Part 1 - Building relationships with your customers and prospects using auto-responders

This is the first article in the Fitness Marketing Makeover series, designed to overhaul your marketing and have you trampling the competition in no time. Hold on tight, because it's going to be a wild ride. We're going to jump head-first into a topic that's going to be the backbone for a lot of the other strategies we'll discuss: building relationships with your customers and prospects. This is a big one, and I'm going to beat it to death the next several months, but let's start with an understanding of what I'm talking about.
 
Your Clients Are Not Water Filters
It's time to start building a pipeline of prospects you can turn into clients. I want you to take a deep breath, pause, and remember this moment because this can be a major turning point for your training business.
 
There's a big difference between our business and someone marketing, say, water filters for your refrigerator.
 
Last week, the little orange light went on in my fridge telling me my filter was running low and that I needed a new one or I'd have to start throwing my money away on bottled water. I did what every other person does in 2008; I walked over to my computer, fired up Google, typed in my water filter model, got back some results, went to the first one and ordered two new filters.
 
That's a fine order process for somebody selling water filters. The problem is that most trainers think that's the same process that their customers will go through. Wrong! I was able to find the filter I wanted right off the bat because:
 
  • I knew precisely what I wanted.
  • It was inexpensive enough that little or no research was needed.
  • It's an impersonal item or one I've purchased before.
Your prospects (prospects are everyone who isn't yet a customer) don't have it so easy. They don't know exactly what they want. They want to do some research and probably won't make a snap decision like I did with my filter. They want to get to know you before making such a personal choice such as who their trainer will be. So we need to do things a little differently.
 
But first, let's make sure we're on the same page. The majority of your prospects will not be looking specifically for you. They'll be looking for something more general, more conducive to research than an actual purchasing decision. They'll search for "personal trainer in Chicago" or something similar, but they won't just pick out the first trainer they see as if they're buying a water filter. They need more.
 
This is good for you, because your competition is almost certainly ignoring this completely. When you go to most trainers' websites, it tells a little about who they are, what they offer, maybe some sexy photos of their abs to feed their egos, but that's about it. Either the visitor takes action right that instant, or they leave, probably never to return. The marketing is designed to sell things that don't require thought, like water filters, not personal training.
 
We're going to assume that your marketing is already making an offer and giving a reason to respond right now, and has powerful copy, so we can quickly grab as many prospects as possible. But to think we'll get them all right then or else they're not interested at all is naive and a big reason you're leaving a boatload of money on the table. Some of your visitors are going to get a trainer soon, or else they wouldn't be searching for one. They're just not ready quite yet, so you need to let them "marinate" a little. And you need to be there when they are ready.
 
Capture Client Contact Information
You can do this a lot of different ways, but we'll use me as an example: I like to give away really good free reports because I can produce them once and leverage it many, many times. Beyond that, they allow the prospect to have some level of interaction with you now. They allow clients to get to know you through that report and start building the relationship. They also allow clients to research you and your services even after they leave your website. Maybe most importantly, when done correctly, they let you capture their email address.
 
Follow Up!
This is huge. It seems so simple, but it's absolutely tremendously important. You want their email address because you want to - you need to - follow up. You want to send them their free report, some other tips and maybe another report, then ask if they want training, purchase a product or a million other things. But this cannot be done if you don't know who they are.
 
When clients get back into work the following morning, what should be waiting in their inbox? A little hello from you. The next day, maybe an article or tip. And when they're finally ready to start training, they're not going to need to research all over again and hope to find you because you'll be the obvious choice. You built a relationship with them. You gave them great free material, and they may feel that they owe you. All from one email address!
 
Make It Easy with Auto-responders
I think it goes without saying that you don't do all this manually. I sure don't want you getting calluses on your thumb from hitting "send" thousands of times. You manage this using what's called an auto-responder, which generates emails for you on a set schedule. For instance, when clients sign up to my fitness marketing list, my auto-responder automatically sends them a free email seminar for the first day, an extra bonus the second day, and so on and so forth. I type the messages once and use it thousands of times. I leverage myself. It's kind of like cloning, without the nasty side effects.
 
The beauty of auto-responders is that they allow you to build relationships with your prospects and clients and still stay relatively hands-off to focus on other marketing activities we'll be talking about. It's not a bad idea to have separate lists for prospects and clients too, so you can send different, more tailored messages to particular audiences.
 
Make sure to read next month's article, where I discuss ways to cut the costs of your services to make it more affordable in our tough economic times while increasing your revenue using strategic marketing.
 
Activating Your Own Auto-Responder
  1. Sign up on a website for service (try www.aweber.com or www.getresponse.com).
  2. Set up a name for the list, who the message is going to come from, whether you want to be notified when someone is added and some other basic information.
  3. Create a form you can use on your website that asks your visitors to enter their name and email address. Both Aweber and Getresponse have simple wizards to do this for you.
  4. Then you create your messages. Whenever someone joins your list, they'll automatically be sent emails.
Rich Butkevic, CFT, a.k.a. "Coach Rich," is a personal trainer and consultant to fitness professionals who are serious about optimizing and growing their business. He was responsible for marketing and Internet projects for companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo!, AT&T and others. He's also the author of the Trainer Traffic System, a step-by-step marketing system for fitness professionals (www.trainertraffic.com).

