As of the date of writing this (April 2022), the options for marketing one’s business are too many to count. From the perspective of fitness and health, the large majority of business owners and entrepreneurs turn their attention to digital marketing – social media, influencer marketing, paid acquisition, search engine optimization, email marketing, etc. These are, undoubtedly, high-value tactics that provide varying levels of ROI.
HOWEVER, they can be risky. Algorithms change. Search engines shift their parameters. Prospects and clients change their contact information, etc. If you’re in this world, you know exactly what I mean and it can be devastating to a business that relies solely on said tactics.
What I’m about to share with you takes time, but it is a GUARANTEED way to grow your business over time and live in a world of true abundance. It’s not even a secret really. It’s simply forgotten by so many in lieu of sexier tactics. This is how I’m building the fastest growing network in the fitness industry that nobody’s ever heard of. You won’t find it on Facebook and there’s no fancy website (just a landing page leading to an application). It’s all relationship based.
When I sold my brick-and-mortar businesses in 2017, my wife and I set out to build our dream life and we’re very much doing it. As lovers of travel and adventure, we minimized our belongings and set to the digital nomad lifestyle. We had some money in the bank, but certainly nothing life-changing. I wasn’t 100% sure how I wanted to provide value to the industry I love , so I started a podcast. Then I started another one. In the past two years, I’ve interviewed over 700 people within the fitness, health, and wellness profession.
Why is that a big deal?
It’s not because of my growing audience or even the amazing content that we’ve produced.
It’s not because I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the state of the industry.
It’s not because I’ve now seen clearly what it takes to be successful.
It’s a big deal because I’ve had 700+ meaningful conversations that offered value to each guest I had on.
It’s a big deal because I’m forming relationships with people from all over the globe who now take my phone call.
It’s a big deal because I’m building a network that will last.
It’s a big deal because when everybody goes right, I chose to go left investing in relationships and people.
I’m about to share a very simple formula that I promise will change your life forever. However, just like any other “magic formula,” there is no magic without decisive and continuous action. Here we go.
STEP 1: LEAD WITH VALUE
In my particular case, upon transitioning from brick and mortar to online, nobody outside of my former gym community in Santa Barbara, CA, really knew who I was. I had to come up with something that would offer value to those I wanted to talk to on a global scale. Who doesn’t want to get interviewed, have a nice piece of content produced for you for free, and then get exposed to a whole new audience? That’s REAL value.
It makes introductions so easy and, truth be told, nowadays I rarely have to reach out to anybody to get an interview. I get a ton of referrals through my network. It’s a self-sustaining model that actually gets BETTER with time.
So, what is your value? If you have one single client, you have value. If you’re a local business, what if you offered to highlight a potential partner to your current clients in the form of a panel discussion or workshop? Can you offer a free service to their clientele?
If your business is digital, can you do a co-branded “live” event on Facebook or Youtube? Can you have a guest contributor to your blog or email list? How can you COLLABORATE to create value? Be creative as there are unlimited ways of offering value to people.
Before you get excited and hit the “go” button, stop and think for a second. Is there alignment with each particular partner prospect you’re reaching out to? Do both of you have something to gain? Most importantly, do you feel that the individual or company shares your values?
I’m a big fan of lists, so taking some time to create a list of people (oh…let’s say 100) that you would love to partner with is a great idea. This provides focus and really makes you think hard on who your “Dream 100” may be.
Once that’s done, begin your outreach with no other intention but to deliver value while asking nothing in return.
STEP 2: DELIVER MORE VALUE
You’re probably thinking it’s now time to ask for something in return. It’s not. That’s not how this works. You still need to sort out what challenges your prospective dream partner is facing and I’ll share how I do that in a second.
Remember that step 1 is simply the introduction and beginning of what could be a long term relationship. These are potential friends, colleagues, and collaborators. This is all about establishing rapport and building a base of trust. Trust is not built overnight, but it can be lost in one rotation of the Earth’s axis.
The most powerful exercise you can do is this…put yourself in the other person’s shoes. I call it strategic empathy. If you were this person, what would make you stop and really take notice? What would make this person so happy that working with me in the future is an absolute no-brainer?
I change my tactics in stage 2 constantly as I learn better, more efficient ways to offer value. There are two questions that have proven to be successful here and I’ll share them now.
First question – “What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing in your business right now?”
Second question – “What types of connections do you find valuable?”
These are simple questions, but extremely powerful. The second question is specifically designed to get the person to think about expanding their own network. It puts her in the right mindset. If the person answers the questions honestly, you now have clear and decisive ways to offer value without investing a ton of time or resources in doing so. Sure, this takes some creativity, but that’s the fun of this, right?
Pro Tip – In a world plagued with scarcity mindset and predatory marketers, you may find that reaching out with the authentic desire to help is often met with distrust. That’s normal and I would tackle this head-on with, well, more authenticity and transparency. Those are very refreshing qualities nowadays. For example, if somebody seems hesitant to receive your help, say something like “I know it may seem odd that I want to help you, but my goal is to build relationships that last and offering value upfront is the best way I know how.”
STEP 3 – “THE ASK”
I will fully admit that establishing stage 3 for me was challenging. I’ve spent a lot of my years selling stuff – 10 years in various forms of corporate sales, 9 years of gym ownership, 6 years as an independent consultant, and 8 years of marriage (that’s a joke…kind of). Even with that level of experience, I still often find that “asking for the money” is a tough thing to do.
What I’ve realized is this…
If it doesn’t feel right, you haven’t spent enough time in steps 1 and 2. So, go back. There is a little old thing called the “Law of Reciprocity.” It’s a concept keyed by social psychologists stating that when you do something nice for somebody else, that person has a deep-rooted psychological desire to do something nice for you. This isn’t trickery. This is just how we’re hardwired and it works both ways.
Here is a very common statement and question that comes up very often in stage 3 (given stage 1 and 2 were executed effectively):
“Thank you so much for doing this. So, what is that you do again? How do you make money?”
I hear it often and it’s the golden phrase that confirms that all the work you did in step 1 and 2 was worth every second of your time. You now have reciprocity and it’s time to start working the relationship even more.
It’s important to have restraint and tact here. Remember that you are still building trust and feeling out if this is a relationship you want to invest in. I can tell you right now, 10 out of 10 times, I would rather invest my time in somebody that I like and trust that is in the early stages of building his business rather than somebody who is established but seems to conflict with my values. Building relationships is like building houses. If the foundation is off ever so slightly, you could spend a lot of time, money, and emotional energy building something that will inevitably collapse under the slightest bit of pressure.
I believe the greatest quality of this systemized approach towards building your business is that it simply feels good. If you don’t enjoy helping people, then you probably stopped reading this a long time ago. If you are taking the risk to start a business, don’t you want to build one that can weather any storm? Don’t you want to build it the right way? The world doesn’t need another quick fix. What we need are stronger relationships and better communities. The beauty of creating your own thing is that you can check off all the boxes that fulfill you financially, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s an extension of yourself, so don’t settle for anything but the best.
Want to learn more from some of the best in the industry? Subscribe to The Future of Fitness podcast, a top-rated industry podcast for 3+ years, hosted by the author, Eric Malzone.
Eric Malzone Business Development | Podcast Host | Coach & Advisor