By Sean Greeley

We all know it’s a challenging time in the fitness industry. 

Studio and gym owners are getting a lot thrown at them at once. Clients ghosting or putting themselves on hold, the economy’s partially shut down, cash flow’s getting tight (and tighter), and everyone has to keep going despite the uncertainty. 

And your clients and members don’t know what to do either. They’re losing strength, gaining weight, and backsliding with the progress they’ve made. And they’re feeling lost, confused, overwhelmed, and losing hope.

In the past 6 weeks we’ve worked with more than 4,000+ gym and studio owners across the globe to solve these problems and more. Here’s the 3-step plan you can follow to start turning things around.

1. Get your head right to capitalize on the tremendous growth opportunities in front of you!

Right now, most studio and gym owners are overwhelmed with the messages coming at them. 

The endless news cycle is distracting; government leaders are daily coming out with policies you have no control over. The fitness industry got shut down. And studio owners see a whole lot of trainers giving away free workouts available on YouTube and Instagram.

And then there’s just the uncertainty coming from the crisis itself. 

Step 1: Protect your mindset and don’t get overwhelmed. Take a step back, get clear, and get focused. Think it through. 

Yes, this is a wake up call for personal trainers and studio owners. Previously your business model relied 100% on face-to-face interaction to generate income, and that’s a huge risk. 

Now you have a tremendous opportunity to strengthen your model, based on the way you step up and serve the people who need your help. Clients still need results. With the gyms shut, and all the challenges that come from being isolated at home, the value a coach brings to them is incredible. They need a coach who can support and challenge them to keep moving forward with action steps that will get them closer to their goals.  

And from a business standpoint, virtual coaching is low risk, scalable, and flexible. Virtual group classes don’t get full, and group, personal training and semi-private clients can stay with you no matter where they go … if they’re on holiday or move away, they’re still your clients. And you can add Zoom accounts and coaches faster and cheaper than you find, build out, and add new facility space. 

For example, Kate Laird, owner of Love Your Body Fitness in Ottawa, immediately adapted her in-person programs for Moms to online–and is now thriving. She took the approach of “we have to keep doing this and this is how we do it now.” She didn’t give her clients the option of going “on hold” or waiting things out. She had her services up and running the same day her gym was down. Now she’s up to 45 new members, has a corporate contract, and revenue is up 31%. NOTE: For a full interview and to hear Kate’s case study, visit www.NPEfitness.com/podcast 

Key: Get a strategic mindset about coaching your clients, and don’t get overwhelmed about things you cannot control.  

2. Learn the systems and tools needed to run and manage a virtual location 

You can’t take the OFFLINE customer journey, put it on Zoom, and expect for things to work. 

Too many coaches (incorrectly) try that – it doesn’t work – and think they can’t deliver value online. They develop ‘head trash” around competing with free workouts on Instagram and YouTube.

But they forget what COACHING vs. WATCHING videos is all about.

You watch a video, try it, and … what? 

You still need a trainer to personally teach technique to avoid injuries and write programming personalized to your goals.

But even that’s not good enough. 

People need coaches. Coaches lead clients to outcomes. And coaches consider all the methods and tools available to lead clients to their goals including assessment, programming, teaching technique, accountability and support, nutrition and recovery, and community.

So your virtual business model needs to be online coaching. That means understanding your client needs (their health and fitness goals, such as getting out of pain, losing weight, improving energy levels) and removing barriers to their receiving value online. 

It’s your job to design the right way to support and best lead clients to their goals (outcomes)–depending on your model (group, semi-private, private training) and client avatar (clients that need lots of hand holding vs. clients that just want programming, etc).

Don’t wait for things to be perfect. Roll out the first version of your online program fast then work to keep improving it every day.  

You can find the opportunities to improve by simply ending every workout with 3 questions: 

  1. How was the intensity of the workout for you today? 
  2. How can we continue to improve the remote coaching experience for you? 
  3. Would you please take 2 min and send me a brief message saying what you most enjoyed about the remote session and why you’d recommend others engage this as well?

Then use the feedback to improve value to clients. Don’t stop until you are consistently delivering WOW! Only then are you ready to sell. 

3. Learn how to find and sign new clients (even during COVID-19)

We are in a new world. The strategies, offers, messaging you used to successfully market your business will NOT work in this climate.

If you want to grow, you’ve got to level up in your sales and marketing strategy and skill sets.

Most people are only PROBLEM or SOLUTION aware. That is, they don’t understand the PRODUCT or service you are selling, only the problem they have or the solution you are offering. 

Meaning they know they are gaining weight and getting weak, they know they need to move more and eat better, but they don’t understand what online training is, how it works, or how it will help them solve their problems and achieve their goals.

Therefore, right now, your best strategy and offers are to offer them a FREE trial/session. Let them experience how it works and see the benefits. Then transition to selling your regular program OR a downsell a short term program such as a 4-8 week challenge. 

Normally, we never counsel short-term programs. But some people are not thinking more than a month or two out given the current climate. Use this time to perfect the value you create for clients. 

Then keep it simple. Go for easy wins for marketing. Run engagement campaigns to most recently engaged clients. Use reactivation campaigns for inactive clients. 

Create a Referral/Bring-a-Friend campaigns with current clients who are LOVING your new programs. 

And get ready for organic growth–you’re going to get more new business by word of mouth, just by the fact there is demand and everyone else is closed.

Let’s Review

There has NEVER been a better time to grow a fitness coaching business online. Get excited (and get to work!) to capitalize on the tremendous opportunities in front of you right now.

Deliver great VALUE to clients (online or offline). It’s all about understanding client needs and removing barriers to receiving value. Learn the systems and tools needed to run and manage a virtual location and you can deliver that value. 

And most importantly, when you want to grow, commit to strategy not promotion. Learn how to better inspire and lead commitment to goals. Be clear about WHO you’re looking for and communicate HOW you can help them solve their problems and achieve their goals.

And then go at it hard–and keep at it! 

About Sean Greeley

Sean Greeley, Founder and CEO of NPE, has an unrelenting passion for empowering fitness business owners to grow their business and create the life they want. Since 2006, NPE has helped over 45,000+ fitness professionals and business owners in 96+ countries grow to the next level. 

Need a better business plan to reach your goals this year? Get clarity with a path forward to achieve your goals in 50 minutes (or less) when you schedule a free ‘Get Clear’ Strategy Session with NPE at www.NPECoachesCorner.com/canfitpro