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Marketing Made Easy: A 3-Step Formula For Health & Fitness Professionals

By John Berardi, PhD

Marketing and Sales

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When it comes to business, it’s marketing and sales over everything else. Because, without income, you can’t afford to do anything else. Here’s how to think about both, including a 3-step formula for—finally—getting a handle on what you need to do to market yourself.

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The #1 Most Important Thing

Many budding health and fitness entrepreneurs spend a lot of time and money on:

  • Finding the perfect name for their business.
  • Creating the perfect logo, business cards, and letterhead.
  • Protecting their intellectual property via trademarks and copyrights.
  • Finding the very best billing, list management, or scheduling systems.
  • Setting up an optimal tax structure.

Of course, I’m not saying these things are unimportant or that you shouldn’t think about them. But they shouldn’t be your first concern.

Take, for example, Precision Nutrition. When I was at the helm, we didn’t worry about any of them for our first five to seven years.

Likewise, we were five years behind on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And, as of early 2019, Precision Nutrition was still using an antiquated email management tool that most people replaced back in 2006.

How, then, did Precision Nutrition manage to grow a $200+ million business? By focusing limited resources on the only thing that matters to a new business: Getting customers!

As the saying goes: Sales solve everything.

We’ve Been Selling Things To Our Ideal Clients and Customers!

I’ll always remember a meeting Phil Caravaggio (PN’s co-founder) and I had we had about five years after starting our first company. We were at an expensive restaurant in Toronto, meeting with a high-paid accountant.

“Your books are a mess!” he told us. “Have you ever seen anything like it?” he asked his assistant, laughing.

During the early years of Precision Nutrition I heard similar sentiments from well-respected accountants, lawyers, bankers, insurance brokers, and more.

Yet I didn’t quite feel the shame or embarrassment I think they wanted me to feel. Instead of focusing on intellectual property law or getting the most robust insurance coverage, we focused on selling things to our ideal clients and customers. Earning enough to keep going. Profiting enough to grow.

So, when faced with these kinds of comments from other professionals, I’ve been known to joke: “Yep, we could’ve taken care of some of these sooner. But we were busy making great products and selling them. Without that we wouldn’t be here today, ready to pay your zillion-dollar-an-hour rates. So, by all accounts, I think we made the right choice.”

They tend to concede the point.

Without Income You Can’t Afford To Do Anything Else

Nowadays Precision Nutrition has buttoned down all those other aspects of the business, of course. But only after building a solid foundation and making enough profit to reinvest in these “nice to have” options.

While other startups were messing around with lower-value activities, we made it our main goal to keep the main goal—creating great products and making money selling them—the main goal.

There are lots of things that different people will want you to prioritize in your business, and in your life. Some of them, like protecting intellectual property, or using top-notch systems, are good ideas. But remember: prioritization is about this even over that.

And, when it comes to business, it’s marketing and sales pretty much over everything else. Because, without income, you can’t afford to do anything else.

Understanding The Difference Between Sales and Marketing

So, how do you get good at marketing and sales?

You start by knowing the difference between them.

Sales is someone walking into your physical location (or emailing you) to ask about your products and services. Regardless of where they fall on a scale of 0 to 10 in terms of readiness to buy, it’s your job to convince them that a) they need what you’re selling and b) they should pay for it today. Your mission is to move them from whatever number they’re at on the 0 to 10 scale all the way up to a 10. This requires quick relationship-building and a lot of persuasion.

Marketing, on the other hand, is identifying your ideal customer early, crafting a compelling offer just for them, and attracting those people to your physical location (or inbox) already at an 8 or 9 out of 10 on the readiness to buy scale. Great marketing makes selling significantly easier. Which is why you should put a lot of emphasis on it. I’ve even come up with a fancy name for how I do it. I call it the Tripod Marketing Formula.

Introducing The Tripod Marketing Formula

1. Know what people want.
2. Do something awesome to deliver it.
3. Tell everyone about it.

#1: Know what people want.

