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Maximize Sales Without the Hard Sell

Many personal trainers and fitness professionals are well-educated, caring, and darn good at helping people get results. However, despite all good intentions, they struggle to fill their programs and schedules. Why?

It seems like, deep down, most fitness pros don't want to be "that guy"; you know, the high-pressure, in-your-face, arrogant salesperson who is only after the big commission check. I don't blame them. Savvy clients can smell a rotten egg a mile away.

Luckily, you do not have to play the sleazy salesperson role to fill your schedule. On the other hand, you can't sit back and hope clients stumble on your business. Competition in the fitness world is stiff. In addition to other local trainers and facilities, there are social media "fitness celebrities," streaming online workouts and various fitness solutions that weren't even imaginable 10 years ago.

Sadly, this means that no longer do the best-qualified fitness professionals automatically get the most clients. You must actively promote and share what you do with the world (i.e., market yourself) or risk being one of hundreds of fitness options a potential client casts to the side.

Good news: You don't need to be an extroverted sales pro to attract new clients. Learn about a marketing campaign you can use time and time again. Interactive event marketing will help you stand out among a sea of competition.

What Is Interactive Event Marketing?

Interactive event marketing allows you to parlay your expertise and passion into a special exercise event that you host; for example, "Vinyasa and Vino" happy-hour yoga, a "Foam Rolling for Runners" workshop or a charity Zumbathon® party.

Your exercise event could be a big party with 50 smiling faces, loud music and lots of partner exercises. Or it could be small and cozy—a chance for you to meet a handful of potential personal training clients. Whether large or intimate, your in-person event will give the community a chance to engage with you and experience, firsthand, your authentic personality, training style and skills in an environment you control.

Why Interactive Event Marketing Is Champion

Let's look at why interactive event marketing works:

Deadlines drive commitment. While introductory offers, like free 1-week guest passes, are an integral part of attracting new clients, they stir no sense of urgency in consumers to act. They know the offer will be available next week or next month. Event marketing lights a fire under people to commit to being at a certain place at a certain time. Even if your event is free, saying yes to it is the first step in people saying yes to programs you charge for.

You highlight your unique program and business features. The most successful personal trainers and facilities have a special niche, a unique offering, that no one else does better. If yours is training youth athletes, create an event highlighting this service.

You bring clients into your community. The stronger your community is, the stronger your business will be. Interactive event marketing gives your current clients a reason to invite their friends and families. It also provides potential clients who have been sniffing around your programs a reason to pull the trigger and participate.

You collect warm leads. Undoubtedly, you've noticed that your long-term, loyal clients are those who trust, know and like you. It's difficult to generate sales directly from newspaper or Facebook ads. By inviting potential clients to a fun event, rather than selling them directly into your program, you start to build trust. Even if event attendees don't sign up for your programs right away, you now have their contact information and can follow up with them later.

You drive sales, without being salesy. You get the chance to give potential clients a reason to come back for more. After experiencing your incredible program live, they will be excited to get their hands on more. Immediately after the event, give attendees a special offer related to your unique program or facility feature. It's an easy sale with little "pitching" to be done.

The Event Marketing Road Map

Use these eight steps to create an impactful event:

1. Define your sales goal and target audience

It's important to determine the actions you want attendees to take after the event. For example, if your postevent sales goal is to have 10 people sign up for your small-group suspension exercise boot camp, then create an event introducing people to suspension equipment. If your sales goal is to have two people join your facility on a 3-month VIP membership, which includes personal training and massage, then create a higher-end, more luxury-focused event.

To define your sales goal, first answer these questions:

  • What is one kind of program or membership you'd like people to purchase after the event?
  • How many people would you like to sign up for this program?
  • What audience will most likely purchase this program? Define their age, gender and fitness
    level. This is your target audience.

2. Create an event theme and name

It's time to connect the dots. You know which program you want your target audience to purchase after the event. Now, you need to choose an event theme and name. Remember, the event should showcase exercises or facility amenities that highlight your unique offerings.
The name of your event will include an attention-getting headline as well as a subheading that describes it more fully. This way, both potential participants and web search engines can understand what, exactly, will be happening at the event.

3. Target your chosen audience

Keeping in mind your ideal participants, answer these questions:

  • Which exercises, equipment or facility amenities do you want to highlight during the event?
  • Does your event name relate to your sales goal and target audience? If not, how can you adjust it?
  • How many attendees will you need at the event to reach your sales goal? What percentage will convert into new clients?
  • Will your event be free? Low-cost? Or will it raise money for charity? A free event will attract more participants and reduce the barrier to trying out your programs and services. However, a low-cost or charity event tends to attract more serious clients.

4. Include a limited-time offer

You want people who attend your event to feel special. To make sure they do, provide an incredible workout, but also give a special offer on your paid programs.

You can do this in two ways: Give a discount on a program, or provide a value-added bonus item—like a free month or free gift with purchase. For example, give two free sessions of a youth athletic program when people purchase a 10-pack, or include free access to the rock climbing wall with a basic membership to your facility. Stipulate an expiration date on the offer, typically no more than 7 days after the event.

Keeping in mind your sales goal, ask yourself these questions:

  • What kind of offer will you give event attendees?
  • By which date must they redeem the offer?

5. Set up an event registration page on the web

Excellent event organization is imperative. This event is your chance to make a professional first impression on new clients.

If you're part of an established company, register attendees through an online customer management system, like MINDBODY® Online or Zen Planner. If you don't have a website yet, use an event management system like Eventbrite (www.eventbrite.com) to take registrations. Bonus: Eventbrite has an app that lets you check in participants at the door; the app is free for free events.

All of these systems allow you to manually add attendees to the list, should you get RSVPs via phone, email or social media.

6. Promote your event

Now that you have set up your event registration page, start driving traffic to the page. Depending on the size of your event, use one or all of these marketing tactics, starting at least 6 weeks before the event begins:

  • Send an email announcement(s) to your list.
  • Create postcard invitations for current clients to give to friends and family.
  • Post or hand out fliers in places where your target audience hangs out.
  • Mention the event on social media at least once a week.
  • Blog about the event.
  • Cross-promote the event with other local businesses.
  • Send out a press release to local media.

7. Host the event

Delivering a wonderful workout is only part of what the event day should be about. As the host, you want attendees to see the value in joining your community.

  • Welcome and greet each participant individually, with a smile, during check-in.
  • Before the warm-up, tell attendees you have a special bonus for them after the workout (your limited-time offer).
  • In the cool-down, point out participants' accomplishments during the workout. Say that all they needed was a little guidance and motivation from you to make it happen.
  • At the end, present the limited-time offer and hand out fliers. Be available for questions.
  • Provide a way for people to register for your core programs and services directly after the workout.
  • Have someone take photos of the event.

8. Follow up after the event

To prolong the excitement cultivated at the event and maximize its usefulness, reach out afterward to attendees who don't sign up immediately for the limited-time offer.

  • Within 2 days of the event, post photos to social media or your website. (Typically a photo release is part of the event registration process or liability waiver.)
  • Email attendees a link to the photos.
  • Reiterate your limited-time offer in the email and in social media posts after the event.

A Marketing Approach That Feels Right

Interactive event marketing is a natural extension of what you do every day as a fitness professional: Train clients for better health. With a little planning, you'll reach deeper into your community, attract more clients and maximize sales at your next exercise event.

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