Marketing your personal training business: 

A beginner's guide to promoting yourself through digital marketing

As a personal fitness trainer, you are your business. The reality for most small business owners is you have to do a lot on your own — at least at the beginning. Fortunately, from a marketing standpoint, there are things you can do beyond grassroots and word-of-mouth tactics to help you build your client list. That's not to say word-of-mouth referrals aren't important, of course, but harnessing the power of digital marketing offers effective and scalable tactics you can use to turn prospective customers into loyal clients.

9 digital marketing tactics to promote your personal training business

  1. Optimize the user experience (UX) on your website

  2. Use search engine optimization (SEO) for organic traffic

  3. Create a Google My Business listing
  4. Find your customers in the right place at the right time
  5. Develop a content marketing strategy
  6. Build social media channels where people are engaging with fitness training content
  7. Use pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to promote your business to your ideal customer
  8. Build an email list and invest in personalized email marketing
  9. Encourage customers to leave online reviews
two personal fitness trainer students working on weight training in the gym

Want to up-skill in digital marketing? Check out the 12 digital marketing courses available in NAIT's Department of Continuing Education.

1. Optimize the user experience (UX) on your website

As a small business, it’s highly likely you’ll need a website where your customers can learn more about you, your services, and your business. You don’t need to hire a team of full-stack web developers to get the job done either. There are plenty of user-friendly, affordable platforms you can use to create a website that:

  • Tells the story of your brand
  • Contains all the relevant info your customers need to know about your business
  • Becomes the final destination for all your digital promotions to funnel customers to.

Plenty of WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors like Wordpress, Wix, or Squarespace exist in the market with built-in themes, booking systems, and e-commerce functionality making it easier than ever to create powerful websites that are user and mobile friendly. With more people browsing and shopping on smartphones and tablets, it’s important to consider how your website looks and functions on both desktop and mobile. The last thing you want to do is to frustrate your customers with a sloppy user experience and potentially talk them out of filling out a contact form or booking a consultation.

Want to learn more about UX  design? Check out the UX Web Design course.

2. Use search engine optimization (SEO) for organic traffic

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of improving your website and its content to increase the likelihood that potential users will find it on search engines (like Google or Bing). It’s a pretty big and complex topic with literally hundreds of tactics to implement, but in its purest form (and how it’s most relevant to you), it’s the process of using the right keywords and phrases on your site that your customers will most likely search to find your business.

Think about the last time you were looking for something in Google — maybe it was even when you were looking for a personal trainer program. You might have searched “how to become a personal trainer” or “personal trainer programs near me”. You’ll notice the NAIT Personal Fitness Trainer program page appears on both those searches, and a lot of that has to do with how we use keywords in our headings, URLs, images, web copy, and metadata.

The best part of using SEO is that it’s one of the free ways to get traffic to your website (otherwise known as organic or unpaid traffic).

Want to get better at SEO in less than 10 hours?  Check out our SEO course today!

3. Create a Google My Business (GMB) Listing

A Google My Business (GMB) listing is one of the lowest hanging fruits for digital marketing — and it’s free! Usually when you search a local business on Google, the first thing you’ll see is their GMB listing with basic information about the business, including the address, hours, phone number, link to their website, reviews, and more.

A GMB listing is a useful way to give potential customers the essential information about your business, and it ensures you’ll show up on location-based searches like “personal trainers near me”.

Why is that important? Because there are about 1.5 billion destination-based searches on Google every month, and 76% of people searching for businesses nearby on their smartphones visit the business they found within 1 day.

Cotie Guzman Fitness Google My Business Listing on desktop This is the desktop view of a typical Google My Business Listing
Cotie Guzman Fitness Google My Business Listing on mobile This is the mobile view of a typical Google My Business Listing

4. Find your customers in the right place at the right time

The key to good marketing is giving the right customer the right message at the right time. It’s how you ensure your services meet the actual needs of your customer when they actually need your help. In order to do that successfully, you need to understand your customer.

You can understand your customer by answering questions like:

  • What kind of person needs my services?
  • What do they like? Dislike?
  • What do they respond to?
  • What problems do they face?
  • How do I solve those problems for them?

From a digital marketing perspective, you need to answer all these questions and then understand how they behave online.

Keep in mind, customers behave differently on different platforms. For example, the audience you’re reaching on Instagram might not be the same one you’re reaching by email, and they might be both looking for different things on those platforms. You’ll need to research your target market’s behaviour and look to your competition to see how they’re implementing their own tactics.

Got a few hours to build your digital marketing fundamentals? Take the Essentials Track course.

5. Develop a content marketing strategy

Content marketing is one major facet of digital marketing, and it can be powerful if done correctly. Think of it as a way to soft-sell your business by providing useful or entertaining content to your target customer to start a relationship. Most businesses will start a blog and write helpful guides to solve their customer’s problems.

For example, a plumber might write an article on the top 10 causes your sink isn’t draining and how to fix them. A baker might write the top 5 tips to keep your chocolate chip cookies from burning. This gets people familiar with seeing their brand and associating them with a positive, helpful experience. So maybe the next time their toilet breaks or they need a quick cookie fix, they’ll know who to turn to.

It’s important to think about what kind of content makes the most sense for your business, what would be most helpful to your audience, and how you plan to distribute your content. In the case of your personal training business, you might want to invest in creating video content instead of written articles because your ideal clients are most likely to engage in visual material. For example, an instagram reel or guide with 5 HIIT circuits to fit into your lunch break or a Youtube tutorial with 10 exercises to build up your booty without any equipment.

