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ISSA Talk, Episode 7: The Longevity of Online Training

Reading Time: 24 minutes

Edited for clarity.

Erin Mahoney:

Hey everyone. And welcome to ISSA Talk. ISSA's series of conversations and educational videos that we have going on to help fitness professionals through this time. And we think about it as just being right now, but we're probably going to be in it for awhile. I'm Erin Mahoney, vice president of product at ISSA. And I'm really excited to be joined today by our online coach course creator, Pat Rigsby. Welcome Pat. We're so excited to have you on today.

Pat Rigsby:

Well, I'm excited to be here, and really looking forward to our conversation and how we can help your professionals.

Erin Mahoney:

Thank you. And just in case our viewers and listeners don't know about you, they should. Pat's an extremely successful business owner, author, entrepreneur, and fitness coach. So, he's got all of it. And in the fitness industry alone, his coaching and consulting clients have been featured in Men's Health, USA Today, Men's Fitness, Shape, Women's Health. He's also been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, and I guess pretty much every other outlet you can think of.

But the best part, he's been able to build all of this success while working from home before all of this happened. Therefore, he's really a true example of being able to train, gain, and maintain virtually. So today in this episode, we're going to be talking with Pat about how to get started, not only with your online training business, but how can you build it so you can continue to see success even after the gyms are back open. We've got some questions for you that you guys have submitted over to us. And then as we talk through it with Pat, I'm sure we'll have more. If as you're viewing this you have any questions, please feel free to type them into the comment box so that we can make sure that we either address them specifically to your comment or in our next episode. All right, Pat, you ready to get going or what?

Pat Rigsby:

Let's make it happen.

Online Training: Temporary Fix or Long-Term Option

Erin Mahoney:

All right. So, let's start from scratch. What I'd like to know actually from your perspective is right now, I'm sure you're seeing a lot of different fitness professionals kind of try to adapt to this online world. And do you feel like they're adapting for a temporary solution, or do you feel like they're looking at it as a longer haul forever situation?

Pat Rigsby:

Well, I think it's a mix of both. I think a lot of people are thinking of this as kind of a temporary band-aid type solution. Hey, I can't wait to get back to the gym. But hopefully more people are recognizing that this is just kind of accelerating what was going to happen anyway. I mean, I think that we've seen over time that more and more consumers have you doing business with anybody is kind of this holistic thing that isn't just online. It isn't always just offline. But they connect with you in whatever way is appropriate or convenient for them at the time. So, I think the savvy fitness professionals are the ones thinking in terms of, okay, how am I going to integrate the online things that I'm doing now into my business long-term?

Erin Mahoney:

Yeah, it makes sense. And I'm hoping they're out there too. Sometimes when I go out for my runs or walks in the morning, I live relatively close to a park, and I see a lot of trainers out there still training and meeting with clients. And I'm wondering are they even trying... I shouldn't say are they even trying. But are they making that jump, or are they just like, "Hey, the park is our quick fix right now. So, until this blows over, this is what we're going to do." From your perspective, do you think that there are those trainers that are slowly adapting, and is there a hybrid approach that maybe they're adopting?

Pat Rigsby:

Well, I mean, they're kind of the last adapters in any kind of evolution or shift or whatever else, those people who want to hang on to the past as long as they can. But I think that clearly I'm seeing a lot of the more successful professionals embrace this hybrid approach. And think in terms of, okay, how can I best serve my clients? And if I can best serve them by offering a blend of offline and online, and it doesn't necessarily mean that it's eliminating offline altogether by any means. But if I can stay connected with you, and hold you more accountable, and create a better experience for you because it's more convenient, online is now this thing that we've got the market really kind of moving toward adoption, right?

In the past, you would get push back. You would hear people say, "Well, I don't want to go and do online," because it was foreign. It was new. It was something they hadn't experienced. But due to the circumstances we've been going through, they've had to kind of just adapt maybe against their will. But now, getting on a video conference to do something, or using video on their phone or an app or something like that to get coaching, this is not new anymore. They're over that kind of that main hurdle or main obstacle of just getting comfortable with it. And I'm 100% confident that so many of the clients who are current clients of trainers or moving into thinking about hiring a coach now, they're going to want this online component to be part, if not a lot, or even most of the coaching experience.

