Do PT’s still need websites?

In a world fixated on social media, why bother with a dedicated website to generate leads for your fitness business?

With the ease of access that we have to social media, many fitness professionals are increasingly questioning the need for their own websites. After all, social media and directory websites can be a very effective and affordable method of marketing your fitness business online. But what limitations does this approach have, and what are the advantages of maintaining or launching your own website?

How necessary is it to be online?

Necessary is a subjective term. A range of factors, including your current customer base, your route to market and the local competition, are important when considering your business operations and customer leads.

Today’s customer is very savvy and relishes the opportunity to make an informed purchasing decision. We live in an age where many purchases are made based solely on online reviews. So a business that doesn’t maintain an online presence can be seen as less trustworthy, and that can have a major impact on its long term success.

But an online presence represents more than just another way to generate enquiries and income. It also opens up the opportunity to scale yourself to a global business.

So, for most businesses at least, being online can help to extend reach, establish trust and attract a greater variety of customers.

Is social media enough?

You can develop a strong online presence through social media alone. Your followers may eventually become clients or customers too, if managed correctly, so it is certainly a viable means to market your business. But there are two major disadvantages of social media-only marketing.

1. You don’t own your social media channels

Despite potentially years of effort to build a following through your social media channels, you have no ownership over those followers. You are permitted access to the platform, but that can be taken away from you at any time and for reasons that may not necessarily be deemed fair.

And, if you do find yourself in the position of ever selling your business, your social media followers are not valued anywhere near as highly as actual customers.

2. Social media reach now comes with a price tag

Increasingly it is also becoming necessary to invest in paid advertising to reach your social media followers. You have probably noticed that posts from your business page reach fewer people than they once did. So the traditional advantage of social media being a free method of marketing is becoming more and more diminished.

As all of the major social media networks have now launched their paid advertising platforms, this trend of paying for reach looks set to stay – making it much harder for businesses to reach existing (and new) followers without digging into their pockets.

How does your own website differ from your social media pages?

Your website is an asset that belongs to your business. As such, you get to decide how to use it to make the most impact.

A website is not just an online business card

If your website contains nothing but your contact details and some information about your business then you are missing a huge opportunity. E-commerce (selling online), is huge business, but it’s not only for huge businesses, with technology making it simple for smaller operations to harness its power.

With an e-commerce enabled site you can not only explore myriad ways to better serve your existing customers, but also reach a global audience. And it’s this concept of scalability that can take a small operation focused on local business, and turn it into a global business focused on big things.

As a fitness professional you are largely governed by the amount of available time you have, especially if your primary income comes from face-to-face coaching.

While this is very personally rewarding, the financial rewards can be limited. Few enter the fitness industry to become rich, but you could also argue that your income is in direct proportion to the number of people you’re able to help.

So, a scalable online business really just helps you to reach a greater number of people who need your help.

When coaching was my primary form of income I was working quite long hours, sometimes up to 60 or 70 per week. While making the move to more passive income (through book, online coaching and product sales) I realised that I was going to have to change my focus from that traditional coaching model. Instead I started thinking about who would be interested in what I had to offer. It was the most defining moment of my career so far.

Leveraging the potential of your website

The following techniques will enable you to maximise the effectiveness of your website.

1. Encourage people to subscribe to your updates

Blogging is a fantastic way to build a strong list of users and subscribers. Offer some useful information (either original content or shared from others), a little personal opinion and, above all, anything that will engage your customer base.

You can also focus on email marketing, which often outranks social media for its effectiveness. Once you have a database of engaged users who have chosen to subscribe to your website or blog, you’ll have a very valuable resource for the long term success of your business.

Although it varies from campaign to campaign, it’s not uncommon for my businesses to make $2,000+ from email marketing campaigns, even those that aren’t focused on selling anything. These take less than an hour to set up and involve zero marketing budget – they simply utilise the email database that has been built up for that specific business.

Email marketing works. It’s a valuable resource for subscribers and the return on investment can be very good.

2. Offer ways for users to engage your services

Only a few people will be able to train with you face-to-face, so you should offer ways for the rest of the world to access your knowledge, experience and expertise! This might take the form of online interactions or bespoke resources.

Online coaching
This involves clients being sent personalised programs via email, as well as being offered support, advice and guidance to achieve their goals. This type of training suits clients who are particularly self-motivated, but who still require your professional knowledge and guidance. Online coaching might also involve technique correction and coaching via video.

Fitness guides
It can be difficult for PTs to justify creating guides for specific goals, mainly as it involves detaching themselves somewhat from the face-to-face process of training. But it’s an important process for the coach who wants to be successful online, as it forces them to distil their ideas and experience into practical instructions for others.

My first foray into publishing my own book was a very simple affair. I had started a sandbag training blog six months earlier and I wrote a book based on the questions that I received regularly. Those questions formed its basis and I self-published my first book, The Complete Guide To Sandbag Training, in 2012.

To date it has sold more than 30,000 copies in print and digital formats, all for a total of approximately 120 hours work and an investment of less than $300.

3. Create relationships with other professionals

With a strong presence online, and a website focused on good quality content, you’ll be able to reach out to other professionals. Guest blogging or running promotions with others can be a fantastic way to expand your reach online.

Simply find some other fitness professionals who you have something in common with, drop them an email, and ask if they would be interested in a guest article for their followers. It’s a simple approach that can pay real dividends.

In my business, we regularly reach out to other fitness professionals who share common interests to see if they’d like to write for our blog or if they’d like something from us. These can be accompanied by a special offer, if you have a product or service to promote. It’s not uncommon for us to generate hundreds of new followers by doing this. It strengthens our business and builds strong relationships with others. It’s a win-win situation.

The practice of developing your online business has a simple formula:

Valuable content/products/services + Finding the people that value them = Success

Though things can become very complex, that really is the goal that every fitness professional online should be aiming to achieve. So, the question is, what do you have to offer?

Matthew Palfrey is a health and fitness entrepreneur and the e-commerce expert behind brands such as Hip Thruster, Sandbag Fitness and Brute Force Europe. An experienced coach, Matthew has had four books published and his company Shopify StartUp has helped hundreds of fitness businesses be more successful online.