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ISSA Talk, Episode 9: How to Design Online Challenges

Reading Time: 14 minutes 36 seconds

Edited for clarity.

Erin Mahoney:

Hi everybody and welcome back to ISSA Talk, a series of webinars designed to help our fitness professionals during this constant changing environment to not only take their business online, but to sustain it and even grow it. So today, we're going to be talking about 30-day challenges, which 30-day challenges even existed before the coronavirus pandemic in the physical world. But they're also very useful to use in the online world as well. All right, I'm your host, Erin Mahoney, Vice President of Product at ISSA. Let's go ahead and get started.

Benefits of Hosting Fitness Challenges

All right, as I mentioned, we're going to be talking about online challenges to grow your business. But remember, as gyms start to open, you shouldn't think of these limited to the online world, you can use them all the time. Today, we're going to learn a few things. First of all, we'll learn the advantages of 30-day challenges, which is great, but then you're really going to learn how to use and design challenges for clients of all types and even clients that are prospects right now. And then you're going to learn how to measure the outcomes. Not only did the people participating in the challenge achieve their goals, but are you achieving your business goals.

Get Real Results

First up. Why 30-day challenges? The first one is to get real results. At the end of the day, we're trainers and we're trying to make a positive impact. So regardless of why we're hosting these, we know the outcome is to help people lead a healthier lifestyle. The second reason is for marketing power. These have tremendous opportunities for you to help you grow your business and have a broader reach, which leads us to our third one, which is revenue. So, let's dive a little bit deeper into each one of these. All right, we're going to begin talking about the results clients see from challenges. And when I'm talking about results, right now, it's specific to the clients, the clients that are trying to achieve the goals or the results that they started interacting with you in the first place.


The first and probably most important reason why clients are able to get results from these challenges is because of the accountability. We all know that personal trainers, fitness instructors, one of the greatest values that they add is the ability to hold people accountable. And so, the challenges are just another extension of that. The secondary reason is the motivation that it gives the people participating in the challenge, whether it's because they're competitive by nature, or because there's greater social interaction, it really elevates the motivation for people to eat right, perform better, exercise more, do all of those things that are going to give them those results that they want.

Staying Focused

The third reason is this refreshed interest, or maybe change in focus. If you've got a weight loss client, and they're only focused on losing two pounds a week or whatever you have set out for them. If the challenge is point based and the points are based on the activities that are needed in order to accomplish something like weight loss, then even though the end goal is the same, the day to day focus, shifts a little bit. It gives them something else to go after, so it refreshes and renews their mindset. And the fourth reason is it gives them this confidence boost, especially when they're geared around the 30 days or the four-week challenges, it's a short amount of time. I mean, we can do anything for a month, right? So, it gives them the opportunity to be successful in a short amount of time and even feel recognized for that success and thereby increase their confidence.

Building Your Business with Challenges

Now, let's talk a little bit about the marketing power that you're going to get from hosting these. And depending on how you use your challenges, you can get a variety of a marketing lift. 

Lead Generation

The first one is from lead generation. So, this is people that weren't even your clients before, even though I've been referring to them as clients, really what you can do is you can start offering these challenges to people that have showed some interest before. And you just want to show them what you're really all about at a lower price point, or even a free one, or even people that hadn't heard of you previously. So, it's going to give you those new leads that you can then follow up with either email or social media or other special offerings that you have. 

Brand Exposure

The second thing that it brings for you guys is brand exposure. So, it's just one more thing to talk about you because you are your brand and the offers that you provide. So, we're exposing not just are you a personal trainer or a fitness instructor, but your brand offers a holistic approach to fitness. It also gives you more social media exposure, which social media just by itself doesn't necessarily generate increased revenue. But what we do know is the wider you can cast that net, the more people you can draw from, and especially right now in this online environment, that is going to mean you can have more trainers that you maybe wouldn't have had the opportunity to reach before.

Collect Testimonials

And the final great thing that can sometimes be overlooked is it gives you an opportunity to collect more testimonials. Clients tend to buy based on knowing that they can get their results. And how can they know if they're going to get their results? Well, the first reason is social proof. Are other people like them able to accomplish their goals? So, that's the power of testimonials when you have them and you have the consent to post these on social media or use them on your website, it really brings a lot of credibility to what you're offering. 

Increasing Your Revenue

Next up, let's talk about revenue. So, revenue is revenue, right? But how are you getting that revenue? One is it's an upsell to existing clients. So, maybe you're already offering pay per session with clients, or maybe they're on a subscription basis with you. But if you start incorporating the challenges, if they're aligned to their goals, then you can charge them a little bit more. Maybe it's only 20 extra dollars a month, 10 extra dollars, whatever you see fit. But that multiplied over 20, 30 clients end up being a nice little boost to your revenue.

