Everywhere we turn we're being told it's healthier to eat local and better for the economy to shop local, so why not coach local? From location-based mobile apps like Foursquare, Yelp, Twitter and Facebook, we're encouraged to tell our friends how locally conscious we are everywhere we go. It's the incredible dichotomy of the Internet revolution - the more connected with the world we've become, the higher we value our connection to our local community.
I know the suggestion to "coach local" sounds crazy coming from a guy who provides web and mobile services that enable you to coach clients half a world away. But, in the same way the beets you bought at your local farmer's market taste better (they really do) than the ones from a supermarket, if you want to grow your business, local is a great way to go.
That's not to say you shouldn't leverage the web if you want to reach large quantities of clients. Coach Troy Jacobson provides an excellent example with his Spinervals Super6 training plan series. He's doing a great job expanding his expertise from traditional DVD's to the more interactive platform of the Internet. Carmichael Training Systems is also a great example of how to use web and mobile to coach, in how they provide personal interaction regardless of location.
However, most of the coaches I talk with want personal, face-to-face contact with their clients. But how can you keep yourself "local" while still increasing that income line item on your tax return for 2012?
Here are three ideas of how to grow your business while coaching "local".
1) Join a club.
There are thousands of local cycling, triathlon and running clubs - find one at USAT, USAC, British Cycling or just do a Google local search. I ran a cycling club with nearly 200 members just outside of Boulder, Colorado for nine years and never once had a coach offer their services. Yet 50-60% of us were racing and all of us could have used coaching. Start by just joining a club to be a part of your local community. Maybe offer discounted training plans and/or coaching in return for recognition as a sponsor. Or, just bring the keg, hang out and offer coaching advice when the questions inevitably come up. You'll end up with clients...guaranteed.
2) Donate a training plan to a local event.
There are hundreds of thousands of athletes participating in events every year around the world. And most likely one of those events is in your backyard. Whether it's a 5K, Muddy Buddy or Ironman doesn't really matter - it draws people paying money to participate. Those people are hoping to have a successful event and even though they may train on their own the first year, they'll learn that adding structure and motivation in the weeks and months leading up to the event will make them much happier crossing the finish line. While it may not be the best way to coach in the long-term, a training plan provides the athlete with just enough coaching to demonstrate how valuable personal coaching could be for their next event. For a great example, Angie Sturtevant from Specialists in Sports Performance provides training plans to Bike Wisconsin event participants at no charge to the cyclist. Giving away a lot you say? No...give a little and you'll get back a lot!
3) Work at a health club.
Our Customer Relations VP Keith Watson here at TrainingPeaks has a great story of how he first got into coaching: he volunteered on the swim deck of his local rec center. After assisting the swim coach for nearly a year, he was asked to start his own masters swim class. Now he not only runs the masters swim program, he coaches a dozen or more triathletes and frequently has to turn inquiring clients away (since he has a full-time job). At my gym, also a local rec center, there are aspiring triathletes in my yoga class, cyclists in the weight room and runners on the cardio machines. Don't wait for those potential clients to find you - go to them. And don't hold out for the fancy clubs with saline pools and hair dryers in the bathrooms. Your local rec center has all kinds of people who are willing to pay for your coaching advice and motivation (even if you have to start by giving it for free).
Start thinking of "local" as more than just where to eat and shop - it's where to coach! In the short-term you'll find new clients and make some money. In the long-term, you'll build name recognition and gain the trust of your local community, which leads to referrals, long-term clients and all the business you can handle. Someone print a bumper sticker: "Coach Local".
These are just a few of my ideas. I'd love to hear from your experience as well. If you have any other tips for growing local business as a coach, please share them in the comments with our coaching community.
TrainingPeaks Chief Marketing Officer