Top 10 Low Cost Marketing Strategies

I was recreating a presentation that I did last year, for the Fitness Business Specialist website, and decide to make it available to anyone that wanted to check it out. It offers 10 simple, low-cost marketing tips for your business. It’s just 37 minutes long. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section.

What Are Fitness Professionals Missing?

It’s not uncommon for struggling fitness professionals to believe that acquiring more fitness information is somehow going to help them build their business. If they don’t have a degree in exercise science or a major certification, maybe it will, but… once you have the basics, building your business isn’t going to come from another training certification. I know. I’ve held 20+ certifications over the years and while they added tools to my tool belt, they didn’t teach me anything about building my business. That, I had to learn on my own.

Now, if you wanted to build your business, where would you go to learn about business? Take a look at what is offered for certifications and certificate programs by a few of the major organizations and see if there’s anything missing.

NSCA:
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)
Certified Special Population Specialist (CSPS)
Certified Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator (TSAC-F)
Certified Performance and Sports Scientist (CPSS)

ACSM:
ACSM Certified Personal Trainer
ACSM Certified Group Exercise Instructor
ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist
ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist
Specialty Credentials:
Exercise is Medicine
ACSM/NCHPAD Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer (CIFT)
ACSM/ACS Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer (CET)
ACSM/NPAS Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist (PAPHS)

NASM:
Certified Personal Training (CPT)
Certified Group Fitness Instructor (CGFI)
Performance Enhancement Specialization (PES)
Corrective Exercise Specialization (CES)
Nutrition Certification (CNC)
Behavior Change Specialization (BCS)
Virtual Coaching Specialist (VCS)
Weight Loss Specialist (WLS)

ACE:
Certified Personal Training
Certified Group Fitness Instructor
Certified Health Coach
Certified Medical Exercise Specialist

ISSA:
Certified Glute Specialist
Weight Management Specialist
Exercise Recovery Specialist
Bodybuilding Specialist
Certified Indoor Cycling Instructor
Corrective Exercise Specialist
Group Exercise Instructor
DNA-Based Fitness Coach
Strength & Conditioning Certification
Exercise Therapy Certification
Performance Enhancement Certification
Lifespan Coach Certification
Senior Fitness Certification
Online Coach Certification
Nutritionist
Certified Yoga Instructor
Transformation Specialist
Kickboxing Instructor
Youth Fitness Certification
Powerlifting Instructor

SCW:
Group Exercise
Personal Trainer
Aquatic Exercise
Active Aging
Active Aging Nutrition
Aqua Barre
Barre
Boxing
Career Crash Course
Core Training
Corrective Exercise
Functional Flexibility
Functional Pilates
Group Step
Group Strength
HIIT
Kettlebell Training
Kids in Motion
Meditation
Mind Body Fusion
Moms in Motion
Nutrition Coaching for Fitness Professionals
Nutrition, Hormones & Metabolism
Performance Stability Training
Pilates Matwork
Pilates Small Apparatus
Practical Approach to Recovery & Rolling
Program Design for Fitness Professionals
Small Group Personal Training
Small Group Training
Sports Nutrition
T’ai Chi
WaterinMotion
Weight Management
Yoga 1
Yoga 2
Flowing Yoga

ASFA:
Personal Trainer
Advanced Personal Trainer
Master Personal Trainer
Health & Wellness Coach
Advanced Health & Wellness Coach
Master Health & Wellness Coach
Advanced Cycling Instructor
Advanced Water Aerobics Instructor
Advanced Group Fitness & Bootcamp Instructor
Advanced Pilates
Advanced Senior Fitness Instructor
Advanced Yoga
Advanced Sports Nutrition
Water Aerobics Instructor
Senior Fitness Instructor
Pilates
Sports Nutrition
Yoga
Functional Fitness Training
HIIT
Dance Fitness & Hip-Hop Aerobics
Barre
Self Defense Instructor
Kettlebell Instructor
Sport Specific Training
Youth Fitness Training
Running Coach
Speed & Agility Instructor
Stretching Instructor
Women’s Fitness Instructor
Bodyweight Training
Step Aerobics & Cardio Kickboxing
Martial Arts Fitness Instructor
Tai Chi
Health Club & Gym Manager*
Core Fitness Training
Competition Bodybuilding Trainer
Olympic & Powerlifting Coach
Balance & Stability Instructor
Golf Fitness Instructor
Triathlon Coach
Foam Rolling
Fitness Professional Kit