It also gives you an indirect way to increase your revenue. And this is from the improved retention of your clients. When your clients are engaged with what you're doing, and they're charging along with all of your recommendations, they're going to see results. And when they see those results, they're going to stick around because you're the one that got them there, right? So, it's just another way to keep your clients. Then it's an opportunity for you to have lead generation. So, similar to what I said on that last slide is, the more you can cast your net, even if you're only getting 10% of that net, the wider it gets, the more leads you have. The more leads you have, then you can convert them into real clients.

And then of course the brand exposure, and then even more upselling opportunities, that's a little bit different to just the upselling clients, because these other upselling opportunities might be people that aren't clients. It could be with people that aren't really quite ready financially, especially right now, with taking the plunge into full blown, personal training, but they want what they saw from that challenge. And it's worth it to them for an extra 20 or 30 bucks a month, maybe more, depending on again, what you're offering.

Putting Together Your First Fitness Challenge

All right, so let's do a little bit more of defining what this 30-day challenge is. And some of the things that we can chat through, which can change are first, what's the difference between a competition and a challenge? And then what's the difference between our clients and our prospects? And then the different ways that people can accomplish goals, keeping them time-based versus a goal-based, and then goal variability. Let's get started.

Competition VS Challenge

All right, here's a question. Is it a competition or a challenge? You can really call it both. Typically, we're going to assume a competition is a challenge, but it's based in reference to something else, like another person. So, if you've got a group of people and one person is going to achieve the goal or the end, then it's a little bit more of a competition. If it's a challenge, then it kind of directs it more internal, like they're challenging themselves. You can call it whatever you want. It's been brought to our attention, especially by the guys over at ODT, that challenges make a little bit more sense for them, but it's up to you and what your clients respond to best.

Goal Variability

Next up, is goal variability. When we talk about goal variability, what we're really talking about is what that challenge is all about. What are they striving to achieve? For the most part, trainers typically think of body composition changes or weight loss, but we don't have to be limited to that. And really, if you're making these challenges part of your routine business, then you do want to vary them as often as possible, that way you keep the interest going. So, you could have a fitness related challenge, and that could be something like reducing your one mile run by X percent or achieving X amount of steps for the whole entire month, or maybe it's how many pushups you could do in a minute. You can make it very specific to a fitness activity that way it opens the doors to a lot of different people other than those just trying to achieve body composition changes.

Point-Related Challenge

The next thing that you can do is look at that holistic point-related challenge. And this is something that was really brought to our attention from Off-day Trainer and they had some great ideas about how you can offer this point-related challenge. And basically, what happens is, you get some points, you get a point or five points for the desirable behaviors involved in living a healthy and fitness lifestyle. And you can also get negative points. So maybe you get a point each day, if you've achieved your 10,000 step goal, and maybe you get negative two points if you drank alcohol that night, or you fell off your meal plan and you can structure these points and then there is this end goal of points that either everybody's trying to get to, or maybe there's one awarded winner for achieving the most amount of points.

There's also the opportunity to do friends and family challenges. In this situation, what you would do, or what you could do, is you might have a client and you might, this is a great referral opportunity for you. So, you could tell your client, "Hey, let's extend this to your entire social support system, your friends, your family, and we can make it point-based or whatever that might be to get everybody else involved." What that does is of course, as you're seeing, that brings about new leads for you. And what it also does is it really creates this social commitment.

So, the people involved are going to see a lot more results when they're competing with each other and probably adding a little bit more fun to it. And then finally, you can also do team-based challenges. Let's pretend that your business is thriving and you have hundreds of clients. You could even break them up into teams, and then the team that achieves the goal or the competition, they win the incentive, whatever might be. So, just keep in mind, when you're doing these challenges, there is a lot of different ways that you can go.

What is the Goal of Your Challenge?

So next, you're going to ask yourself, well, what do I want for my 30-day challenge? What am I trying to get out of this? And the first thing is you really should be beginning with the end in mind, and then at that point, then it's simple, you just back fill it with the details. So, when we talk about beginning with the end in mind, we're saying, okay, let's think about what the outcome of the challenges that you really want. Is it that you want to update and build your email list? Which by itself is a great outcome. I mean, if you could grow your email list by 30, 40, 50, that's great. And if you have a conversion rate of 10%, that might only be three or five new clients a month, but over time, that grows substantially. Then it might be, are you just trying to fill Facebook groups, which again, with your Facebook groups that might be subscription based a product offering that you have.

So, is it that you're trying to grow your Facebook group, or maybe it's just that you're trying to increase overall sales. And then finally, and this could be especially if you're a first-time trainer or if you were previously largely dependent on the club for providing new clients, maybe you just want to get testimonials. Maybe you're not even worried about the email list yet. You just need more people that are showing that they are following your recommendations and getting really solid results. That is, in itself, a great outcome to have from your challenges.

So, here's an example. Let's say you just want to build your clientele. Well, in this situation, you want to make sure that you're giving out quick wins. So, you give them the opportunity to see the success. Maybe it's even a shortened challenge. And you're going to raise their interest a little bit more to see, “Oh, wow, this is what you can provide, okay.” And you give them just enough, but you want them to leave with them wanting more. So, you give them the quick wins, they see results, you pique their interest, and then they're like, "Hey, I'm not done yet. I want a little bit more." And then you really engage with them.

