This is a guest post by Bryce Patterson. Bryce is an expert in all things business: from getting off the ground to growing your audience to millions, Bryce covers it all over on FounderU. Outside of giving businesses and non-profits a more human, relatable voice; Bryce has written a novel, worked on a comic book, and played in a handful of bands. He lives in Colorado.
Recurring revenue is the bedrock of a coaching business, and customer retention is key to this exploding field. As a personal trainer, you’re bringing the energy and the passion your business needs to grow. But are you prepared for the challenges it takes to change and scale over time?
If you’re already coaching in-person, you might want to consider expanding into the digital market. This can bring your services to a massive new range of customers, and offers a ton of exciting opportunities.
There are a lot of different ways that this can look, but as a digital coach you can offer a mix of in-person services, digital coaching, and digital products to your audience. The different revenue streams (both passive and active) can really explode your income, but they also come with range of challenges.
Read on for a guide to growing your coaching business online and building a consistent source of revenue.
Define and Lean Into Your Niche
How will you stand out online? This is the key question for all digital businesses, and a lot of the answer depends on finding a specific niche audience. Your brand is a story.
In the words of Kurt Vonnegut: “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”
Okay, so maybe don’t orient your business just to the needs of one person. Thinking more specifically about your audience is a vital step to growing your business, though, and this process can be massively eased by thinking in terms of a few specific people and your personal background.
Which groups do you feel most comfortable working with, and what kinds of clients do you find benefit most from your services? Are you helping athletes push harder and become the best they can be, or older clients trying to take charge of their health? Is weight loss your specialty, or building muscle definition? Are your workout plans generally aimed more at men, women, or both? Defining factors like these can help you market your business more clearly and should be an extension of your existing goals and revenue streams.
Your niche will play into every aspect of your business as you grow and scale, so even if you already have a set of ideas in place, spend some time developing your persona as a coach.
Take a look at testimonials you have from existing clients- do you see any patterns? What do they find most helpful from your services? What do they enjoy about working with you? If you have any existing materials you use for marketing or as lead magnets, look at their orientation. What audience are you trying to reach? You may find yourself upcycling these materials into new resources over time (i.e. crafting existing blog content into an eBook) so make sure the messaging is on-point. Essentially, this process is a brand audit, and from here, you can dig into your marketing with an eye toward your broader brand story.
Market Your Coaching Business (Like a Pro)
You’re likely already marketing your business to one degree or another, so rather than focusing on an overview of digital marketing, let’s dig into the nitty gritty.
Instagram is the key social channel for most fitness-oriented businesses, and with good reason. The image-orientation of the platform makes it easy to show off results and provide the proof that many customers require when considering a digital coach. You’re probably thinking more about how to grow your Instagram following, and convert that audience into paying customers.
Canva is a great free tool for graphic design, and it’s incredibly simple to use. This can be a great way to stylishly market special offers and products on your Instagram without having to hire a graphic designer. Connect with businesses in complementary niches to market each other’s offerings. Tagging can be a valuable tool for bringing your account to the attention of other organizations.
The key is to provide value from the very beginning. You’re not just showing off what your workout style can do for you- you’re putting forward a value proposition to potential clients, i.e. this works for me, and it can work for you.
Videos detailing some of your initial stretches, workouts, meals, etc. can be instantly helpful and informative, while suggesting that you have more to offer. The “Story” feature is a great way to get these bite-size pieces of information out to your followers. Remember that connecting with your audience is just as important as sharing your content and products. Take the time to develop and grow your connections, and respond to every comment.
Just because you’re growing your business online doesn’t mean you can’t use local media for marketing and growing your business. Check out local options for press coverage- consider reaching out to newspapers in your area and pitching a feature oriented around your business. This is a great chance to publicly lean into your niche and the narrative that drives your brand.
Remember that workouts are a highly seasonal business with differing demands depending on the time of year. As Haley writes in 4 Steps to Starting an Online Personal Training Business: “Selling seasonal workout plans means you need to be very proactive in marketing yourself. By January, you should be working on selling swimsuit season workouts, by June selling outdoor workout plans and by September it’s getting into shape before the holidays.”
With any kind of recurring-revenue business, the kind of leads you bring in are crucial to the health of your business. Market honestly- bad-fit leads will slow down your growth. Rather than trying to bring in every interested customer, keep in mind the time and effort you expend on customers that are poorly suited to your specific coaching style and business. Long-term customers, on the other hand, make it easier to plan around your business over time based on recurring (rather than new) revenue.
So the key question is: how do you build up revenue for your coaching business long-term?
Establish Healthy, Growing Revenue Streams
The key here is to establish relationships with room to grow and develop over time. Think about a range of revenue streams based on tiers of interaction.
The first tier, for example, could involve little to no interaction with you. Selling PDF meal and workout plans online is a great way to get potential clients interested in your other offerings, while building up an added source of revenue. These are also great tools for building up your email list.
Your second tier can focus on your in-person services. This is likely the tier you’ve focused on already if you’re running a coaching business. Either group or one-on-one coaching options call fall under this tier.
The key here is leaving yourself room to grow in your “premium tier,” so that clients already enjoying your service can take next steps. This can include access to premium resources, one-on-one meal planning, subscription-based plans, or really any form of deeper connection beyond your regular meetings.
Consider building up connections with your favorite brands as an affiliate. If your following is large enough and values your recommendations, you may find this a valuable source of side revenue. A few tips for affiliate marketing:
- Be tactful when pitching products. Authority in your niche is a precious resource and overwhelming your audience with product advertising can distract from your main message and give the sense that you are only interested in selling.
- Always recommend products that you have tried yourself. This way you already know the value you’ve gain from the product and can be confident your audience will also find value.
- Don’t cram your affiliate links into every possible space. Choose a handful of products you feel comfortable marketing, and feature them (sparingly) in your content.
One key to making a training business work online is keeping in mind the importance of a streamlined, secure payment process. Make sure it’s super easy to sign up, and pay particular attention to credit card information pages.
There are basic requirements here, like an SSL certificate to protect customer information. Otherwise, it’s important to make sure these pages are mobile-optimized for easy updating on the go. Remember that involuntary churn is a huge issue for any recurring revenue model- it’s so, so easy for customers to forget to update their payment method when they get a new card, for example, but this can wreak havoc on your revenue. Use Churn Buster for the full suite of non-invasive, highly customizable dunning tools.
Set Yourself Up for Long-Term Growth
Build up a base of testimonials. Continually optimize your website and your general online presence. Grow your social media following with quality content. Consider using paid advertising in your local area and pay-per-click digital advertising via Google or Facebook. Find potential partnerships, either via affiliate marketing or complementary businesses and organizations. Expand the resources your offer, both online and in-person.
It will take a process of continual refining to grow and scale your business over time, but all of these tools will help you to craft a healthy business with consistent income. Rather than relying on a single stream of recurring revenue, bringing your coaching business online gives you the freedom to grow in a range of ways. It’s not easy, and the process involves a lot of rinse-and-repeat to improve your business over time.
Don’t get discouraged. Building up these different streams of revenue is an investment in yourself and your business that will pay dividends over time. In the end, combining active and passive revenue will save you time, make you money, and provide steady paychecks for years to come.