What you’ll learn from this episode
Highlights from the interview
[11:02] – Kristian’s simple but elegant social media philosophy with no paid ads needed
[16:36] – Why it’s vital to delegate marketing tasks and know your target audience well
[21:51] – How one 15-20 minute phone call can secure customer’s purchase
[25:31] – Why referrals can be a deal-breaker in the fitness industry and how to use them right
[30:05] – How Kristian built a successful online training business by treating people well and charging less to earn more
About our Guest
This is part three of my three-part interview with Kristian Leach. He initially set out to be a teacher, but soon fell in love with personal training.
He started in a big box gym, like a lot of us. And then he found his way in leasing space and doing online training. He makes, I would guess, about six figures and he can customize his schedule around his young family.
What’s interesting about Christian is that he’s found success really quickly as a personal trainer, which we all know isn’t actually that easy.
He actually grew his online business to having too many clients and all with free Facebook marketing. In addition, in this three-part interview series with him, we find out not only how he has found success in his career, but how he’s made it work for his family life and who he is as a person.
Edited transcription of Fitness Business Secrets Podcast, Episode 35
How posting on your personal page can boost your Facebook sales
[11:02] Kristy: That’s interesting. I think a lot of people can relate and appreciate that it’s okay that they’re not going to figure it out, and they’ve probably tried to copy things. Where did you first start posting that writing voice of yours?
Did you just post it to your public page or your personal profile? Where did you go and how were people even finding it?
Kristian: Here’s the thing. I’m not an expert in Facebook algorithms by any stretch, but I initially started posting it on a Facebook business page that I had, and the response was very lukewarm.
From what I was reading in the Jonathan Goodmans OTA course, he was saying, “Did you consider putting it to your personal page? Because you definitely have more people following you and Facebook’s algorithms tend to favor that.”
I was very reluctant to do that because I’ve got family pictures on here and kids’ pictures. That was when things really took off, when I posted it on my personal page. I had a lot more likes and engagement.
I think the thing that also made me a little leery was I don’t want to market to my friends. That feels weird marketing to my friends, but when it’s helpful advice and occasionally an offer to join the program, well, I can help you.
I think I can help you better than maybe some other people. Also, for the most part, it’s free advice. I think I was able to feel pretty good about it because if anybody would message me and have a question, I would answer it and try to do it in a helpful way. So, I felt like I was offering people something. I hope I didn’t get too pushy with constantly offering the program.
Generally, I’ll start every next round of this Fit Woman program every six weeks. Taking the new intake. The 7 to 14 days leading up to it, I’ll do a few posts leading up to it. I’m not trying to be overt with advertisements for sure, but I’ve certainly noticed a few friends. I’ve encouraged them in that direction. When they post things on their personal page, it tends to get a little bit more traction.
I know Facebook algorithms tend to change all the time, so maybe I’m wrong on that now. I don’t know if you know, but personal pages seem to work pretty good.
Kristy: Yeah. I’ve heard that also. I’m where you were when you were trying to figure it out. I’m like, “Should I really post this to my personal page? Should I try to just keep it to the business page?”
Kristian’s secret recipe to marketing on Facebook
Kristy: Right now, what does your ideal marketing or public posting look like? Do you post to your personal page? Because I know you have a public page. How often do you post?
Kristian: It’s interesting. I used to strive to post every day when I started. I kind of have mixed feelings about that advice as they are marketing experts. A lot of them say post every day, but I have a wife and kids. I was still trying to deliver a good service.
Some days at 10 o’clock at night, I was really overwhelmed. I spend an hour thinking of an idea, and I’m frustrated because I want to go to bed.
For a few months of posting every day, I decided that I’m going to try and post three to five times a week. That is the goal I like to get back into. COVID has been a little crazy because the kids are home all day long and I don’t want to take time from them.
In my private groups, I post every day and the new strategy that happened, and that was okay. What I’ve done before is share something from a private coaching group as a little taster, “Here’s something that I shared with my group today.”
I don’t want to share it all because then the people in the group will say, “Why am I paying for this?”
My goal is three to five times a week. Hopefully, sharing a testimonial once a week or sharing a recipe. I think the recipes have gotten better reception during COVID because people have more time at home. Once a week, maybe I’ll share an exercise demonstration.
Then, the ones that take me a little bit longer as I call it more like nutrition philosophy. It’s just digging in. Maybe addressing stress eating or something unrelated to COVID. Then, maybe at some point addressing transitioning back into work life and what that means for you, or nutrition, exercise, et cetera.
