Marketing your business – analyse first – a case study

by Simon Murdoch

I have a personal trainer called Andy and we meet up once a week for an hour for a Nordic walk or run at the beautiful Devil’s Punchbowl near Hindhead:

dp pic2   dp pic1

Great view at Sailors Stone, Devils Punchbowl                       Beautiful countryside
Thanks to Christopher Hilton and Geograph.org.uk             Thanks to Joan Lee of artywater.blogspot.co.uk

Andy and I always have a great chat and we’ve got to know each other well over the years, but recently we walked and talked about his marketing. His family and other clients have been telling him he really must market himself over Twitter particularly, and knowing that I was an Internet entrepreneur and now tech investor he wanted to know my opinion. The thought was that with social media you can reach many many people in the local area and never be short of work.

We talked about the current structure of his business. A great place to start is to understand how you get clients, how long they last, how many do you need, and only then: where and how can you find the right sort of new clients.

It’s just him and he only has so many hours in the week which are used for a) one to one sessions like mine – walking, running, cycling, or in the gym with one client at a time, or b) exercise classes with 5-20 clients at time where he has to pay for the hall or gym. He doesn’t want to employ other personal trainers. He’s happy with his earnings as long as it doesn’t dry up any time soon.

He’s pretty busy and can only do so many hours a week. The classes are good for creating relationships but once he’s paid for the hall and allowing for attrition from week to week, they don’t pay much more than the one to one sessions if at all. The one to one clients can remain clients for years.

So first off, I suggested he went away and analysed his client base. I explained the concept of lifetime value and asked him to consider how long the private clients lasted and how many he needs to add now and per year.

The next week we walked and talked and it was clear that in his people business with limited time available, the marketing plan is really very simple. The great news for him is that many one to one clients last a long long time. The typical lifetime value of a client like me is c £3000 to £9000. Yes, scary for the client! New clients either fall away after a handful of sessions or last for years like me.

At any time, he only has capacity to take on one or two new long term clients without hiring staff which he doesn’t want to do, and he probably only needs to attract 2-3 new clients per year. It’s a very sticky business!

Also, he analysed where his existing clients had all come from and several were from his exercise classes and most of the others by word of mouth with existing clients. A few others have come from people finding his website: fitterbyfar, particularly when searching via Google e.g. for Nordic walking Haslemere.

So my advice to Andy was:

  1. concentrate on keeping his current clients happy to extend their lifetime value, plus if they lapse e.g. over summer holidays, then be politely persistent about booking the next session to win them back.
  2. continue doing the exercise classes and think through how to promote himself in them to find a few new one to one clients per year, e.g. with leaflets and/or emails about session times also containing marketing for his one to one sessions.
  3. solicit referrals from existing clients from time to time (saying he happens to have one spot free at the moment implying scarcity value)
  4. look through his records and get in touch with lapsed clients to see if they would like to re-start their exercise programs.

He also did a bit more work on his simple website – doing a super simple WordPress blog on there, posting weekly to keep it fresh – giving his friends and family, and Google, a reason to come back.

Talking this through, he is confident that he could win 2-3 clients a year without having to tweet a thing, and all the above methods are so much more in his control and so much more predictable that he hasn’t even set up his twitter handle.

Special bonus from Andy:
the best treatment for all sorts of ailments – 9 mins video – time well spent!

and for those sceptics who think walking isn’t that cool:
article from the Guardian

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