is valuable to your target market and build your own value in their eyes. But… what if you’re not confident in your ability to generate that content?

You can still build a reputation as the “go-to” person even if you’re not generating the content yourself. You can become a curator of accurate, useful, information by sharing the articles, blog posts, videos, and podcasts that you have discovered and believe that your audience will appreciate. Share the links online or in emails (be careful not to republish the material itself without direct permission from the author/creator) and preface it with a commentary on what your thoughts are about the piece. (i.e. “One more example of why strength training is so important as we age.” – followed by content link)

Now, I know this is easier said than done. You’re now asking, “Where do I find the content?” Glad you asked. Here are some standbys that I use. If I want to find the “truth about” some current issue, I might look it up on a government site such as the National Institutes of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I may also go to various journals to seek out some research. You can also do a Google search including the search as “scholarly articles on _______” Another way is to follow professional organizations on social media (i.e. International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN)) as well as noted researchers or research-based authors. (i.e. if you want to find out the latest on muscle hypertrophy, follow Brad Schoenfeld, PhD on Facebook.)
I also subscribe to e-newsletters and blogs. (everything from Harvard Health to business author, Seth Godin) Finally, you can look for news/information article aggregators (places that collect other information sources), like Reddit and Alltop.

Now, I do believe that we all do have our own voice and that everyone should jump in and learn to create original content, but, until you start to feel comfortable with your work, share others’ and start building your reputation as a trusted resource.

Please let me know if you have any questions and… happy sharing

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Doing Well by Doing Good

Marketing your business can come in all kinds of shapes and styles, but one of my favorites is to join forces with non-profit organizations or events. You can do this by either sponsoring or volunteering. Both can be very effective ways of getting your business’ name out there.

Sponsoring an organization or event can be done by donating money toward that charity. However, if you are just getting started and need to keep your expenses as low as possible, you can donate your services.. Many non-profits will put together raffles or auctions and seek prizes or items from local businesses. This is a great way to highlight what you offer and the value of it. i.e. (One month of unlimited group fitness, valued at $115) These can usually be donated with just the cost of your time.

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In less than 36 hours, this beard will be gone!!! If you’re not coming to the event at Pearly Baker’s Alehouse (6-9pm), then go to this link to make a donation. 100% of all proceeds and donations go directly to Cancer Support Community Greater Lehigh Valley https://www.gofundme.com/beards-for-breasts

Volunteering, or working for an organization or event, may be an even better way for people to get to know you, face-to-face, and get a sense of who you are and what you stand for. The newer standard of marketing is about building relationships and to work with others on something meaningful is a great way to get them to know, like, and trust you.

Currently, I am the president of our local business association (non-profit), my wife (and business partner) and I volunteer to work various festivals in town, sponsor our local farmers’ market, donate services to several charities, and I have been growing a beard for the last 6 months just to be able to shave it off for a local charity event. Of these, only sponsoring the farmers’ market actually costs anything more than time and all help to create awareness of our business.

Sponsoring and volunteering should be a serious part of your marketing plan. Not only do these marketing avenues help your business do well, but you are also doing good in your community.

 

Considerations in Pricing Personal Training

I know I’ve posted about pricing in a previous post, but, as it is part of a presentation I will be doing (Fitness Sales: Strategically Price and Sell Your Services) at Club Industry Show in October, I thought I would revisit this important topic. Pricing your service is not simply choosing what you think the going rate is. There are a lot of factors that go into intelligently setting your prices. Here are a few of them.

Target Market: First, let’s start with who your target market is? This may or may not set a limit on what you can charge. If you are out to help low-income families become healthier and more fit, you will be limited by what they are able to afford (unless you are seeking grant money or sponsorship to subsidize). On the other end of the spectrum, if your target market is the rich and famous, you have the ability to charge much more.

Your Competition: You don’t need to charge what your competition does, but what they charge tells you two things. It tells you what your lowest price should be (If you believe yourself to be as good as they are, why would you charge less?). It also let’s you know what the market’s perceived value will be. You can certainly charge more, but you will need to sell your value and why you are worth more.

