Elijah Bowie was in his final year of college when he found Thumbtack. He signed up, and started sending quotes the same day. Two years later, Peak Fitness is a bonafide business in a competitive market, with three employees, a permanent studio space, and a long roster of loyal clientele. We sat down to ask Elijah about building a successful personal training business on Thumbtack.
How did you get started on Thumbtack?
I started working as a personal trainer while I was still in college. I had seen ads for Thumbtack on Facebook, but didn’t end up joining until I heard another professional talking about it at a store while I was home for spring break.
I sent my first quote the same day. Thumbtack’s engine is fast and I’m in a big city so I had a lot of leads right away. In the beginning, I sent a quote to every lead that came through. Looking back, that was a horrible strategy, but I was just starting my business and didn’t know who I should be reaching out to.
How has Thumbtack helped your business grow?
Thumbtack was where I found 100 percent of my clients that first year. It was the only way that I survived and got me off the ground. Nowadays around 25 percent of my business comes from Thumbtack. And that’s because my industry is so referral-based; once you get your name out there people start looking for you.
What do you suggest for people just getting started on Thumbtack?
I would tell them that knowing who your ideal client is help you so much when you’re trying to figure out who to quote in the beginning. You don’t want to waste a lot of money like I did thinking things will turn into jobs when they’re actually poor matches. Especially now that we have so much information about the people requesting your service. If that request matches your ideal client, they are much more likely to convert into a paying customer.
It was so trial and error in those early days. I went back and looked at who was and wasn’t responding and what language I had used, and tweaked from there. I looked back on a massive number of cold leads and sorted through them. These days I send at least ten quotes a month, and I’m smart about which I pick.
Do you use the Thumbtack mobile app?
Absolutely. Every time I get a notification I read the request, and if I think it’s a good match, I send a quote. I’m in one of the top 15 markets in the country, Columbus, Ohio. I know that if I’m third or fourth to quote, often people won’t even see it. On Thumbtack getting in early can mean the difference between getting a job or not.
Any tips or secrets when it comes to asking for reviews?
If you have any current clients or previous clients, get them to write you a review. That helps you to get a foothold on Thumbtack when you start. Once you get in there, building more reviews is huge.
When I’m courting a client, the first thing I do is get them on the phone so that I can get them to the studio. If you try to actually close a sale on Thumbtack it won’t work. Best case, they come in for a free consultation and they like it. Then they come in for a trial session and decide they want to sign up for a package. When they’re ready to sign up, I send them a link to the review page and ask them to do it right away. Even if they come in and decide not to keep working out with me, I will still ask them for a review.
I always remind clients, ‘Remember when you were deciding who to choose? You wanted to read reviews and hear from someone you could relate to. Didn’t you appreciate having that?’
That’s my secret for it. Every Thumbtack client I’ve brought in in the last two years said they picked me because of my reviews.
What other marketing tools do you use?
Just Facebook, Thumbtack, and word of mouth. We have enough business now to sustain us 100 percent.
How has Thumbtack helped you expand your business?
I was a sole proprietor when I started on Thumbtack and I now I employ two other trainers. When I first started I was leasing a space and travelling to clients, and I don’t travel at all anymore.
We moved to a larger space in February of 2016 and by the end of 2017 we’re planning to open an even bigger facility. A bigger facility will allow us to double our client base, and if we need to hire more staff I will.
What’s the secret to sending the perfect quote?
A good quote goes back to knowing who your target market is. One you know your niche, your quote should already be perfectly engineered for them. Our target demographic is 35 to 44 year-old women. Generally they have kids, they’re moms, they’re busy, they don’t want to be intimidated. Because I know this, I can speak directly to them.
I make my quotes soft. I promise to respect their time. I’m not talking about certifications because that’s just jargon to someone who is busy and looking to get in shape. I’m even as bold as to say, ‘I’m really excited to work with you.’ I cite my experience and mention being a Top Pro and having won Thumbtack awards, and then I provide four bullets about what my program is that are tailored to my audience. I tell them to look at my reviews.
The last sentence in my quote asks them to sit down with us at the facility. I always try to leave the quote with a question because it sticks in your head much better. Questions tend to linger in our subconscious and prompt us to respond.
Do you have any tips for following up?
Following up is huge. If people haven’t responded in two days I will send another message. And then after another two days. And then even a week later. I’ve had people respond after a week. You just have to be consistent.
Once they respond clients tend to ask a lot of questions about what your services are and how much they’ll cost. In my industry, people tend to lie about their prices. I always tell the truth when I send a quote. I tell them to come in and work out with me for free and that we can figure out a package that will work.
What I really want is for a future client to meet a current client so they can get that proof themselves. There have been times where a client comes in to evaluate my services and meets the person whose review swayed them toward me on Thumbtack. Those are the moments I’m trying to create by following up having them in.
What’s the key to being a Top Pro on Thumbtack?
Having a good profile is 100 percent of being a Top Pro. Fill out everything you are asked to fill out. Sometimes people see prompts as optional and people don’t fill them out. But the more people can read, the more they relate to, and the better you will do. Adding photos and videos to your profile makes a difference as well.
Do you have a favorite Thumbtack story?
My business model completely changed because of my clients from Thumbtack. And it happened totally by accident. Right now 98 percent of my sessions are small group trainings and only 2 percent are one-on-ones. It was the exact opposite when I started.
There are really only a few set times that most people can train—before and after work. A few years ago, I had a lot of female clients that were training around the same time on the same days and they got to know each other coming in and out of sessions. One day they requested to train together, and it was the best session each of them had ever had. There was great support, fun and energy. From then on, I rolled with it. It was a happy accident.
Do you have any tips on what customers should be looking for when they’re hiring a pro on Thumbtack?
I would tell them that they are going to want to look for someone who has a lot of reviews, and for someone they feel they can speak to directly. Your trainer should be someone that you feel comfortable talking to. So it’s nice to get a quote over the phone but you want to know your trainer can relate to you and really tell you what they can offer you specifically.
[Photos via Elijah Bowie]