I would urge anybody watching. If you are losing your mind trying to post it every day, maybe it’s not going to bump up the algorithm as much, but you got to sleep at night.
If you have a family, you’ve got to spend some time with them. You’re going to get clients no matter what. If you’re posting five times a week or seven times of the week, you’re going to get clients.
Kristy: It’s a nice philosophy because it’s simple. I think when people start reading about their online marketing strategy, it’s overwhelming. They’ll get on Tik Tok, Instagram, and Twitter, and it’s a lot. You almost need a part-time job for it. So, it sounds like you’ve done well simply by posting number one to your personal profiles.
Sticking with your voice and your authenticity, but then posting maybe three, five, maybe even seven times a week, and that’s purely all you do to get leads like that. That sounds awesome.
You can’t do it all: Why delegating advertising is MUST-HAVE for a growing fitness business
[16:36] Kristian: The other thing I did a couple months ago is I outsourced some of the marketing. Paying somebody for two hours a week, and she’s really savvy with Canva. I don’t know if you know that software. You can do the infographics.
I’ll send her the meat and potatoes in kind of written form. Then, she’ll design a couple of graphics a week for the Fit Woman page, and that has worked out really well. I think that it took a lot of pressure off me.
As I got busier, sometimes as an online trainer, you’re torn between doing your advertising that day or servicing your customers. You should choose servicing your customers because those referrals are, in my mind, worth their weight in gold.
So, to be able to outsource some of that work has been helpful.
She takes care of a couple of posts a week and usually the more energy intensive ones where you’re designing a graphic and comparing. Lately, we’ve been doing once a week because here in Canada, it’s getting into the warmer season– barbecue season. So, hot dogs this week and hamburgers the next week.
Things like that for barbecue eating, but she created some nice visuals. So, there’s a lot of people out there who know how to do that. I found Canva was pretty easy to learn, but it’s just the time it took.
Kristy: It’s very smart because it’s easier to delegate. You probably have a special art to helping your customers. Then, you can have someone take your words to create more visuals.
Facebook VS Instagram: It’s all about the demographics
Kristy: Does that sound like I have your current marketing plan down correctly? Do you still mainly post to your personal profile even to attract clients to your Fit Woman page?
Kristian: It’s mostly my personal Facebook page. I think given my age demographic, I think that’s where more middle-aged women hang out as opposed to Instagram. There’s another trainer at the club who was actually a member of my Fit Woman program. Then, she decided she was gonna start online training. She’s doing quite well, but hers is more on women ages 35 and younger, whereas mine is 35 and up.
So, she does most of our marketing on Instagram because that’s where more women, 35 and younger, are hanging out. That’s more of her ideal avatar. It’s Instagram stories until the cows come home for her. Whereas for me, if I have some extra time at the end of the day, I’m going to go on Instagram, but most of my ideal clients don’t hang out that much on Instagram. They hang out more on Facebook.
I think that’s something to take into account. In the beginning, I was like, “I’m going to be on Instagram and Facebook 24/7,” but I had to make a choice at some point.
The other thing I will point out is my marketing is more about my words. I think Facebook is a much better medium for that. I have another friend who is getting into online coaching and he’s all about Instagram, but I’ve told him that his pictures suck.
Kristy: I can tell you guys are close friends.
Kristian: Exactly. “Your pictures suck, but what you’re writing underneath is great, but nobody’s seeing it because your pictures suck. Get on Facebook.”
Facebook likes long written posts. I really think that that pops up a lot.
Kristy: That’s good information. That’s a really good point. How many clients do you get about per week leads that message you and are interested in your program?
Kristian: I’m kind of a funny guy in terms of business. I don’t really sit down and do the math, but I would probably say I get somebody interested in some form of training every other day, it seems. Then, probably 50% of those decide to sign up.
I’m a pretty low pressure guy, but I will say this. I’ve gotten better at it since I’ve been online training for three years, but I’m naturally a pretty shy person. In the beginning, I was like, “Somebody messaged me. Here’s the link. Check it out.”
Not as many people signed up, but if I could get on the phone with somebody, usually they will sign up. So, I would urge anybody watching, if you’re reluctant to get on the phone — I was, and I chickened out of it. I lost customers because of it. I’m sure of doing it now. Pick up the phone and connect with somebody.