Now, there are some very interesting options listed above and I believe that you should never stop learning, but where were the business certifications or certificate programs? Out of all of those listed, only ASFA had any business offerings. They do offer a Health Club & Gym Manager*. However, you can take their True/False exam immediately and only pay if you pass. Do you think it’s easy? You can bet on it. So, how much do you really learn and how much is this really going to help your career? ACSM used to offer a very challenging Health & Fitness Director certification (which I achieved), but then they stopped offering the program after a few years.

What’s left? Having been a personal trainer and health club manager since 1980 and a business owner off and on throughout those years, I wrote a business book for fitness professionals, The Business of Personal Training that was published in 2018 by Human Kinetics. I also spent nearly 10 years on the NSCA Personal Trainer Exam Development Committee. Putting these two together, on April 5th, I’ll be launching an exam-based fitness business certificate program, the Fitness Business Specialist. Find out more at https://fitnessbusinessspecialist.com

Certifications vs Certificate Programs

There are a gazillion certification and certificate programs available to fitness professionals. Which is better… a certification or certificate program? This was a question that I had as I was preparing my upcoming “assessment-based certificate” (ABC) program. I wanted it to be a “certification” because I believed the public perceived it as being of greater value. However, the fact is they are just different. They do different things.

Let’s start with the purpose. A certification is an assessment meant to recognize competency in a particular area of information. While it may recommend certain resources, the information can be learned from any factual source. An ABC program, on the other hand, teaches the information and then assesses the participant’s competency on that material.

The assessment for a certification is conducted by a separate certifying body while the ABC assessment is conducted by the educational body.

As for ongoing requirements, certifications typically require ongoing education in order to maintain the certification, whereas ABCs only require passing the initial assessment to keep the designation.

Both the certification and the ABC program can earn accreditation if they meet the guidelines of the accrediting organization.

Note that an ABC program requires a demonstration of mastery and is not the same as receiving a certificate of completion or attendance.

Now that you understand the difference between these two you may notice, as I did, many certification programs out there that are actually ABC programs. Does it really matter? Maybe not, but I like to make sure that I’m not perpetuating a misunderstanding.

Resources: https://www.credentialingexcellence.org/programdifferences, https://www.asha.org/CE/CEUs/Professional-Certification-vs-Certificate-Program/

It’s-Not-About-You!

Once again, I feel the need to remind fitness professionals that Facebook and IG pics and videos that show themselves in their intense, half naked glory is not driving new members to their business. “Look at me! Look at how good I look! Look how driven I am. Train with me if you want to look as phenomenal as I do.” (That’s only a little bit exaggerated.)

I’m not saying they don’t get a lot of likes and comments. People like to look at great bodies and insane workouts (while sitting on their sofas at home). However, do they think, “Yeah, I want that person to be my trainer.”? It’s not as likely as you may think.

First, a spectacular body can be very intimidating. It can make people feel that unless they reach that pinnacle, they are losers. The thoughts of, “I could never reach that.” is constantly at play in their head.

Second, photos or videos of intense workouts makes viewers think, “That’s just too hard!” and “I can’t do that!” Let’s face it, people were fascinated watching The Biggest Loser, but the images of overweight individuals working out so hard that they were sick or crying or both did not inspire that many people to start working out. Remember, 80% of the US population doesn’t get the prescribed amount of exercise and 70% are overweight or obese.

What inspires people are pictures of caring, kind personal trainers and people similar to them working out with doable exercises and intensities. In selecting photos or videos, think about your target market. Who are they? What do they want? Use media that represents them, not you. Because it’s just not about you.