Erin Mahoney:

Yeah. So, I feel like your response was, in such a great way, really optimistic. So, I heard you. What's really powerful that we haven't really addressed is as much as the trainers are needing to adapt to this online environment, the clients want it too. So, it's not like we're forcing them into a service offering that they don't even want. So, thank you for that. And I also liked that you mentioned that by now, a lot of the trainers are overcoming that first hurdle. We're past the hardest part, which is, oh my gosh, how do we figure this out? So, thank you for that.

One thing that I was thinking also as you were talking is, about 10 years ago, maybe more, personal trainers would from time to time train people in pairs, if it was a family, or a husband, wife, or something like that. And then whether it was just by trend, or by the nature of the economy, then group training started to pick up a little bit. And now that's kind of the norm. Most people are having that. Do you see that as a parallel to what's going on with online coaching?

Pat Rigsby:

I think it is a wonderful lesson in how our industry, which is a relatively young profession, right, I mean, you don't know a whole lot of retired personal trainers, right? So, we had this kind of first iteration where everything was one-on-one hour-long sessions, sold in packages. And then it started to evolve. For economic reasons, I think. That definitely pushed the evolution into more group and semi-private training. The subscription or recurring kind of revenue model was another thing that I know I really pushed very aggressively to all the clients that I serve. Because really that was the first thing that I did. I was doing that model in 2004 in my business.

And I think that now both of those, as you alluded to, with group training, and then that kind of recurring revenue versus subscription model, they're the norm. I don't necessarily know that all online is going to be the norm because I truly believe that people want connection. And so many people want that in-person accountability. But this hybrid I think is where we're headed.

And if you think about the way that people do business in general, they've become so much more comfortable with online. I mean, I can remember not too many years ago, people were really uncomfortable with entering their credit card online. And now, think about how many purchases they make online, how big a role Amazon plays in so many of their lives. And I just remember it almost being this black hole. They were afraid to put their credit card into because who knows where that information's going.

And so many fitness professionals now, they don't really think of their business as being this hybrid thing. But if you were taking payments online, if you were getting people to fill out a waiver online, if they were scheduling sessions online, part of the client experience is already virtual. So now this is just a little bit of a shift moving more that direction. 

Five Components to a Quality Personal Training Experience

Pat Rigsby:

And I think there are five components of the experience we want to provide to clients like this service experience mix. 

1. Interactive Training

Some sort of live interactive thing where, whether it be on video, like we are now, where it is, hey, I'm going to coach you through a session, or we're going to do some problem solving, or something like that.

2. On-Demand Workouts

Something that's on demand. Because let's face it, if we want people to get great results, sometimes it's not convenient for them to make it at a prescheduled training session, whether it be one-on-one, group, whatever else. Well, I don't think that should preclude them from still working out and still benefiting from what we're trying to do together. 

3. Creating a Community

So, having an on-demand component, and then having some sense of community. I think that's one of the great things about our industry is, and we've seen it so much during the past few weeks that just being part of this group for so many clients has been something to keep their spirits up, to help them reduce stress, to kind of fulfill some of that social element maybe they're missing. So, they feel very kind of connected with others.

4. Connecting with An Actual Coach

But then the fourth part would be connection with the actual coach. Somebody really making them feel important, somebody allowing them to know that, hey, you know what? I'm here for you.

5. Accountability

And then finally accountability. I think that in the past, yeah, we may think of accountability as, hey, I'm going to manage somebody's macros or something like that. But some of the accountability was like, hey, I'm supposed to meet you at 9:00 AM for a training session, and somebody's waiting on you. But what's great is you can deliver all of those things in an online format, just like we can a lot of it in an offline format. But I think the future is a blend of both.

