Taking your PT business online may help reduce your losses, diversify your offering and add a degree of protection against future challenges, writes online health and fitness coach Scott Gooding.
Over the past few months the world has turned upside down, with the new coronavirus plunging many countries and industries into various levels of lockdown. The health, fitness and wellbeing industries have been severely impacted by the government-mandated closure of gyms. I have started seven businesses within the industry during the last 20 years, including a holistic online health program based on fitness, nutrition and mindfulness (Reconditioned.Me), so I’ve experienced my fair share of ups and downs. Coronavirus could have really inhibited the business, had it not been for the fact that it was already online to begin with.
Reconditioned.Me was launched online in 2018, and if we fast forward two years, that digital focus has really helped the business mitigate the impact of the current challenge. In fact, when the restrictions were put in place, I immediately noticed a spike in demand for our services, as people sought ways to stay fit and healthy online, at home.
“It’s never too late to get your business online“
Many personal trainers and industry professionals are worried about their ability to survive the current climate for an extended period of time without access to the gyms and other facilities they rely on to run their businesses. You may well be among them. I completely understand this fear, and it is not unwarranted: but if you take action to change the way you operate your PT business, you may be able to reduce your losses, diversity your offering and add a degree of protection against future challenges. Consider this key point: it’s never too late to get your business online. I recently made the decision to bring forward the launch of another business, The Good Meals, by six months, and we managed to get it up and running online, in next-to-no-time.
The closure of gyms in Australia hasn’t stopped people fulfilling their fitness needs, it’s just changed how they’re doing so. If you’re trying to get your personal training or fitness business online in the wake of COVID-19, here are a few things to consider.
Create or refine an online presence
When getting my businesses online, I first had to register a domain – the online identity of a business and the url customers use to find you. Then, it was time to build a website to act as the hub for our online presence. While I’m an expert in my industry, I’m definitely not an expert in web development. Don’t worry if you aren’t either, it’s actually very straightforward: we got our website together using GoDaddy tools and support pretty quickly and cost-effectively. While it requires commitment in the short-term, you don’t have to be a digital wizard and your business could reap the rewards in the longer-term.
“You don’t have to be a digital wizard and your business could reap the rewards in the longer-term”
My websites contain everything our clients need to know about what we offer, including photos, videos, a blog page, contact details, customer testimonials, links to our social media pages and a way for people to sign-up and pay online. When you can’t train people in the gym, you can use your website to deliver your services online, whether that’s virtual fitness classes, one-on-one training or healthy meal plans. If you already have a website, but don’t utilise it enough, now might be a great opportunity to spend some time refining it by updating contact information, posting a teaser video to an online class, training session or course, or adding information about how people can access your services during the current conditions.
I realised pretty early on that great digital marketing skills can have a real impact on your business’ success. Providing a great service and having an eye-catching website is one thing, but you need to find out where your customers are and how to put your website in front of them. Look online for creative, cost-effective ways to put your service in front of potential clients when your budget is tighter than usual. You don’t have to be a master marketer, you can start off by putting a small budget towards promoting your site through social media or offering existing clients a discounted consultation or new meal planner, for example, if they refer a friend. Try a few things, determine what does and doesn’t work for your business, and then focus your efforts on those that have generated leads and, hopefully, paying business.
Be responsive and adaptable
It’s more important than ever to be responsive and adaptable. The current situation is changing by the day, and even by the hour. What worked for your business last month might not do so now. Similarly, what works today may not have the same effect next month. It’s vital, therefore, to stay up-to-date with any changes to restrictions in your state, to understand exactly how they might affect what you’re doing, and to promptly communicate the changes to your service offerings with your clients. Fitness industry registration provider, Fitness Australia, is keeping the industry abreast of changes to restrictions at fitness.org.au.
Your clients are the most important part of your business, and your ability to succeed over the coming months may well depend on your ability to provide an efficient, friendly and genuinely useful service to them. It might be worth regularly seeking feedback through your website or via social media and asking how you can improve and adapt your service to suit their needs. This includes not only what your online service looks like, but also how much you charge for it. This is a learning curve for everyone, and nobody expects things to be perfect immediately. If you can be adaptable and responsive to their needs, however, you might find that they become, or remain, regular clients.
While the current climate is very concerning, it presents an opportunity to identify ways your business can evolve by increasing your online services. You might also decide that, even when things return to some form of ‘normal’, an online presence could remain an important part of your business strategy. By diversifying my services from face-to-face only and launching both Reconditioned.Me and The Good Meals online services, my time and reach are no longer limited only to those within my local community – or to those I am able to be in the same room with.
Scott is an Australian chef, health coach, author and thought leader – encouraging and inspiring people to cook real food at home for themselves and their loved ones. Scott has launched seven businesses, including Reconditioned.Me and The Good Meals.