So, that’s another thing that I think I did totally wrong in the beginning. It was just email blasting people. Then, if somebody inquired, I would never even think to initiate the phone call because I was probably too scared to, but now it’s, “Do you have some time to talk about this? When’s a good time?”
I think this is particularly for nutrition coaching. If somebody is buying a training program, you can probably describe it in pretty good detail quickly, and they probably know what they’re getting. But, for nutrition coaching, sometimes people say, “Well, what is nutrition coaching?”
My friend said, “You’re great and the program’s awesome, but what is it?”
I think a phone call really helps sell nutrition coaching because for a lot of people, that’s a very foreign concept.
How to get your sales rolling with a 15-minute phone call
[21:51] Kristy: I think that what people realize is that moment they have that connection with you. Like you mentioned regarding what is the real value, it’s to your coaching in the nutrition program.
So, if you start sending them links, and then here’s the nutrition meal and that’s what they can expect from you. Now, they’re talking to you and then there’s a sense of, “Oh, this is a real program.”
Kristian: Absolutely. I’m definitely not a sales expert, but one of the big things on the phone is ask people what their current goal is, and then talk to them about what they did in the past. Then, try to kind of identify perhaps why that didn’t work.
So, in order to kind of solve their problems with the past and showing them that, “Here’s why we don’t want to do that again. Here’s what we’re going to do differently.”
I usually try to at least dive into that with them, identify some of the barriers of the past and give them the solution to those barriers.
Again, I’m a low pressure guy, so usually when it’s a phone call, and then, “Here’s the signup link. I hope to hear it from you.”
I know some people are like, “You’ve got to get their credit card out and ready.”
If you’re comfortable with that, then more power to you. But, I find once I’ve had that phone call, I’ll give them the direct payment link. Maybe it takes a day, but they’re probably going to sign up.
Kristy: About how many of the people who show interest actually jumped to the phone call? Because I know some people will be scared, assuming they don’t actually know you yet in person.
Kristian: I would say probably around three, four and five. As scared as people are to talk on the phone, I think they’re scared to say ‘no,’ because it’s like, “Here I am. I’m going to offer you some more information. Can we talk about this?”
I think the odd person says, “I’m a little bit busy, but just send me the links.”
For most people, around three to five are going to get on the phone and talk to you. I think what probably makes sense is even if they don’t want to, it probably feels weird for them to say ‘no.’ They don’t want to be rude.
Kristy: When they get on the phone with you, how long do you expect it to be the phone call?
Because I want them to be invested for the long run, I’m willing to spend 30 minutes on the phone, but usually that’s my cutoff time. I won’t go above 30 minutes. I think that that’s probably enough time to make a decision by then.
Kristian: Because I want them to be invested for the long run, I’m willing to spend 30 minutes on the phone, but usually that’s my cutoff time. Usually 15 to 20 minutes, but I won’t go above 30 minutes. I think that that’s probably enough time to make a decision by then.
I don’t see it as giving away time for free, but I think 30 minutes is enough for them to make the decision. I usually let them know ahead of time, “I have a break between X and X time.”
Even if I have three hours, I’m just going to make it very clear that this is the amount of time on the phone, because I have had the odd person, certainly when I was starting out where I didn’t have those barriers or parameters, and I’d be on the phone for an hour and 15 minutes.
I could have made a hundred dollars training somebody in an hour and 15 minutes. So, I won’t go above 30 minutes. Usually, you do need 15 to 20 minutes if you want to build a rapport and get them to open up about what their problem has been in the past.
Kristy: Right. I see. So, you build rapport ,and then basically the last 15 minutes is all the value of some ideas of how you could help them. I’m curious because I’m not as familiar with Facebook, but I do use it more than Instagram.
Why Referral is “worth its weight in gold”
[25:31] Kristy: How do they find you if they actually didn’t know you? Is it because they still were connected with you from a third degree? Probably a friend because it’s your personal page.
Kristian: I was reluctant to do this, but I talked to my wife and she’s okay. I have a public personal Facebook page, so anything I post can be shared and is visible. Anybody can see my profile.
I hope I don’t have anything to hide on there. I don’t put personal information. I don’t put my address on there or anything, but I’ve always been able to connect the dots. I have a website too. So, whether somebody has filled out the contact form there, or somebody has contacted me on Facebook, there’s usually, like you said, three degrees of separation or something.
“My friend shared your posts,” or, “My friend said this.”
