Are you selling leads or earning them?

Jordan Brown discusses the differences between inbound and outbound marketing and how to best capitalise on the trend to build a sustainable client base.

The rapid evolution of the internet and, in particular, social media networks, has vastly expanded the marketing avenues available to personal trainers and fitness professionals.

The ‘average’ consumer has become increasingly demanding while gaining greater control over the content they receive and, subsequently, absorb. As a result, there has been a dramatic shift from outbound marketing to inbound marketing across all industries. Within the fitness industry the majority of small businesses have been slow to adapt to changes in marketing trends, ultimately limiting the potential for effective online lead generation.

Selling or earning?

If you have some knowledge of marketing, the best way to understand outbound and inbound marketing is to ask yourself whether you are selling a lead, or earning a lead. If you are selling it, you are engaging in outbound marketing; if you are earning it, you are engaging in inbound marketing.

For those without marketing knowledge, outbound marketing is like taking a fishing net out to sea, casting it off the side of your boat and hoping to catch a few tuna. More literally, outbound marketing includes cold calling, spam emailing, and putting up billboards, posters and fliers.

Contrary to outbound marketing, inbound marketing requires a higher degree of activism and is more of an art than a science. Inbound marketing is the ‘earning’ of a client through a website or blog, as well as through search engine optimisation and social media networking. A client is ‘earned’ if he or she actively engages in the content that you publish or share and becomes a paying client as a result of this engagement. As you may expect, creating content that is both interesting and informative is critical to the success of this form of marketing.

For small businesses, outbound marketing is the less effective of the two options, with data suggesting a low return on investment. No longer a strong preference for lead generation, outbound marketing has become a medium for brand recognition; as such, it is generally better suited to large developed businesses rather than smaller, developing ones.

Small businesses are often deterred by the idea of inbound marketing due to the significant time commitment and amount of patience that it requires. However, the benefits of a successful campaign far outweigh those of other forms of marketing. Additionally, inbound marketing is often significantly cheaper than outbound marketing, especially if you have a knack for generating original and creative content.

Going inbound

The first step in initiating an inbound marketing campaign is to create a website, blog, professional social media account or a combination thereof.

After the ‘pipes and plumbing’ have been established, you need to begin generating and publishing content in order to build a following and attract prospective customers. Although original content is preferable, if you find yourself lacking the inspiration to create your own content, you can ‘share’ content from other blogs or websites (remembering to provide a source for the content you are distributing).

Once you have built a following, increase consumer engagement by advertising your business. Whether it be a boot camp or personal training session, let your followers understand exactly what you are offering.

Once you have converted a client, ensure that he or she stays engaged by following up with additional, personalised content. For example, if your client discusses a desire to change his or her eating plan, engage them online by sending a link to a relevant diet blog or by helping source a nutritionist (this will also increase advocacy).

Most importantly, just like your health, your inbound marketing content should be holistic. If the primary business interest is to generate client leads for your boot camp, don’t feel as if you cannot publish content about yoga, the benefits of swimming, a cool new pair of running shoes or even a great breakfast recipe. All topics relating to a healthy lifestyle are effectively part of your ‘personal brand’.

For personal trainers, inbound marketing is a natural fit: after all, if the fitness service you offer clients is personalised, shouldn’t your approach to gaining them be as well?


Jordan Brown
After gaining his degree from the University of Sydney, and a four-year rugby career culminating in representing Australia in Rugby 7s, Jordan is applying his entrepreneurial spirit to the fitness industry.