Jonathan Goodman is the trainer of trainers. Inspired by years of working with clients and onboarding new PTs at a fitness studio in Toronto, he wrote his first book for trainers, Ignite the Fire, in 2012.
Four years later, he launched the Online Trainer Academy, a certification for online fitness and nutrition coaches. Since then, he’s written 11 books and helped over 65,000 trainers make more money in fitness as founder of the Personal Trainer Development Center (aka the PTDC).
One of the most common questions he receives from trainers who want to grow their fitness business is, how do I increase my Instagram following?
But Goodman says that’s the wrong question if your goal is to get more clients, whether you’re training them in person or using the latest fitness software. “You see social media all the time, so you’re made to believe it’s more important to your business than it actually is,” he says. That doesn't mean it isn't important at all, but many professionals are ignoring other marketing tools in the name of building an audience. (By the way, you can grow your business with Wix Fit's built-in suite of marketing tools.)
To be clear, Goodman doubled his own Instagram following (@itscoachgoodman) over the last three months. “My goal is to build a large international personal brand,” he says. “If you’re looking for more clients as a personal trainer, don’t do what I’m doing.”
Goodman says most trainers he’s mentored come to him with 8 to 12 clients. “That’s not enough to make a living.” If your goal is to get 25 to 30 clients, which he identifies as a good benchmark for most trainers, you need to focus on that. “Posting a bunch of random haphazard content on Instagram because you feel like it’s the right thing to do isn’t going to move the needle.” Here’s what will.
Know your primary goal
“Do you want to train people, or do you want to be a content creator? There’s no wrong answer, but you need to understand that they’re two different things. People spend hours on content creation, and every decision you make is a tradeoff. I know a colleague who spent four to six hours a day growing his Instagram brand for the last five years. It paid off for him, but it took work, and he’s not trying to get more clients as a personal trainer.
I recently got a message from someone asking for tips to grow his social media following. He had 2,000 followers. I took a step back and said, ‘do you have 2,000 customers?’ Followers don’t necessarily mean clients. Don’t emulate somebody who is a content creator if your goal is to get ten more clients.
It comes down to this: No one has enough time. So, what is your primary focus right now? Before you compare yourself to someone else, ask yourself, are they trying to accomplish the same thing as I am? You can’t do it all, so know where you’re putting your time, energy and money—and why. Whatever you spend your time on takes time away from something else.”
Find a “dark room”
“If my goal is to get clients, I need to ask myself, where do I have an advantage? I think just about every trainer should start locally. It’s a lot harder to get customers across the globe, and I have a feeling you have a lot of customers in your own city.
It doesn’t mean you can’t train someone online. It’s about leveraging technology so that you can offer a better service to your regional clients. You have more connections locally, and people have more of a reason to sign up with you. (Related: Here’s how to shoot a workout video like a professional producer.)
"There’s no competitive advantage to doing the same thing as everyone else."
You can also join local networking or interest groups. We have a mentorship program where we help trainers get more high-end clients. If this is your goal, do you post on Instagram? No. You join high-end business mentorships, which have already attracted people paying $10,000+ a month, because that’s the exact same type of person who sees the value in high-end fitness coaching. You’ll be the only trainer in the program.
Essentially, there’s no competitive advantage to doing the same thing as everyone else. If you’re in a dark room, even the dimmest light will get noticed. But if you’re in a room that’s already lit, it doesn't matter how bright your light is, it isn’t going to do anything. A lot of people are trying to do the same thing as everyone else, but louder. All you need to do is find a dark room.”
“People hire trainers because of personal connection and trust. People will look you up before they hire you, and it’s good to show some of your personality and interests. But it’s not about having followers. Think of your social media accounts as a business card.
This could mean sharing interests outside of the gym, too. Maybe you love music or cooking. Something that makes someone else say, 'this is the person for me.'
Clients don’t come to you because you posted a Tabata interval workout. People want to work with someone who they can shoot the shit with. When I was training clients, I used to go out of my way to read the newspaper headlines in the morning because I knew my clients would want to talk about the news. I’d also leave books on my desk that I was reading, not because I needed them there, but because a client would see a book, and next thing you know, we’re trading books back and forth. It became more personal.
"There are only so many places you can strap on a booty band. It’s gotta be deeper than that. You need to worry less about growth and more about deeper connections."
And that’s what it’s about. People stay with fitness professionals when they have a real connection with them, not for their ingenuity of exercise selection. How could you possibly come up with a new jumpy, squatty, twisty thing every single day? You’re burning yourself out because there really isn't anything new. There are only so many places you can strap on a booty band. It’s gotta be deeper than that. You need to worry less about growth and more about deeper connections.”
Ready for the next step? See how you can build a more powerful fitness business with Wix Fit.