Should You Offer a Free Consultation?

Some clubs give free workouts with a personal trainer. I’ve seen as many as 8 sessions given away to new club members. Of course, the idea behind that is that the client will see the value and continue to train beyond that. I also see clubs and personal trainers that don’t believe in giving away anything for fear that it devalues the training. I have to admit that I fall into that category.

We, at Jiva Fitness, don’t discount anything. I do believe that it does, indeed, devalue the product. However, we do give free, 30 minute consultations. I know that seems counter to what I just said and I know that many fitness professionals will be quick to disagree with that policy, but let me explain.

People that are not fitness enthusiasts (and let’s face it, that most people) can be unsure about signing up for a gym, let alone personal training. The idea of paying a lot of money (the common perception) for a membership or training can be daunting. This is a barrier to entry, a barrier to signing up and getting started. The idea behind offering a free consultation is to remove that barrier. We want to allow them to feel that they can come in, sit down with a qualified professional, be heard and have their questions answered.

Our consultations consist of going through their medical health history, lifestyle questionnaire, and goal clarification and setting. Then, after gathering all of that information, we can make an informed recommendation as to what their next, best course of action should be. Maybe that’s one of our programs, maybe it’s not. Who knows going into this if we are the right fit for their needs?

Now, some may say that if you answer their questions they may just take that advice and go do it on their own. That’s possible, but not common. Usually, when you take that time and they feel that you have really listened to them, they feel special and that the recommendation that you make is made just for them. However, even if they don’t sign up with you, you have given them a great experience and they will tell others about it. (It’s still a win.)

Consider the free consultation and whether it may be right for you. If you are not getting enough new potential clients through your doors, it might be they are feeling that barrier to entry and a free consultation is one way to lower it.

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How Plateaus Happen in Business

We often talk about training plateaus, but plateaus can also happen in your business. Imagine your business growing steadily and then, all of a sudden, your growth stops. The number of clients or members that you have levels off and you’re left wondering, “What just happened.”

Sometimes these plateaus happen because you got comfortable with the amount of clients or members that you have and stopped actively seeking more. Maybe you decided to spend less money on marketing, or you went to fewer networking opportunities, or stopped asking for referrals. Those things that you did so diligently when you were trying to build your business have fallen by the wayside and… so has the growth of your business.

plateauOther times, you have continued marketing as you have always done and that’s the reason that business has slowed. If the public sees the same ad, picture, sign, or campaign, they can become blind to your marketing efforts. You can think of it as becoming desensitized to what your marketing is saying because they’ve seen it so many times before.

One more reason that you may have hit a plateau, is that something has changed in the market that you may not have noticed. This could be an economic downturn, seasonal change (this often catches new businesses by surprise), or maybe a new competitor opened in town.

These can all be avoided with some due diligence.

Never stop marketing. Even if you are currently comfortable, things change and it’s better to have too many people wanting your service and have a waiting list, than to have too few and leave yourself open to plateaus or downturns.

Always change up your marketing. Think of how often you change your clients’ programs (generally every 4-6 weeks). You can use that same kind of thinking when it comes to your marketing. You can literally periodize it. Plan out your macro, meso, and micro cycles for marketing.

Finally, pay attention to what’s going on in your community. What’s happening in the economy, what events are taking place, who’s new in town. Knowing what’s going on can not only prevent a loss in business, but can show you new opportunities for growth (what might you do if your realized a competitor was actually closing?).

This isn’t to say that you can prevent all plateaus, but these are some common reasons that they occur and some solid ways to prevent them.

Have You Looked at LinkedIn Lately?

It used to be that LinkedIn was very, dare I say, boring. Great for connecting with businesses of interest, possible employers, or employees. During that time I built a LinkedIn (let’s go with LI) group that was of good use for discussions, but that was about all that I used LI for.

linkedin-1024x248Lately, if you look at it, it looks much more like Facebook without the “here’s what I ate for lunch” posts. According to LI, “LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional (here’s where they try to differentiate from social) network with hundreds of millions of members, and growing rapidly. Our mission is to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” That said, people (well, professionals) are sharing articles, ideas, and content in general that relates to their industry… for the most part.

