Random Thoughts on Long-Term Fitness Industry Success: Installment 3
Written on August 25, 2016 at 6:56 am, by Eric Cressey
My topic for our 5th Annual Cressey Sports Performance Fall Seminar is "Forecasting Fitness." I'll be talking about where I think the fitness industry is headed in the next few decades. While I've been pulling together my PowerPoint, I've come up with some good odds and ends that I feel warrant reflection here in a blog. Before I get started, though, just a quick, friendly reminder that today is the last day to get the early-bird registration discount on the event. Hope to see you there!
Without further ado...
1. Humility is a must.
Over the past week, I've listened to podcasts interviews with three of my good friends in the industry: Brijesh Patel (head S&C coach at Quinnipiac), Mike Irr (S&C coach and physical therapist for the Golden State Warriors), and Josh Bonhotal (S&C coach at Purdue). I'm a huge believer (both in life and continuing education opportunities) in the importance of finding common ground.
In all three of these interviews, the coach - in one way or another - stressed the importance of humility. Josh, in particular, commented on how he knew absolutely nothing about training divers (or even the sport itself) when he first started training divers with Olympic medals under their belts. And, rather than trying to employ a "fake it 'til you make it" strategy with them, he was very honest with them about his lack of experience, but also committed to learning as much as he could by observing and asking tons of questions. I think athletes and clients appreciate that humility - and certainly prefer it over a "know it all" demeanor.
2. There are four predominant ways to win over a potential customer in the fitness industry.
Last month, an intern asked me what I felt made some fitness writers successful while others struggled to gain a following. It got me to thinking about the qualities of the prominent fitness writers I know, and the more I considered it, the more I realized that these are the same qualities that make for a good in-person trainer or coach. Here are some of the four primary things the best writers (and trainers) do:
Innovate - These are new ideas that you can't find elsewhere. Think of what Nick Tumminello and Ben Bruno do with the introduction of exercises you haven't seen before. It's what we've tried to do with our baseball-specific approach to strength and conditioning. Ron Hruska did this with the Postural Restoration Institute approach to restoring optimal movement, and Dr. Stuart McGill has done it with his research on back pain and spine biomechanics. In the in-person training realm, this is the trainer at the commercial gym who picks up clients because they see him/her always introducing new drills with clients to keep things fresh. Or, it might be the reason baseball players move from across the country to train at Cressey Sports Performance in MA or FL.
Translate - This is someone taking an innovator's ideas and making them more user-friendly for the masses, and it's often necessary because not all innovators make great teachers. I think Mike Boyle has done a tremendous job of this over the years because he's very well read and a good teacher. In a presentation in Charlotte earlier this year, Mike joked that he has "no problem being the dumbest person in the room." In other words, he asks questions, and in doing so, learns how to best teach the material he's acquiring. Ultimately, this also leads to innovation, too.
In the in-person training world, this is the trainer who has great knowledge, but can "dumb things down" to create an efficient training program without overwhelming clients (who may not be interested in the science behind the training, anyway).
Entertain - This approach finds ways to make otherwise mundane content more palatable. If you read Tony Gentilcore's content, he does this really well; you hear about his cat and the movies he's seen as you're digesting content on shoulder mobility. These are also people who bring to the forefront entertaining stories that you might not have seen, but also offer social commentary (think of Barstool Sports or The Onion). In-person, these are the trainers who make things so fun that you actually forget you're working out.
Relate - This skill creates a sense of acceptance or unity. It's what Girls Gone Strong has done for females who like to lift weights, and why many powerlifters enjoy following other lifters' training logs that are posted online. The exercises aren't necessarily unique or hard to understand, but it gives a glimpse into someone else's reality that feels like your own. In-person, this is why some clients seek out trainers who are more like themselves. Smaller females usually don't want to train with huge bodybuilders, and guys who want to be huge bodybuilders don't want to train with smaller females. Baseball players don't want to train with guys who look like 300-pound offensive linemen, and 300-pound offensive lineman are usually skeptical of little guys who don't look the part.
Keep in mind that all successful writers and trainers do a combination of a few of these things; they never happen in isolation. If you look at EricCressey.com, I have a whole lot of innovation and translation, but less entertainment and relating. Conversely, you can get those latter two things on my social media offerings (particularly Instagram), as I post pics of my kids and own training, plus loads of self-deprecating humor and comical hashtags.
3. Unpolished writing is a "tripwire."
Let me preface this point by saying that you can be a great coach even with poor writing skills. What I will say, however, is that having unimpressive writing skills will make it dramatically harder to a) get a job and b) acquire clients.
For me, writing is a "tripwire." The second I see an email or resume with horrendous punctuation and loads of typos, it flips the "evaluate this under a microscope" switch. In other words, if someone writes (especially in a professional context) carelessly, it makes me wonder how far their lack of attention to detail extends. Will they show up on time? Will they swear in front of clients? Will there be typos in the programs they write?
In a world where 95% of fitness resumes look almost identical, polished writing can actually be a strong distinguishing factor.
4. Switch "ABC" to "ABCD."
This is borrowed from a slide in my 2016 Perform Better talk, but it's so important that I think it warrants reiteration.
Many business coaches have written about the ABC approach to selling: "Always Be Closing." I happen to think that's the short-term-gain, long-term-pain approach to building a business, especially in the fitness industry. People are constantly getting pitched on something, and it sure gets old.
I favor the ABCD approach: "Always Be Creatively Delivering." As Pat Rigsby has said, you want to find ways to add value, not extract it. Go out of your way to find avenues through which you can add more value to a client's experience and you'll have a much higher likelihood of fitness industry success.
That'll do it for this month. I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions in the comments section below. And, we'd certainly love to see you at our fall seminar!
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