A Male Coach Talks With Another Cyclist While Looking At A Smartphone While Taking A Break During Their Ride

Finding More Athletes for Your Business Authentically

BY Jen Rulon

Building your brand, business, and clientele will not be accomplished overnight. Being authentic, leaning into storytelling and being patient helps grow your business.

When I started my coaching business, I didn’t have the luxury of social media and online presence as we do today. Most of it was word-of-mouth and referrals, which is still crucial. I think back to the beginning of my coaching; in 2001, I realized that it was me having a conversation with people and posting my information on Training Peaks and the USA Triathlon website.

Then it happened. I started sharing my story, then my athletes’ stories. I was authentic and vulnerable. After that, people began resonating with me as an athlete and a coach, which is how I built my coaching platform.

So, one of the most common questions from new coaches is:

“How do I get more athletes to coach?”

In today’s article, please think outside the box and what I want to share with you regarding gaining more clients. This article isn’t your typical talk about finding your ideal athlete, what to post on social or the perfect website; it teaches you about being authentic, sharing stories and being patient in your business.

Let’s begin.

Share Your Story

I know. You don’t want to talk about yourself. I get it. You are uncomfortable with it. You don’t like bragging, or you don’t think you have a story.

You do have a story!

You started somewhere, just like all of us. Here are a couple of examples of a “hero” story:

  • You were a college runner that got into triathlons due to an injury, and you found that you loved the Olympic distance. I started seeing results and decided to start helping college athletes do the same thing.
  • You HATED running but wanted to try this Ironman Triathlon event out because you saw it on television. The Ironman Triathlon inspired you. So, you started running. You made a sprint triathlon happen, then an Olympic, then an Ironman 70.3 and then an Ironman Triathlon. During this time, your coach inspired you to start coaching.
  • You found triathlon because you wanted to lose weight and change your life. You were so inspired by how you did it that you wanted to share your knowledge with others. So, you went back to college to get your master’s degree in Exercise Science, got certified with Training Peaks, and now you have a successful business in coaching.

After an athlete finishes a successful race, they are thankful for your coaching, but I always tell my athletes, “I provided the plan; you executed the plan.” So, in reality, you are the hero in their eyes.

People on social media will also resonate with you during your story. You are not bragging. You are sharing how you started in triathlons, cycling, etc., and potential clients will see you are “human” too. It takes work for all of us to get where we want to be. Share that.

So, here are some questions that may help you with your “hero” story.

  1. What was your background as an athlete?
  2. What was your favorite accomplishment as an athlete?
  3. What is or was your goal as an athlete?
  4. How did you become a coach?
  5. Why did you become a coach?

These questions can be divided into posts, blogs, and live streams. Plus, they offer you a ton of content moving forward toward your business.

Share Your Athletes Story

Athletes love recognition. And it is one of the best ways to share with the world about your coaching.

Here are a couple of ways to help them share their story about your coaching and their story because we all have a story to share!

  1. Ask them to share their “Hero” Story. Here are five questions that you can ask them, and then you can create some content about them:
    1. What was your background as an athlete? Did you have an athletic experience?
    2. What got you into your sport?
    3. What has been your favorite accomplishment as an athlete?
    4. Why did you choose me as your coach?
    5. Ask for something genuine from your coaching. For example, when I interviewed my athletes, I asked them at the end, “Did you cross the finish line with a smile? And if you did, what race and why?”
  2. Ask them to write a testimonial about your coaching and put it on your website, social media, etc.
  3. Interview them via video or Facebook Live or Instagram Live.
  4. Ask them to write a race report and share it on all your platforms!

Sharing their stories can significantly impact you and your potential athletes. You will love sharing this story, and you can break this up quite a bit!

Have fun with this too!

Be Authentic

I can’t emphasize this enough for your coaching platform. As humans, we are not perfect, and share that with your athletes, social media, followers and newsletters. Be real.

When you mess up, own it.

When you did the wrong workout for someone, own it.

When you struggle during a workout, please share it.

When you struggle during a race, please share it.

Something that I recognized with being an athlete, who became a coach, life happens, and your followers, potential athletes, and athletes want to know what happens when you struggle on a workout, or you jacked up their plan or filled in the blank.

Be Patient

Steve Jobs did not become successful with Apple overnight. You probably have heard that story before.

I recently wrote an article for Training Peaks about social media and talked about the virtual assistant that I hired for social media. It’s interesting because I ended up letting him go and let me explain why.

I have been doing my social media for the last nine years, and I thought, “OK, here we go; I need to gain more athletes heading into the end of 2022 and 2023. Because if my business isn’t sustainable, I will have to shut it down.” March 2023 will be 10 years.

So, I hired a company and found a fantastic virtual assistant. And he did great with some excellent content for me, such as taking my TEDx Talk into a four-part Reels Series. He took PDFs that I needed to update and redesign. Then he started jumping on social media, and it was way too aggressive than what I was used to.

I am about the “Know, Like, and Trust” factor. People have to get to know you, then like you, and if they trust you, then they may or will buy your services.

He started following potential athletes, even coaches and Pro Athletes, then plugged my service into the direct messaging. DOH! I should have been more specific with him, as that is not how I attract and connect with potential clients. I mean, it is like going on a date. You don’t go in for the kiss immediately; you have to wine, dine and have a conversation.

It was one hundred percent my fault as a business owner, but I got into the “Oh SH$” moment of thinking my business would shut down because I didn’t have any clients coming my way.

When I realized that it had taken me almost 10 years to build my brand and business, I had to let him go because I was doing pretty well on my own. It didn’t feel genuine with someone else doing my social media for me.

It caused me anxiety, and I went dark for over two weeks because I didn’t want to stay ahead of the game anymore.

I tell my athletes, “My learnings and failures are your wins,” which is how I feel about this learning for coaches wanting to build their business, brand, and athletes.

Time is on your side. Don’t rush it. One of my favorite quotes is this:

“Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.”

Earl Nightingale

Final Thoughts

Building your brand, business, and clientele will not be accomplished overnight. I know. You probably wanted me to have the best strategies for social media to gain more clients, or you wanted the best times to post on social media to gain clients.

Trust me. I wish it were that easy. It’s not.

Remember you have time. Do what feels right for you and your business.

Share your story of how you got into triathlons and became a coach. Potential athletes want to know who you are and what you do! They also want to know your WHY to coach and feel a connection with you.

Share their story. Interview the athletes you do have via Zoom and upload it to YouTube. Interview them and have someone write it up for you. Have them write a race report. So many options to share the client’s story, and they love to chat about their journey.

Last but not least, be patient and authentic. I can’t emphasize this enough. People will see right through you if you are skin-deep regarding your coaching.

Be your true authentic self as a coach but also as a human.

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Learn from this guide to help you each step of the way as you build and grow your coaching business.

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About Jen Rulon

Jen Rulon has been a triathlon coach for 22+ years and the owner of JenRulon.com. She received her Masters in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. You can find her knowledge as an author and speaker ranging from Triathlete Magazine, Runners World, on the TEDx Stage, Men’s Journal Online and the New York Times. 

Jen is the author of the book “Self-Motivation Strategies for Women,” highlighting how she has lived her life through passion, grit, and heart but now applies this method to the athletes that she coaches.

She also practices what she preaches–she’s a 15x Ironman Triathlete who qualified and participated in the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, on October 14, 2017.

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