Recently, I decided to push into LI more and reached out to many in the fitness industry in an effort to have some more varied conversations than what I was finding in various groups I was a member of (even my own) about our industry (I’m connected to a lot of international fitness professionals.). So, far it has been very interesting.

Indeed, what I’ve found is more specific professional content that I can consume and then pass on to others. Sure, there’s still self-important individuals trying to sell you stuff, but I feel that it’s far less than other social media sites.

So, what I’m saying is that, as you choose where you are going to spend your time, you should take another look at LinkedIn and see if there’s something there for you.

 

Should You Start Podcasting?

Podcasting are digital recordings (usually audio ) that can be accessed on demand either by streaming or downloading. The topics range from comedy (most popular) to fitness to education. They can be any length, although from everything that I’ve read, the sweet spot is about 30 minutes.

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One of my upcoming podcasts

I’ve been thinking about podcasting for about a year now because the podcast market has been growing every year and is a great way to reach your target audience. This is one more way that we can reach out and inform, and, in doing so, help more people to reach their goals.

There are some exciting statistics on the reach and effectiveness of podcasting.

In recent research from March 2018, PodcastInsights notes that:

  • 50% of all US homes are podcast fans (Nielsen, Aug 2017)
  • 44% (124 million) of the US population has listened to a podcast – up from 40% in 2017 (Infinite Dial 18)
  • 17% (48 million) listen to podcasts weekly – up from 15% in 2017
  • 16 million people in the US are “avid podcast fans” (Nielsen Q1 2018)
  • 49% of podcast listening is done at home, down from 51% in 2017
  • 22% listen while driving (in a vehicle), same as 2017
  • Podcast listeners listen to an average of 7 different shows per week, up from 5 in 2017
  • 80% listen to all or most of each episode, down from 86% in 2017
  • 65% of monthly podcast listeners have been listening for less than 3 years
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Another of my upcoming podcasts

If you’re unsure of how to go about starting, there are online courses and even podcasts on how to start a podcast. I just finished taking an online course from Adam Carolla (#1 podcast at PodcastOne). ADAM CAROLLA Teaches You Podcasting!

I know, you probably are thinking that you’re already spending too much time away from your clients to jump into something new. I get it, but here’s the thing, building your business requires that you spend time ON your business, not just IN your business. ON your business includes building your (or your company’s) brand. That includes social media marketing, blogs, videos, and yes, even podcasting. It all adds to your credibility and helps build an audience that knows, likes, and trusts you, and when that happens, you become their preferred choice with whom to do business. The payoff in new clients and more loyal current clients, will be well worth the extra time investment.

 

 

You Can, But Should You?

In the thirty-eight years that I have been a personal trainer and in health club management, I have acquired many skills. I have designed club websites, done the advertising, marketing programs, social media, written newsletters, created employee training manuals, trained staff, taught CPR to all of the staff, created new programs, yada, yada, yada. This is a great thing and… it’s also a potential problem. The great aspect is obvious. It means that I don’t have to outsource to others and can keep my expenses down, as well as get things done when and how I want them done. Sounds good, right? How could there be a down side?

Untitled design (3)Well here’s the problem, when you can do most everything, you feel like you should, and if you spend all of that time working IN your business, where are you going to find the time to work ON your business? If you hope to grow your business, then you must spend time on being the big picture person. You have to get away from the little stuff and focus on the things that will have long-lasting impact on the success of your business. There are endless systems out there to help you decide what to focus on. Here are two that I like using.

The first is the Four D’s of Time Management. Here you filter whatever task is in front of you into one of four categories. These include Do it (no question, you need to do it now), Delay it (OK, maybe you need to or choose to do it, but not right now), Delegate it (if someone else can do it, and this may mean hiring someone, have them do it), and Drop it (just as it implies, take it off your list).

The second tool is Stephen Covey’s time management grid. In this one, you can overlap tasks with the four D’s.

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Stephen Covey‘s Time Management Grid (paraphrased)

Square 1, urgent and important, means that the task desires immediate action and it is important to you and your business. This could be fire alarm going off in your facility or a financial decision that needs an answer now (Do It or, if you can, Delegate It).

