As personal trainers, were very used to the one-on-one relationship, but the minute we hang a sign outside our own training studio or gym, things change. Trying to go it alone isnt just lonely it can be deadly for business.
Marketers to small businesses often use the phrase youre in business for yourself, not by yourself," which sums up the shift in maverick mentality that trainers need to make. Alone, you can effectively train a handful of clients, but when paired with community groups, other business owners, civic leaders and other influential people in your area, your power to affect change and drive business skyrockets. To be a forceful leader of your business, you must create strategic alliances.
Strategic alliances are more than just a method of prolonging your stay on some reality TV show they are a way to improve your business by positioning yourself among those who make big business decisions. They are a way to minimize marketing costs by doing cooperative projects and a way to expand yourself and your market through the most cost-effective advertising ever invented: word of mouth.
So who should you strategically align yourself with? There are countless people in your community who could benefit you by benefiting themselves, and most other communities have them as well. Heres a few to get you thinking about who you need to have lunch with next:
· The president and marketing director of your chamber of commerce These people know lots of people, and they are very approachable. Both would welcome a meeting with a chamber member (hint: its a good idea to join your chamber) and theyre more than eager to speak with someone who might want to volunteer for or sponsor a chamber event. I have worked closely with the chambers of commerce in a large cities as well as in the small town in which I now live by volunteering for the communication committee, being an ambassador, sponsoring lunches, and writing fitness/success articles for the chamber newsletter, and those experiences always lead to other profitable relationships that help business come through my door.
· The mayor and city council representatives In metropolitan areas, these folks may be less accessible than those in a small town, but politicians are usually interested in hearing from their constituents. Call your council representative and schedule a short meeting about a topic in which you have both knowledge and passion, whether it be the quality of area green spaces and parks, the lack of quality in your school districts lunches or the climbing obesity epidemic in your corner of the world. Find a local initiative in which you can be a part of the solution and present your case. Alternatively, ask your councilman or woman how you can get onto the local parks and recreation board, the local fitness council or any appointed committee that represents the health and well-being of you and your neighbors. Once you have cemented a relationship with your local representative, attend events or council meetings where items relevant to you will be discussed and ask your representative to introduce you to the mayor and other council members.
· Doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors and other health professionals We trainers often make the mistake as viewing ourselves as just fitness professionals rather than health professionals. When we see ourselves as part of our clients health care network, it is easy to see why networking with our potential teammates is important. Doctors, physical therapists, and chiropractors routinely prescribe exercise to their patients, and would most likely refer patients to you if they knew you and your reputation for quality. Let the director of marketing or director of education at your local hospital know that you would enjoy the opportunity to speak about fitness or nutrition at any community education workshops the hospital will host. Also, cooperative marketing opportunities abound with physical therapists, chiropractors and cosmetic surgeons/med spas are endless. If your demographics and the health professionals demographics are similar, approach them with your ideas for shared mailing, an evening seminar in which you are both speakers, links to each others websites or displaying in their waiting rooms a fitness article you authored.
· The media Newspaper, television and magazine editors, reporters and photographers are far more likely to do a story on a business owner they know to be a swell guy than one that they dont know. Just like any other business person, members of the media will go to those they know first, especially when theyre short on time or in a bind. Generate a first-name-basis relationship with these people, one in which you can pitch an idea over an informal email, and youll be far more successful than if you litter their desks (and trash cans) with press releases. Find out if anyone you know is familiar with someone in the media and get permission to mention the persons name when pitching a story idea to that media contact. If you dont have an in, offer to train a reporter for free and ask him or her to chronicle the experience and results in an article, or you can get involved with a charity event that will draw media coverage. Position yourself as the fitness expert at the event and kindly introduce yourself to the reporters and photographers.
· High-end hair stylists, massage therapists, country club golf and tennis pros, financial planners and other professionals with close ties to your potential clientele In addition to you, think of who your clients know and trust and visit these people on a regular basis. They have great power to refer other service providers, because theyve already gained the loyalty of their own clientele. If those other professionals get to know and like you, and you them, all of your businesses could benefit from the mutually trusted referrals both of you would provide to your respective clients. Additionally, these people are a wealth of opportunity for cooperative marketing. Like you, they all need a steady stream of clients walking through their door, so approach them with ideas, such as free 30-minute massage certificates for you to distribute to your best clients in exchange for free 30-minute training certificates for the respected massage therapists to distribute to their best clients.
· Other fitness professionals in your area Too often do we see other studio and gym owners or trainers as our competition rather than our allies, but what if we shifted from dog-eat-dog and survival of the fittest to the idea that there is enough for everybody? When more people are in the fitness business, more of the general population will get fit. Isnt that why we really got into this business to affect massive positive change on an increasingly fat and unhealthy population? Team up with other fitness pros in your area to create fitness events like Get XYZ Town Fit!, where you do cooperative advertising and invite the press as each facility runs drop-dead specials, serves protein smoothies and leads free outdoor exercise classes in the park. When you work together, youre much more likely to generate publicity and increase business for everybody.
· Bankers, real estate agents, restaurant owners, insurance agents, and others Think about those who deal with many people on a daily basis and get to know as many of these people as possible. How powerful would it be if a potential client asked her real estate agent, her banker and her insurance agent if they knew of a good trainer and all of them mentioned your name! Not to mention the real estate agent who might let you put your brochure in her gift basket to new home owners, the restaurant owner who might let you host monthly lunchtime healthy eating seminars in his restaurant and the insurance agent who might agree to run a shared ad for his health insurance and your health insurance (which comes in the form of regular exercise).
The most important part of creating strategic alliances is looking for win-win scenarios. Generate ideas that not only benefit you but also, or maybe even more so, your potential partner. Ask what these potential partners are passionate about or what their biggest concern is and come up with a mutually beneficial strategy to address these issues. When somebody sees that youre looking out for their best interest, the alliance becomes a no-brainer.
Shelby Murphy is the owner/director of Shelby Murphy Training & Fitness personal training studio and Granbury Adventure Boot Camp for Women. She has created a variety of strategic alliances to generate publicity, share advertising costs, drive business and increase fitness awareness. For more information, visit www.shelbymurphyfitness.com, email Shelby@ShelbyMurphyFitness.com or call 817.326.6321.