People passionate about health and fitness—experienced hobbyists and professionals alike—often assume they know what people really want when it comes to health and fitness: To “look good naked,” to improve their blood panels, to get better at their sport. While that’s likely part of why they hire us, it’s probably not the full story.

The best way to find out what’s really important to people is to study them.

In Precision Nutrition’s case, one negative review of our coaching program made me realize that we needed to learn more about what our clients really wanted. So we spent months doing client interviews and exit surveys with people who left our programs, using a particular framework.

This was a turning point for us.

When we learned for sure what our clients and customers were seeking, business took off. We were finally able to promise the hopeful future they were looking for. This increased their desire to work with us. A lot. Within one year of implementing this framework sales increased by 50%.

Even more importantly, our clients felt better served, and we felt more satisfied in our work.  To this end, I encourage you to become an “anthropologist” of your clients (or potential clients). Both for the business benefits and to feel better about the work you’re doing in the world.

I detail exactly how to do this in the following article:

#2: Do something awesome to deliver it.

Through our research, we learned that, no matter what their physical goals, everyone who hired us for coaching wanted the same thing: They wanted personal attention. They didn’t need a lot of it. Rather, they wanted to be pleasantly surprised by personal attention. They wanted to feel cared for and acknowledged outside the context of a normal coaching interaction.

(Of course, this may not be what your clients and customers want. But it’s what emerged from our research, again, detailed here.)

To give our clients what they truly wanted, we had to find strategic ways to show them we were paying attention—especially at times when they were least expecting it.

This didn’t have to be complicated. For instance, we made changes to our intake questionnaire that made it easier to deliver a personal touch.

Previously, when a client joined, they’d fill out a form that asked about everything from their previous exercise and nutrition experience to their personal goals and any injuries or illnesses they had. But armed with this new insight, we added a few questions like:

  • Do you have any pets? If so, what kind of animal and what’s their name?
  • How will you reward yourself if you achieve your goals? (Will you take a big trip somewhere? Try a new sport or hobby?)

We also ensured that coaches had this important information about their clients close at hand. Every client soon had a “profile” that their coach could see, at a glance, with things like:

  • Their clients’ exercise and nutrition history
  • Where they lived
  • The names of their family members and pets
  • Their hobbies and what they did for fun
  • Their goals and aspirations
  • How they planned on rewarding themselves once they accomplished their goals, and more.

Our coaches could now personalize their interactions with clients in small ways that had a big impact. They started adding simple comments like:

Make sure to stay warm out there; looks like you have a hell of a snowstorm on the way.

Hey, I see it’s your birthday coming up. Do you have any plans?

My dog loves these sweet potato doggie treats; I hope you don’t mind, but I just sent you and Sparky a box. Let me know what he thinks!

It may not seem like much. But when you’re working with an online client, any kind of personal connection—especially an unexpected sentence or two—is amplified and appreciated.

Forgetting important details is also amplified.

I remember hearing from a client who reached out to her previous nutrition coach for help with increasing protein intake. The coach recommended chicken and fish. The only problem? The client was vegan and had mentioned this multiple times.

I’m sure her coach wasn’t trying to offend her. But that was the result.

Memory isn’t always reliable. That’s why Precision Nutrition built a coaching platform that allows coaches to see all important information while interacting with clients. No remembering necessary.

So, give it some thought. How could you offer unexpected personal attention like this for the people you serve?

Even more importantly, what do the people coming to you for help want in the first place. First learn that. And then figure out ways to deliver it in outstanding, remarkable, unexpected ways.

#3: Tell everyone about it.

Once we figured out what our clients wanted (unexpected personal attention) and came up with simple ways to deliver it awesomely (small, strategic comments and gifts based on new coaching intel) we wanted to tell everyone about our highly effective and surprisingly personal coaching system.

The goal quickly became clear: Tell our story to more people.

For an online business, that meant getting more people to visit our website. More website traffic (especially if they’re legitimate prospects interested in what we offer) means more people sign up for our coaching programs. When more people join our programs, we make more money. When we make more money we can invest in: improving the quality of our service, hiring more team members, and building additional products and services.