Workout guides on Hannah Dawson Fitness's instagram account Here's an example of video content in the form of Instagram guides from alumna, Hannah Dawson.

This type of free, educational content:

  • Starts a relationship with your potential customer
  • Sets you up as a reliable expert
  • Gives you the chance to introduce yourself and your brand.

Think content marketing is the best fit to promote your personal training services? Take the Content Marketing course.

6. Build social media channels where people are engaging with fitness training content

Content marketing often goes hand in hand with social media marketing. Not only is social media a great place to serve your content, but it’s also one of the few marketing channels where you can interact and openly engage with your customers and prospects.

Social media marketing can be complicated and often requires a significant time investment whether you’re posting content, interacting with other creators, or doing customer service. To keep from getting overwhelmed, zero in on one or two platforms that make the most sense for your business and your content.

As a personal trainer, video platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube are likely where you’ll find the biggest return on investment, but that’s not to say that you can’t experiment with other platforms. For example, when COVID-19 caused most gyms to close, virtual and streaming fitness training became popular on platforms like Twitch. Some fitness trainers on Twitch clock thousands of viewing hours, making it a viable place to interact with current and potential clients.

It’s important not to simply bombard your followers with promotional material. It’s best to follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of your content is useful to your audience (i.e., it educates, entertains, or offers a solution to their problems) and 20% explicitly promotes your business.

Want to get better at social media marketing in just a few days? Sign up for the Social Media Marketing course.

7. Use pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to promote your business to your ideal customer

When building and promoting your business, a little money can go a long way with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. As the name suggests, PPC refers to an advertising model where you pay a fee every time your ad is clicked.

The most typical PPC advertising takes place on Google, where you bid on popular keywords in the hopes that your ad will appear at the very top of the search engine results page (SERP). The benefit of PPC is you can get pretty granular with your targeting demographics and can bid on keywords that show strong levels of buyer intent.

For example, someone who searches in Google for “personal training” might be browsing for trainers or looking to become a trainer or might just want to work on their own fitness. Whereas someone searching “personal trainers edmonton” or “personal trainers near me” is clearly in the market to find a trainer. Those phrases show a clearer buyer intent, making those phrases more valuable for you to bid on.

There are other types of paid advertising which have fee models that differ slightly from PPC based on the goals or metrics of your ads. Some charge for impressions (or how often your ad is seen), for every 1000 views or clicks, or for placement. Each model has its best use case depending on your customer’s journey.

Other types of paid advertising can include:

  • Boosted or sponsored social media posts
  • Video or display ads that run before, during, or after YouTube videos
  • Audio ads on streaming platforms like Spotify and Soundcloud
  • Print or digital ads in industry publications or newsletters, and more.

It's best to experiment with different platforms and see how your audience engages. Once you find the right fit, you can invest more time and money in a partifular tactic or platform.

Want to get better at PPC in 9 hours? Try the Paid Search course today!

8. Build an email list and invest in personalized email marketing

Email marketing can be a great, high-touch marketing tool for you to reach your ideal client at the right time in their buying journey.

Customers crave personal, human attention. Email marketing (whether it’s true one-to-one communication or a mass marketing email) when done well can accomplish that, making it a preferred tactic for customer acquisition and retention.

Personalized emails go a long way in building a bond with your customers. Drip email campaigns using tools like Campaign Monitor or Mailchimp can help you nurture leads (prospective clients) at various stages of the buyer's journey and make that journey as enjoyable and seamless as possible.

A pop up contact form on Life Force Movement's website asking for newsletter sign ups A pop-up newsletter sign up form is a great way to get customer emails. Many businesses will offer one-time discount codes as well to encourage new sign-ups.

There are a few ways to start building your email list. The first is to use a contact form on your website where people can request more information or book a consultation. You could also gate some of your content, which means you put some free content up behind a lead generation form that people can access after filling out some basic information (i.e., first name, last name, email address). You can also create a monthly digital newsletter where you include some interesting, useful, and/or entertaining content (like training tips) and updates that encourage clients to continue engaging with you.

If email marketing is your game, we can help. Take the Email Marketing course today.

9. Encourage your clients to leave online reviews

Word of mouth is important to all businesses — and even more so for a small business that can’t trade on years of establishment or reputation. It’s vital for you to get your happy clients gassing you up online whenever and wherever possible.

Encourage your clients to leave online reviews of your Google My Business listing, and claim and moderate your business’s profile on other review sites like Yelp, TrustPilot, and more. Reviews and testimonials help prospective clients feel more confident buying into your services and start building trust almost immediately. They are also an opportunity for transparency and accountability when a client doesn’t have an amazing experience. Make sure you monitor for negative reviews and respond to them quickly and professionally.

Happy clients that you build rapport with are great for influencer or referral marketing, turning them into ambassadors or champions for your business. Make sure to highlight them on your website and social channels, and if you’re doing your job right, they’ll share your business on their own channels.

Your next step

These tips are only a shallow overview of the complex landscape of digital marketing, but they should give you somewhere to start with promoting your personal training business.

What’s most important is to test, test, test. Not every campaign will be a success and not every will vibe with your ideal client, so the only way to know for sure is to experiment, implement, and analyze.

And if you’re struggling with some gaps in your digital marketing skills and need some help, NAIT’s Department of Continuing Education has a digital marketing program or 11 shorter specialized courses that cover the most important facets of digital marketing. These courses are online, self-paced, and use interactive learning tools with application-based lessons to help you fill any gaps in your expertise.

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