Authentic Branding with Online Fitness Coach
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Kyle Gray: (00:32)
Hello, and welcome to the Story Engine podcast. My name is Kyle Gray, and today on the show, we have Nicole Spencer from Convert Authentically.
Kyle Gray: (00:46)
Nicole coaches fitness business owners how to grow their presence online, and has a unique approach to increasing people’s businesses. Her philosophy is a very content marketing-driven philosophy, which is very close to my heart and my roots of creating so much value for people that they can’t help but work with you.
Kyle Gray: (01:11)
In this episode today, we’re going to hear all about how she does that in her own business. How she has used these strategies to go from a personal trainer to run a successful personal training business, to coaching other trainers. Even if you’re not in the fitness or the health industry, there’s a lot of excellent information on the scale, and growing a business, and the entrepreneur’s mindset that I think is going to be valuable for you.
Kyle Gray: (01:39)
Without further ado, let’s hand it over to Nicole. Nicole Spencer, welcome to the Story Engine podcast.
Nicole Spencer: (01:47)
Thank you so much for having me.
Kyle Gray: (01:49)
Now, you are a master, and have built your whole message around what you call “authentic conversion.” I’m excited to explore that with you today.
Kyle Gray: (01:59)
First I want to introduce you as I always do on this show. Will you tell me a story from a moment in your life that’s defined who you are and how you’re showing up in the world today? Then tell us a little bit about what you do.
Nicole Spencer: (02:14)
Okay. I’m going to try to keep this short. Back in 2008, I was a teacher. I was teaching high school English. I decided to leave and pursue a master’s degree in Holocaust and genocide studies. I have a full two-year master’s degree in that. As you might imagine, there’s not a lot of demand for people with that degree.
Nicole Spencer: (02:38)
After graduate school, I moved to New York City and was trying to get a job with the UN or some other nongovernmental organization. I was not having any luck as a young female who only spoke one language. I fell into personal training that way. I was like, “I got to do something.”
Nicole Spencer: (02:55)
I always worked out. I’d been a dance teacher, and a choreographer, and a yoga instructor. I decided to get certified to do personal training, and I planned to keep applying for these jobs that I wanted to do good work in the world.
Nicole Spencer: (03:08)
I fell in love with the fitness industry. Really, the fact that I didn’t get those jobs that I wanted brought me through a really successful PT career in New York City, led me to opening, running, and selling my own Bootcamp. Which is how I ended up sitting here talking to you.
Nicole Spencer: (03:31)
The fact that I went and got this obscure degree, couldn’t get a job with it, is how I ended up in fitness business coaching, which is 100% where I’m supposed to be.
Kyle Gray: (03:43)
That’s cool. Was there ever a “leap of faith” moment where it seemed like you fell in love with it and went right for it? I know you were probably going for and applying for a lot of those jobs, and then it was just like, “Actually, I’m going to go for it.”
Nicole Spencer: (04:03)
Kyle Gray: (04:04)
Nicole Spencer: (04:08)
I would say maybe not so much in personal training, but when I decided to open my Bootcamp, I had just moved to this small little town in southeast Georgia where I didn’t know anybody. Anyone who I did tell my ideas to told me it was a terrible idea. People in that city were not interested in fitness. I decided to do it anyway, and it worked out very, very well. Here we sit today.
Kyle Gray: (04:36)
There’s another crucial moment in your story that I’m interested in, and I want to hear more about it. It was when you were doing a lot of personal training, and you built a very successful business, but you said for the last five years, I believe you’ve been coaching other people in how to develop their businesses.
Kyle Gray: (04:56)
I think in the fitness industry, as far as I’ve heard, this is a tricky thing, and health in general, but I think particularly in fitness, to make the transition from coaching individuals to coaching other trainers. Was that challenging, or did that come naturally to you?
Nicole Spencer: (05:17)
I have a degree in teaching. I’ve always been a teacher, so I don’t know that it was hard. I think the hardest part for me was maybe going from coaching boot camps. My gym was Bootcamp. I’m very much an extrovert. I love people. I love large groups of people. Maybe going back to like one-on-one coaching, initially, was the hardest part.
Nicole Spencer: (05:36)
But, during my first three and a half years of doing business coaching, I was working for someone else. I had the structure in place and some of the training. Then it had the experience of another company backing me. I think that that helped. I would say it wasn’t a tough transition, mainly because I fell in love with business more than fitness within the first few months of having my business.