Erin Mahoney:

Yeah. That makes sense. A couple of great things with what you said is certainly I hadn't really thought of it this way, but before all of this, part of the experience was online. So, you just hearing you say that kind of seems to lessen the tension around moving into an online world. Because you're right. That user experience, a lot of it is already online. And then I love how you're able to break things up into those five key takeaways. And as you've collaborated and contributed content to our online certification, our online coaching certification, it's awesome because the way you break it up is so bite sized and concrete on what you can do today or right now to change your business. So, with that being said, what is one thing, if you could identify one, and if we go up to three, that's good too, but what is one thing that you think a trainer could start doing today to make an impact on their online coaching business?

Immediate Way to Make an Impact on Your Online Coaching Business

Pat Rigsby:

1. Reset Your Mindset

Well, I think the first thing is kind of a mindset shift, right? It's this mindset shift to saying, okay, I'm going to coach this client. Doesn't really matter if I'm doing it online, offline, whatever else. I'm going to coach this client. It's my responsibility to help them go from where they are to where they aspire to be. So how can I deliver all five of those things I just alluded to? And in so many ways it's more convenient to deliver it online.

If I'm checking in with you weekly, daily, I mean, how hard is it to send somebody a text message and just say, "Hey, how did you do today with X?" But that's accountability. That's connection. That's paying attention to them and keeping them on track. Because so much of the stuff that we struggle with I think as an industry is, we want to have such a powerful impact on somebody's life. But if they're only coming to see you two days a week, and you're only really impacting two out of 168 hours, it's tough to have the type of impact you want. But now through this online kind of format, we can do so many other things and stay connected with them in a better, but still more convenient way.

So, the first thing is a mindset shift. Accepting that, hey, it doesn't really matter whether it be online or offline, my job is to coach this person to become that better version of themselves. 

2. How It Was Isn’t How It Has To Be

The second thing is to understand that just because the way that we did things in the past was kind of how things worked, doesn't mean that that's how things have to be moving forward. So many of the clients that I've worked with over the past six, eight weeks as we've been experiencing this, they've felt like, hey, you know? When I'm doing these accountability sessions, and I'm doing coffee with the coach, or happy hour, or at trivia night, I'm doing all these things to stay connected with my clients.

So, I'll ask them, "So why are you doing that?" Like, "It's a better experience." It means more than the client. I'm like, "Well then, shouldn't you be doing this after we're done, right?" Shouldn't you be doing this when they can still come back in the gym. And so, kind of seeing this path forward and seeing this opportunity to remodel your business, it doesn't necessarily mean you have to kind of renovate completely, but we can remodel the way that we're serving clients so that we can stand out.

Because we have this very unique opportunity, I think, as coaches, to really provide a much more interactive, complete experience than somebody who's just providing access to equipment. 

I mean, at this point, if all somebody wants is a workout, they can hop online and download a workout, or they can get on YouTube and find something. But what we can provide is a much more complete kind of solution to help somebody achieve their goals. So, kind of remodeling your business to figure out kind of what you want it to look like moving forward so that you can really provide the best solution for the people that you serve. And in turn, you become a much more, I think, referable business. You become a much more marketable business because you're making a much bigger difference.

3. Who is Your Ideal Client

And then the third thing I think would be to figure out who that person is you're best at serving. And now, we're not entirely relegated to, well, they already have to be a member of this health club that I train out of, whether I'm an independent contractor or an employee. Or they have to live within three miles of my facility or something like that. Those constraints that we've always kind of been limited by. I would tell you to kind of take another look at that and say, who am I best equipped to serve? And here's a way to maybe frame this that might help. If you only got paid based on your ability to deliver a result for somebody, who would you help, and what result would you deliver? Now, I'm not saying you need to wait around and only get paid if they lose the amount of weight they want to lose, or achieve whatever their specific goal was.