Square 2, not urgent, but important, means that while it doesn’t need to be done right now, it is essential to do in order to build a successful business. These are the big picture decisions about your business, such as who your target market is or what your mission statement is (this needs to be you, Do It!).

Square 3, urgent, but not important, means that it desires to be done immediately, but is really not important for you to do. Here are the daily “fires” that need to be put out and often eat up your time.  You might put items like the bathroom being out of toilet paper or “spill in aisle one” on this (Delegate It).

Square 4, not urgent and not important. This serves no real need. Imagine one of the many salespeople that will come calling on you to sell you something you don’t need or want as an example. (just Drop It!).

All this said, whether it is because we lack the staff or luck of funds to hire out, we may still have to do some of the tasks that would ideally be dealt with by someone else. Using a previous example, if you’re a one person show and the bathroom is out of toilet paper, you are going to have to step up and do it yourself. However, you should still start with your current to do list and filter the items on it through these tools. Then, when something new comes up, run it through to see where it falls and if you need to be attending to it. We are so easily caught up in things we can do, when we should, as much as possible, stick to only those that we should or must do.

Let Me Entertain You. Let Me Make You Smile.

Much of the time, fitness is either marketed by using high intensity, sweaty, sexy bodies and promises that you too can have a hot body, or, it is portrayed as a science-based health solution that makes you want to take a nap because it’s so dull. What is often missed is the point that people are more likely to start a fitness program if they think that it’s going to be fun, and, if they are having fun, they are also much more likely to stick with it.

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The idea of entertaining your clients while working with them is not new. Richard Simmons has been entertaining fitness audiences since the 1970’s. But, even before it

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Richard Simmons

was used to promote fitness, the idea of using entertainment to educate has been around for a long time. “Learning through entertainment dates at least to Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack, which amused and instructed colonists with its mix of maxims, weather forecasts, math lessons and puzzles.” according to Greg Beato’s New York Times article, Turning to Education for Fun. More recently, programs that combine these two elements have been dubbed “edutainment”.

While still being a source of entertainment, another variation is taking tasks and turning them into games… not unlike Mary Poppins did. “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap, the job’s a game” This adding of game elements is now dubbed “gamification”.

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For some dance fitness entertainment, check out The Fitness Marshall

So, does this mean that you should always try to entertain your clients and that workouts always have to be fun? No, of course not, but adding a little levity and fun elements to workouts can make the difference between drudgery and something they can look forward to. Imagine if your clients consistently leave workouts in a better mood than when they came in. What a great reinforcement for coming back for the next one.

(Yes, BTW, the title is a quote from the musical, “Gypsy”. I can’t help it. It’s little things like that, that makes me tick.)

My Profile Picture, My Brand

Your brand, as a personal trainer and fitness professional, is what people think about you. Their perception of you and your business, is created by everything you do and all of the content you put out. This includes all of your social media posts and even your profile picture.

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I admit that I’m going on a little bit of a rant here, but, I think I need to at least make you aware of the issue. I would bet that at least half of the personal trainers out there use some kind of self body shot for their profile picture. I’m sure that the prevailing thought is that, “I worked hard, got into great shape, and I want people to know that I can do that for them.” Well…. yea for you. No, seriously, congratulations. However, I have a couple of issues with your posting that picture.

  1. You are perpetuating the idea that if you look good, you must know what you’re doing. We all should be able to admit that we know that’s not true. So, why play into that illusion.
  2. As much as you think you are attracting clients by showing off your body, you are intimidating many potential clients as well. The more you show off your perfect or near perfect body, the worse “normal” people feel about their own.
  3. Body shots, in general, also make it very difficult to make out your facial features and, when clients and/or potential clients are trying to connect with you, you want to make it easy for them to recognize you. (This is the same reason that you shouldn’t use a picture of your dog as your profile pic.)

marknuttingc.jpgSo, what is the best profile picture? In my humble opinion, I would choose a tightly cropped headshot, professionally taken (or at least very clear), that portrays what you want your brand to be. Choose a warm and welcoming headshot that gives the air of professionalism and makes it easy to know that it is, indeed, you.

