“If you know how to build an audience, you’re set for life.” —Todd Herman
Your business has two sides: operations and audience. Here, I’m going to tell you how to build an audience.
Your “audience” is made up of the people paying attention to you and the people who are paying you money. Great audience building means high-value sales, following a Prescriptive Model and using the Help First philosophy.
A great measure of your audience-building excellence is how much people pay for your service—we call that average revenue per member or ARM.
Are You Communicating and Selling?
When you get a coaching job, you should try to be the best coach you can. When you open a business, you have to sell.
Fitness is a hard business. No one is compelled to work out. Most people don’t want to work out. No one wants to do meal prep on Sunday nights.
Like it or not, you have to sell people on the idea of doing something they don’t like. Then you have to sell them on the idea that they will like your service better than the alternatives. Then you have to sell them on the idea that your price carries better value. And then you have to sell them on continuing—every damn day.
Now, most coaching businesses and certifying agencies don’t tell you about the second part.
They say, “Just be a great coach and your clients will refer their friends!” Or, “Follow the path from Level 1 coach to Level 4 coach and you’ll make more money.”
Of course, they’re selling certifications. But I don’t need to give you my opinion on the value of this advice: Just ask yourself if it’s been true for you.
The truth reported to us by thousands of gym owners is this: It’s not enough to wait and hope. Your clients aren’t salespeople. You have to take control of the conversation and build your audience. As a business owner, that’s your job.
How to Build an Audience
First, you need to know exactly what your “core” audience wants. Then give it to them. This almost always results in your clients paying more (an increase in their ARM) for longer (an increase in their length of engagement or LEG).
Tip: They don’t all want the same group classes forever.
Second, you need to know what the people closest to your clients want.
Tip: You can give these people what they want, too.
Third, you need to tell strangers how you’ll solve their problems.
Tip: If you can’t actually solve their problems, don’t waste money on marketing.
Start from the inside out. Most gym owners don’t actually know what their best clients want from them or how much they’re willing to pay for it. Why would these owners start spending money on marketing before figuring this out?
You don’t need to hire a special “sales training” or “marketing” program. We teach you how to do all of it.
“Don’t find an audience for your product. Find products for your audience.”—Seth Godin
Audience Building: Step by Step
Here’s the process:
1. Identify your best current clients. Read more about Seed Clients in my book, “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief.”
2. Orient the service you sell around those clients. You might have to make some changes.
3. Use Affinity Marketing to get referrals. You want more people like your best clients, and more people with ties to you. (For our complete guide to this marketing technique, click here.)
4. Build trust with content. Publish to your blog and email list. Very few will want to sign up right away; but you can earn their trust by keeping their attention.
5. Share your content with strangers who are looking for help. These are called “organic audiences,” and the strategy is always to “help first.”
6. Pay to put your message in front of strangers who need it. This strategy is called “advertising.” It worked in the 1980s and then it stopped working. Now it works again—but only if you’re good at steps 1-5. Advertising used to be about the advertiser; now it’s about the client.
Trust: The Greatest Currency
Building an audience isn’t about being an “influencer.” It’s about knowing who you serve and then serving them with everything you have.
It’s not about “likes” and “followers” or “reach.” It’s about trust. Everyone will pay attention before they pay you money. What will they see when they do?
The amazing thing about helping your audience? They’ll stick with you—even when you do something different. I can think of a dozen services that have been launched from the Two-Brain platform. And Two-Brain gyms had a much easier time pivoting to online coaching during COVID because their clients received the same excellent service on a new platform.
That’s how operations and audience work together. Each magnifies the other—or limits the other.
To get anywhere in business, you have to be excellent at both sides of your business.