Your Time: What is your time worth? Now, this is often times a big problem with service providers. They think that because they book sessions by the hour, that they have to fit some expectation of hourly rate. One of my favorite stories (and I can’t remember it verbatim so here’s my paraphrasing of it) is one where Picasso was painting on the sidewalks of Paris. A woman walks up to him and, impressed with his work, asks if he would paint her portrait. He agrees. 10 minutes later, he shows her the finished piece and she is thrilled. “How much do I owe you?” she asked. Picasso replied, “5000 francs.” She was exasperated. “But it only took you 10 minutes.” “No…” said Picasso, “it took my entire life.” The point is that you are giving more than time. You are giving the sum of all of your education, practice and experience.

price.valueYour Operating Expenses: Do you have operating expenses (most of us do)? Maybe it’s travel expenses (this should include travel time), or marketing, or booking software, or whatever else there might be. These expenses need to be paid and you need to make enough to cover them.

Income Needs: Above covering expenses, you also need to think about what you need to make a living. If, after you pay expenses and hold out your payroll fees, you are not making enough money to make the kind of living that you want, you are charging too little.

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into setting prices and there’s no one answer that fits everyone. It is an art. Take into consideration all of the above, choose a price that you believe in, and then test it out for a set period of time and see the reaction. Then come back to the table and reevaluate it. Does it satisfy your needs and are you able to build your clientele?

Let me know if you have any questions or insights that you’d like to share.

Group Fitness for Personal Trainers

For the longest time, personal trainers have always looked down on group fitness (GF) instructors. Maybe because the certification process (if they even bothered to get certified) was much less rigorous than that of personal training certifications. Or, maybe, the trainers didn’t believe that the “aerobics” classes were as demanding, or as technique driven, or as… personal and therefore less effective. I’m writing this as someone who has been teaching GF as long as I’ve been a personal trainer (38 years) with the hopes that I might change your mind about group fitness and even convince you of becoming a GF instructor.

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Me teaching MOSSA‘s Group Power.

Let’s start with the benefits of GF.

 

  1. Variety – GF classes come in all shapes and sizes. Participants can choose the type that they like the most, which will also keep them coming the longest.
  2. Social – One of the greatest draws to GF is that participants can meet new people and make new friends.
  3. Motivation – Participants will work harder when those around them are working hard.
  4. Accountability – Not only will the instructor keep you accountable for showing up to class and working appropriately hard, so will the other participants.
  5. Misery loves company – Well, not misery exactly, but when working hard, sweating, maybe a little grunting (or a lot), it always seems a little better when there are others, working just as hard, right there beside you.
  6. Correct form demonstration and coaching – GF classes have instructors there to show you how to perform movements, correct your form, and offer regressions and progressions.
  7. More affordable than personal training – This is one reason that some people will choose GF over PT (It’s one of the reasons that small group training draws people too).
  8. Great results – Beyond all of the previously listed benefits, GF can also deliver the results the participants are looking for. This is another reason they will keep coming back.

So, you can see from this partial list of participant benefits that group fitness is an important piece of the health and fitness solution. What about the benefits to a personal trainer who choses to teach GF?

  1. Benefiting others – You get to help impact the health, fitness, and lives of more people when you teach GF.
  2. Better verbal cueing – You learn multiple ways of verbally cueing the same exercise (to accommodate a diverse group ) as well as becoming more verbally descriptive. This can carry over as a benefit to your personal training.
  3. Better public speaking skills – Public speaking is a great way to build your business and GF is a great way to start to hone those skills.
  4. Gain personal training clients from the class – Many times you may notice participants that need extra help and you can suggest adding personal training to their program or, they may decide they need extra help and come to you for personal training on their own.
  5. Referrals – If your people love you, they will refer you. They will refer others to your class and to you for personal training (as long as they know you’re a personal trainer… make sure they know you’re a personal trainer!).

I know that many trainers are adding small group training as one of their services. Small group training is actually more like GF than one on one training and you’ll need those GF skills to succeed with small groups. Also, personal trainers don’t typically hesitate when it comes to teaching a boot camp. Guess what? That’s group fitness!