Read Part 2 – Cut costs while increasing revenue using strategic marketing>>
Read Part 3 – The power of positioning>>
Read Part 4 – Testing your marketing>>
Read Part 5 – Testing your marketing for five bucks at lightning speed using Google AdWords>>
Read Part 6 – Top seven tools of successful fitness marketers>>
 

This is the first article in the Fitness Marketing Makeover series, designed to overhaul your marketing and have you trampling the competition in no time. Hold on tight, because it's going to be a wild ride. We're going to jump head-first into a topic that's going to be the backbone for a lot of the other strategies we'll discuss: building relationships with your customers and prospects. This is a big one, and I'm going to beat it to death the next several months, but let's start with an understanding of what I'm talking about.

 

Your Clients Are Not Water Filters

It's time to start building a pipeline of prospects you can turn into clients. I want you to take a deep breath, pause, and remember this moment because this can be a major turning point for your training business.

 

There's a big difference between our business and someone marketing, say, water filters for your refrigerator.

 

Last week, the little orange light went on in my fridge telling me my filter was running low and that I needed a new one or I'd have to start throwing my money away on bottled water. I did what every other person does in 2008; I walked over to my computer, fired up Google, typed in my water filter model, got back some results, went to the first one and ordered two new filters.
 

That's a fine order process for somebody selling water filters. The problem is that most trainers think that's the same process that their customers will go through. Wrong! I was able to find the filter I wanted right off the bat because:

 

  • I knew precisely what I wanted.
  • It was inexpensive enough that little or no research was needed.
  • It's an impersonal item or one I've purchased before.

Your prospects (prospects are everyone who isn't yet a customer) don't have it so easy. They don't know exactly what they want. They want to do some research and probably won't make a snap decision like I did with my filter. They want to get to know you before making such a personal choice such as who their trainer will be. So we need to do things a little differently.

 

But first, let's make sure we're on the same page. The majority of your prospects will not be looking specifically for you. They'll be looking for something more general, more conducive to research than an actual purchasing decision. They'll search for "personal trainer in Chicago" or something similar, but they won't just pick out the first trainer they see as if they're buying a water filter. They need more.

 

This is good for you, because your competition is almost certainly ignoring this completely. When you go to most trainers' websites, it tells a little about who they are, what they offer, maybe some sexy photos of their abs to feed their egos, but that's about it. Either the visitor takes action right that instant, or they leave, probably never to return. The marketing is designed to sell things that don't require thought, like water filters, not personal training.

 

We're going to assume that your marketing is already making an offer and giving a reason to respond right now, and has powerful copy, so we can quickly grab as many prospects as possible. But to think we'll get them all right then or else they're not interested at all is naive and a big reason you're leaving a boatload of money on the table. Some of your visitors are going to get a trainer soon, or else they wouldn't be searching for one. They're just not ready quite yet, so you need to let them "marinate" a little. And you need to be there when they are ready.

 

Capture Client Contact Information

You can do this a lot of different ways, but we'll use me as an example: I like to give away really good free reports because I can produce them once and leverage it many, many times. Beyond that, they allow the prospect to have some level of interaction with you now. They allow clients to get to know you through that report and start building the relationship. They also allow clients to research you and your services even after they leave your website. Maybe most importantly, when done correctly, they let you capture their email address.

 

Follow Up!

This is huge. It seems so simple, but it's absolutely tremendously important. You want their email address because you want to - you need to - follow up. You want to send them their free report, some other tips and maybe another report, then ask if they want training, purchase a product or a million other things. But this cannot be done if you don't know who they are.

 

When clients get back into work the following morning, what should be waiting in their inbox? A little hello from you. The next day, maybe an article or tip. And when they're finally ready to start training, they're not going to need to research all over again and hope to find you because you'll be the obvious choice. You built a relationship with them. You gave them great free material, and they may feel that they owe you. All from one email address!

 

Make It Easy with Auto-responders

I think it goes without saying that you don't do all this manually. I sure don't want you getting calluses on your thumb from hitting "send" thousands of times. You manage this using what's called an auto-responder, which generates emails for you on a set schedule. For instance, when clients sign up to my fitness marketing list, my auto-responder automatically sends them a free email seminar for the first day, an extra bonus the second day, and so on and so forth. I type the messages once and use it thousands of times. I leverage myself. It's kind of like cloning, without the nasty side effects.

 

The beauty of auto-responders is that they allow you to build relationships with your prospects and clients and still stay relatively hands-off to focus on other marketing activities we'll be talking about. It's not a bad idea to have separate lists for prospects and clients too, so you can send different, more tailored messages to particular audiences.

 

Make sure to read next month's article, where I discuss ways to cut the costs of your services to make it more affordable in our tough economic times while increasing your revenue using strategic marketing.

 

Activating Your Own Auto-Responder

  1. Sign up on a website for service (try www.aweber.com or www.getresponse.com).
  2. Set up a name for the list, who the message is going to come from, whether you want to be notified when someone is added and some other basic information.
  3. Create a form you can use on your website that asks your visitors to enter their name and email address. Both Aweber and Getresponse have simple wizards to do this for you.
  4. Then you create your messages. Whenever someone joins your list, they'll automatically be sent emails.

Rich Butkevic, CFT, a.k.a. "Coach Rich," is a personal trainer and consultant to fitness professionals who are serious about optimizing and growing their business. He was responsible for marketing and Internet projects for companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo!, AT&T and others. He's also the author of the Trainer Traffic System, a step-by-step marketing system for fitness professionals (www.trainertraffic.com).

Read Part 2

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