How One Trainer Uses Social Media to Grow His Business Without Any Ad Spend by Jason Leenaarts
(Richard B. showing off his battle rope skills)
That’s when I took the first picture of one of my clients that started a chain reaction of maybe thousands of client pictures I’ve posted over the last four years.
That client, Richard B., is still training with me today.
What was so special about that particular client?
Well, at the time, Richard was 76 years old and he was doing a lot of things in the gym that many people 20 years his junior were doing. To this day, he’s always been able, willing and motivated to do more. This year, he celebrated his 80th birthday and he’s been training with us three times a week throughout all that time. The feedback from that first series of shots I posted of Richard was so positive that I started taking pictures of clients doing all sorts of things around the studio: deadlifting, squatting, curling, playing with battle ropes, pushing the sled, you name it.
I’ve always had an affinity for black and white pictures so for the majority of the last four years, I posted nothing but black and white shots. Over the last year or so, I switched over to colour shots because I felt they were getting more attention (more on this later).
There was another benefit to posting these pictures though.
It put the work we were doing in front of hundreds of people on Facebook.
I see a lot of personal trainers looking to pay for fancy ads on Facebook. They’re constantly at the mercy of Facebook’s algorithms and their marketing budget.
I don’t pay for ads on Facebook.
I post pictures of my clients constantly and that has been one of the biggest drivers of new business at my studio that wasn’t direct word-of-mouth referrals.
I wish I could give you some magic ratio of how many pictures you should post and at what time but I don’t have that data. Quite honestly, you don’t need it. What you do need to do is start posting pictures of your clients too. Celebrate their successes and let the whole FB world know what you’re doing.
Why should you listen to me?
Well, for one, the tips I’m going to give you are not of the “get rich quick” variety. There’s nothing about this tactic that works quickly. It’s a slow burn and that’s a really good thing. It’s also not going to cost you anything but the time it takes to snap the picture, the time it takes to post it and add whatever thoughts you want to that post.
Oh yeah, before I forget, the year that I started posting those pictures (2016) was the first year I hit 6 figures in revenue (after 7 years of business). By the end of 2017, revenue had grown by 50%. As I’m writing this now, we are on pace to double the revenue we did in 2016 by the end of this year. That’s without me paying for one boosted ad trying to get new leads to my business.
The strange thing is, I’ve shared these tips with hundreds of personal trainers across the globe and from what I can tell, the vast majority won’t take the advice. Why? I can only assume but I think it boils down to two things:
1) They’re too afraid to ask
2) They don’t have consistency.
I can help you with both.
Why Posting Pictures of Your Clients on Social Media Works
Before I get into those details I need to explain why this works. In the book, “Endless Referrals” author Bob Burg discusses something called the “sphere of influence”. In other words, think of all the people you know. Let’s assume you know 200 people that you want to inform about the fact that you’re the personal trainer they should be working with. Now, think about each of those 200 people. Imagine that they also have 200 friends/family each who can also know about you and the services you offer. That sphere keeps growing outwards. This is what you are attempting to attract when you post a picture of your client’s success.
Let me put it differently. If you take my current list of Facebook friends (1,477 as of this writing) and Richard’s (114), that’s approximately 1600 people who can potentially see what he’s doing when he trains with us. Now, I know just as well as you do, that not all 1600 people will see it but what if 10% do? That’s 160 people. What if 10% of that saw my business page and looked us up on the internet to look at location, pricing, etc?
That’s 16 people. Wouldn’t it be nice if 16 people found out about your business today?
Now, compound that interest and think about all of the times I could potentially post about Richard. Maybe he hit a personal best in a squat. Did you post it? You should!
What if Richard dropped 10 pounds. Can you post a celebratory post? YES!! In fact, anything that you’re proud of doing for your clients needs to be posted. Are you the best weight loss coach in your town? By God, I hope you’ve found some clever way of posting before/afters or some other way of celebrating a weight loss milestone so that other people can see what you’re about. Let me put this another way: they NEED to know what you’re about.
What you’ll find is that some clients are real movers and shakers. I have several clients who have far more friends on Facebook than I do. You can only imagine the engagement they get when I post a picture of one of my rather popular clients doing something badass in the gym.