But if that the criteria that you were choosing under, that person that you know that you are better than everybody else at helping, that person that you were better at serving, that result, you're better at consistently delivering, who would you pick? And now, once we know who that person is, everything that we do from a marketing standpoint really is driven by that the message that we put out there, the marketing material we create. If we're putting together a lead magnet, if we're filming videos. We know that person we're speaking to. We know what they want. And so, we can talk to them in a way that's going to get them to kind of raise their hand, and say, yeah, that person's speaking to me. So, I think those would be the three that I would be focused on.

Erin Mahoney:

Those are great. And I'm sure you've heard this before, but there's such a thread of motivation and empowerment in the messages that you're saying. So, going back to the first one that you said, it's great that when I said, "Hey, what's your number one tip that people can start doing today to enhance their online coaching business," it wasn't what platform they would use, or how many clients would be servicing. It was about the mindset. Which is great because when you look at it and say it's my job to get them to their goals, regardless of whether there is a global pandemic or not, that changes the ball game. All of a sudden, you're not going to be judged based on what platform you use, or how many people are going to be in one session. It's all about getting the results. So, thank you for bringing that to the table. I believe that's going to help out our group a lot.

It's kind of similar with sales. I know trainers have struggled in the past with asking for the sale. And what I had always supported was it's your job to get them to buy into this. Because if they don't, they're going to be left to their own devices. And we all know that that doesn't work out so well. So, when you look at your job as really being an obligation to help somebody, all these other things don't really quite matter as much, do they?

Pat Rigsby:

Not at all. And really, we have this unique ability and opportunity to help somebody become a better version of themselves, right? And this is something, I mean, that's timeless. People have wanted to improve themselves for as long as we can look back in history, and that's never going to change. Now, so often people, they get hung up on, well, what tool to use or whatever else. But you never want to build your business around a particular tool or something like that because that's not a differentiator, right? If you were to say, well, I'm going to use this software, and that's why I'm different, well, the minute I pull out my credit card and sign up for that software, you're not different anymore, right? And the technology is always going keep changing and always going to keep evolving.

But the things that are important to the client that you serve, that's not going to change. They're always going to want to become that better version of themselves. They're always going to want to be made to feel important. They're going to value coaching and connection and community. And they're always going to want to feel like, hey, you know what? This person is looking out for me, and they're an expert, so I know that I'm getting something valuable in exchange for not just the financial investment, but the time investment.

So, if you focus on that sort of thing, yeah, there are certain tools. For me, I picked tools or technology based on, okay, what's the simplest way for me to really execute on the things that aren't going to change. Because the technology we're using now, well, let's face it, two years from now some of it's going to be obsolete. Some of it's going to be outdated, and there's going to be something new and better and more streamlined. But our clients are still going to want to be better versions of themselves. They're still going to need that accountability. So, if you focus on those things and you focus on the problems that you want to solve. And really, I mean, that's kind of sales 101, right? We're partnering with somebody to solve the problems that they don't feel comfortable solving themselves.

And if they're sitting down in front of us, they want something better. They want something to change. And we have that ability to provide the coaching, our experience, the accountability, the knowledge. I mean, that's valuable. And it's a great value exchange. I mean, anybody that's ever gotten the results that somebody's capable of providing, man. I mean, it's never worth anything less than probably 10 times what that client paid in the changes in their quality of life. So, if you're apprehensive about selling, just think about the difference that you can make in somebody's life, and know that if they don't buy, you can't help.

Erin Mahoney:

I always would reflect back on this story. Years ago, and he's alive and well, my dad had had a heart attack. And I knew probably at the time, if before he had his heart attack, that if he was sitting down with a trainer, he would of course say no to the price at first. And I would only have hoped that that trainer wouldn't have taken that first no for an answer. And said, "No, you're in not a good condition state right now. We got to do something about it." So, I love hearing you echo those things.

And something earlier that you had said, when you were talking about those three, which I thought was great, those are really three powerful things, is you talked about trying to be part of our client's lives outside of that one session that you're interacting with them. And that's the way you can hold them accountable. What was great is that you're saying, okay, yeah. Well, if we go back to a gym, you should never stop doing those things. Why wouldn't you be doing those things before? So, what I'm hearing again is this really positive tone of taking the importance of our presence in our lives with our clients to a whole new level of doing everything we possibly can to hold them accountable and get to their results. So, thank you for that. I'm guessing that's how you've been operating your business for a long time now, right?

