Five months ago, Optimum Fitness Software (OFS) was, in the words of its co-founder Scott Hodson, just “another boring web company”.
Despite winning numerous business awards for its innovative technology, the seven-year-old health, sport and leisure web design and software company was struggling to differentiate itself from every other company offering similar services.
“We were like every other single web design and software company,” admits Scott. “It was just so hard.” So he attended a free two-day Digital Lighthouse event in the hope of picking up some skills to help his business survive the recession. What he got was far more radical.
During the event, he had “the most important conversation” of his professional career with Digital Lighthouse’s Sales Expert Fiona Challis in which she helped him to clarify his company’s value proposition.
“Fiona took just 10 minutes to cut through my waffle and change my business from ‘a web business in the health, sport and leisure industry’ to ‘a collaboration of fitness business experts who turn regular fitness business’ to six figure income enterprises by increasing leads, conversions and sales’.” The newly defined business would be called The Fit Biz Builders.
“From that defining moment, the entire focus of the business was different and my whole mind-set changed dramatically and I’ve been able to attract more and more business every month and it’s been easier than ever before.
That weekend, he also made the decision to join Digital Lighthouse’s Business Development Programme. “After my conversation with Fiona, my question had changed from ‘Can my business afford this?’ to ‘Can my business afford not to have this?’”
Scott and fellow fitness industry experts Yvette Nevrkla and Lucy Johnson set up The Fit Biz Builders with the intention of helping fitness professionals and personal trainers to raise their online profile and build profitable businesses. For while most fitness professionals are highly accomplished at enthusing their clients and helping them to lead healthier, happier lives, they tend to be useless at business and marketing.
Most don’t have a clue how to price their services or communicate the value of the service they provide to their prospective clients.
Many personal trainers have a business model that consists of providing clients with one-on-one sessions and exchanging time for money. The only ways they can earn more money are to either increase their prices or work more hours (which brings with it the risk of burnout and physical exhaustion).
Like many service providers, they mistakenly believe word-of-mouth marketing will be enough to bring in new customers.
They also think the way to attract more clients is to get yet another fitness-related qualification, rather than improving their marketing skills.
“If they have no business coming in, they think another qualification will get them more customers,” says Scott.
They are also “technophobic”, unaware of the business building potential of web marketing. “Traditionally gyms and personal trainers have online brochures that are the equivalent of electronic business cards,” says Scott, explaining their websites do nothing to persuade would-be clients to sign up for their services.
An online survey of fitness professionals confirmed Scott’s beliefs: it revealed that the majority of respondents spent less than £50 a month on marketing.
To launch this revolutionary concept, Scott, Yvette and Lucy took Digital Lighthouse’s advice and wrote a free tips booklet called “The Fit Biz Blueprint: 5 Essential Steps For Fitness Business Success” and then created a landing page to promote it.
Once the landing page was created, Scott had to find low-cost ways to get traffic. He approached training providers in the fitness industry. “I didn’t have the spare cash to spend on a lot of advertising and stuff like that, so I needed to find some affiliates.” The company now has 10 affiliates promoting the free book, including the industry’s governing body, The Fitness Industry Association, the YMCA, the charity TAGworks, and the world’s biggest training provider for fitness professionals, Premier International Training.
“They allowed us to post a link to the free book on their websites and now we’re getting traffic from them. I think we’re up to 600 now new subscribers in four months.
“Feedback from the book has been amazing. One of the quotes was, ‘This is an awesome book, full of killer information that will have a profound impact on my fitness business.’”
As the mailing list grew, Scott knew he needed some way to convert those prospective customers into paying clients.
“I was thinking, ‘Fantastic, excellent. We’ve got a big email list, now what? How do we actually move forward with this?’ I started to promote a membership site where for a monthly fee, people could get access to me and a few other people. It flopped – only 7% of our audience were committed to paying for that service – so we’ve stopped that.”
Scott and his fellow experts spent Christmas considering alternative ways to convert their prospects into paying customers. They decided to create a free, online 12-week business course for fitness professionals which they began marketing at the start of the year and launched last week.
“The industry is going absolutely nuts about it. It’s revolutionary to them because a lot of the industry is very much about how to present fitness, health, well-being and diet and everything like that. It’s all about teaching people how to deliver that information.
“So when we came along and said, ‘We’re going to be teaching fitness professionals how to earn a six-figure business and triple their profits’, they lapped it up straight away because they do very well in teaching people how to become gym instructors, personal trainers, well-being coaches and everything like that, but they don’t teach people how to run a successful business.
“We’ve already got 54 people signed up. Over the next 12 weeks, they’ll receive privileged content and the idea is to move them towards subscribing to our services.”
Those services range from providing a template website and monthly online tutorials to a full e-commerce platform with a member’s area, referral schemes, consultancy with one of the company’s marketing experts, and help with developing products.
The number of subscribers for the course will grow enormously in coming months, thanks to one of Fit Biz Builders affiliates, a charitable organisation called TAGworks. It provides people who are either unemployed or not in education the opportunity to get a qualification in the health and fitness and then gives them a work placement.
“TAGworks is referring them to our online business course. We’re really proud to get that gig because it will give us 600 new candidates every eight weeks.”
Another new key affiliate is SportEx, who publish a journal that goes out to 28,000 fitness professionals. They have donated an advert for the “tips guide” in the journal in exchange for some cross advertising opportunities. This will result in a massive increase in the prospect list looking to grow their fitness business.
Scott also presented his first seminar in January to 22 fitness professionals. It was called ‘How to systemise your fitness business for massive profits’ and was fully funded through one of Fit Biz Builder’s affiliates – the Fitness Industry Association.
“We’ve started to put a few things in place to increase the actual number of bums on seats for the next seminar. The feedback we got from it was brilliant: one person said they were gutted that they didn’t have this information years ago when they started their fitness business. Overall, people gave us eight out of 10, so we’ve got a little room for improvement as always. But for a first stab, I’m very happy with that.
“It was a great day, very empowering, and I loved every second of it.” What’s more, the company made £4,000 in sales from it and gathered 12 hot leads. Scott followed up those leads and it resulted in another £4,000 worth of orders. So from that one free seminar, The Fit Biz Builders earned an impressive £8,000 in sales.
“It’s just transformed the way that we sell, which is brilliant. Digital Lighthouse has given us the mechanisms for high growth. When all of those systems are in place it will be highly manageable and profitable. With the new deal with SportEx and two other suppliers, we believe we will turnover £300,000 in the next 12 months. That’s modest and it’s not that overwhelming but the great news is that about 70% of it will be profit because of what Digital Lighthouse has been able to teach us.”