When You Refer, Your Brand is at Stake

It’s very important to have a network of professionals that you can refer your people to. All of those things that they need that you do not do. This could be a chiropractor, a massage therapist, a registered dietician, or even a good car mechanic.

Being able to help your members/clients solve a problem that they have is a great way to build social currency (being held in higher esteem). Which equals greater loyalty. So, yea! However, be careful who you refer people to. Every referral that you make is a reflection on you and your brand. As said, a successful referral increases the positive feelings that people have for you, but, a negative experience can have the opposite effect. You lose respect and loyalty.

Build your referral network by getting to know the people you intend on referring people to. Chiropractor? Go talk with them and get an adjustment. Massage therapist? Get a massage. Don’t refer unless you know what they can do. Sure, it will take longer to build that network, but your clients, the people you referring your clients to, and your brand will thank you.

Note: What got me going on this was that I was talked into joining this online referral group. As I made connections to other businesses, I kept getting asked to refer them when I really didn’t know anything about them. Referrals are precious. Use them only when you know that they will serve your people well.

Reopening Communication Begins With Your Team.

Once the pandemic restrictions are lifted, clubs/studios around the country will slowly start to reopen. Much of what I see published these days about plans for reopening is the importance of communicating with your members/clients. This IS very important. Not only does your facility need to take all of the steps necessary to create as safe an environment as possible for your members/clients, but you need to let them know exactly what you have done and will be doing. Their perception of safety is what will bring them back through your doors.

However, before that, you have to communicate with your team. They are going to have their own fears and concerns and if they don’t understand or agree with the reopening procedures, they won’t be able to pass that on to your members/clients.

Start by involving them in the discussion. Before you tell them what the new rules are, ask them what would make them feel safe in delivering their services. Ask them what they think would be important guidelines to put in place. Even if they come up with the same ideas that you had, if they say it first, there will be greater understanding and buy in. They may also come up with some items that you had overlooked. After they are satisfied with their list, ask their thoughts on any additional ideas that you might have had on your list.

Once reopening procedures are set, walk your whole team through the club/studio, mapping out how all of the new guidelines will be actualized. Answer all your teams questions thoroughly so that they are all on the same page and can communicate the guidelines to your members/clients. Document all of this in writing and/or video for their future reference.

Finally, role play potential challenges that may come up with members/clients. There are going to be members/clients that either don’t understand or don’t want to play by the rules. Role play these scenarios with your team and discuss the possible outcomes with them.

The best opportunity you have to get your members/clients back in your club/studio as soon as possible, is to have your team prepped, ready, and eager to help them with the transition into your facility’s new normal.

Good luck!

Are You Ready to Reopen?

The national guidelines for reopening the country put gyms/health clubs/studios into Phase 1. As of Friday, some facilities opened in Georgia. How and if facilities were opening has been a huge discussion over the past week. Where do you stand and are you ready to safely reopen your business?

Our brick and mortar business, Jiva Fitness, is in Easton, PA. First, in PA, gyms are not in the first phase of reopening and I anticipate at least another month or two of being closed. However, now is a great time to talk about the considerations of how to safely open.

Untitled design (87)Let’s start by recognizing that there are the things we can do to prevent the spread of the virus and there are things we can do to increase the perception of what we are doing. What I mean by that is that if we just cleaned, sanitized, moved equipment, etc. and never said anything about it, people would not know how safe it is to come to our facilities. If we want our members/clients to return, we also need to show and tell them everything we are doing. Make everything visible and people will feel more comfortable. I’ve seen some great videos on the internet of clubs talking to their members/clients about what they are doing to safely reopen. That needs to be followed up by signage and by the constant assurance of the staff. (BTW, make sure your staff knows all that you are doing.)

