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What’s in Your Tech Stack?

Virtual engagement is key for reaching and retaining customers. Not sure of what you need? Here’s help making key decisions.

Fitness tech stack

Technology has played a critical role in the evolution of personal training business, particularly over the past few years. Today, one of the most essential parts of your fitness company is the online marketing, or virtual engagement, in your tech stack that you will have with your current clients and those you’ve yet to engage.

Your first step in getting more connected with clients is to purchase or upgrade the physical tools (hardware) and basic office programs (software). Once you make these decisions, you’re ready to take your virtual engagement program to the next level. For that, you’ll need four parts: a website, a blog, an email marketing program and a credit card processing system.

While building a tech stack—the combination of technologies you use to run your business—may seem harder than squatting 500 pounds, it can be relatively simple if you do a little research and ask the right questions. Like most business decisions, the “right” answer depends on you, the user.

Hardware for Your Tech Stack

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to choose a Mac or Windows-based computer. To help you decide, focus on your budget, the time you need to learn the system and what you need your hardware to do for you.

Windows-based computers are known to be more affordable, compatible with more software and easier to upgrade. If you are more price-sensitive, want many software programs to pick from and don’t use your computer for graphic design, choose a Windows-based computer.

If you don’t mind spending more on a complete ecosystem that is stylish and well-designed with a longer learning curve, choose a Mac. Macs streamline the user experience to deliver a high-end machine (or machines, if you add an iPhone or iPad to the picture) that performs and looks great.

My take: I’ve been a PC user for more than 30 years but have recently purchased a MacBook Pro in the hopes of a simple integration between my laptop and iPhone.

Software Suite

Many of us have grown up with Microsoft Office and its suite of options, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Microsoft offers its programs as a one-time installation (Office 365) for about $150 or as an annual subscription (Microsoft 365) for $70 (one person) or $100 (family plan). The difference? The subscription service continually adds new tools, features and updates, and it offers access to discounted rates for partner companies like Adobe and Headspace.

Free and discounted subscriptions are available to certain groups (like nonprofits, teachers and students), and there are occasionally promotional offers (first month free, for example). It’s worth noting that Office 365 also provides a less powerful web-based version of its applications, so you can use it online if you like.

If you are looking for an alternative to Microsoft Office for your tech stack, consider G Suite from Google. G Suite has the same basic core applications as Office—word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, email, calendar and contacts programs—along with videoconferencing, messaging and note-taking software. G Suite is free for personal use, and additional business plans are available to grow with you as your business grows. Although G Suite is web-based, it can work offline as well.

My take: I’ve been a Microsoft Office user for most of my adult life, but I probably only use 30% of the tools within each program. I have found the G Suite applications to be more straightforward with fewer bells and whistles (without a loss of functionality) and, at times, more accessible to use in real time and online.

See also: How to Rebuild Your Fitness Career, Part One

Professional Email

Email is one of the most common forms of communication between you and your clients (and future clients). Research by Constant Contact found that email is used by over 4 billion people (that’s half the world’s population), sending 306 billion emails every day. They also found that 61% of consumers enjoy receiving weekly promotional emails from trusted sources, with 38% saying they would like emails to come even more frequently (Link 2021).

Having a professional email address—not just [email protected]—is essential for a personal trainer’s tech stack. A professional email address enhances your brand, can help you develop stronger relationships and creates a sense of trust. A professional email that also uses your domain name (the name of your website, business or brand) makes it easy for a potential client to find you on the web.

For this type of professional email, you will need to purchase a domain name. Many providers (like GoDaddy, Network Solutions and Bluehost) can create your domain name. The domain name provider I’ve used personally is Hover (hover.com).

The process to purchase a domain name on Hover is simple: After creating a free account on its website, you’ll search for available domain names. Most .com domains can be purchased for less than $40 per year. If your desired .com domain name is taken, Hover will suggest alternative names and suffixes (.net, .org, .fitness, etc.).

After you have created a domain name, you can set up your business Gmail through Hover or purchase a domain name from Google. If you use Gmail for your personal emails, the interface will be the same for your business email.

My take: While there are many ways to create a professional email, my go-to choice continues to be Google. Why? Because I already know how to use Gmail, I find the monthly charge to be fair for the value received, and I try to streamline my business operations. I personally check seven different Gmail accounts every day because of the different business channels and services I provide. Using the same provider for all of them makes it easier for me to work smarter, not harder.