Pat Rigsby:

Well, I think fortunately, I came to the fitness industry, I'd been a college baseball coach, a college strength coach. And when a parent entrusts their child to you to coach them over the next four years, and really kind of help them and partner with them in this move from adolescence to adulthood, it's not this, hey, I'm going to serve you at practice and then leave you to your own devices. I mean that person's under your care.

And so much of that really kind of permeated the way that I thought about coaching in general when I moved into the more kind of private sector, commercial fitness industry. Knowing that if somebody is going to come to you when they're probably not the best version of themselves, right? They obviously want to change or they wouldn't be sitting in front of you. Maybe they don't feel great about themselves. Maybe the doctors told them they need to make some health changes. Whatever it is, they want to be better. And if for somebody to come to you and say, "Look, I trust you to help me," I don't today, and never have, taken that lightly. I think that's a responsibility and an opportunity.

And so, if I have that opportunity to work with somebody, it can't just be transactional. It can't just be, okay, you pay me for this hour, and then I'm not going to concern myself with anything that happens till the next hour. No. I mean, if we're partnering together to help you move forward to this different place in life that you want to be, then it's probably going to mean doing some things outside of these 60-minute blocks. It's probably going to mean checking up on you. It's probably going to mean solving some problems when it comes to how you deal with challenges or stress or whatever else. And that's fine. I want somebody to feel like, okay, if they're hiring us as a coach, they're basically saying I want you to be my partner on this journey. And I believe you're the right partner to help me get to where I want to go.

Erin Mahoney:

Yeah. It's getting out of transactional and going to transformational is something we could all benefit from by thinking about that every single day, and really taking our responsibility extremely seriously. And then, so the third thing that you had previously said, again, these three were my shining takeaways for this conversation, was you were talking about think about the client that you get the best results with. And I'd never really heard it talked about like this so I thought it was great. Which is if you were getting paid just on if they get results, which is never the worst situation to be in, but if you were getting paid, what does that client look like? And how would you speak to them, and how would you market to them, and how would you talk to them? It is great that you are talking about working backwards from the person that you are a best fit for. And maybe you'll talk about this. The truth is who we want to work with and who is most responsive to our style are sometimes two different things. And so, it's probably best to go with where our successes are, right?

Pat Rigsby:

Yeah. And I think that sometimes we kind of shaped this who we want to work with based on our frustrations, right? We kind of vent. And we say, well, I want people who are disciplined and consistent, and all this other stuff. I'm like, well, then why do they need you? You need to be able to solve a problem to really build a great business. And the bigger the problem, or the more common the problem that you can solve, the better potential for your business.

And if you think about, okay, I'm great at helping people who are pursuing a specific performance goal, or I'm great at helping first time exercisers really get comfortable and confident and move forward, and finally embrace an active, healthy lifestyle. I mean, whatever it is, there's a person that you've had a track record of success with. There's a person that you you've been able to serve successfully. And there's kind of a proven pathway that's worked for you to get there. So, I mean, everybody talks about, hey, I want to have systems in my business or whatever else. All a system is, is that kind of proven process.

So, you have this proven process. And so, you also know where that person was physically, mentally, emotionally, when you first connected with them. So, you know that the person that you're going to go market to probably has some similarities there. You know the questions that the client that you've already had this success with has asked along the way. And those are probably the questions that the person that you want to serve has kind of bouncing around in their mind that they'd like to ask, and nobody else has answered.

So, everything that you want to do... Marketing's pretty simple. I mean, it's really just finding the people that you know you can help and taking them from being invisible to you and you being invisible to them, to making one another visible. Getting them to raise their hand and saying, "Wait a minute, you know what, yes, Erin gets me. She's answering the questions I've wondered about for so long when she's doing videos or in her newsletters. She's helped people like me before. So, I have some confidence she can probably help me."