I want every person within a 10-mile radius of my studio to know that when they need a personal trainer we are the ONLY option worth considering. Never mind the fact that, as of this writing, there are at least 12 other fitness facilities within 5 miles of my location.
I know I’m not going to get the whole slice of pie and, to be honest, I don’t need to. I need enough happy clients to make my business hum (and after over 11 years since I opened my doors, we are HUMMING-even post COVID…).
This exposure adds up over time and pretty soon, those friends start asking questions: “What is that place?”, “How do you like it?” and “How can I find out more?”
It probably goes without saying that just posting pictures isn’t everything. You need to be able to get results. Those results speak volumes about the calibre of work you do for your clients.
What Type of Pictures Should You Post?
When I first started posting pictures, I posted almost everything I could. It was fun and I was able to reach a lot of people but it also got to be really time-consuming. Now, I keep most of my posts limited to personal bests on the big lifts, weight loss celebrations and some other odds and ends. We also oversee a fairly rowdy and hilarious group of folks so over the last two years or so, I’ve been posting these “quotables” that show off the sense of humor and dynamics of the clients we service. I don’t look at analytics or anything like that. I just post the cool things that happen with my clients and let the “sphere of influence” do its thing.
Here’s one thing you may be thinking: doesn’t it get annoying to other people on Facebook? What if people unfollow me? Honestly, I don’t pay any attention to those things. Facebook is 95% business for me. I will post some personal things on there but the vast majority of what I post is to market what we do. If someone unfollows me, they weren’t likely to join up and that’s perfectly okay! There will be great options for those people somewhere else.
Ok, How do I go About Asking my Clients?
The other concern is just that first initial step of asking. Typically, when a client first starts and they’re wrapping up their first session with us, I’ll ask: “We do a lot of posting on Facebook. Are you okay with me snagging a video or picture of you today and tagging you?”
The vast majority of these clients will say Yes. Some will say No, but it’s a soft no. In other words, they may not let you initially but they could at a later date. Others still will be a hard No. Which means, don’t push. There’s absolutely no pressure.
After that, find the things that you think the accepting clients are good at. As I mentioned, we post personal bests because we like showing off how strong our clients get to be.
(Pictured is one of our newest clients, Rebecca, lifting 360 pounds on her FIRST day with us!)
We also will line our clients up on our RevFit wall when they get to celebrate weight loss.
(Here’s Faith showing off her incredible 45 pounds down!)
If you’re curious how we do it, friend me (don’t follow me) and see how show our folks off. I welcome anyone to swipe our tactics. I would encourage you to find a spin on what we do and apply it with your own special flavor. I’m not the first person to show off his clients on Facebook and I sure won’t be the last. I am arguably the most consistent and you’ll need to be that way too. You’ll gain clients, you’ll lose clients but you will NEVER have a shortage of content. Find the things that appeal to you and start posting. You have absolutely nothing to lose except the time investment.
What Not to Post About
The last point I’ll reference is just my opinion on what NOT to post. I don’t post anything political and rarely, if ever, post anything religious. We live in contentious times and social media can bring out the best and worst of people’s opinions. To me, I don’t care who you vote for or who you worship, that’s your business and your prerogative. I run a business that is open to all genders, all cultures, sexual preferences, etc. We want everyone who comes through these doors to know they have a safe space to feel welcome and improve their lives. It’s been that way since 2009 and it won’t change. As a result, that’s how we fashion our posts. Granted, our “style” may not be to everyone’s liking. Some people may find it too over-the-top while others may look and say: “Wow, that looks like a place I want to be a part of.”
After the kind of year 2020 has been, once we got the official green light to re-open our studio we were right back at our usual shenanigans. We wanted potential clients to know that we bounced back with a vengeance and our clients are kicking more ass than ever before.
After four years of posting hundreds (maybe thousands) of pictures, I can tell you that it’s just as integral as the way we program our training sessions. It’s just what we do. If you need more guidance than that, feel free to reach out to me. I’ll offer any help I can to get you rolling too.
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If you’d like to learn more about using social media to market your personal training business, our social media marketing checklist is a fantastic resource to check out!