In the time I’ve been running this business, I think there’s only been two people that have contacted me based on my business page that had no idea who I was. To the point where I’m like, “How did you find me if you don’t know somebody who knows me?”
“I was just looking for trainers in Calgary and I noticed you did the online training etc.”
I said this earlier, referral is worth its weight in gold. When I started the Fit Woman program, I really tried to bend over backwards and over-deliver because I knew that I was starting a program from scratch. I was doing nutrition coaching, which was foreign to people. So, I really tried to treat people really well, such that they would be willing to recommend it to other people.
I said this earlier, referral is worth its weight in gold. So, I really tried to treat people really well, such that they would be willing to recommend it to other people.
I think that perhaps one mistake or misunderstanding with online training is that it’s easy work, especially initially. You just build your program, and then you get paid time after time.
Don’t get me wrong. For a lot of people, that’s the end goal. Some people have done well with their ClickFunnels or whatever.
To me, that has a very short shelf life. If you do an amazing marketing plan and sell people a cookie cutter program, you might do really well in the beginning, but there might not be a lot of referral after that. Whereas I’ve taken the reverse approach.
My first month of online training, I had two clients. I wasn’t really making any money that first month or two, but I tried to treat those people really well. Now, I have as many online clients as I can handle.
Kristy: How many is that? I’m just curious because I know you said you kind of maxed out. How many can you handle?
Kristian: In terms of the exercise coaching and the customized exercise coaching, I have 15 clients, but that’s all I’ll customize. I do have a smaller kind of side exercise program that I started during COVID where it’s a kind of a low barrier price of $30 a month, but those are premade programs. So, it’s like a monthly subscription.
I have some people in that one, but I’m still debating whether to continue that after COVID, but it was like, “Some people have been laid off here, and they’re staying at home. Let’s offer a home-based program.”
Then, with the Fit Woman program, it’s generally about 20 women in there per month. But, again, that’s a pretty deep dive. I’ve worked with as many as 30 in the Fit Woman program in a month, but again, nutrition coaching can be time intensive. I do believe that that’s the way to get the results.
In terms of weight loss, I think a lot of trainers can relate to this. If you don’t touch nutrition, somebody might not lose the weight they want. They’re going to get fitter and stronger. They’re going to feel better. Body composition will change. But, if they have a considerable amount of weight to lose, there has to be nutrition coaching.
So, probably a pretty good 50/50 split between the nutrition coaching and the customized online training. Then, the COVID a group is just a little side project. I started it in the beginning. I really wanted to kind of give back a little bit. So, the first month I did it during COVID, it was free.
I just said, “I don’t want anybody to pay me. I just want to build some relationships with people.”
Then, that just made it to $30 a month recurring subscription, and all the programs are already made. I’ve already made them. There’s about 30 people in there, but that’s not bad.
Kristy: So, you’re around $900 a month.
Kristian: That’s not bad on that one for something that was already created.
How to earn more while charging less AND Kristian’s big tip on starting your own online training business
[30:05] Kristy: You’re helping people at a lower price point, so there’s a win-win there. How much do you charge for your Fit Woman program, and then for your training program?
Kristian: For the Fit Woman program, the women pay $200 for six weeks or they pay $350 for 12 weeks. Right before COVID, I was doing the math and I was going to increase those prices. It was time, but now it’s not time.
Then, for the customized online training, if somebody wants a one program a week, it’s $100 a month. If they want multiple programs, which is usually three a week, it’s $200 a month.
Kristy: Do they get coaching in the online training program? I know for the Fit Woman program, you talk to them or you do forums and all that stuff.
Kristian: For people familiar with Trainerize, you can have one way messaging where you’re just giving somebody a subscribed program and they can’t contact you. That’s usually at a lower price point where the way I do it, it’s two way messaging so they can message me.
They let me know that they’re traveling or that they have tweaked their knee and they can’t bend their knee very well. Then, I adjust the programs that way, but it’s certainly not as deep a dive as the nutrition coaching. I think that’s why I got into the point where I was really happy with the Fit Woman business.
I thought given the time allocation, it was necessary to increase the price there because nutrition coaching takes longer. For the online training, I would say on average, I communicate with each person once a week just to kind of know where they’re at with their programs and do a little check-in.
The nice thing about Trainerize is they added a feature where they can use the RPE scale at the end of each workout and add comments. So, I can quickly see if they rated my workout a 2 out of 10, and called me a softy as a trainer or something.
