Have you been challenged to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge yet and did you complete it? The media is swamped with videos of groups and individuals dumping ice water over themselves. Why did this event catch on like it did? Over 3 million donors gave during this challenge and, according to the ALS Association, they have collected over 100.9 million dollars in donations compared with 2.8 million at this time last year. Amazing response to say the least. Why??? Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is not the leading cause of death in the United States. It’s not even in the top ten. Why this cause? What prompted people to do this?

Here are some of the reasons that I believe it has been such a success.

1) This movement struck a chord with the public that allowed them to be part of something important. It created/is creating a greater awareness of this particular disease and with that awareness comes understanding for those afflicted with ALS and an increased likelihood of money being donated to help find a cure.

2) The act of dumping a bucket full of icy water is silly. This allows people to have fun with it and get creative.

3) It has a direct challenge to specific people. It’s a little like when you learn CPR. You never just call out, “Someone call 911!” Everyone assumes that someone else will act and nobody does. You need to say, “You! (pointing your finger at a particular person) Call 911!” They now know that they have been chosen to act. This is not a call out to the masses. It’s a call to “You. (state their name)”

4) Social media allows ideas to spread like a, oh, I don’t know… a virus, maybe! You do the challenge and call out your friends. Your friends do the challenge and call out their friends. Your friends’ friends do the challenge, etc.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has all of the elements to make it the successful campaign that it is.

Why am I writing about this in a fitness business blog? We, as fitness professionals, are in the business of helping people become more healthy. It is within our scope of interest to champion a health issue, align ourselves with a charity. How can we use the elements of the ALS Challenge to bring light to the charity of our choice? One thing that I’ve done in the past is run Zombie Boot Camps on Halloween to benefit the local food pantry. Now I need to think of how I can go bigger with it (and I have an idea…).

Are you doing something to benefit some cause? Let us know about it in the comments below.

By the way, if you would like to donate to the ALS Association, click here.

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#10 Successful Personal Trainers Are Mentors

A mentor, according to Merriam-Webster, is “someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person.” I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that all successful Personal Trainers have had at least one mentor in their lives. I’ve had many. And I would not be the professional or the person that I am today had I not. My mentors were and are people I trust, like and admire who have been open, honest and willing to share their expertise with me.

mentoringI would also like to believe that I have, in turn, been a mentor to others whenever I have been able. It is enormously fulfilling to help others reach their potential.

If it is as rewarding as I say, why don’t more people mentor others? Maybe they don’t think they have enough experience. I understand that, although I think everybody has something to share. I’ve also heard (and this is the one that floors me) Trainers say, “I’m not telling other Trainers how I do things because then they’ll be taking clients that I should be getting.” So, they’re not willing to mentor others for fear that there’s not enough business to go around and that somehow helping other Personal Trainers become better limits their own earning potential. That simply shows their insecurity and, frankly, ignorance.

If you truly believe you are a great Personal Trainer then you know you can get the clients and aren’t threatened by others. And to think there aren’t enough clients to go around is ridiculous. How many people need post-rehab training, want to be in better condition for their sport, want to function better in their day-to-day activities, and of the nearly 70% of the population that’s overweight or obese, how many would like to lose weight?

Successful Personal Trainers are mentors because helping others succeed is a way of giving back and a way to share in the joy of others reaching their goals.

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

Check out the full series.

Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #1
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #2
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #3
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #4
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #5
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #6
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #7
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #8
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #9
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #10

P.S. Also, follow my Business of Personal Training page on Facebook.

#9 Successful Personal Trainers Maximize Their Time

One of the limitations of having a pay-per-service career is that there are only so many hours in a day to help people, and through that, make a living. Successful Trainers know that the one person/hour training is old school. While it may still be effective and rewarding, it isn’t always the most efficient use of our time.

Small Group Training (SGT) and Boot Camps have become more popular. in part because of the recession and their decreased cost per participant, but also because Trainers realized that by training more than one person at a time, they could increase their ability to reach more people and increase their revenue/hour.
Small Group Training may be equipment specific (i.e. a TRX or BOSU SGT) or it may be goal specific programs such as a ski conditioning, weight loss, or low back health SGTs. Personally, I believe that the more program specific your SGT (know your niche), the more specific/targeted your marketing can be. The groups typically range from 2 to 10 participants (at some point you have to differentiate what number is SGT and what is Group Exercise).

Group Exercise is an extension of SGT, allowing for more participants and, as long as it’s a pay-for service, greater income for the Trainer.

