Just when you thought having a website was enough, things online have changed. Creating a static web-page where people come to get information isn’t enough anymore; you need to tell a story that people can connect with. But since you’re a living, growing human being, this story is constantly changing, and if you want to form a strong relationship with your customers, it’s one they’ll want to know about.
This is where a blog comes in.
With the Internet being about information, that’s precisely what your prospect is looking for when they’re searching for a trainer online. In order to be comfortable with you, they want to form a relationship before they even meet you. While in some ways your website can do that, it’s better to go even deeper. Often, the person that gives the visitor the most access and personal information is the one who’ll win the sale. That’ll be the person that formed the stronger relationship with the prospect, and the relationship is everything.
What Is A Blog?
Traditionally, a blog (short for web-log) was like an online diary, but consultants like us use it for a specific purpose: we transmit our knowledge, passion, philosophy, and values through our posts. Your first-time visitor to your site and blog are what we’d call a motivated reader; they’re hungry for information. What the blog does is provide them with an abundance of this information in a low pressure way.
What Info Do You Put On Your Blog?
Although the blog is meant to be a chronicle of your thoughts and events, kind of like shooting from the hip, to use it to its full effect you need to have a plan. If you want to rant about your political views or the exploits of your pet cat, then you should start a separate, private blog for that. For your Personal Training business, everything you put on your blog should be relevant information that in some way applies to the needs of your existing and potential clients.
If you’ll remember, this January I spoke to fellow New York City Personal Trainer Eugene Thong. He’s one of the most devoted bloggers I’ve come across in this business. And he stands out because his blog is focused on delivering quality information. This is different from most bloggers today who are looking to earn and sell through their writing. I’ll let him tell the rest of the story:
Now back to your blog, I could rave about it all day– full of great, well-researched training information and you seem to have a new post every day. From being a blogger myself, one thing that stands out to me is how much time it must take to write – how many hours do you spend a week blogging?
Thanks for the kind words.
It’s hard to tag exactly how much time I spend blogging, but I’d say I probably spend a total of 5 hours a week actually writing. Between training clients, working on my personal business and working with others on their businesses and on side projects, that’s about all the time I can spend blogging (and stay married).
The actual writing isn’t all that difficult; by the time I actually sit down to type, I’ve already got a topic in mind and the gist of what I want to convey outlined in my head. In terms of the creative process, I’m inspired constantly by my clients and my peers – you could say that I’ve got ample topics to write about, and limited time which to actually write!
The majority of the time it takes for me to post on the blog is consumed by looking for the full text of studies, since abstracts often draw conclusions that run counter to the actual data. Since I’m not a doctor or university researcher, it takes a little bit more digging to find a free, linkable version of study texts.
What are some of the advantages of blogging? What are the roles it plays in your training practice?
I think there are three overriding advantages of blogging for personal trainers:
It allows you to create an Internet presence without you needing to be computer-savvy. With blog software, everything is plug and play; all you need is a computer with a working Internet connection. You sign into your respective blogging service, and you have the template of a site all ready to go. All you need to do is provide the content. With blogging services, it’s easier than ever for anyone to have a basic site up and running with literally zero downtime, and if you’re a personal trainer looking to go into business for yourself, there’s no excuse NOT to have a web presence of some sort, whether it’s your own .com or a blog or whatever. You need a way for people to find you and ultimately get in contact with you.
It allows you to build credibility. One of the best ways to create massive demand for your services is to position yourself as an expert in your chosen field. Blogging can help you by serving as a showcase for your expertise. By writing about fitness or explaining exercise concepts through your perspective with your unique voice, you can not only help your prospective clients understand, you build your reputation as an expert. You can also demonstrate your understanding of complex concepts like, say, the electron transport chain in mitochondria), and break it down so that the layperson can understand it. Better yet, you could show how this matters to them; how it affects their goals.
It gives you a way to interact with your clients and vice-versa outside of the context of the session. Being that I view blogging as a conversation, I use the blog not only as a means of communicating with my Internet readers, but of communicating with my clients as well since most of my clients read my blog regularly. The vast majority of blog posts I have were inspired by conversations, interactions, or questions from clients. Someone would ask for a strategy to help them avoid making bad food choices – voila, a post is born. Even better, oftentimes clients will zero in on posts that I’ve written with them in mind, and comment on them, perhaps ask a follow-up question. I then comment on their post, continuing the conversation, and everyone, including the readers, can benefit.
One nice plus is that it acts to reassure clients that you’re there for them, keeping an eye on them. You become more than just a pit stop in their day; just another meeting. It helps reinforce that you’re looking out for their best interests.
What are some tips you can give to other personal trainers like me that are looking to grow a blog and build a strong readership?
As with personal training, what you do depends on what your goal is. If you’re just looking to get started, to have a website where prospective clients can get basic information and see what you’re all about, starting a blog with Blogger is the easiest thing, and not to mention free. Their interface is extremely intuitive and the controls are easy so long as you have the ability to get around a website. Posting there is about as difficult as checking an email. If you want to use it as a revenue source or as a dedicated then Blogger might be too limited – most pros will use WordPress or Movable Type. Those require a deeper understanding of tech stuff, and if you’re not that computer-savvy, it’d be easier to hire a webmaster or web designer to help you set things up. Elance is a great site for finding freelancers for a reasonable fee, and there’s always craigslist.
To build strong readership, by far the most important thing is to have great content that people will want to read. Blogs have a bad rap as many of them become a cult of personality page dedicated to the writer and their accomplishments. Nobody wants to read about what you had for breakfast or how much you can lift – unless it somehow ties into something that they can benefit from. Write for your reader, whoever they may be; every post should be something that helps them, whether they get an actionable item, a bit of knowledge that might help them understand something better, or a motivating post that helps them achieve their ends.
Staying focused on your message is important as well. Is there anything training-wise you’re more interested in or better in than anyone else? Maybe you’re great with helping athletes develop speed – make that your audience and tailor all or most of your posts towards that audience. Maybe you work with elderly women and balance – write about what you do. Having a blog where you talk about movies, training, and skeet-shooting may be interesting to you, but there’s a high likelihood that none of your readers will be interested in all of those topics. More likely, they’re coming to you for specific advice: “How much cardio should I do?” “Is soy protein good?” “I don’t cook – what do I eat for breakfast?” In your case, it’s “What actions and steps do I have to take to become a top-level trainer? How have some other trainers made the transition from in-house to independent?”, and so on. Which you answer quite well, I might add.
It all comes back to identifying your reader and writing to them. Blogs are conversations.
Thanks again to Eugene for his input on this. His blog can be found at www.eugenization.com.
What’s the power of a blog?I would have to say that every single new client that has found me online has mentioned that my blog (on my website) was the main reason they decided to give me a call. They point out that it demonstrates my seriousness, passion, and competence.
Besides that, there are some other advantages to start blogging, some mentioned by Eugene:
- Allows you to form a deeper bond with your existing clients, one that will monetize significantly over time.
- Gives you a reason to stay current on the industry and communicate your knowledge. Researching and writing your posts is the best continuing ed around.
- Improves your writing ability. This is a skill that will pay huge dividends later on in your career.
- Gives you a competitive edge online. Every extra minute a prospect spends reading your content is a minute they can’t spend searching for another trainer.
I’ve noticed that Personal Trainers, even the best ones, as a whole are among the least technically savvy professional groups I’ve ever come across. Don’t be ashamed, we’re all like that; it’s almost a good thing that we’re not forced to sit in front of a computer screen for most of our waking lives. But remember, your clients and potential clients are all extremely web savvy. We’ve got to meet them and talk to them on their turf, and a blog is the best way to do it.