Some things that can be done:

  • Encourage members/clients to stay at home if they are not feeling well. Don’t assume that people are thinking about it. Post a list of symptoms at the door and have them do a mental checklist just to keep them on guard.
  • Taking members temperatures at the door. Some facilities are doing this and others are taking staff’s temperatures. My thoughts? Not having a temperature does not mean they are not carrying the virus. It will create lines that will have to be controlled and spaced. One benefit of this, however, would be the perception of taking every precaution. This isn’t one that we’re going to implement at our facility.
  • Wearing masks would help but remember, you wear them to not infect others, not keep yourself safe. Do you make this mandatory? If optional, it’s always the “inconsiderate of others” types that leave weights on the floor, restack weights improperly, leave sweat on machines, don’t wear masks, and sneeze and cough on everyone and everything. (no rant here 😉 ) I also know masks are uncomfortable and can cause skin irritation when working out. So, I honestly don’t know about this one and will have to make a decision when it gets closer for us.
  • Washing hands on entry and exit seems to be a common precaution. While washing hands on entry would be good, this could also create lines that need to be controlled. As for washing on exit, I’m not sure how necessary or effective it is. For us, we don’t actually have a washroom in our facility, just one in the building’s common hallway. We will be requiring everyone to use the hand sanitizer on entry.
  • Increase the HVAC circulation frequency and change the filter more often if you can. In our historic building, we only have a vented heating system and window air conditioning, so this isn’t something we can do.
  • Increased cleaning schedule. Deeper and more frequent cleaning is needed for floors, equipment, all surfaces, door handles, drinking fountains (although, if we had one, I might turn it off), locker rooms, wash rooms, etc. This also includes having members clean everything that they touch/use (provide plenty of spray disinfectant and wipes or towels).
  • Encourage members to bring their own water bottles and mats. Mats are so up close and personal, I think everyone would be more comfortable using their own.
  • 6′ distance apart and then some. Be generous with space. Remember, “spray” can travel more than 6′. We’re probably going to allow less than half capacity in our studio.
  • Have class equipment out and leave it out. Most studios have equipment located in one location where everyone needs to go to gather and take care of their equipment. We’re going to set up the equipment before class and, after they clean their equipment, members will leave them in place and we will switch the equipment for the next class.
  • Plenty of signage to inform and set expectations. Never assume people know or remember what they should be doing. You can have arrows on the floor to direct traffic and lines to denote 6′ distances. Whatever will help members/clients follow your guidelines.
  • Distance high fives. Keep the social distancing, but keep the social engagement (and maybe a little fun) happening.

Now, for us and many of you, it’s a sit back, wait and see. Then, when we get the official green light to reopen, we need to ask ourselves if we are comfortable with it. You need to feel very confident that opening will not put anyone at additional risk. In the meantime, get your reopening plan ready and make that decision when the time comes.

Best of luck going forward.

What’s Your Coronavirus Plan?

This week, Men’s Fitness came out with an article about how gyms are dealing with the coronavirus. (What Gyms and Fitness Centers Are Doing About Coronavirus)  This is definitely something we should all be considering, but first, let’s start with the facts.

covid19

  1. It’s spread person-to-person and surface-to-person. So, if someone coughs or sneezes within 6ft of you, the particles could land in your eyes, nose, or mouth or be could inhaled. You could also touch a surface that has the virus on it and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes. (CDC)
  2. At the writing of this post, in the US there are 80 reported cases from 13 states and 9 deaths. There will be many more. (CDC)
  3. There is no vaccine to prevent it and no approved medical interventions to treat it. However, “most people in the United States will have little immediate risk of exposure to this virus.” and while the symptoms can range from mild to severe and even death, the most severe cases are in the elderly in those with compromised heart and respiratory systems. (CDC)
  4. For Prevention, the CDC recommends:
    1. “Avoid close contact with people who are sick.” No surprise here.
    2. “Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.” Harder than you may think. Start practicing.
    3. “Stay home when you are sick.” Now is not the time to brave through it. Think of those you could be infecting.
    4. “Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.” So, carry tissues.
    5. “Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.”
    6. “CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from COVID-19.” Here’s news. Reserve their use for medical professionals or if you are already sick.
    7. “Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.”