The point is, group fitness is good for participants, good for personal trainers, and it’s time to jump on the proverbial band wagon and start teaching classes.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Become a “Conference Commando”

I just came back from attending the National Strength and Conditioning Association‘s annual conference. On my return, people ask, “How was the conference?” Hmmn? Let’s talk about what I actually get out of attending a live conference or clinic (Live offers so much more than online).

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Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, has written about being a “Conference Commando” or, going into a conference with a definite battle plan to get the most out of the conference.

So, what should you get out of a live conference or clinic?

Learn from the sessions. Naturally, the conference sessions are what most people think of when attending an event. This is where a lot of up-to-date information can be found and you should absolutely make sure that the program fits your learning needs.

Choose your presenters. The speakers are another thing to consider. A bad presenter can make it challenging to learn even if the material they are presenting is good. (Attending a session by Tudor Bompa, “the father of sports periodization” comes to mind. I’m sure it was great information, but he put me to sleep and I honestly missed most of what he said.)

Connect with your presenters. Now, beyond those first couple obvious reasons, you should also attend live events to connect with presenters that you liked and that inspired you. Stay after the session to ask further questions or just introduce yourself and thank them for what they just shared. Most presenters really appreciate hearing that and may strike up a conversation with you. Ask if you could email them an additional question or two and if they agree, you now have a new, trusted resource for information. If you nurture that relationship, you may also find yourself with a mentor who can help guide you in your career.

Connect with manufacturers. Most conferences and many clinics will have an exhibit hall or trade show. Here you can see and try new equipment, sample supplements (I often live on trade show protein bars. LOL), and connect with the manufacturers or distributors. Ask them questions about their products. See if they are right for you and/or your business. They will often have conference discounts too, if you’re interested.

Connect with other attendees. I find networking with peers one of my favorite things about attending live events. Discussions between the scheduled sessions about the topics presented, training modalities, business issues, and just getting to know other like-minded people can be so rewarding. Take contact information, connect on social media, stay in touch. Fellow attendees can also turn out to be mentors, general sounding boards, and, as I’ve found to be often the case, lifelong friends.

The key to becoming a “conference commando”, however, is to plan ahead. Go to the conference with a plan. What sessions will you take? What presenters do you want to meet? What products do you want to check out. Finally, plan on where and when you can connect with your peers. Then, execute that plan and come home with far more than just what can be learned online.

Time to Huddle Up

I was a football offensive lineman (tackle in high school and guard in college). Before a play, we would huddle, or get in a tight circle and lean in to hear the quarterback tell us what the next play was. Then we would line up and execute it. Huddle

I just received an email advertising “Huddles”. They explained that these were  intimate gatherings where professionals could discuss the state of the industry (could be any industry) and come up with strategies to build their business and push the industry forward.

I LOVE THIS IDEA!

As I prepare to go to the NSCA National Conference in Indianapolis, IN, one of the things I look forward to most is the networking in small groups (huddles) with other fitness professionals and talking about the issues and challenges that we all face and coming up with possible solutions. No matter how knowledgable we think we are, we can’t think of everything, and discussions with other like-minded individuals can lead to bigger and better ideas.

This email got me thinking. Why not “huddle up” with the fit pros in your area to help create a stronger message to your community about the importance of living a healthy, fit lifestyle? I know many of you will immediately dismiss the idea because you believe that you would be helping your competition (you would, btw). But, here’s the thing. With a more powerful, cohesive message, coming from several sources, you’re more likely to engage your community and more likely to increase business for all of you. So, it may help your competition, but it will help you too. What’s the result? The result is a more healthy community (which, hopefully, is what we’re in this business for).

Reach out to managers or other key people from local gyms, clubs, studios, etc. You can organize a group marketing campaign, fitness event, or help some charity together. There are all kinds of ways to join forces.

Now, call for a huddle, come up with the play, and then execute it!

Your Career Ladder

Through the almost four decades that I’ve been a personal trainer and health club  manager, I’ve seen a lot of personal trainers come and go. Only a small portion create a sustainable career as a personal trainer. In my opinion, this is because, for some reason, entry level trainers are not thinking about it like other careers. They think that they can jump in, get some clients, and life is good just doing the same old, same old. To really succeed in this industry (well, in fact, any industry) you need to plan long-term. You need to map out the steps your ideal career.