Kyle Gray: (06:03)
There’s been a lot of discoveries. It’ll be interesting to discover what your next passion is going to be, and if it keeps creating these exponential results. That’s going to be big.
Kyle Gray: (06:19)
I think this is where the authentic conversion comes in, and maybe this is where you do well in coaching, is in these methods. What’s your philosophy, and what are you great at teaching? What’s the key to what you do?
Nicole Spencer: (06:37)
I look at my soul’s purpose as being a connector and helping other people become better connectors. I’ve had multiple businesses at this point, and my strength is organic growth, really, through relationship building, through storytelling. That’s what I love to teach other people now.
Nicole Spencer: (07:00)
I think in a world where we’re so funnel focused, or we’re so focused on Facebook ads, and, “What can I say to get the sale?” or whatever, my whole methodology is really about showing up with the right message, building your brand, and doing it in a way that’s really authentic to the individual, and growing based off of that.
Nicole Spencer: (07:24)
That’s the whole principle behind the authentic conversion. It’s not just about marketing and sales, it’s about, “How can I show up differently in the world in a way that helps me grow my business, make more money, and help more people?”
Kyle Gray: (07:39)
Are there some core tenets to showing up differently in the world? Are there unexpected things that you teach that apply to business? Where are you working with people?
Nicole Spencer: (07:53)
One of the big focuses is helping people build their brand through content. I don’t think of branding how we used to think of branding, like logos, and colors, and business names, and websites. I think of branding as our ability to build a relationship with a large group of people that we’ve never met before.
Nicole Spencer: (08:11)
I teach people how to do that using their values, using their personality, using their stories and their experiences, and how to turn all of that into content that not only reaches the right audience, it connects with them. It builds trust in a relationship, and it leads them through the process of becoming a client at some point.
Nicole Spencer: (08:31)
I think one of the things that makes my method unique is that it’s got more of a long term mindset and a long term strategy in place. Whereas many people who are teaching marketing and sales are focused on, “Okay, put the ad out,” or, “put the offer out, make the sale,” my whole focus is, “Get eyes on me. Nurture people so well, give them so much value, give them more value than they’ve paid for in other programs, and eventually, you’ll present the right opportunity for them to become a client.”
Nicole Spencer: (09:04)
I have a very big-picture mindset when it comes to growing my business. Making the sale immediately or on the front end, or even in the first six months, actually, really isn’t necessary to me because I’m so consistent with creating my value, building my brand, building content that I have no issue filling my programs every single month, but without doing anything that’s a super hard sell. That’s what I teach my clients how to do, as well.
Kyle Gray: (09:30)
I like that a lot. I have this sense of, there’s this yin and yang in the world of business, where there’s the very much technical sales-driven, a lot of the stuff that you just described. Then the yin, which is this content-nurturing generosity. I think that there’s a fascinating balance between these two.
Kyle Gray: (09:57)
Even though I was telling you, I work with people on a lot of the things that you were mentioning, like ads, and landing pages, and excellent presentations, I’ve experienced a lot of this authentic growth personally as you describe. I’ve been doing it mainly through just connecting with people at events. It’s making a lot of phone calls. It’s collaborating with people. It’s keeping in touch.
Kyle Gray: (10:27)
But, I think you’re also mentioning a more significant aspect of it with your branding. What kind of platforms are you sharing this message through? You said you don’t use a website, or maybe it’s not your main front page.
Nicole Spencer: (10:47)
I didn’t have a website the first year of Authentic Conversion, and still, to this day, when people tell me, “I saw something on your website,” I’m like, “How did you even find it?” Because I don’t promote my website at all.
Nicole Spencer: (11:00)
I think it’s different for everybody. I think we need to be conscious of where our ideal clients are hanging out and spend our time there. But, literally, the only platforms I use, Facebook is 90% of my social media. Instagram’s probably the other ten percent and an email list.
Kyle Gray: (11:29)
Do you have an email list? That was going to be my next question.
Nicole Spencer: (11:30)
Email list is so important.
Kyle Gray: (11:30)
Okay, good. If you were going to say, “I don’t have an email list either … “
Nicole Spencer: (11:31)
No, that’s where the magic happens.