Professional Website

A professional website is an essential part of your tech stack for building virtual engagement. Don’t let the thought of a website scare you. Your first website can be as simple as a single landing page that lists your name and credentials, your contact information, your services and specialties, and a way the visitor can sign up for your email list. There are plenty of services that you can use.

I’ve tested and used ones like Carrd and Wix. Carrd is a simple, free, fully responsive one-page site that can be used for pretty much anything. Additional features are available with upgrades. Wix is a well-known website platform that touts its ability to “have the freedom to create, design, manage and develop your web presence exactly the way you want.”

For a more robust website, consider platforms such as WordPress or Squarespace. These allow you additional functionality like online schedules, multiple web pages and payment processing.

Remember that domain name you bought for your business email address? The website you create is the place where you will direct your personalized domain name. Facilitating this sounds more challenging than it is. Your domain provider’s website will have instructions on how to link your domain name to it.

My take: I use Squarespace for my business website with five visible pages: a homepage, a tools page, a “work with me” page, a sales page and a blog page. I was purposeful in the design of my website. Most of my website is static, meaning there is minimal updating or changing needed. The only page that I update regularly is the blog page, which is absolutely vital. (Learn more in “Why You Need a Blog,” below).

See also: Top Tech Strategies for Fitness Business Success, Part One

Email Marketing Platform

Email marketing graphic

Many of the simple email platforms include features such as landing pages, forms, automations and email scheduling.

An email marketing platform is a technology in your tech stack that keeps you engaged with customers and potential customers. Your email marketing platform can be as straightforward or as complicated as you need it to be. Let’s use a newsletter as an example: If you usually email a newsletter to everyone on your email list (say, by creating a group email), you can instead use an email platform to do it more quickly and easily.

Many of the simple platforms include features such as landing pages, forms, automations and email scheduling (where you upload or type in the email and direct it to be sent out later at a time of your choosing). The more robust systems allow for additional personalization, templates, sales funnels, digital products and third-party integrations.

My take: I’ve used many of the robust systems like Mailchimp, ConvertKit and Constant Contact, but I could never justify the higher cost for the value I needed. I’ve recently downgraded to a simpler system called SendFox. It does just enough for what I need now, and I can upgrade later if those needs change.

Credit Card Processing Service

Credit card processing is what allows a business to accept payments made via credit card. We’ve come a long way from the old manual “click-click” credit card machine that took an imprint of the card and needed to be manually processed with the bank. Today’s credit card processing systems allow you to accept a credit card payment in a fast, safe, secure and efficient way.

When comparing credit card processing services, be mindful of hidden charges such as annual fees, manual entry fees, processing fees and per-charge fees, as well as how long it takes for the charge to be deposited into your bank account.

My take: While your bank or credit union can help create a credit card processing system for you, I have found online services like Square, Stripe and PayPal easier to use and maintain. Most of these function in the same way: You swipe the credit card or enter the number online, then wait seconds for an approval.

See also: Surviving and Profiting With Cashless Payments

Keep Growing Your Tech Stack!

These are just a few of the many types of technology that deserve a spot in your tech stack. Want to learn more? Ask a fellow trainer what they use. Watch for more IDEA content on personal training technology. Or check out the free courses and continuing education options I offer for tech-ready pros like you.

Whatever you do, don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you. Just as you advise your clients about starting a workout program: All you need to do right now is take the first step.



Why You Need a Blog

The ultimate goal of all of this technology: to drive new business to you and help you keep the business you already have. I created my overall virtual marketing plan to be blog-focused. I want people to visit my website often. To do that, I must give them a reason to come back by having a well-developed blogging strategy. That means the content I create on social media must always point people back to my website.

To spark a reader’s interest and drive traffic in that direction, I’ll post on social media and share the first line of a blog but have the reader go to my website to finish reading. When they get there, I invite them to join my email list. Why? Because my goal is to increase the number of people on my email list!

Unlike many of the social media platforms, I own my email list. I control it. And I find more engagement with my email list than my social media
activity. That doesn’t mean I don’t use social media. It means I use my social media and my blog together to reach a desired outcome.

For more information, check out this helpful 2021 IDEA® World Virtual course (free to all IDEAfit+ Members): How to Get Published and Leverage Media to Grow Your Business by James Patrick.  Find it at pro.ideafit.com/pro/how-to-get-published-and-leverage-media-to-grow-your-business.

References

Link, J. 2021. 10 email marketing statistics you need to know. Accessed Nov. 18, 2021: blogs.constantcontact.com/email-marketing-statistics.

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November-December 2020 IDEA Fitness Journal

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