56AD03F9-86C5-4115-9B56-525AAB3F5A65If you look at other careers, what do you see? Someone planning to be a lawyer, maybe they plan to go to a top school, pass the bar exam, get hired by a top company, and make partner by age forty. How about and architect? Go to a top school, work for a top agency, and their own firm by fifty. What these have in common is that they have the end game in mind and steps to take them there. With a specific vision in mind of where you want your career to go, you can break it down to those steps necessary to carry you to that goal.

What is your career end game? Let’s say you want to own your own health club or studio as an example. What things do you have to accomplish to get you there? Start with the major steps and then you can break each major step into smaller (not unlike periodizing a client’s program).

  • Start saving money for your facility (oh, yeah. You better start as soon as you can. It could be $10/week, but start now. This is something that I wish I had known when I began my career.)
  • Get a degree or accredited certification.
  • Intern or get hired by a fitness club to get hands-on experience
  • Seek out opportunities in management (assistant fitness director, manager on duty, assistant manager)
  • Become a general manager
  • Open your own facility

Simplistic? Definitely! It may take 10-20 years to achieve, too. That depends on how ambitious you are. (Shortly after college, I started as a personal trainer at a fairly large health club in Boston and became general manager within two years. Granted, there weren’t as many fitness professionals back in those days, but I was still very career focused.)

The key to reaching your career goal once you have mapped out your ladder is to look for the opportunities to learn and utilize the skills that will take you to that next step. Learn more about training, behavior modification, business, interpersonal communication, professional writing, public speaking, and any other thing that could make you a better rounded professional.

Make the most of your career in health and fitness. There’s nothing more rewarding.

 

Top 10 Business Books for Personal Trainers

I’ve spent over the past ten years making business a specialty of mine. I started learning as much as I could on the topic because I recognized the lack of understanding in the personal training and fitness industry. The books I’m listing are just a few of the over 100 books that I’ve read on business. They are ones that I think could have the greatest impact on growing a personal trainer’s business. I’ve given just a short description of each. Click the photo to get more details. So… here we go… (in no particular order):

(1) E-Myth Mastery by Michael E. Gerber

One of my favorites for anyone contemplating leaving their current job to go off and start their own business. The myth is that you can go off and do what you love to do, forgetting, of course, that you also have to spend time on the business itself and not just delivering the product or service. A must read.

(2) Start With Why by Simon Sinek

As Sinek states, we all pretty much know what we do, probably how to do it, but often don’t think about why we do it. The “why” is the driving force behind what we do. It’s the, “I want to help people become healthier and lead more fulfilling lives.” that is at the heart of personal training.

 

(3) To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink

This is a great book on how we are already salespeople and how sales (fitness, personal training, or other) can be a natural, comfortable act that leaves both parties happy and excited to work together.

 

(4) The Experience Economy by Pine and Gilmore

When a product or service is rote, predicable, run-of-the-mill, it’s lowest price wins. However, the consumer is happy to pay more and more often when it comes to buying an experience. This is a book that will open your eyes as to how you can turn the mundane into an experience.

 

(5) Shark Tank: Jump Start Your Business by Michael Parrish DuDell

I know… this one sounds hokey, but it is, in fact, a really good book that covers most aspects of starting and building your business.

 

 (6) Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith

This is one of the first books that I read that focused on selling services (vs merchandise). The idea of selling something that is intangible, such as the future benefits of health and fitness programs, can take a different technique and this book offers a great prospective on it.

 

(7) Crushing It! by Gary Vaynerchuk

No recommended business reading list would be complete without at least one Gary Vee book on it. This one, his latest at the time of this writing, tells the stories of entrepreneurs that have overcome obstacles and attained success through passion and perseverance.

 

(8) The Power of Cult Branding by Ragas and Bueno

Ever wonder how CrossFit, Tough Mudder, and even Zumba got their kool-aid drinking followers. Ever wonder how you might create that same kind of following? This book gives some great insights into creating a “cult” brand.


(9) The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

Once again, I thought the discussion of culture should be addressed. This is another good look at the importance of culture and particularly when looking at building your company. The belief system of the whole and how to work toward a unified vision.