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Boot Camps have become all the rage with Personal Trainers and there are now many Boot Camp success “systems” being marketed. Boot Camps are, just for the record, Group Exercise classes with a particular style. Typically they require little equipment, can, and often are, done outside, offer a lot of variety, and have a participant expectation of “This is going to kick my #@*.” When people expect to work hard and do work hard, they see greater results. This helps feed the success seen with Boot Camps.

A word of caution, what truly separates the top Trainers from the rest is that, with more people in the mix, there is a much greater responsibility on the Trainer. You have to work harder to see and correct everyone in a group than you would in a one-on-one scenario.

Another way successful Personal Trainers maximize their time is by creating passive sources of income such as writing books, producing dvds, webinars, podcasts, etc. These sources, once produced, can keep revenue coming in with little to no additional work.

Successful Personal Trainers maximize their time by utilizing Small Group Training, Group Exercise, Boot Camps and through passive sources of income. Which ones are you currently using and which would you like to do? Let us know in the comments below.

Check out the full series.

Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #1
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #2
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #3
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #4
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #5
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #6
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #7
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #8
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #9
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #10

P.S. Also, follow my Business of Personal Training page on Facebook.

#8 Successful Personal Trainers Get Referrals

One of the best ways to gain new clients is to get referrals. An advertisement that you may see in the paper, on the news, or hear on the radio, will never carry the weight of a friend or someone you trust making a recommendation to you.

Some people will refer others to you on their own (we love those people), but often times you will need to ask for referrals. Many Personal Trainers hesitate to ask for referrals for the same reasons they don’t like to sell. They feel it is seedy to ask, that they shouldn’t have to ask, or that they don’t view it as a way to help more people.

referralStats
There are times that are more appropriate to ask than others. In spite of some “systems” preaching to get referrals at the point of sale (POS), I believe it is not the time you should ask. At POS, you haven’t yet had the opportunity to create enough value for the client to send their friends and family to you. The perfect time to ask is when your client is feeling successful and happy about their workouts and/or their results. You can prompt this as well by doing periodic assessments and pointing out their achievements, or by simply asking them how they are feeling about their progress and the workouts in general. When they express their happiness in how it’s going, then is the time to ask, “Is there anyone else you know that you think would benefit from training with me?” “I’d love the opportunity to sit down with them and see how I might be able to help them reach their goals.”
 You can also get them to help promote new programs, classes, and/or small group training. “I’m starting a new _______. Do you know anyone that might be interested in that?”
 People that are happy with their progress, the program, and like and trust you, will be thrilled to refer their friends and family to you, but sometimes they may need a little nudge to remember to do that.

You should also look to getting referrals from other health/fitness/beauty (yes, beauty) professionals, such as doctors, physical therapists, massage therapists, hair stylists, etc. And, like with your clients, you need to build value and trust with these professionals before you can ask for referrals. We’ll discuss those in more detail in a later post.

Successful Personal Trainers get referrals. Are you getting yours?

Check out the full series.
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #1
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #2
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #3
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #4
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #5
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #6
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #7
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #8
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #9
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #10

P.S. Also, follow my Business of Personal Training page on Facebook.

#7 Successful Personal Trainers Know How to Market Themselves
According to Wikipedia, marketing “is an integrated process through which companies build strong customer relationships and creates value for their customers and for themselves.” My own definition is more like “seeking out, connecting with, sharing who we are and how we can help solve a problem for your target audience.”

First, of course, you must know your target audience. Who is your niche market? Where do they hang out? Are they meeting at conferences, senior groups, clubs, churches, schools, community or other organizations? Or are they connecting with others using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Youtube, etc.?
Note: I’m not going to ignore the use of Direct Mail or more “traditional” marketing techniques. Well, actually, I am going to ignore them in this article (for some, they do still work). But they don’t directly connect you with your audience and successful Personal Trainers know that the best way to build rapport and trust is through interaction.
So now, you’ve done your homework and found your market, what do you do from here? You need to find a way to join in their conversations. Connect with the group leaders and see if you can… join the group, volunteer with the group, or present to the group a topic that would be helpful to them. Like selling, your first priority is to be of service to them. You must create value, trust, confidence in you as a resource before you ask for anything in return.
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Social media works the same way. Find which ones are used by your target audience. Facebook, Twitter,  Google+, Pinterest, blogs, etc. are all means of connecting with others. Create a presence by offering helpful information to your audience. If the content is interesting, they may then share the content you presented with their friends. Their friends share with their friends, etc, and before you know it, you have a large audience of potential clients.
Obviously there are a lot more specifics, but the essence of marketing in this day and age is connection and conversation. Only after building rapport and trust, will an offer for your services be well received. Seth Godin does a great job explaining this in his book, “Permission Marketing

Successful Personal Trainers know how to market themselves by actively getting involved with their target market, whether it’s face to face or using social media.