And it makes everything much, much simpler if you focus on that person that, yeah, hey, I know that I can be great for this person. People sometimes get hung up with this idea of, well, I'm not going to only get paid for delivering results, or whatever else. But think about it, most businesses, that's kind of how it works, right? You pay at the register after you had your meal, or after you got a haircut, or whatever else. And we are in a kind of an interesting business where you may pay or commit with the long-term benefit being maybe months down the road. And so, there's that delay of gratification. But if you have this process you know that works and you truly care about somebody, they're going to enjoy the journey too because they're going to know they're with the right person, that you're invested in them. They're going to have a sense of accomplishment. So, I think if you start to think about who you can be best, it makes everything else, all the marketing, how you sell, where to find them, it makes all of it so, so much easier.

Erin Mahoney:

My favorite thing that you just said is that it is simple. And it is simple. And we tend to overcomplicate it. So, the idea of just proven track records and making iterations as we go, and who we're really working well with is great for trainers to hear. We're running up against our 30-minute mark. But I want to kind of just tell you, or see if there's any last-minute thoughts that you might have.

But what I really heard from you is this amazing overarching positive tone for the future of the personal training business, and what a huge opportunity it is for us to learn from things that weren't serving us well in that physical world, and then continue to apply them as we move forward. And I also love the three things you talked about with the mindset, and then talking about how to stay present in everyone's lives to keep them accountable, and then working backwards from where your successes are.

And as a final note, and you can leave us with a great takeaway, I know you can, is in your course and the one that ISSA has as you the author, the stuff that you talk about, I was blown away at how many small pieces of information there were. So, it would be like how to write an email in however many less words it is. And it's just one thing about that. It's solving that one problem. And what I feel like it's really done is allowed coaches and trainers to almost go through the course in an all carte fashion, or they can see like, "Oh my gosh. What is that?" Because that's how I was reviewing it. So, maybe you can talk about how you would go through and pick out those tidbits to start applying to what you need for your business right now.

Pat Rigsby:

Well, what's great is the way you alluded to kind of the way the course is set up is that, yeah, I mean you can pull things out that are really what you deem most needed at the moment. If you're not comfortable with selling, you have prospects that you feel like, hey, you know what, if I was comfortable selling them, I could grow my clientele. Well I mean, there's a pretty thorough kind of sales process in there, but it's broken down. And I would tell you that selling should feel comfortable and it should feel simple because you're delivering something really, really valuable in exchange for what you're charging.

But if you're not sure who that kind of ideal client is for you, then there's some simple exercises. You can go through a simple process to kind of work your way through and figure out, not only who's the right person for you, but how can you speak to them in a way that gets them to see you as not only potentially the best, but maybe the only solution to help them go from where they are to where they want to be.

And then, some thoughts on where to connect with your clientele or prospective clientele. How to follow up with them and market to them in a way that really builds a relationship. Because that's really all this is. It's connecting with somebody who is potentially interested in what you have to offer. And building a relationship with them where you educate them and motivate them until they're ready to make a commitment of time and effort and energy, and yeah, financial commitment too. But when they're ready to make a change, they're going to know that you are absolutely the only best choice for them. So, all of these things are broken down. So, wherever you feel like, hey, this is the area for the most improvement in my business, you can just kind of pull things out off the menu as needed, and improve that area. And then go back and pick the next thing, and keep working through until you have what I would call your ideal business.

Erin Mahoney:

I love it. Well, thank you, Pat. A huge thank you for being such a huge influence of positivity right now when people are probably feeling like they need it. So, thank you so much for that. And thanks for taking the time to hang out and chat with our ISSA members today, and for just being part of ISSA.

Pat Rigsby:

Well, it's been my pleasure. I'm excited about the opportunities ahead for the people in our industry. I think that some of the silver lining here has been people may be a little bit more health and wellness conscious than they were before. And so, we can certainly help people get to be in a better place when it comes to all of that. So yeah, I think that you guys are in the right place and the right industry.

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