(10) The New Rules of Sales and Service by David Meerman Scott

This is a good look at marketing and sales in an age where you have to first engage and build a relationship before trying to acquire your target audience as a customer.


(11 bonus, there are too many good ones for just 10) The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman

This is another really good book on overall business principles. Kaufman’s premise, is that, unless you want to work for some big company, you don’t need to spend your money on an MBA. Save your money and learn the skills that will lead you to success.

This should at least get you started in your business education. It is, just like the exercise science, an area that demands ongoing learning to reach and stay on top of your game. I hope you enjoy and learn from them.

P.S.

(12 double bonus) The Business of Personal Training With Web Resource by… well, me. I know this seems a little self-serving, but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention that this is the culmination of all of my study and experience.

Should You Offer a Free Consultation?

Some clubs give free workouts with a personal trainer. I’ve seen as many as 8 sessions given away to new club members. Of course, the idea behind that is that the client will see the value and continue to train beyond that. I also see clubs and personal trainers that don’t believe in giving away anything for fear that it devalues the training. I have to admit that I fall into that category.

We, at Jiva Fitness, don’t discount anything. I do believe that it does, indeed, devalue the product. However, we do give free, 30 minute consultations. I know that seems counter to what I just said and I know that many fitness professionals will be quick to disagree with that policy, but let me explain.

People that are not fitness enthusiasts (and let’s face it, that most people) can be unsure about signing up for a gym, let alone personal training. The idea of paying a lot of money (the common perception) for a membership or training can be daunting. This is a barrier to entry, a barrier to signing up and getting started. The idea behind offering a free consultation is to remove that barrier. We want to allow them to feel that they can come in, sit down with a qualified professional, be heard and have their questions answered.

Our consultations consist of going through their medical health history, lifestyle questionnaire, and goal clarification and setting. Then, after gathering all of that information, we can make an informed recommendation as to what their next, best course of action should be. Maybe that’s one of our programs, maybe it’s not. Who knows going into this if we are the right fit for their needs?

Now, some may say that if you answer their questions they may just take that advice and go do it on their own. That’s possible, but not common. Usually, when you take that time and they feel that you have really listened to them, they feel special and that the recommendation that you make is made just for them. However, even if they don’t sign up with you, you have given them a great experience and they will tell others about it. (It’s still a win.)

Consider the free consultation and whether it may be right for you. If you are not getting enough new potential clients through your doors, it might be they are feeling that barrier to entry and a free consultation is one way to lower it.

How Plateaus Happen in Business

We often talk about training plateaus, but plateaus can also happen in your business. Imagine your business growing steadily and then, all of a sudden, your growth stops. The number of clients or members that you have levels off and you’re left wondering, “What just happened.”

Sometimes these plateaus happen because you got comfortable with the amount of clients or members that you have and stopped actively seeking more. Maybe you decided to spend less money on marketing, or you went to fewer networking opportunities, or stopped asking for referrals. Those things that you did so diligently when you were trying to build your business have fallen by the wayside and… so has the growth of your business.

plateauOther times, you have continued marketing as you have always done and that’s the reason that business has slowed. If the public sees the same ad, picture, sign, or campaign, they can become blind to your marketing efforts. You can think of it as becoming desensitized to what your marketing is saying because they’ve seen it so many times before.

One more reason that you may have hit a plateau, is that something has changed in the market that you may not have noticed. This could be an economic downturn, seasonal change (this often catches new businesses by surprise), or maybe a new competitor opened in town.

These can all be avoided with some due diligence.

Never stop marketing. Even if you are currently comfortable, things change and it’s better to have too many people wanting your service and have a waiting list, than to have too few and leave yourself open to plateaus or downturns.

Always change up your marketing. Think of how often you change your clients’ programs (generally every 4-6 weeks). You can use that same kind of thinking when it comes to your marketing. You can literally periodize it. Plan out your macro, meso, and micro cycles for marketing.

Finally, pay attention to what’s going on in your community. What’s happening in the economy, what events are taking place, who’s new in town. Knowing what’s going on can not only prevent a loss in business, but can show you new opportunities for growth (what might you do if your realized a competitor was actually closing?).

This isn’t to say that you can prevent all plateaus, but these are some common reasons that they occur and some solid ways to prevent them.