How are you establishing your presence?

Check out the full series.
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #1
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #2
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #3
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #4
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #5
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #6
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #7
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #8
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #9
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #10

P.S. Also, follow my Business of Personal Training page on Facebook.

#6 Successful Personal Trainers Over-Deliver
Successful Personal Trainers understand that a big part of the perceived value of their training comes from what is expected of them and what it is they actually deliver.

An example of perceived value is when I took the family to see the movie Guardians of the Galaxy in IMAX 3D, thinking, as I paid for the tickets, how expensive it was. The five of us cost $75!! I mean, it’s just a movie, right? However, once the movie started it far exceeded my expectations and I immediately wanted that experience again. And yes, I would be happy to pay for it again.

Guardians of the Galaxy

What are the expectations of potential clients? The service industry is woefully lacking in people that actually understand good service. Grumpy cashiers, store employees that don’t seem to know you’re waiting for help, and those that literally roll their eyes or groan when you do ask for assistance are par for the course. So even the basics are a step up.

The basics include: Knowing how to create individualized programs, being punctual, having professional attire, warm and friendly greetings, leaving your personal problems at home, asking about them and really listening to their answers, making sure they know all policies from the start, guiding through and educating them about their workouts, talking with them not at them, ignoring other conversations in the room and keeping your full focus on your client, and asking the client how they feel about the workout.

How can we exceed the basics and create experiences that enrich your relationship with your client? The listed are some possibilities if they fit you and your scenario: be entertaining (a good sense of humor goes a long way), keep adapting/changing their program as they are capable, offer praise often, make sure they leave feeling good about what they just accomplished at the end of each workout, reach out to them at other times by email, phone, cards, social networking, to check in with them, wish them happy birthday/anniversary, other important events in their life, etc. Do something unexpected and nice for them.

Those are just some thoughts on what might make your clients really feel taken care of, over and above expectations. What do you do to over-deliver or create that experience for your clients? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Check out the full series.
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #1
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #2
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #3
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #4
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #5
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #6
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #7
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #8
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #9
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #10

P.S. Also, follow my Business of Personal Training page on Facebook.

#5 Successful Personal Trainers are Specialists

Successful Personal Trainers realize that you will draw more attention when you own a niche, a specific, narrowly defined market. Whether you are a weight loss specialist or a youth fitness specialist, you need to narrow your market in order to get more business. This stumps the average Trainer. They think, “By narrowing my market, I decrease my chances of picking up new clients.”

NicheTargetThink about this, in a sea of Personal Trainers that “do everything” how exactly do you stand out? You could claim that you offer “the best” training, but who doesn’t make that claim? Being a generalist says to potential clients that you specialize in nothing. What if I’m looking for someone to help me continue getting my newly replaced knee back in shape (after I’m through with physical therapy), and none of the Trainers at my club list post-rehab as their area of expertise, I might as well roll the dice to find someone to work with, IF, I don’t simply decide to go elsewhere. However, when one Trainer states that they are post-rehab conditioning specialists, they will stand out dramatically to me and will be the one that I hire.

The fact is, the more specific that niche, the more likely you are to be found. If you are a senior weight loss specialist, even among senior fitness specialists, you stand out for those older individuals where weight loss is their primary concern. I will throw in this caveat, your niche has to have enough of a market in your area to be viable. In New York City a Bridal weight loss expert has vast potential for clients, where in a small, rural town, with a handful of weddings per year, it might not work as well.

Maybe you don’t want to only work with that specific population (although you should really love the niche you choose). That’s OK. Having a niche does not restrict you from working with other populations if you want to. It is a way to get a specific market to find you. I am a post-rehab conditioning specialist and that accounts for the majority of my training.  The rest of my training clients see me for weight loss, bodybuilding, general fitness, sports conditioning, etc.

So, while many Personal Trainers think that it diminishes their market, having a niche actually increases your chance of being found, building your business. What is yours? Let me know in the comments below.

For more on the need to niche, see Jack Trout’s book Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition for more.

Check out the full series.
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #1
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #2
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #3
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #4
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #5
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #6
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #7
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #8
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #9
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #10

P.S. Also, follow my Business of Personal Training page on Facebook.

#4 Successful Personal Trainers Have a Business Vision

“As you climb the ladder of success, make sure it’s leaning against the right building.” – ? I can’t remember who said that, but it is the truth. In order to know if you’re doing the right things for your future, you need to define what you want that future to be.

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What’s your business vision of where you want to be 5 years down the road? 10 years? 20 years? What’s your end game? We all have a balance of things that we want. Financial security, family, influence, enjoyment, fulfillment, recognition, etc. are all possible ingredients of our ideal life. What’s important to you?