Kyle Gray: (11:31)
Nicole Spencer: (11:32)
I attract them on social media, and the conversions tend to happen for my email list. Whether that’s driving them to register for a free event or a webinar or to book a call, whatever it is, I’d say 70% to 80% of the magic’s in the email list.
Kyle Gray: (11:54)
How are you converting a lot of these? Do you give away free offers or templates, or what? What converts this? What does that system look like? We’re still using landing pages, and at least probably mobile-optimized design, and keeping it simple.
Nicole Spencer: (12:15)
When I first started this business, this is what I did, and it got me from startup to $15,000 in six months a month. Zero to 15K months, within six months.
Nicole Spencer: (12:28)
I said, “Okay, I’ve done businesses before. What do I need?” I was like, “Okay, I already have a social media following,” just because I had already done business coaching. Due to my connection with the fitness industry for so long that I naturally built up a network without really the intention of ever having something to offer them. But, then I did.
Nicole Spencer: (12:46)
It got me my first hundred emails and again was the launching pad for my entire business. I created two freebies. One was a lead magnet that other people could use to grow their fitness bases, and one was some swipe file, like written content.
Nicole Spencer: (13:06)
I got on Facebook several times for each. I was like, “I have this thing. If you want it, send me your email or put it in the comments.” That’s how I got my first hundred emails. That’s how I launched the entire business, which continued to grow.
Nicole Spencer: (13:21)
Now I still do a similar function. It is completely organic. I didn’t start running paid ads until I had surpassed probably around a quarter of a million sales within about six months. I did start running ads. Even my ad strategy now is just driving people to a lead magnet, to get them on my email list, get them in my Facebook group, give them so much value, nurture them, and then offer something like a 45-day challenge or free webinar.
Nicole Spencer: (13:52)
A lot of them will end up just reaching out to me organically because they love my content because it’s very actionable, and it helps them make money right away. People do tend to like that, as well.
Nicole Spencer: (14:03)
That’s the basics of how I do things. There are five things I do all the time. There’s organic social media posting, like on my profile. Email my list, I nurture my Facebook group, I run ads to my lead magnet, and I run webinars somewhat infrequently. That’s pretty much it.
Kyle Gray: (14:22)
What kind of email? Are you sending just weekly emails?
Nicole Spencer: (14:26)
I send, usually, two to three each week, but again, very actionable. I think that if it’s not actionable, it’s not very valuable. The content I put out for free, my goal and my intention with it is always that this should be more valuable than something someone else is paying for, and that it should make my audience money for free. That’s the intention, yeah.
Kyle Gray: (14:53)
Do you plan in advance, or are you just in the habit of sitting down and creating those?
Nicole Spencer: (14:59)
I’m an inspired action kind of person, so I know when I write my content, but I don’t ever really know what it’s going to be until I sit down to write it. Or, maybe the day before, I’ve had a specific conversation or questions asked that made me think of the content, but I don’t go and write out a month’s worth of content all at once.
Kyle Gray: (15:22)
Does that apply to emails and social media, and everything?
Nicole Spencer: (15:25)
Kyle Gray: (15:25)
You’re just doing it live.
Nicole Spencer: (15:27)
“Inspired action” is what I like to call it.
Kyle Gray: (15:28)
Doing it live. Cool. All right.
Kyle Gray: (15:33)
Now tell me, are these similar things? Are these the five principles you’re teaching your students, as well? Or, “Do these things”?
Nicole Spencer: (15:40)
No, not necessarily. These are just the things that I found are working for me right now. Of course, there are other things that I do periodically as well, like podcast interviews, or I hosted a summit earlier this year. There are random things that I’ll do now and again, but that’s my core five that work for me.
Nicole Spencer: (16:00)
Part of it is because I’ve established a big network. I’ve had so much experience doing so many different things. I think everyone has to find what their groove is and what works for them.
Kyle Gray: (16:13)
Okay. I want to go more in general in talking about how to succeed as a fitness coach or as a fitness professional online. Could you tell me some of the critical differences between somebody who’s successfully coached with you and somebody who hasn’t heard of you ever, and does the opposite, or at least wouldn’t be applying your unique ideas?
Nicole Spencer: (16:46)
I think one of the biggest mistakes I see people who want to do fitness coaching or health coaching online make is usually they’ve had some in-person training experience as well, and they’ll try to take that and duplicate it online, but at a lower price point. Which is what I did. I had an online weight-loss coaching business as well, and I was working with a lot of people and not making very much money at it.
