Jerry Scarlato: Fitness Marketing – Three Priorities for Trainers

Fitness Marketing – Three Priorities for Trainers

Personal training studios and training facilities are everywhere. I think you’d be surprised at how many there actually are in your area. Try this: google “personal trainer” and your zip code and see what pops up. I guarantee there will be at least five facilities you haven’t heard of on the first two pages.


With so much competition out there, how are you supposed to differentiate your gym from the next gym? Even worse, if you work for a fitness center or are an independent contractor, how do you show everyone that you’re different (read: better) than all the other personal trainers in your area?

Priority #1: What’s Your True North?
Understanding where you want to go in your professional life is important. Being a personal trainer, you’ve probably already made a choice as far as career path goes:

  • Independent contractor
  • Business owner, or
  • Fitness Center/Studio/Training Facility Employee

Those are the three basic options (I left online training out for a reason . . . you can decide to do online training no matter what you’re doing). None of these options are good or bad in themselves, it all depends on what you want.

Being an independent contractor is probably the easiest of the three: You don’t have to worry about overhead and employees (as with ownership) and don’t have to worry about having a boss (as an employee). On the other hand, as an employee you don’t have to worry about constantly getting new leads like the other two. Owning your own business allows you to be the boss and make the rules. So there are positives to all of these options.

Your job is to figure out which one of these options you want. It is not inevitable that you will open your own studio or training facility, nor should you feel pigeonholed into doing so. Decide on the path you want to take and go!

Once you’ve decided the path you want to take, you have to build your system around that. What do I mean by system? It’s nearly impossible to be a one-size-fits-all personal trainer. I would never tell you to try to be like that. What type of training do you believe in?

Strength training?
Steady-state cardio?

All of these factors should be built into your system. We are creatures of habit, and as such we love consistency. The reason people go to McDonald’s is not because the food is awesome. The service and the food are consistent, and that makes it easy on the customer.

And that is what I mean by “build your system.” Your service has to be consistent. It can’t be powerlifting one day, an eight-mile run the next day and yoga at the end of the week. That doesn’t mean you can’t train someone who likes to run marathons or likes to practice yoga. Train them and adjust your system accordingly.

This is all part of your True North. Sometimes (read: all too often), we can be distracted by outside factors when it comes to getting where we’re trying to go.

The most formidable of these factors? Competition

Priority #2: Know your competition . . . wait, scratch that!
There will always be new studios opening and new personal trainers popping up in your area. They may have a lower price than you and may do things differently than you. Maybe they focus on yoga or Crossfit or maybe they do semi-private training or one-on-one.

If you have a vision, hold to your True North, and understand what you want and where you want to go with your business, it does not matter if the gym down the street starts doing Zumba.

If you don’t believe Zumba is the way to go, don’t go down that path. Don’t let the competition dictate your path and what you believe in.

Following the plan was something I had to learn early. I trained in a fitness center for five years and when the time was right, I decided to move out. It just so happened that moving out meant moving next door (literally, 300 feet from door-to-door). So I was potentially taking a huge risk opening a facility next door to the fitness center I was leaving. But I knew that the quality of the facility and the services were going to be much higher—I was taking the good with me and knew we were going to develop a welcoming culture.


Six months after we opened our doors, another personal training studio opened in the same complex (count along with me . . . that’s three fitness related businesses within 600 feet of each other). What did we do to counter punch? Wait for it:

We raised our prices. That studio was out of business within a year.

Don’t waste your time with competition. Be confident in what you know. Understand where your True North is and always move in that direction. Your direction may change from time to time, and that’s okay, but don’t be deterred by competition. It’s a waste of time.

Remember, the more time you’re spending on competition, the less time you’re spending on growing your business or clientele.

So, where should you spend your constructive time (besides clients, of course)?

Priority #3: 21st Century Fitness Marketing
Marketing has changed drastically over the last five or ten years thanks to this thing called the internet.

While it is absolutely great to be connected to everyone in the world, it’s a little daunting to use it for marketing; to connect to potential customers who are right in front of you.

In the fitness industry, I feel like we’re a little behind the curve when it comes to understanding marketing in the internet age. Magazines, junk mail, infomercials . . . all of these mediums are loaded with fitness advertising, but when was the last time you really paid attention to it? People pay dearly for those ads, but do they work?

We’re not spending our time watching TV commercials or looking at ads in magazines. We’re fast forwarding and turning the page. Going down this path can be an expensive endeavor with little return. Avoid it.

So what do I do about marketing?
All of that attention that used to be spent on magazines, newspapers and mailers . . . where did it go?

Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. That’s where.

It is imperative that you put as much effort as possible into these channels. Oh, and guess what?! They’re all initially FREE! It doesn’t cost you a dime to open an Instagram or Twitter account and post your information, pictures and videos. If you want to run an ad, that’s a different story, but we’ll get into that in a second.


They seem simple, but you wouldn’t believe how many people don’t use these three great ways to gain exposure on social media networks:

Story Telling – Content is king, especially in the social media realm. If you’re not constantly developing and putting out quality content, you’re falling behind. This can be anything from a blog to videos to pictures. These things allow you to tell your story and build relationships with your followers. Always remember, when you’re creating content, tell the truth, be upfront and don’t ask too quick! Obviously the point is to eventually ask for a purchase. But you can’t make every Facebook post about a new product or service you’re offering then ask everyone to buy! You have to build the relationship FIRST!

Start a Conversation – Literally, start conversations with people on social media. Twitter is the easiest place to do this, however, Facebook and Instagram have searching capabilities as well. Go to Twitter search and type in “Fitness.” All of the tweets with the word fitness in them will pop up. Now you just have to start conversations with the people behind the tweet. Tell them “good job” or give advice. You can narrow down your search to tweets in your area as well—probably a good idea.

Show Your Results – Nothing can sell your services like results. This is something that our industry has done a poor job of, admittedly. If you can constantly get great results, show the world . . . because they are looking for them. Make sure you can prove it, whether that be pictures, measurements, weights or anything else. Remember, tell the truth!

Be sure to have a basic understanding of the platforms as well. You have to make the content native to the platform. It has to fit with everything else. For instance, Instagram is all pictures and videos, so trying to share a blog post on there is probably not the best idea. For a better understanding of platforms, I highly recommend a book called Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk. It’s eye opening!

Once you have your groove down on your story telling (and know what works and what doesn’t), it’s time to start throwing some money into ads. The best option here is Facebook. (Instagram and Twitter have ad options as well. However, they currently don’t get quite the feedback that Facebook seems to.)

Your ad can be anything from a post that is doing well, an event you’re trying to promote or a new service you’re offering. Facebook allows you to decide what demographic you want to target down to location, age and interests. Then you pick your budget and duration you want your ad to run, and you’re good to go.

Be smart, create good content, have patience and tell the truth.

All good things take time!

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