Pre-Mortem: Know How You Failed Before You Start

Most of us know what a post-mortem examination is, an autopsy, finding out the causes of a person’s death. Few of us, however, know what a pre-mortem is. In a pre-mortem,

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project planners (maybe that’s a team or just one person) imagine that the project has already been launched and it either failed or, at least, failed to deliver as anticipated. Then, you dig into why that might have occurred.

Say you have created a new weight loss program. Before you launch it, sit down with your team and imagine that, in six months time, the program has not taken off and you’re sitting there having to look back on what could have gone wrong. Maybe your marketing was not reaching your target market. Maybe the market you focussed on was the wrong market. Maybe you weren’t clear about how it would benefit the consumer. Maybe it was launched at the wrong time of year. Maybe, maybe, maybe…

The point is to think about potential weaknesses and pre-think the solutions. By diminishing or even eliminating the weaknesses, your project will have a much greater chance at success. So, before you launch your next program or product, imagine it died and then find the reasons (and solutions) in a pre-mortem.

PS. This can also help clients succeed in their programs. Take them through a pre-mortem, find their obstacles and pre-think the solutions.

The Secret Life of a Business Card

This last December, I was asked to present at the NSCA Japan conference. Prior to the trip, I was coached on some cultural differences that I should be aware of. One of the differences that was stressed, was how the Japanese people treat the exchange of business cards. The giver holds the top 2 corners as he/she hands the card and the receiver then grasps the card by the bottom 2 corners. Upon receipt, the receiver then takes a moment, reads the card, looks up and thanks the giver and then may place the card in a place of respect (breast pocket, wallet, etc.). Don’t just take it and shove it in your back pocket. The business card is a representation of the giver and, as with the person themselves, should be treated with respect.

China business cardsThis was an interesting lesson for me and the kickoff for a point that I want to make about how most business people (this includes personal trainers) misuse the business card.

When starting with a new company or starting your own business, most people will run out and get their new business cards, because, if you have business cards, you must be in business. There’s nothing wrong with this. The business card, as in Japan, is a representation of you and your business and should be here as well. If only we would treat it as such. We don’t, of course. We will order 500-1000 cards and hand them out like they are flyers. I’ve even seen presenters at conferences walk around the venue before their session and put a business card on each of the seats. Most attendees didn’t even pick them up. They just sat on them. They were not given with respect and were not received with respect.

My own view on the use of a business card is that your focus, when looking to build your business and not simply using it as a way to stay in touch with an acquaintance or associate, should be to receive them not give them. When someone gives you their business card they are giving you the permission to contact them. With a potential client, this means that you have the permission to call and talk with them and, hopefully, set up a time to meet with them. Then, after receiving their card, you can present your card to them should they like to initiate a conversation or change an existing appointment. This way of using your business card, empowers you. Whereas, if you are just handing your cards out, all you can do is sit back and hope that someone calls you.

Business cards are not meant to be flyers. They are meant to be treated with respect and given more selectively. Remember that getting someone else’s contact information is far more beneficial than giving yours out.

 

 

Having Fun With Your Marketing

Marketing can sometimes be very dry and if your target audience is really looking hard for your service, maybe, just maybe, they will wade through boring copy for it. However, if you can add a little humor into your marketing, your audience will happily read what you have to say. The Instagram Untitled design (2)post shown is a simple, light Halloween post that got some great feedback. Many business folks will say that you need to have a serious “call to action” (and sure, I could have done that here. “Act now and get…”), but remember that just keeping your business in the consumer’s mind is important in and of itself. Plus, if you can throw a smile their way, that will increase their sense of connection with you. This, in conjunction with content that shows your expertise and builds trust (in the forms of blog posts, article links from reputable sources, etc.), will make you their choice when it comes to selecting a professional or business to help them reach their health and fitness goals.

Serious professions are great (and I’m not knocking the serious folks), but if your target market can get the technical skills AND have some fun, you can bet that they will choose the latter. After all, laughter is the best medicine.