Almost overnight, COVID-19 has flipped the fitness industry on its head. Now, with lockdown measures in place to protect the public and the pressure on the NHS more people than ever before are working out at home, with personal trainers and gym operators the world over pivoting their business models to take their services online. If you were already operating in this space, then you’re probably familiar with most of what we’re about to say, but, especially for those of you who are new to virtual coaching, we hope these tips will help you to take on this pandemic and win!
1. Send a Nine-Word Email
During this difficult time, knowing what to say to clients can be tricky. However, online personal training guru, Jon Goodman, suggests a nine-word email could be all you need.
Personal Trainers, by nature, want to solve clients’ problems, when in actual fact, good coaching is about helping clients to solve their own problems. Sending a simple email that’s no more than nine words, for example, ‘What do you need from me at this time?’ puts the ball in the client’s court, so that when they do respond, you’ll know exactly how to help them and add value to their lives. For some clients, this short email (obviously, topped and tailed in the usual way) will be enough for them to know you’re there and have their best interests at heart.
Understandably, you may be worried about losing clients or attracting new ones during this lockdown period, so the best thing you can do right now is to offer them that support and find out what their needs are, rather than just assuming or guessing. So, start crafting those nine-word emails.
2. Highlight Everything you Offer
It’s important to remember that your clients don’t just train with you because of the ‘fancy exercises.’ You offer so much more – support, guidance, direction, accountability, structure, expertise, and don’t forget the human interaction that isn’t there when working out alone. Everything you provide offline can be replicated online, so make this clear in your communications to existing and potential clients.
Also, just because people are in lockdown, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have the time to take charge of their own health and fitness. For many people, the pressures are bigger than ever – juggling work, children, home-schooling, and running a home (makes you sweat just thinking about it!) Therefore, people will still be looking to hand over their fitness routines to a professional, meaning for an hour or two a week, they can switch off and let someone else do the thinking!
For some people, the ‘human interaction’ you provide will be just as important as the exercises you programme, especially during the lockdown. So, the message here is, never undersell yourself and make sure you advertise the full range of your services. And by that, we don’t mean doing a 30-minute Facebook Live talk telling the world how great you are! Instead, why not ask your clients to fill in a short questionnaire and then repurpose their answers as testimonials and case studies for your website and social media pages (provided you have their consent)? To avoid yes/no answers, ask open-ended questions. For example: Describe your experience of [your company name]. Or why not offer tasters of the different services you offer as free webinars?
This all boils down to the fact that ‘people buy from people,’ so the more opportunities you give them to get to know you and understand the full extent of your offering, the more likely they’ll be to become or remain a client.
3. Allow Clients to Direct their Virtual Experiences
In this time of social isolation, it’s tempting to go all-out virtual and offer remote coaching (one-to-one Personal Training sessions) to every client. However, it’s important NOT to pressure your clients into training over Zoom, FaceTime or other online platforms. Let them decide on what works best, which links back to our first tip about letting your clients take the lead.
Start by offering your clients a couple of test runs, so they can get a feel for your remote coaching. If you’re able to, you could even provide this free of charge as an extra incentive for giving this method a go.
For clients who are more ‘technophobic,’ apprehensive about seeing themselves exercising on-screen or worried about interacting virtually, this is a good way to ease them in and to discover if it’s something that can be used with them moving forward.
If a client doesn’t like remote coaching, then look for other ways you can support them. Perhaps you could provide paid-for online coaching (different to remote coaching) which is essentially a webchat with the client to go through their day-to-day tasks, nutrition, sleep, stress levels, and other elements of their wellbeing; in other words, a more holistic service. This can, of course, be supplemented with workouts that they can perform at home or in the gym, but the primary focus of online coaching is the ‘extra stuff’ that sits outside of exercise.
In the scenario that online coaching isn’t for them, maybe you could offer some free advice or workouts to get them through the lockdown and increase your chances of retaining them as a client? Perhaps you have your own online coaching platform and could offer them a 30-day free access, helping to drive subscriptions?
Whichever approach you take with individual clients, remember to check in with ALL of them on a regular basis. It’s a fairly quick and easy task but it can go a long way in helping to maintain a happy and committed client base. By talking to your clients, you’ll have a better understanding of their circumstances. If they’re going through a tough time financially because of COVID-19, giving them free access to certain services could be the goodwill gesture that makes them return to you when they’re in a better situation.
4. Diversify your Offering
If you don’t currently offer online coaching, then now could be the time to start developing this.
