A typical online fitness product or service originates with something the creator wants to do. I get it. You have knowledge and passion you’re excited to share, and you’re happy to put in long hours writing months’ worth of programs and videos.
But there’s one problem: You’re doing all this work before you have an audience for it, or before you know for certain that the audience you have actually wants it. If they don’t care, it won’t work.
There’s a better way to do it, which I learned from my mentor, Stu McLaren, who in turn credits Jeff Walker, creator of the Product Launch Formula. It’s also the approach I teach my clients in the Female Trainer Society.
1. Narrow your focus
When I trained clients in a gym, I wanted to work with everybody. I became, by necessity, an expert in everything a client might be interested in. But when I started training clients online, I realized I had to narrow my focus. So I made three lists:
- I thought of the clients who lit me up, the ones I really liked working with.
- I thought of the clients who drained me, who had a really negative attitude about everything.
- I thought of what I wanted to be known for, the problems I wanted to solve for clients.
Once I knew who I wanted to work with, and the problems I wanted to solve for that person, I created a client avatar. For example, for the Female Trainer Society, I thought of a 28-year-old woman I met at a conference. Anything I write, I imagine I’m talking to her, and solving her problems. I want people like her to see it and say, “Hey, she wrote this for me.”
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2. Build and survey your audience
My mentor once told me, “Think of audience building like going on a first date. You don’t start off by making out with the person. That won’t go over well. So if you go straight to a product, putting it out there and saying, ‘Buy my stuff!’, your prospective client will be turned off.”
Your potential clients like to be heard, not bossed around. How do you feel when someone pops into your newsfeed telling you to buy something? Icky, right? Your first job is to listen and provide value however you can. It’s way too early to monetize your audience’s interest.
But that doesn’t mean your free content is random. Everything you do has the end in mind. Every post, video, or status update should have a call to action to sign up for your email list. I follow people on Instagram who just post pictures of their food, or a sweaty selfie saying they just trained their arms. How does that positively affect your avatar’s life? What problem is solved by your avocado toast or veiny arm?
As you start to build your audience, you need to understand what your ideal client wants from you. What’s her first problem? What’s she struggling with? The easiest way to find out is to ask. Send an email to your list saying, “Tell me your number-one goal, and why you’re struggling to achieve it.”
The answers you get will be all over the place, as you’d expect. Your challenge is to find the most representative responses from the ones who most resemble your avatar.
Whatever it is, send a return email saying exactly what they told you. They’ll say, “You read my mind!” And you’ll have an audience that’s ready to settle into a relationship with you.
READ ALSO: Confessions of an Online Training Virgin
3. Get a quick win
Suppose you get several variations on this response: “I want to lose 10 pounds in 12 weeks, but I don’t want to give up wine or chocolate.”
Your audience just literally gave you the copy to sell your program!
While you develop that program, you want to help your followers get a quick win, a step toward solving their number-one problem. There are lots of ways to do it—free challenges, sample workouts, easy meal ideas. Your goal is to establish your authority and continue building your audience.
The value you provide with those quick wins goes both ways. Your audience helps you refine your program and prove it works.
Now it’s time to take the next step.
4. Prepare your signature product or service
Let’s return to what your avatar says she wants: a plan to lose weight in a limited time frame without having to give up the sensual pleasures that make life enjoyable.
But deep down in your gut, you know that’s not the best way to achieve her goals. You know she’ll be better off with a longer program, or without the calories she gets from wine and/or chocolate. Personally, I don’t ever tell clients to cut out their favorite foods. I’ll actually repeat their words in my copy:
“How to lose up to 10 pounds in 12 weeks WITHOUT giving up wine and chocolate.”
It reminds me of an analogy I heard once at a marketing conference:
“Imagine you go into a shoe store and tell them you want black Nikes. You don’t ask how much they cost because you’ve made your choice. If they have it, you’re buying it. The salesperson goes into the back, but, to your surprise, comes out with red Asics. When you say, ‘I don’t want those, I want the Nikes,’ he says, ‘What if I give you two pairs of these shoes, and I throw in a pair of green New Balance, for the same price as the ones you want?’”
At that point, you’d walk out, right?
Now consider how your ideal prospect feels. She told you exactly what she wants, and yet your first instinct is to try to sell her something else. It happens every day, in every business. Each time, the person selling the product or service wonders why nobody’s buying it.
No matter how excited you are about what you have to offer this client, if she doesn’t care, it won’t work. She doesn’t know what you know about exercise or nutrition science. She hasn’t trained hundreds of clients. All she cares about is whether you can deliver what she wants. If you can’t, or don’t want to, she’ll look for someone who can and will.
There is, however, a middle ground: Sell them what they want, but give them what they need. Give them the best program you can to reach their number-one goal within the boundaries they’ve specified.
And then make it pay off for both of you.
5. Do a beta test
Now it’s time to prove your program works, and that it’s worth a premium price. For that, you need some test subjects. If you’ve been steadily building your audience with useful content and quick wins, you should have plenty of takers.
Be open with these clients. Tell them you’re still developing the product, and that you’re willing to let them try it for a lot less than you’ll charge when you launch. For example, I might sell a 12-week program for $1,000. From my point of view, that’s a bargain, because I believe I’m really good at what I do.
But from my clients’ point of view, it’s a risk; $83 a week is a lot of money for a trainer if she can’t deliver. So to take that risk away, I always guarantee they’ll get their money back if they don’t get the benefit. That puts the onus on me to underpromise and overdeliver.
Remember, this is a test. It’s not the final product. As Stu McLaren says, you don’t have to get it perfect. You just have to get it going. You don’t need the perfect sales page or back end, and you sure don’t need marketing funnels and upsells. Just make it easy for your beta testers to buy your product.
Just as important, make it easy for them to give you feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Their input will be one of your most valuable assets as you head toward your launch.
When you launch your signature product or service, your most valuable assets will be the testimonials of these initial clients. Their results, and their gratitude to you for helping them do it, will sell your product to clients who look at those success stories and see themselves.
Conversely, if you don’t have many people who sign up for your offer, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It just means your offer didn’t speak to your avatar. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who didn’t buy and ask why.