You started your endurance coaching business out of passion for endurance sports. You got your first few clients through word of mouth. But now, a few months or even a few years in, you’re struggling to consistently attract new athletes to your coaching business and build a loyal client base.
You’re not alone, this is a really common struggle amongst my clients. But the good news is that it’s easier than you think to create and implement a marketing plan that will help you take your coaching business to the next level.
This article will guide you through a simple 7-step process that I use to help my clients develop marketing plans for their run and triathlon coaching businesses. Working through these steps will help you get clear on how to stand out from your competitors, how to spread the word about your business and how to grow your client base in a time- and cost-effective way.
Step 1: Get clear on your goals
The very first step to creating a marketing plan is to define your marketing goals. Without goals, you have no way of knowing whether or not all the effort and resources you put into your marketing actions are actually worthwhile. Think of it as preparing a marathon training program for a client. The first thing you need to do is define the objective of the training plan. Is your athlete targeting a sub-3hr finish or is the aim to simply complete the race and enjoy this first-time experience? The answer to that question will have a big impact on what type of training program you develop. The same logic applies when creating a marketing plan.
Start by defining your overall business objective for the next 6-12 months. Based on that you can then determine your marketing goals. Make sure your marketing goals are specific, measurable and have a timeline attached to them. It’s good to stretch yourself with ambitious goals but to avoid losing confidence and motivation, I would recommend setting goals that you can realistically achieve.
Below are a few marketing goals examples:
- Achieve a 10% increase in website traffic each month throughout 2019;
- Generate at least 8 leads per month through strategic partnerships from February to November 2019;
- Acquire at least 2 new customers per month throughout 2019;
- Build an engaged community of athletes around my business.
Step 2: Analyse what your competitors are doing
Researching your competitors will help you identify potential gaps in the market and it will also help you understand what works well and what doesn’t in terms of connecting with your target customers.
Start by making a list of your top 10 competitors. If you run an in-person coaching business, these will likely be other endurance training businesses located in the same area. If you run an online coaching business, then your competitors will be endurance coaching providers who target similar athletes and provide similar services than you (for example, if you specialise in Ironman coaching then your top competitors will be other online triathlon coaching businesses).
Once your list is ready, review the website and social media channels of each of your competitors to identify the following elements:
- Who are their target customers (elite athletes, first-time marathoners, triathletes, new mums,…?)
- What type of coaching packages do they offer and at which price?
- Which other services or products do they offer aside from coaching?
- Does their website have a blog? If yes, what do they write about and how frequently do they publish new posts?
- Do they send out a regular newsletter?
- Does their website rank high on Google for certain keywords?
- On which social media channels are they active?
- What and how often do they post on social media?
- How many followers do they have and how much engagement are they receiving from followers?
- What do they seem to be doing really well?
- What seems to be their weakest area?
Personally I like to use Excel spreadsheets to summarise all of the information gathered during the competitor research but there are many other tools you could use like for example Google docs or OneNote.
Step 3: Evaluate your current performance
Note: if you’re preparing a marketing plan for a brand new endurance coaching business and if you have not launched yet then you can skip this step.
It’s difficult to plan for the future if you’re not clear on where you stand right now. That’s why it is important to take the time to evaluate your current marketing performance and to identify your strengths and areas of improvement.
What exactly you evaluate will depend on how long you have been running your business, what types of marketing campaigns you have run in the past and what your marketing goals. Here are a few example of elements you can look at:
- What is your average monthly organic traffic?
- Which pages are visited most?
- Does your website rank high for relevant keywords?
- What is the average page loading time?
- On which social media channels do you get the most traction and engagement?
- What average engagement rate do you receive per post?
- Which types of posts receive the most engagement?
- What are the demographics of your social media followers (you can find this information out in the analytics section of your channels)
- When are your social media followers most active?
Lead generation audit:
- Where do most of your leads come from (word of mouth? social media? website?)
- How many leads do you acquire on average each month?
Step 4: Understand your target customers
Establishing which types of athletes you want to coach is important for many reasons:
- It will help you create coaching services that your clients actually want and are willing to pay for;
- Knowing who you are targeting will allow you to craft marketing messages that speak directly to your ideal clients;
- It will make it easier for you to connect with your audience and build a community around your brand.
One way to establish who your ideal customer is by building a “customer avatar” – a fictional character that reflects the key attributes of your audience. Imagine your ideal customer. Give that person a name. How old is she? Where does she live? Does she have children? How does she spend her free time? What are her running goals? Which obstacles are stopping her from achieving these goals?
Get as detailed as possible. The better you understand your target clients the better you will be able to help them and create value for them with the content you put out on your website and on social media.
Step 5: Write out your customer value proposition
Now that you have researched your competitors, analysed your own strengths and weaknesses and pinpointed the types of athletes you want to work with, you are ready to determine what your ‘customer value proposition’ is. This is a list of the benefits that an athlete would experience by purchasing your coaching services as opposed to working with one of your competitors.
An important point to remember here is that ‘people buy benefits, not features‘. For example, you may be thinking you’re selling a ‘6-months marathon training program for beginners’. But what your clients are actually buying are the benefits that they will gain from this program like for example the ability to reach their running goals with more confidence, the feeling of being part of a community or the sense of accountability that comes from having a coach.
Once you have established your value proposition you will be able to use it as part of your messaging on your website, social media channels and other marketing communication channels.
Step 6: Define your marketing strategy
The term ‘marketing strategy‘ can sound a bit daunting but all it is is an overview of the marketing tactics you are going to implement in order to achieve your marketing goals. For each tactic you should define the following elements:
- A description of the approach you are planning to take;
- The goal (make sure it is specific, time bound and measurable);
- An action plan with a timeline that describes which tasks you will carry out on a day-to-day basis to implement the tactic;
- The budget and resources that you will need in order to implement the tactic.
The marketing tactics you select will vary depending on the marketing goals that you established in Step 1. They will also depend on the time, resources and budget you have available. As tempting as it can be to wanting to do ‘all the things’, I would recommend picking 2-3 tactics. Focus on these over the next 6-12 months until you achieve tangible results.
Here are a few examples of marketing tactics that some of my clients running endurance coaching business have seen great results with:
- Blogging: this can be a great way to build your credibility as an endurance sports expert and if you optimise your blog posts for the right keywords it will also help you drive more traffic to your website.
- Building an online community through a Facebook group: this is a great way to engage directly with athletes, provide value to your audience and create a sense of community around your brand.
- Free coaching clinics: in-person events will will allow you to demonstrate your expertise and connect with athletes face-to-face.
Step 7: Decide how you are going to track your performance
Almost done! The final (and often overlooked) step of creating a marketing plan is all about performance tracking. How will you evaluate your progress and the effectiveness of your marketing strategy?
For each marketing tactic, identify:
- Your goal;
- The metric you will use to measure progress against your goal (i.e. weekly organic traffic to your website, average number of engagements on your Instagram posts, number of new customers acquired per month);
- Tracking frequency, i.e. how often you will evaluate progress (weekly? monthly? this may vary for each tactic).
Remember that creating a strategy that works often requires trial and error. Once you have put together your marketing plan and established which tactics you are going to focus on you need to give it some time before deciding whether or not a specific tactic is delivering the expected results.
And if one of your approaches isn’t working, it’s ok. Learn from it, tweak it or even replace it. That is the whole point of regularly tracking your progress. Over time you will gain a better understanding of what resonates with your audience, you will refine your strategy and you will attract more and more athletes to your business.