My Secret to Tripling Client Referrals in Three Months


By Ron Betta

As a personal trainer, I focus on the needs of my clients. But as an entrepreneur, I also understand the importance of focusing on my website and marketing. After all, I want to increase my client base and gain exposure in the market.

Admittedly, understanding how to boost my website in search rankings hasn’t been my strongest suit. But that is changing. FAST.

One of the hallmarks of entrepreneurship is learning by doing. So that’s what I’ve done. I’ve taught myself how to use my website to grow my business. And grow it has.

In 2015, we opened the doors to Art of Fitness, a personal training studio in Orlando. This year, we start construction on our expansion. We’ve more than doubled the size of our studio in 18 months. We’ve brought on a new trainer and have several yoga instructors lined up for the expansion.

Our revenue has basically doubled month over month since last year. While referrals remain our strongest source of clients, we’ve seen a tripling of clients from Internet searches in the past three months. At this rate, the Internet search clients will easily surpass the walk-ins.

I attribute a lot of this immediate success to my drive to be first in everything I do; providing quality service and content; and creatively using my website:

Notice that there’s no ‘dot-com’ (.com)? This has been an enormous help to us for a few reasons:

-- We use the elimination of ‘dot-com’ to boost our studio story. We tell our clients that even our website is on a diet: It lost the ‘dot-com.'

-- We believe the uniqueness of the domain is a benefit and not a drawback. We are only a few miles from four of the biggest gyms in Orlando. Yet, we believe we are different and want to prove that at every turn. Our domain is different, and we have learned how to position it in the mind of the prospect as another point that makes us unique. It sticks in the mind of our clients too, so they always know where to go.

In the beginning, our website wasn’t ranked. We were newbies in the Web universe, after all. Today, however, we are on the first page in many searches when you type in keywords such as "Orlando personal trainers" and "Doctor Phillips personal trainers." ("Dr. Phillips" is the name of the area in Orlando where my business resides.)

Here are three things I’ve consistently been doing that’ve helped me rise in search engine rankings – and bring in new business.

Blog We blog several times per month. We have lists of blogs ready to go -- all from client comments and questions, as well as great and bad moments, at our studio. We promote these blogs to our clients, as well as over Facebook and Twitter. And, we make sure to introduce key words into our blogs, such as "Dr. Phillips Personal Trainer" and "Biggest Loser" (because I trained a "Biggest Loser" contestant).

We considered SEO (search engine optimization) services to help us in this effort, but decided against them. We looked at six and not one of them could accurately tell me what to expect as a return on investment. As a small business owner, I needed to know what really works - and I have a much better handle on that now that I’ve done it myself. But that’s just me.

Social Media We use Facebook as our primary social media outlet. What we have found to be most successful is the driving of traffic to our blog through Facebook posts, shares and likes. In doing this, we have greater control over the demographic and can learn about our clients.

Sure, we could have used various platforms all at once (social media sites, radio, print, television, etc.). By being focused, and narrowing the scope, we obviously limit our reach. However, I prefer to have a more intimate understanding of our clients and how to best reach them.

I have a good understanding of what demographic my market is on Facebook. I prefer this versus a broad approach where we might struggle to know what is truly making a difference. I’m also doing this all on my own, so time management is also at play. My No. 1 priority, after all, remains my clients.

Outreach I speak at local events and donate sessions to schools and other organizations. While this exposure is unpaid, it promotes us in the online community and allows us to distribute flyers in person. All our marketing is designed to drive business both to the website and our studio. I consider “good-will” a massive part of being lifted in the community -- virtually and in-person.

For me, the bottom line is being at the top. I work constantly -- in bed, at breakfast, during my exercise routines -- to push eyes to the website and gain ground wherever I can.

Building a business is a lot like getting fit: it takes discipline, the right actions and the flexibility to see what’s working and focus on that.

Ron Betta is a personal trainer based in Orlando. Click here to more about his journey from Disney animation employee to self-made entrepreneur.