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How to Rebuild Your Fitness Career, Part One

Learn how to apply four secrets to lasting business success.

Fitness professional in gym showing how to rebuild your fitness career

It’s been nearly a year and a half since the first lockdown, and the industry is rebuilding and reflecting on lessons learned from the COVID-19 roller coaster. As we enter a more reflective phase, we have a better view of the path—paved by so many before us—that inadvertently left us exposed and vulnerable. The forced closures offered a peek at the pros and cons of putting your proverbial eggs in one basket and uncovered how little control we each had over our own success. But now is the time to rebuild your fitness career.

Whether you define success in terms of the number of lives you touch, your work’s impact or the size of your bank account, you—like many others—probably trusted the industry and the market to provide consistent work and career growth opportunities. However, you observed the speed at which your doors were closed, both figuratively and literally, and it likely left you reeling. Hopefully, now that some time has passed since those initial, scary months, we can all consider what’s needed to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Regroup and Rebuild Your Fitness Career

You can take control and rebuild your career. Start by shifting your mindset. Then, define your business and what you hope to achieve. Instead of shape-shifting to adapt to opportunities, objectively analyze available options and find your perfect fit. When you approach your career in this way, you call the shots and feel more alive and energized.

The secret to rebuild your fitness career success has four parts:

  1. developing your foundation
  2. creating a robust sales cycle process
  3. understanding pricing and selling in a service field
  4. consistently applying core self-promotion strategies

Together, we’ll tackle each step over a four-part series. The first and most critical step is developing your foundation.

See also: 5 Ways Fitness Businesses Have Created Revenue in Pandemic Times

Developing Your Foundation

Your foundation is a platform—a perfectly engineered structure to support your business development and marketing, as well as your opportunities for employment. Building your foundation is a bit like piecing together a puzzle. If you want to rebuild your fitness career in a way that is scalable and sustainable, you may need to begin with a new approach.

While marketing can bring in clients, more often than not it’s better at creating awareness. Once prospects become aware of your products and services, they’ll check you out and ask whether you can help. Typically, they don’t ask you in person; instead, they ask others, look at your website or browse your social media presence. For potential clients to feel secure and give you the opportunity to engage with them, you must refine your messaging in ways that

  • define your ideal clients;
  • convey the number-one benefit you provide; and
  • describe why you’ve chosen to serve this group.

Defining Your Ideal Clients

Everyone has a niche. As a service professional, whom do you want to serve? While it’s possible that a wide variety of people may need or be interested in what you do, there’s a group of people you’re naturally curious about and passionately called to serve.

Step one in finding these people is choosing a target market, the specialized group you will serve with your niche offering. Choosing a precise target market provides three advantages. 

  1. You’ll know where to find potential clients. When you narrow your audience, you can concentrate your marketing efforts and create compelling campaigns. For example, you’ll know the right associations to form connections with; the best publication outlets (print or digital) to write for; and the best, most influential people with whom to network. Most importantly, you’ll know where your potential clients gather, which will help you show up in the right places at the right times. 
  1. Your target market will know you’re committed to serving them. Honing in on a target market provides a focus for education, creation and connection. You’ll be able to go deep into an area of study, and your potential clients will want to hire you. 
  1. You’ll be able to tap into established connections. Target markets have a built-in communication network. If you’re successful at delivering value, they’ll become your word-of-mouth marketing engine. They’ll speak about their successes and spread the word about your services. Warm leads and referrals are the easiest way to rebuild your fitness career.

If you choose a target market from the start, you’ll avoid wasting your valuable energy. One word of caution: Choose based on your passions, talents, strengths, knowledge and connections and not on market opportunity. In other words, you need to have a why behind your who (which we’ll discuss!).

Note: Not everyone in your target market is an ideal client. It’s simply the pond from which you fish. Once you find your pond, you put the perfect bait on your pole to attract clients. To further define your target market, think about the values and characteristics of your star clients. These are the ones who set your heart on fire, do really well with the tools you provide, and are “your people.” You’ll develop marketing campaigns that speak to them, as well as filtration systems to ensure they end up on your calendar!

See also: With Gyms Open, Are Clients Ready?

Uncovering Your Number-One Benefit

Once you’ve determined your target market, you’ll explore those people’s needs and uncover their compelling desires. To find out their most pressing problems or what they’re hoping to obtain in the future, ask questions. Get curious and survey your target market, making sure you get a mix of those you know and those you don’t. Don’t list all of your benefits or what you believe they need. Instead, uncover what they are looking for in many areas of their lives, using their own words.

Once you have a robust list, review each item and circle the one you can deliver. If the biggest result your clients get when working with you is solving a problem they consider pressing or achieving a result they believe is significant, you have something to hang your hat on. Marketing becomes much easier when you have a sharply defined target market and a big promise that resonates with your ideal clients.

Of course, there are other benefits to working with you, and you’ll be able to unpack the additional financial, emotional, physical and spiritual benefits when marketing, connecting and engaging in sales conversations. The more you can clearly communicate, the greater value potential clients will place on what they hear and the less likely they’ll be to object to a price point. Be sure the benefits speak directly to your audience.

For example, if your target market is mothers with children who aren’t yet in school, your number-one benefit might be providing time-sensitive workout opportunities. You might also be able to share how working with you can cut down on childcare costs because your sessions can be done during nap time or with baby in tow. Your program is the emotional deposit in a mother’s piggy bank for dedicated “me time” and infuses her with strength to power through her days.

Tapping Into Your Choices

Rounding out the foundation is your why. You must know, and be able to articulate, why you’ve chosen your target market and why you’re providing the benefit you do. There will be several service providers who cater to the same crowd you’ve chosen, but there’s no need to be concerned; the world is big enough for (and very much in need of) more than one option.

Clients will consider a variety of providers, and their choice will be influenced primarily by your why. People place value on connection; working with a service provider is a personal choice. When you can resonate on an emotional, philosophical or even spiritual level, the cards stack in your favor.

Ask yourself:

  • Why do I serve this target market?
  • What do I hope to achieve?

It’s imperative that you have a deep connection to your work. If you have trouble articulating your why, it may simply be a vulnerability issue: Expressing our why can seem very personal and, thus, uncomfortable. The good news is that you’re on the right track and should only require a bit of practice! If vulnerability isn’t the block, you may want to reconsider your target market and the benefit you provide, since you might have made the wrong choice or chosen for the wrong reasons. You can certainly continue doing what you’re doing, but if you’re looking to sustain and scale while feeling fulfilled, these choices should come from the heart.

With a solid foundation in place, you can now move on to creating a sales cycle, which we’ll unpack in our next installment.

See also: 21 Best Practices to Help You Survive the New Normal

Shannon Fable

Shannon Fable is a sought-after speaker, author and thought leader in the area of fitness business development and strategic innovation. She has spent more than two decades helping impressive brands such as Anytime Fitness, ACE, FIT4MOM® and BOSU® with business and program development. Fable served as chair of the ACE Board of Directors and is the co-founder of GroupEx PRO®, a cloud-based group fitness management tool that she successfully sold to Daxko in 2019. As a certified Book Yourself Solid® business coach, she helps fitness professionals navigate the industry to build scalable and sustainable careers.

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