Nicole Spencer: (17:09)
I would teach my clients to structure their online business much differently, where they are focused on selling a higher ticket signature offer. It makes it much easier for them to grow and scale their businesses. It’s tough online without a massive following or bottomless pockets to make any money selling programs that are $100, or $150, or $200 a month. Just my approach to this system of online coaching, I would say, is different from a lot of what I see out there on the market.
Nicole Spencer: (17:41)
That’s the primary thing. I think just in terms of the people I coach, I have some pretty incredible success stories. What makes people successful or not prosperous also in many cases is, obviously, consistency, but their willingness to execute the whole strategy and not just pick and choose. Too often, they like the idea of these two things, but not these two things.
Nicole Spencer: (18:10)
But that’s not how it works. Especially if you’re a startup business, you have to do a lot of stuff to get it off the ground. When I started my gym, I was swinging kettlebells in the middle of the mall. I was going to skincare parties. I was at every business networking meeting I could make. I was in groups speaking all over the place. I created this omnipresence for myself in my market. I think that that’s important to do, especially as you’re getting started.
Nicole Spencer: (18:37)
You have to be willing to do the things that don’t feel good or feel a little bit uncomfortable. They need to be ethical, but you’re going to have to get out of your comfort zone. The people who are not willing to do that will struggle, especially online, as well.
Kyle Gray: (18:50)
Tell me about a time you found yourself forced outside of your comfort zone. Maybe you didn’t want to at first, or you even hesitated a little bit, but then you were glad you did it in the end?
Nicole Spencer: (19:10)
I can give you a million examples from back in the day, having my gym, and all the things I did that I did not want to do. I think more recently, as I mentioned, I hosted an online interview series, a summit, back in April. I interviewed 21 fitness business experts for that.
Nicole Spencer: (19:27)
Honestly, I think the most uncomfortable thing that I have done, and this is all personal stuff, it has nothing to do with anyone but me and not wanting to ask people for favors or help, was actually just approaching the people that I wanted to interview and saying, “Would you be part of this and promote it for me?” That was, I think, the hardest thing that I’ve done since starting this business. But, it paid off, so I’m glad I did it.
Kyle Gray: (19:49)
It was just reaching out, and were these people you were contacting over email saying, “It’s time to … “
Nicole Spencer: (19:59)
Yeah. Almost all of them, I would say 70% of them, I already had at least some type of preexisting relationship. Some were just very much acquaintances. Other people, I had no issue reaching out. But there were some, particularly people that I’ve followed for a while in the industry, and I just felt like it’s a massive deal for me to ask them to help me.
Nicole Spencer: (20:20)
I perceived it wrong because it was helpful for them too. I love participating in stuff like that, but I don’t really like asking for help, so that was hard for me.
Kyle Gray: (20:34)
That goes back to, what you’ve created, yet again, I think, online, is now you have a brand in the same way where you’ve worked hard to build these relationships one by one, and by really sharing yourself, who you are, consistently on social media. I think that’s all the more impressive to do it, not to batch and taking the time for it.
Kyle Gray: (21:03)
That’s the same thing that you created, working hard and hustling, building up these relationships, and being able to call upon these people. I think that that is one of the subtle but very, very important resources of building a real, lasting business. Or not even necessarily a company, but I feel like that’s making the entrepreneur that drives the businesses. I think that, again, just bringing that all together to that story, really, really important stuff.
Nicole Spencer: (21:43)
Kyle Gray: (21:46)
Let’s see. As far as keeping a lot of the work you are doing scalable, you mentioned you work with your clients to help them not run into dead ends with one-on-one coaching. Can you tell me some of the ways that you’ve structured your coaching and your group coaching to allow you a higher quality of life rather than just being on calls or doing one on one all the time?
Nicole Spencer: (22:26)
Yeah. I think most of us start one on one. I certainly did. I started with a combination of one on one and group coaching. You quickly hit the ceiling with that. Even when you’re like, “But if I have 20 clients and talk to them twice a month … ” That’s 40 calls a month, it all adds up fast. I did scale back on that eventually to the point now, where I only do one-on-one coaching with my mastermind clients. That’s a much smaller group.