So, you make sure that, not only at the end of the challenge did you give them what you originally offered, but you follow up and you talk to them and you continue the conversation. Because then, when you do ask a buying question, it's not going to feel awkward, it's not going to feel out of the blue. It's not like they're going to be waiting for it. Instead, the conversation has been going this entire time: How'd you feel? How was that? I noticed this day was your best day. Great job. Hey, by the way, we're going to run another one of these next month, I think you can do even better if we get you on a program where you're attending one of my sessions, two or three days a week. See, it could be that simple.

Let's just say that you want to grow your social media following. Well in this situation, you want to make sure that your groups are open and that you can share. And so, you've got open groups, they're shareable, so people can invite others. And then what you want to do is you keep that Facebook platform as the primary method of communication. So, you actually go out of your way to not email them or text them, and instead that is the communication platform. So, everybody needs to go to Facebook in order to know what the challenge is for the day, how many points they need to get, what are the inspirational quotes that you're offering? That's where they're going.

And then things that you can do, just like I said, as post encouraging updates. Be you, be inspirational, and give them their own mini challenges every day. Hey guys, today, I'm going to try to get in two workouts today and the second one is going to be my fun, easy workout. Tell me about what your fun and easy workout is today. 

Designing Your Fitness Challenge

All right, so now you've got a better understanding of why you would even have a 30-day challenge in the first place, what a 30-day challenge looks like, how you figure out what you're trying to accomplish and really narrow it down. So, the next thing is how to design it? And the first way is figure out who is that person that you're going after? And hopefully you've figured that out at this point. And then you just work through the logistics and get the word out. All right, so let's get to designing your challenge. 

Target Audience

You got to think about who your target audience is, which is usually going to be in line with your goal. It should be because you're going to be backfilling it with the types of people that would find the service offering appealing. 

Client Goals

And then what do your participants hope to gain from being a part of this challenge? Because you got to be able to speak their language. 

Time Commitment and Communication

You're also going to want to make sure that you communicate what the time commitment is, if there is a time commitment and then what is that timeline and how will they be communicating? How will they be checking in? How will everyone stay onboard with this challenge for the entire duration? 

Your Goals

Then what you also want to think about is you're not just thinking about the clients and you're not just thinking about the goal of what you want them to accomplish, but this is your opportunity to create a ton of supplemental content.

In our other videos, we've talked about, hey, just start filming things, get things out there, start creating your library. This is no different. So if you are doing a point-based challenge, and let's say that you're awarding extra points for achieving step goals each day, give a presentation, whether it's five minutes, 10 minutes, about how you achieve your step count outside of just the regular, typical walking or running, what are the things that you're implementing in place to make sure that you get those things? Make it personal, create your content.

Then of course, you're going to start thinking about, are you charging for it? Will it be free? That's usually going to be tied back to what your first outcome was, and then start thinking about how it can be attached to what next. So, what's that stickiness of it. Is it going to be attached to an offer? Is it going to be the first challenge of a three-part segment? What is that? You've got to be thinking about what happens beyond that challenge in order to make it thread all the way through. All right, let's start marketing yourself, set up a Facebook group and just share your own personal story. People want to know the authentic you. And then start asking people, get them engaged, you can even collaborate with other trainers and clients like doing Q&A's, hey guys, from 1:00 to 1:30 today, I'm doing a live Q&A. Come on, let me know what your questions are and we'll make sure that they get answered.

Next Steps: Build Your Fitness Challenge Now

Okay. We've talked a lot. I've talked a lot. We're moving on to what are those next steps. 

  1. Develop that 30-day outline. 
  2. Start promoting it across your platforms. 
  3. Especially if you're collecting payments, get those payments up front. It's going to hold people a little more accountable. 
  4. Launched the program and encourage that they further promote it on their platforms. 

We definitely encourage you to check out Off-day Trainer. They can help you get started for free, they've got a really cool free trial going on and they make it so easy for you. Hopefully this webinar has helped you out quite a bit, but they really give you some solid step by step instructions and they also give you content that you can start using. So how do you promote it on Facebook? What are the words that you should use? What's the injury that you should use? And if you haven't figured out the challenge program yet, well, they can give that for you too.

And it'll also give you client text examples. So, they offer a text messaging service as well. So, it's all in one package, so check it out. Either way, thank you so much for joining us today at our conversation of the 30-day challenges. And we hope you've learned a lot from it, bring it back to the gyms, if your gyms are starting to open it, and if not, start using it on your own in your online coaching platform on behalf of ISSA, thank you so much and stay safe.

Are you ready to help clients make the most of their health and fitness, even from their own homes? Sign up for ISSA’s Personal Trainer program to get your career started. Learn from the comfort of your own home and at your own pace. As a personal trainer, your success knows no limits!


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