Back to what this means as fitness professionals, what should we expect and what should we be doing? Here’s my list of “at the gym or studio” guidelines.

  1. Post guidelines for members that include:
    1. Stay at home if you are sick.
    2. Cover your mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough.
    3. Disinfect any equipment that you touch.
    4. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently.
    5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  2. Have staff disinfect frequently handled objects such as door handles, locker latches, etc.
  3. Provide plenty of disinfecting spray bottles and cloth or paper towels to wipe equipment with. Have these located all around the facility. If they are not convenient, they won’t be used.
  4. Have plenty of tissues around the facility.
  5. Have plenty of hand sanitizer around the facility.
  6. Have plenty of antibacterial soap and paper towels in the locker rooms and restrooms.

This will make your club as safe as it can be, but that may not be enough for some people. When it comes to risking sickness, people get afraid. Fear is a powerful emotion. It’s visceral and in spite of the low risk of contracting the virus at your facility, people will be avoiding heavily populated places, yours included. That becomes a whole other problem. Loss of income for you and, for the member, loss of training time and its benefits.

This would be a time to:

  1. Have members work with a personal trainer to create an “at home” workout program.
  2. Provide an online training program.
  3. Create a hybrid training program the combines the two options above.
  4. Stream classes for members use.

The coronavirus is a real issue that’s not going away soon. The best way to deal with it is by knowing the latest news from a reputable source (I’m sticking with the CDC as my main source), being proactive in managing your facility’s sanitizing measures, and by being proactive in handling your members fears and needs.

Stay healthy!

From HIIT to SHIIT

We tend to be an industry of all or nothing. “No pain, no gain.” “Just do it!” “Go Big or go home!” That’s true whether we’re talking the platitudes of so-called inspiration or in how we see programming. I remember early in my career thinking that the guidelines had to be followed. ACSM said you had to do cardio 3-5 times per week, resistance training 2-3 times per week, etc, and if you didn’t, you just weren’t committed to getting healthier. Over the years, I learned that anything more than you were currently doing, was beneficial and that the attitude of “there’s no point if you’re not giving it 100%” was sadly misguided and likely to chase away many of the people that needed our help.

Untitled design (72)My current pet peeve is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). It’s hugely popular and very effective, (and I use it with clients regularly) BUT… it’s pushed out onto the population with the expectation that, if you aren’t close to throwing up, you’re wasting your time. I beg to differ.

First, we need to recognize that high intensity does not mean doing special “HIIT exercises”. High intensity is about the challenge level not a particular exercise. One doesn’t need to do Burpees to be working at high intensity. Walking briskly may be high intensity if someone hasn’t been doing it.

Second, HIIT is not fun. That kind of discomfort, even with the shorter time duration, can turn people off of wanting to exercise if they are not used to it. 

Third, HIIT comes with risk. The higher the intensity the higher the risk. Is taking that risk worth hitting a designated % of your VO2 max? Like resistance training and cardiovascular training, HIIT should be built up to. 

Let’s talk SHIIT…. Slightly Higher Intensity Interval Training (Yes, I know. It makes me laugh too.). You can start teaching people what intervals are all about and have them begin them utilizing an only slightly greater speed than is normal for them. Let them get acclimated as to what higher intensity is all about and gradually work them up to higher levels. Say you’re using the Tabata protocol, count the number of repetitions, or meters, or watts that your clients or students can do at a moderate challenge level. If there are no repercussions from that bout(s), the next training day you can have them do a few more or go a little farther. Continue gradually increasing until they are truly going at a high intensity level. SHIIT will help new people get used to doing something a little harder than they have been, not to mention giving them time to nail the form of the activity.

The point is that HIIT, like other fitness guidelines, is something that can be a goal for clients, but shouldn’t be where we start them. We need to meet them where they are and gradually bring them along until fitness becomes part of their lives.

So, are you ready to do some SHIIT? (snort!)