I know it’s time to up the game. That’s the nice thing about Trainerize. There’s built in feedback there where I can just click on any workout and see how they rated or their comments when I’m designing the next week. Once I’ve been working with a client for a while, the flow of it gets pretty intuitive.
I know what phase they’re in and what phase I’m going to take them to. I use more of a periodize model. Obviously, periodize training for an athlete is going to look different than periodize training for a middle-aged person.
For anybody new to designing online programs, if you have a kind of periodize flow that you go through, whether it’s an endurance phase, a strength phase, or a hypertrophy phase, that will save you a lot of time from having to think, “What work out am I going to make up now? I already know this phase to that phase.”
So, that will save you a lot of time.
Kristy: I like that. That’s a really good tip. Just to kind of summarize, I think for some people, 30 clients a month is not a lot, but when I do the math and for someone with a program set up like yours, it sounds like they can make between $9,000 to $11,000 a month just for the online programming. That’s pretty good, and that’s just half of your business.
Kristian: It can be quite profitable for sure. Like I said, it does take a lot of time and investment in the beginning.
There’s a lot of debate. Some people will say, “Well, you could do your subscription programs where you’ve already created it all,” and everybody gets the same thing at $30 a month. But then, if you do the math, then you need a hundred people to make $3,000, and then now you’re going to have to market.
You’re not going to probably find a hundred people. Whereas the amount of people that I’m working with I find is a good amount for word of mouth and referral. If I wanted to work with a hundred people a month, I don’t think I’d have the time, and I’d probably have to actually do paid marketing.
I don’t do any paid marketing whatsoever. You have people on the other end where they’re like, “I want four high ticket clients at $2,500 a month.”
I think that is going to take paid marketing, and who knows? That’s something that’s an area I don’t know a lot about.
So, I can’t really comment on it, but you have those spectrums. The one size fits all programs. A couple of hundred dollars on average per person per month or some high ticket person who’s going to rely on marketing and sales, and that’s just not where I’m at.
Kristy: Well, I think you hit the nail right on the head if you love personal training and you want to stay in actually training because some people are trainers on marketers. But, if you want to stay within training, this is a good model.
Kristian’s big tip on starting your own online training business — investing in your clients will pay off
Kristy: Just to wrap up, is there one tip you’d give someone? The biggest takeaway from your 15 years of experience. Let’s say when you were starting your online or hybrid business, what would you tell them?
Kristian: Probably not to be repetitive. Just over-deliver in the beginning, utilize your in-person clients so that you have someone to think about what you can transition because that’s an easy way to get started.
Think of the way you treat those clients as an investment for the future. You treat those clients very well and they’re going to recommend you to other people. I think those would be kind of the big ones.
Then, the other thing is that I tend to look at things in terms of percentage. I’m feeling good if I’m growing the percentage of online clients that make up my revenue or my business. So, when I started, my online clients made up 2% of my revenue for the first couple of months. Then, I got up to 10%, and then I felt good. For me, once I got to around 50%, I’m good.
I have a good life. I don’t want to be desperate all day long. I have no complaints. I’m happy. My family’s happy. So, look at things in terms of percentages. To me, referrals are the name of the game. Just treat people really well.
Kristy: I think you’re an inspiration to a lot of trainers, especially as we cross over to people who turn into dads and have other roles. I think this is a great inspiration of where they could be. Thank you so much for your time and for your amazing advice. If people want to reach out to you, how can they reach you?
Kristian: You can email me at email@example.com or find me on Facebook at Kristian Leach, or as a website, www.krisfit.ca. If anybody watching wants to friend me or ask me any questions, that’s probably one more piece of advice: don’t view other trainers as your competitors, view them as your allies.
I have made a lot of friends online and through online training. I’ve even trained a couple of them. To be able to share advice, struggles, and tactics. Don’t get jealous of another trainer who you think is more successful. Try to be their friend and see what you can learn from them.
If another trainer asks you for advice, try and help them too. That was another thing in the beginning. I think I was a little bit jealous of some people who are more successful online than me, but they should have been more successful. I was brand new at it. So, don’t don’t view other trainers as your competition. Try to make some friends.
Kristy: I like that. I think that’s true in so many different business aspects, because I think I would always be nervous when I started interviewing if people wanted to talk to me. So, that’s really good encouragement for everyone.
Stay connected with Kristian!
Kristy: Thanks so much, Kristian. It’s been wonderful. I appreciate having you on the show.
Kristian: Thanks, Kristy. I appreciate it.