Any small business owner will face challenges—but in my experience, online personal trainers deal with three big business challenges that are unique to them.
Business challenge #1: Selling to people who have enough money to buy your service
A lot of online trainers find this frustrating. They know that many people don’t have an extra 50 bucks a month to spend on training.
So those trainers think: How in the world can I charge 200 bucks a month?
Which brings me to … toothbrushes.
What? You don’t care about toothbrushes? Well, hear me out—it’ll help you understand.
Let’s say you’re passionate about dental hygiene in developing countries. You want to donate toothbrushes to the people there.
The solution is not to start a toothbrush company that sells to people in developing countries.
The way to donate a lot of toothbrushes is to start any kind of company that makes as much money as possible. Then, with your excess profits, buy toothbrushes and hand them out in developing countries.
What’s my point? Many trainers got into this business because they love helping people. They love sharing their passion and helping others lead healthier lives.
The idea that you need to sell the people that you ultimately want to serve is slightly mistaken.
Case study: How to serve who you want without going broke
One more story—but this is about training, not toothbrushes. Maybe you’ve heard of Frank Benedetto, who started CounterStrike, which trains people in combat sports. (Great slogan, btw: “Cardio to fight for five rounds … and the power to end it in one.”)
He happens to have been a student in our Online Trainer Academy Level 1 and Level 2. He trains mixed martial artists, getting them ready for bouts.
Even though Frank trains some serious UFC talent, the truth is, lots of fighters don’t make a lot of money. They’re not all George St-Pierre.
But you can build a really good brand training fighters—and that’s what Frank has done. And that is marketing gold.
Because there are other people out there who like that intense style, thousands of them. And then there are alpha types, investment banker types—successful men and women—who follow fighting and want to train like a fighter.
So Frank’s got his regular train-like-a-fighter program. It’s low-cost, mostly automated, and he built his brand on that. And he’s got some good fighters.
But that program then attracts these alpha-types who are really into the training but aren’t going to fight. He’s got serious programs for these affluent people that he charges a few thousand dollars for.
And that’s where he makes the bulk of his money.
That’s what sets Frank apart. You’re not Frank, and maybe you’re not into ultimate fighting.
You want to help people. So I’m not saying you should set up an MMA-style training business.
You need to figure out a way to sell to people who have money so that you can serve clients who can’t afford you, like clients with chronic disease, for example.
And to do that, you’ve got to master business challenge #2 …
Business challenge #2: Learning how to sell the result of training (not the process)
Too many trainers have a spiel like this: “Train with me and I’ll give you a new workout, it’ll be four weeks, and we’ll get on the phone for 30 minutes every single week, and you’re gonna get a nutrition plan” and on and on.
The problem with that? There are many, but a big one is you’re going to overpromise.
Maybe you’re offering more than the client needs, really. Stuff they might not care about. Maybe they don’t want a new program every four weeks.
There’s an odd phenomenon in selling to clients. Sometimes when you rattle off a list of stuff that you’re offering, you’re actually giving them more and more reasons to say no.
Strange but true.
Promising too much can hurt sales. It feels like you’re doing a good thing, offering so much, but it can actually work against you.
And guess what? You have no clue what that client needs yet. You haven’t started working with them. So slow your sales roll.
Back to what does work: Become really effective in selling the result of the program.
Sell the transformation. Sell the journey.
You don’t need to talk about what that involves. You’ll figure that out when the person comes into your training.
Of course, if you’re on the phone with them, you can mention what the training might include. But it’s more important to remind them of the results—and that you stand ready to offer what they need, when they need it, to reach that goal.
“Put your faith in me” is a good way to put it. “I’ll get you to where you want to go.” Then you paint a vivid vision of what they will become as a result of your program: that’s how to sell.
Business challenge #3: Differentiating yourself from all the other online trainers
The obvious temptation is to appeal to the biggest market, like “fat loss” or “get in shape,” and hope to land enough of those clients to make a living.
Don’t. There are other people in that market who are really loud. They have more money. They’ve been around longer. They understand marketing.
It’s really hard to compete with them.
Your competitive advantage is on the fringes. Think of a narrow demographic that you feel strongly about. Like new moms who are coming off weeks of bed rest. Or long-haul truckers who sit all day. Whatever—get creative, think deeply.
You will be the only person appealing to these people. And when you sign a few of them, pretty soon you’ll have results.
And when you have results, word-of-mouth takes over and the referrals will start coming.
Hey, if you need surgery, you want a specialist, right? Same idea here. People want a specialist who understands them.
When you differentiate yourself, you will appeal to people in a way that others don’t. They can’t!
It’ll be much easier to make your first sales, and then you get them results. And results give you credibility—the foundation for success.
Learn more: Get answers to more online trainer questions.