But how did we get the ball rolling?

For instance, among our many options, we could have:

  • Written more blog posts and articles targeted specifically to the kinds of people who would be most likely to join our programs.
  • Written guest articles for other blogs and get links back to our website.
  • Improved our referral network and get more affiliates who can send more website traffic.
  • Improved our website’s SEO (search engine optimization) and do more targeted ads.
  • Put strategic promoted posts on Facebook targeted to friends of our clients and customers, linking them to helpful articles and free courses.

While your business may not be the same as Precision Nutrition’s, all business realities are the same: There’s only so much time, money, energy, and resources to go around. Like PN, you have to exercise skill #1 by prioritizing and focusing. You have to pick a path. And have a solid, data-driven rationale for it.

From all the available options, we guessed the following approach would have the highest probability of paying off: Promoted posts on Facebook to friends of our readers, clients, and customers.

We chose this for a few reasons:

1. We already had many Facebook fans: just over 100,000 at the time. That meant we had the potential to reach millions of friends of friends.

2. Through our interviews and research with clients, we realized people were more likely to join our coaching programs if a person they knew had tried it and been successful.

3. We were already getting roughly 10,000 website visits per week from Facebook; in other words, there was already an established connection with room to grow.

We spent the next few weeks coming up with a strategy and budget for running promoted posts on Facebook and then rolled it out. Ka-blam.

In just a few weeks, our Facebook traffic went from around 10,000 visitors per week to just under 100,000 per week. More people visited our website, more people heard about the awesome things we’re doing, and more signed up for our programs.

But let’s be clear: just like there’s no best diet, there’s no magic marketing method. The tactic that worked for us may not work for you.

Plus, unless you’ve spent the time to deeply understand your prospects and devoted resources to delivering something awesome, no amount of marketing will matter. Worry about making something valuable that people really want first, then figure out which channel to use to sell it.

So, when it’s time to tell everyone about your awesome product, focus on the one or two methods that best connect you to your audience. Look at data on your clients and the people you want to work with. What does it tell you about where and how to get more people to find you?

Then consider the option that may bring you the most qualified leads. In other words, the people most likely to buy your product or service and get benefit from it.

Sheer numbers don’t count. Anyone can print out a thousand flyers and plaster them all over the neighborhood. And a hundred “Likes” on social media may translate into zero dollars.

Instead, ask yourself: Where is my ideal audience? How can I reach them? (If you aren’t sure who your specific audience is, go back to Step #1.)

Gather the data. Look at your current roster (if you have a good group and they represent your ideal client) and ask yourself: How did these people find out about me? 

You may quickly find a pattern (for example, most of your ideal clients might have heard about you from a friend or family member). Once you find a pattern, you can find ways to do more of that. Improve and amplify what’s already working.

Key Takeaways

When it comes to growing your business, here’s the holy trinity of marketing:

Know what people want.

Don’t make assumptions. Put in the work and study what’s really important to your clients and customers on a deep level. (I show you exactly how to do this here).

Do something awesome to deliver it.

Awesome, unexpected, and remarkable matters. Don’t just copy what everyone else is doing. Figure out how to deliver what you learned above in special ways that surprise and delight those receiving it.

Tell everyone about it.

Make sure everyone knows you exist. In person, online, and everywhere in between. Shout it from the rooftops. (I show you exactly how to do this here).

Want To Learn More? Go Deeper?

Then download this FREE sample of my latest book, Change Maker.

Change Maker shares the tips, strategies, and lessons I learned growing Precision Nutrition from a two-person passion project to a 200 million dollar company that’s coached over 200,000 clients, certified over 100,000 professionals, and revolutionized the field of nutrition coaching.

Whether you work as a health coach, strength coach, nutritionist, functional medicine doc, or rehab specialist, Change Maker will help you discover the right direction to take, the fastest way to make progress, and the practical steps required to build the career of your dreams in health and fitness.

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