Nicole Spencer: (22:56)
I also had to restructure my program, as well. When my lead volume increased pretty dramatically, and I knew I could start filling programs every single month. I was initially offering evergreen enrollment, meaning that people could enroll anytime in my program, but when I removed the one-to-one component from that, I decided to start more of a cohort.
Nicole Spencer: (23:24)
I started launching every month to every other month, cohorts, and filling those programs. I just felt like I had a much better grasp on what was going on with each individual in that way, knowing that they were all in the same place in the program, and just feeling like I was serving them even better than when I was doing one to one. Because, again, they were all in the same place. They are still getting support and feedback in a customized and individual way.
Nicole Spencer: (23:50)
It was hard for me. That was a tough decision to make. But ultimately, it’s what my client wanted to pay for. I shifted my mindset on that.
Nicole Spencer: (24:04)
Then I also started to believe that I could help people even better with a group format, an entire group format. I think that the client results that I’ve seen since shifting to that are proof that it works. It was more me than anything else, and just making that decision.
Kyle Gray: (24:24)
I think some of those mindset shifts are the most prominent hinges that you can change your life, and improve your business, and change whatever’s going on around you.I think those are important.
Kyle Gray: (24:41)
Is there something you do to challenge yourself to get these mindset shifts, or change your mind, or educate yourself, or improve yourself?
Nicole Spencer: (24:53)
Yeah. I have business mentors myself that help me talk through those processes, but also hold me accountable for making those decisions. I think sometimes other people know what’s better for us than we do, in some cases. Then I also believe that just having a coach at all times, at every stage of your business, someone who has experienced what you want to do and someone who’s further ahead than you are, is so critical.
Nicole Spencer: (25:20)
That’s my number one secret to success, is that at every stage of business ownership I have ever had, I’ve had a business coach and a mentor. That’s the game-changer. When those mindset things come up, that’s where I turn.
Kyle Gray: (25:36)
Brilliant. I do the same. Often I’ve found, in my experience, and often in many other people’s experiences that I have shared, usually coaching is, upfront, it feels a little more expensive than it should in the beginning. It forces you to move forward and take a big leap of faith and do things that you wouldn’t just, I think, normally do if you hadn’t made that uncomfortable investment upfront.
Nicole Spencer: (26:14)
Yeah. I think a coach should hold you to a higher standard than you carry yourself. I also believe that, if you are a coach and you don’t invest in having one yourself, that no one should pay you for coaching. It’s a personal opinion, but why should someone pay you for coaching when you’re not willing to invest in yourself?
Kyle Gray: (26:32)
That’s a unique aspect. I think it’s something that you should always have somebody helping you advance, at least one front in your life.
Kyle Gray: (26:49)
Nicole, we’ve covered a whole range of different topics, different subjects. A lot of really, really good information here. Do you have any closing thoughts for our listeners? Where can we connect with you?
Nicole Spencer: (27:08)
I would say, it’s such a simple and not sexy concept, but if you want to grow a brand through content, your consistency is everything. Your ability to show up every day, whether you want to or not. Your ability to go above and beyond and provide value. To give away more than you could ever expect to receive in return, and to give without the fear that you’re giving too much away. I think those are all the things that have led me to grow my business so quickly.
Nicole Spencer: (27:38)
My most successful clients are implementing those same thought processes, virtually, and just continuously showing up. That’s what I would say.
Nicole Spencer: (27:48)
I would say the best place to find me is actually on Facebook. I use my profile for building my brand, so Nicole Spencer. You should be able to find me there. If you want to see my website that I don’t ever send anyone to, you can go to convertauthentically.com. Then that’ll probably direct you to me on social media, as well. I would love to connect.
Kyle Gray: (28:11)
Awesome, Nicole. Thank you so much for joining us on the Story Engine podcast.
Nicole Spencer: (28:15)
Thanks for having me.
Thanks for listening to the Story Engine Podcast. Be sure to check out the show notes and resources mentioned in this episode and every other episode at thestoryengine.co.
If you’re looking to learn more about how to use storytelling to grow your business, then check out my new book, Selling With Story: How to Use Storytelling to Become an Authority, Boost Sales, and Win the Hearts and Minds of Your Audience. This book will equip you with actionable strategies and templates to help you share your unique value and build trust in presentations, sales, and conversations, both online and offline. Learn more at sellingwithstory.co.
Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next time.