Exercise: take 30 seconds (no more) and list the top five things that are important to achieve in your life. Ready… START.

With a timed test, we don’t have time to debate in our head what and why things are important. It’s a gut reaction, and a lot can be learned from that. What did you come up with? Did any of those surprise you? In example, let’s say financial freedom is one of those. What does that mean to you? Do you want to build a business, sell it for huge money, and never have to work again? Or, do you want to make “X” amount of dollars per year as long as you chose to work? By when do you want to achieve this goal? How does it fit in with your other goals? Where’s the overlap and the balance?

It’s sort of like periodizing your life. Define when and what you want the results to be. Then you can back track and label the timeline with the steps that will take you to your goal.

Successful Personal Trainers have a clear vision of where they are going, when they want to be there, and what steps are necessary to get them there.
Check out the full series.
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #1
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #2
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #3
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #4
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #5
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #6
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #7
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #8
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #9
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #10

P.S. Also, follow my Business of Personal Training page on Facebook.

#3 Successful Personal Trainers Love to Sell.

It’s interesting how many Personal Trainers hate to “sell”. When talking about sales, what typically comes to mind is the sleazy car salesman who will say anything to get a sale. I, myself, as a club manager in the early ’80s, went through a sales training program that emphasized selling multi- year membership contracts and hoping that they wouldn’t show up. There were club salespeople that would sell memberships for classes that we didn’t even offer. Needless to say, I resigned shortly thereafter with a stong dislike for anything to do with sales. It wasn’t until years later when a friend pointed out to me that I was the biggest salesperson around, that I was able to re-define my ideas of what “selling” really was. My “selling”, that my friend pointed out, was my enthusiasm for fitness and my belief that I could help make others’ lives better.

In essence, that’s what selling is for us. used-car-salesman When we sit down with a potential client, we use our motivational interviewing techniques to uncover what their needs, wants, and what obstacles they have. Then, not unlike a doctor or physical therapist, we make an honest recommendation as to what we believe is the best course of action for them to reach their goals safely and effectively. The financial aspect, at this point, shouldn’t even come into play. This recommendation is our best case scenario for them. It may sound something like this, “Based on what you’ve told me, that you’ve had difficulty sticking with a program, become easily bored, and tend to get injured when working out on your own, I recommend that we work together ___ times per week. That way we can build your initial program, gradually ramp up the intensity while constantly monitoring your form for safety, and change it up before you get bored. It’ll keep you accountable and help you stick with the program, not to mention get you the results you want faster. Does that sound like something you’d be interested in?” That’s the idea. Specifically address their situation, make an honest recommendation, relate specifically how your recommendation will address their issues and get them to their goal, and ask if they’d like to have your help in changing their health/fitness.

Successful Personal Trainers love “selling” because it is offering the potential client their best chance at success. Wouldn’t you love giving everyone that chance? Embrace that moment and make them the offer that can change their lives.

Check out the full series.

Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #1
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #2
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #3
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #4
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #5
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #6
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #7
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #8
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #9
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #10

P.S. Also, follow my Business of Personal Training page on Facebook.

#2 Successful Personal Trainers are Coaches.

Gone are the days when a personal trainer just gave workouts. The best trainers now seek to help clients achieve greater results by implementing a coaching relationship. Coaching begins by using Motivational Interviewing techniques that use open-ended questions to uncover a client’s beliefs and values and is a way to get your clients to create and sustain change. Coaches don’t tell a client what to do. They are a facilitator that allows the client to discover their own path of change. In other words, coaching gets them to come up with their own solutions. When the client comes up with the answers for what they need to do and are ready to do, they are more likely to follow through with those actions.

coachingThe coach helps clients clarify their goals and uncover past and potential future obstacles. The coach will then guide the client to come up with viable solutions, help them define action plans, and create a system of accountability.

A coach offers the client safe, open, and honest dialogue without judgment (something many people are missing in their lives), as well as ongoing support and encouragement. With the right guidance, you can help them to accomplish more than they believed possible.

Successful Personal Trainers utilize coaching techniques to get and keep their clients engaged in their programs. While some Trainers inherently use many of these skills, a formal training program will take you to the next level.

FYI: New York Times 2010 article Approach May Matter In Advice On Weight

Recognized Coaching certification organizations:
Wellcoaches (the Wellness Coach program I went through)
International Coach Academy
International Coach Federation (ICF)

A good resource to get started:
 Lifestyle Fitness Coaching

Check out the full series.
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #1
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #2
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #3
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #4
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #5
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #6
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #7
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #8
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #9
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #10

P.S. Also, follow my Business of Personal Training page on Facebook.