By expanding and diversifying your personal training business to provide both remote coaching and online coaching (see tip 3 if you skipped over this), you’ll be able to appeal to an even wider market. If a client isn’t interested in remote coaching, you’ll be able to offer them online coaching and vice versa. With more strings to your bow, you’ll be in a better position to retain and acquire clients.
Alongside online coaching, you could also start to offer online group exercise classes, nutrition-specific coaching, or accountability calls to keep clients on track with their programmes and making progress. As they say, “all the little things add up” and could give your income a welcome boost.
If you’re unsure of where to start with all of this, there are some great online coaches out there who you’ll be able to learn from. Research who they are, sign up to free webinars, download free guides, and check out live talks. Even with this guidance, you'll almost certainly make mistakes at the beginning, but that’s normal. As long as you’re learning from those experiences and the client feels looked after, you’ll be on the right path.
5. The Last Resort
If you’re talking to clients and they’re just not interested in remote or online coaching, or they have a lack of funds, you could ask clients if they’d still be willing to train but at the lower cost for the time being. This is not something we’d usually advocate, as people can become anchored on prices, but given the current environment, if it’s going to be the difference between losing a client for an indefinite amount of time (who knows when this will end) and earning enough money to pay your bills, then this is a ‘last resort’ option to consider.
6. Get Creative with Content!
f you’re finding yourself with more downtime, why not use it to build up banks of video content that can support your clients and promote your business via your website, social media pages and other channels? This could include creating a set of home-based workouts for your clients to perform.
The best part is, you don’t even need a high-spec camera. Your smartphone should be more than adequate. You can then edit these videos to include background music, logo watermarks and more using one of the many free or paid-for editing programmes/apps that are available.
There used to be a time when videos were ‘supposed’ to look slick and flashy, but nowadays, people like and respect authenticity, so don’t worry if your videos aren’t 100% perfect (Hollywood can wait!) Being a little bit raw is better than being over-edited, making you appear more ‘real,’ accessible and trustworthy. However, if you’re unsure of how a video would look to the outside world, ask friends, family or people you trust to provide their feedback before you post it online. That way, you’ll be able to make any necessary tweaks.
At the moment, people are consuming content by the bucket load, with Personal Traininers churning out more than ever, so don’t be afraid to fill your social feeds and stories with high-quality, thoughtful content that’s tailored to your audience.
7. Nail your Prep
Before you start to deliver remote coaching to a client, ask them what equipment they have at home and get them to send photos or videos of where they will be training. This will allow you to see if there are items, such as sofas and chairs, that could be incorporated into their workouts. If the client doesn’t have much in the way of equipment, then it’s time to get creative and have some fun! For example, they could create a power bag by filling a rucksack with objects or use wine/water bottles for dumbbells!
Secondly, it’s a good idea to send over your plan before each session so the client knows exactly what to expect and can get their room and equipment ready. This will help to reduce any apprehension they might have had while also making sure the session runs smoothly.
Setting up your camera correctly is another important aspect of your preparation. Ensuring that the client can see and hear you at all times, and vice versa, will make for a much more enjoyable and effective session.
Taking these steps will not only make you look more professional, but they’ll also make a big difference to your client’s experience which ultimately leads to increased satisfaction and retention.
8. Practise, Practise, practise
Before you start to coach clients online, practise this with a group of friends. This will provide you with invaluable feedback in a safe environment, allowing you to understand what’s working well, what’s needed and what issues need to be ironed out before launching this service to the general public. Remember, as an online Personal Trainer, you’re not restricted by country and could potentially end up with clients dotted around the world!
By coaching friends and family, you’ll also start to build your audience/client base, which could lead to some good word of mouth that gets people on board when you’re fully up and running. This will also enable you to see whether the online space is something you want to carry on doing in the future, as it won’t be for everyone. At least by giving it a go, you’ll be developing a new skill which could help you to stay more relevant in the future as the fitness industry continues to evolve.
While COVID-19 has thrown up plenty of challenges for Personal Trainers, it’s also presented numerous opportunities. With the country in lockdown, and home workouts booming as people prioritise their health above all else, never before have Personal Trainers had such a captive and ready-to-consume audience. Hopefully, these tips will not only help you to keep your existing clients active, motivated, engaged and committed, but also provide food for thought on other tactics you can use to survive this uncertain time and potentially even elevate your business.
We’re in this together, so if you’d like more advice and support on this subject – or would like to find out more about our online Personal Training and CPD courses - check it out below.
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