Three Steps to Building a “Hybrid” Fitness Business

Earn extra money by starting a complementary online business.

By Dave Smith
May 20, 2019

It’s no secret that online coaching has caught fire in recent years. Many personal trainers have exploded their businesses by offering online services that allow them to reach more clients and build their brands faster than ever before.

While an online business sounds great, running one doesn’t come without its hurdles. Some examples:

  • What are you going to sell online?
  • Where are your online clients going to come from?
  • What sort of tech expertise do you need in order to build an online business?

These are just a few of the questions I get from coaches who want to expand into the online fitness industry. To simplify the process of starting such a business, apply the following steps. This “hybrid” fitness model is by far the easiest way to make your first online sales.

Step #1: Identify Your “Shoulder” Services

What primary service do you offer your existing clients?

As a former personal trainer and gym owner, I know that most coaches focus on strength training. Our clients come to the gym so that we can teach them new exercises and help them improve on the ones they’re already practicing.

Think of this primary service as the “head” of your business. On either side of the head are your business’s “shoulders,” which are related services that could improve the results your clients get. These shoulders represent an opportunity for you to add value through new online programs that work with your existing in-person services.

For example, if the head of your business is strength training, then your shoulder services could focus on proper nutrition and stress reduction. Now, you might be saying, “But Dave, I already help my clients with their eating and lifestyle choices. That’s already part of the service I offer, so I can’t sell that as an online offer.”

I hear you.

When I trained clients in-person, I, too, talked with them about all sorts of health-related topics and did my best to guide them on the right path. But our focus was always on the exercise we did together; that’s what they came to the gym to work on. So there was an opportunity to add more value through new, in-depth shoulder services.

I’ll explain how this works in Step #2, but for now you just need to identify some potential shoulder services. What do your clients need help with that you are not focusing on currently? Is it nutrition? Stress reduction? Sleep? Supplementation? Recovery? Mindset and motivation? When it comes to value-added services you can offer your clients in an online format, the possibilities are endless. Pick one!

Step #2: Launch Your “Beta Test” Program

Once you’ve identified the extra help your clients could use, it’s time to create a simple “beta test” program that will allow you to make your first online sales. This step is called a beta test because it’s your chance to work out the “bugs”—and give your first group of clients a chance to be a part of this new venture.

When you launch your online shoulder service, let your clients know that they’re part of this special beta test. That will help them

  • get really excited about participating in the first-ever version of the program,
  • feel special and therefore commit to putting forth their best efforts, and
  • offer you invaluable feedback as you refine this program and develop new ones.

Let’s go back to our nutrition example so you can see how this plays out. Imagine your personal training clients aren’t seeing the results they want because their eating choices aren’t great. They could exercise with you seven days a week and it wouldn’t make a difference. They need nutritional coaching. You see this need, and you launch a “28-Day Clean Eating Challenge” that offers simple daily steps to help your clients improve their habits.

When your clients purchase this program, you invite them to join a private Facebook group—where you can post instructions, and they can post updates as they follow your lead. Each day, participants read your message or watch a video and then complete a simple task. By the end of the 28 days, with your guidance they have implemented numerous healthy eating strategies.

To recap, your online clients get

  • simplified action steps;
  • daily motivation from you, their coach; and
  • support, accountability and community from the other program participants.

Not only will this challenge earn your first online sales, but also it will give you 28 days of content that you can use over and over again. You now have the makings of a complete online program. Pro Tip: Make sure participants take “before” photos and write down their body measurements and their scale weight. This information will motivate them to work hard during the program, and it will give you great testimonials once your clients see amazing results.

Step #3: Have Your Upsell Ready

A lot of fitness coaches make a critical mistake when they launch their first online program: They don’t consider what comes next. Imagine you get 10 of your clients to sign up for your beta test nutrition challenge. They stick with you for 28 days and love the results they’re seeing. Now what? Sure, you can throw together another offer for them to consider, but it might already be too late. Instead, have your upsell (i.e., the next program you’re going to offer) planned out from the beginning.

For example, if your 28-day program focused on helping your personal training clients clean up their eating habits, you could offer an ongoing membership that helps them reinforce those habits. We all know that it takes longer than 28 days to really instill a new habit, so this sales pitch is an easy one to make.

Editor’s note: For more information on online pricing options, see “Online Training: Programming for Profit.” For software and payment options, see “Money-Making Systems and Software for Online Trainers.”

Pro Tip: At the beginning of your online program, tell participants there will be a “progress update” call in the last week of the program. Set the expectation that they will have a one-on-one call or meeting with you to discuss their results. During this call you will have the opportunity to praise their hard work, highlight the success they’ve had and then pitch your upsell.

Strike while the iron is hot. When your online clients are feeling good about their success, they will very likely want to keep going. Don’t miss this opportunity to upsell.

It’s Time to Start

Beginning an online fitness business can seem scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Use your existing clients to test out simple online services that complement the work you’re already doing with them. This hybrid model will help them see improved results through your online coaching, and it will allow you to upsell further online services to those clients. Repeat these three steps, and you’ll have a growing online business in the works.

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Dave Smith

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