Into fitness? You could turn your passion into a career! James and Tom Exton are co-founders of LDN Muscle, a fitness brand that initially started as a blog, and is now a multi-million turnover business. With a following of over 213K followers on Instagram and 136K Twitter followers, LDN Muscle has created fitness guides, diet plans and workout apparel that work for everyone. Here, the duo explains the secret to their success, and top tips to help you break into the fitness industry and get your brand onto social media.
What was your intention when you set it up?
Our business started with a free health blog in 2013 – we only paid £50 for the design and rights to our logo! We created it to enable anyone and everyone to transform both how they look and feel. Since then, our business has evolved considerably, moving from training guides into supplements and even a personal trainer academy. Our aim is to show that anyone can be fit and healthy, as we are all about creating goals that are achievable and can fit around any schedule.
What were your ultimate goals? And have they changed given your success?
Our starting goal was to create an informative and non-profit-making hub to educate and help as many people as possible to transform their lives, and also to prevent them from falling into potentially harmful extreme diets and FADs.
We’re proud to say that we’ve stayed true to this ethos and original goal. Helping as many people as possible is still at the forefront of our campaign, and we’ve now been able to expand the way in which we can do this, to now include education and other aspects.
The business now requires our full-time attention, and therefore there is a necessity for the company to have a commercial goal too, to ensure it remains sustainable and able to fulfil its ultimate and original goal.
“Before we started LDN Muscle, we were all fitness fanatics, but we didn’t have career aspirations to work in the health and fitness industry. At university, we both studied law.”
It’s a very competitive industry – what do you need to do stand out from the crowd?
Customer service has always been very important to us. We’ve spent years on social media, replying to every single comment and question to ensure our brand is being as helpful as it can. Every time someone tweets about how they’ve made progress with us it gets retweeted. This is one of the main things that sets us apart from other businesses in the industry, as our personal touch means we have built a large following over the years.
We’re four normal guys with jobs like everyone else, and we think this has made us more memorable. We wanted to set ourselves apart from other supplement companies, and stick with the online, real life transformation content that people could relate to and engage with.
What had you both been doing beforehand?
Before we started LDN Muscle, we were all fitness fanatics, but we didn’t have career aspirations to work in the health and fitness industry. At university, we both studied law. While Tom is still working in investment banking in London, James put his law career on the back-burner to run LDN Muscle full-time. We also co-founded the business with two other brothers, Lloyd and Max, who are just as excited about developing the business as we are.
Tell us what experience you had before you set up on your own? What experience did you have in both fitness and business?
As gym enthusiasts, we launched our blog to share our insights on health and fitness. People started to share their progress from our regimes on social media and within six months, demand for our fitness expertise was so strong, we decided to make a business out of it.
We also regularly get involved with helping startups and developing their social media approach. We’re ambassadors for this year’s Plusnet Pioneers, a programme which helps entrepreneurs overcome the challenges they may face in funding or marketing and reach their full business potential.
How do you grow your social media following?
Make your branding stand out and consistent across all channels. It’s crucial to have clear, consistent and eye-catching branding across your social media channels if you want to gain mass followers. So firstly, make sure that all your social media accounts have the same user handle so there’s consistency and customers can find you easily.
Once you’ve done that, you can get an idea of what your messaging on social media is going to be, with common themes and ideas that relate to your audience, rather than just arbitrarily posting something that’s a bit random.
Make sure there’s something bright and engaging on your social media feeds so it catches people’s eye and make sure your branding is clear. There are so many brands on social media where it’s not immediately clear what they’re about and there’s nothing memorable or catchy about what they’re posting.
Deal with negative comments immediately. Reputation is probably the most important element that could stifle your growth. If you do get someone that has had a bad experience try to reply to them quickly and recognise their feedback. They’ll normally remove their negative comment because they understand the frustrations on both sides and your reputation is kept intact.
It’s very important, especially on platforms like Twitter. Negativity and abuse can spiral, so if you can nip that in the bud quickly and try and take someone from Tweeting you to direct messaging you instead, you can usually solve the problem sooner.
Don’t just sell on social – add value to the lives of your customers. Ensure that the content you’re putting out there has got added value for your customers and gives them something extra. Don’t just push sales messages day in and day out because people are very astute and they know when they’re being sold to. Try and give them something that’s going to add to their lives and then they’ll come back, and they might read your sales message at a later date and buy something.
“It’s crucial to have clear, consistent and eye-catching branding across your social media channels if you want to gain mass followers.”
Top tips for anyone that wants to break into the fitness industry?
We’ve got 5 top tips that we think are vital for starting up a fitness brand on social media.
1) Do you categorically know your brand proposition/unique selling point?
Before you can carve out your space on social media, ask yourself, what exactly am I offering the consumer.
- Why is it different from my competitors?
- What am I doing that they don’t do, or offer?
- Why choose my company?
- If someone was to ask you to summarise your brand proposition in one sentence, could you?
- Equally, if you were pressed on the topic for 5 mins, would you still be able to defend/justify your position?
Once you’ve established this, then ask if your messaging/marketing/campaigns are effectively and clearly conveying this to the consumer.
2) Organic content over direct sales messages. Added value for the consumer is key.
Resist the temptation to have an all-out sales pitch as your campaign. Use indirect sales messaging, ensuring there is some added value for the consumer to take away from your message without having to instantly buy a product. Ensure it’s clear what you are offering and selling, but not so aggressive that it pushes consumers away.
3) Less is more
Bombarding consumers with information and campaigns isn’t the way forward. Less is more – especially when it comes to social media. Quality, calculated and educated posts, over generic high volume and repetitive posts are much more effective.
“There’s more tactics to apply to social media than you might realise. Take for example Instagram; set to your account up as a business account and take full advantage of the analytics provided.”
4) Consistency is key
From the outset, specifically with social media, set yourself a realistic rate for posting and engaging with followers. It’s much better to post once a day consistently, than develop an erratic pattern of 2-3 posts one day, and then be absent for days after that. Work to what is realistic for you, but also what is required for your type of business.
5) Get tactical
There’s more tactics to apply to social media than you might realise. Take for example Instagram; set to your account up as a business account and take full advantage of the analytics provided. The analytics can help you work out who your actual audience is, so you can target your posts more effectively and cater to their preferences more accurately. Find out the busiest times to go live with your posts to maximise engagement and the chances of attracting new customers and converting existing followers into making sales.
If you’re looking for more tips, James and Tom have teamed up with Plusnet for this year’s Plusnet Pioneers to help small businesses succeed. All the engaging, helpful content can be found here.