Free challenges are becoming one of the best way to get new clients in to your fitness business, but setting one up can be pretty daunting.
The logistics of getting your challenge in front people, engaging them and turning them in to a paying client can seem so complex that most personal trainers don’t even try to start.
For this guide, I collaborated with client and friend Chris Forrest from The CJ Rubric. Chris is one of the best PT’s I know who uses challenges to get new clients and he explains his processes in detail for you below. Over to Chris:
Creating the Free Challenge
The challenge itself is probably the most important thing to consider. You need something that will grab attention straight away and tell the client what they will get.
We chose Biggest Loser, even though I hate the Biggest Loser TV show, we decided to market what they want and then we give them what they need in the coaching.
This is an important concept to grasp in the fitness industry. The general public is so confused about what works and what doesn’t that some end up believing in the craziest things.
Telling them they’re wrong won’t get you clients so instead, we invite them into our business using the language and mindset that they currently have and then help them adopt more positive, sustainable beliefs as we establish rapport.
To find out whether a Biggest Loser challenge was something people were interested in, we posted about the idea of doing the challenge on Facebook. We got lots of likes and interest so I knew we had a winner.
We also offered a prize of $200 to the winner but no one cared about it by the end of the challenge and the winner actually used that money to purchase more of our services.
We decided to run our challenge for 3 weeks because this amount of time allowed me to show the value of the coaching I do. This is my selling point.
We used PT Distinction to have a complete automated system for people who came in early so they could start working on stuff right away. Which is super important. Don’t let people come in and do nothing for a few days till the challenge starts.
The Challenge Details
Without going into crazy detail...here are some point forms on what we did during the challenge.
Week 3 (final week):
Note: I highly doubt anyone did the workouts. Most people are super stressed out so walking was the money.
I'll be 100% honest here, we delivered a lot. I coached my ass off in the group and responded to every single post or comment. We wanted to show what it's like in the coaching groups.
People want to think they can go hardcore on this stuff when they actually need a much more tailored and reasonable approach to be able to do it long term.
So this is a sprint. The coaching program is a marathon. The challenge is meant to guide them into the coaching program which will show then how to make reasonable choices each day so they don't have burn out.
Building Interest & Engagement
To build interest, I needed an audience so I started posting daily live video on my Facebook business page that talked about exactly what I was going to do in the challenge 4 weeks prior to the challenge starting.
Having an engaging social media schedule also helped with post reach.
I'm comfortable on video which is why I chose that medium. If you don't feel comfortable on video, you could use another medium like podcasting or writing.
I then shared those video on my personal page.
I asked my current clients to share these posts (didn’t push, I asked them to share what they thought was valuable).
Anyone who commented, liked etc. I messaged thanking them for the support and starting a conversation about whatever. I only mentioned the challenge if it warranted being mentioned.
We posted testimonials of current clients and current clients shared the sign up post like crazy.
We have very loyal following. Our coaching style is different to most online programs so the clients stories are massive for us (as they are for everyone really).
Paid Ads for the Challenge
We didn’t want to be spending loads on paid ads. Who does? So we created some custom audiences around people who watched any of the videos we posted on Facebook.
We could then create a retargeting ad to the audience who watched the videos. The ad sent them to a super simple landing page to sign up which you can see here:
When they signed up, PT Distinction automatically sent out emails etc. and on-boarded them into the app.
Converting Participants to Paying Clients
Converting all of these new leads into paying clients is probably the most nerve wracking part of the challenge. It’s too easy to wonder if all the hard work has been a waste.
In week 3, I offered clients the opportunity to jump on to a call before we finished the challenge. During the call I basically gave them the exact process I would do with them if they joined the group. I didn’t hold anything back.
At the end of the call I asked if they would like to come try our coaching programs.
Full disclosure; I need to work on my sales system so I might not be the best person to give advice to about this… but I do believe in giving everything you can. It’s all information that they can find anyway…. so they will either sign up because they need accountability now or they will sign up later cause they tried doing it themselves and couldn’t do it.
Either way, pushy sales calls are not something I’m into.
I also ran a webinar on how to use our system for life on the last day after the final weigh ins…. which was a massive flop so will be fixing that up. I don’t think many people watched it. It was too long.
Preparing for the Next Challenge
We took photos and screen shots of everything. And we shared it like crazy throughout the challenge. People love seeing everyones stories.
Have everyone write, record a testimonial of your challenge. You can use this stuff forever. Don’t be pushy about it. Ask and wait. If they didn’t write something or record something for you, you might need to look at your challenge again.
Here are the results we got from running this particular challenge. Naturally your results will vary on the type of challenge, your existing audience, your systems and the results you achieve:
It's important to remember when doing challenges, if you are very hands on, you might want to have smaller groups and have a smaller conversion afterwards.
I couldn’t handle building out custom programs for 20 something people at the same time. So in round two we had 45 sign up which is great if we shoot for a 10% conversion.
People freak out about low engagement, when its actually very normal. There is a rule of thumb called the 90-9-1 rule. 90% will never engage or do very little. 9% will engage sporadically. 1% will engage all the time. Focus your efforts on the 9 and 1% and the 90% will either work in silence and still do well or they will disappear.
If you focus on them, you miss the opportunity of converting that 10% to clients (the 9 and 1% group)
We kept the same group every time based on the advice from Tim Saye, founder of PT Distinction. So anyone who has ever done the biggest loser challenge stays in the group and can do it again next time.
Does that mean I am coaching people for free all the time and they just keep repeating? YEP….so what.
They would probably never buy anyway and I don’t mind. They could become a walking billboard for you just because you continuously help them.
They also might become clients in the end because they see themselves always repeating this challenge (which is hard…it moves fast with lots of info while our coaching is user based and different for everyone) so they will probably convert over anyway.
Also I keep telling myself that NO ONE KNOWS ME…. so I need to have lots and lots of coaching touch points before people see that I can actually help them personally.
The personal touch is everything.
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