Where is the Growth Potential in the Fitness Industry?

Most personal trainers love working with athletes and exercise enthusiasts. They’re excited to be there, willing to do almost anything, and they work hard. What’s not to love? Oh, except the fact that they are often self sufficient and are less likely to hire a personal trainer. And, while progressing someone from fit to more fit is fun, it’s not nearly as rewarding (at least for me) as the change you can make in someone’s life by taking them from unable to able. From a potential market point of view, the unfit, unable, far out number the fit. Here’s a few statistics.

According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition,

  • Less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day
  • only one in three adults receive the recommended amount of physical activity each week.
  • Only 35 – 44% of adults 75 years or older are physically active, and 28-34% of adults ages 65-74 are physically active.
  • More than 80% of adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.

overweight3So, consider this. If you want to build a thriving business and significantly change people’s lives for the better, focus on the unfit market. Create programs that will make them feel safe to start. Market how you can ease them into a new lifestyle. Teach these fitness newcomers that movement can be fun and that fitness doesn’t need to be intimidating.

Be Slump Proof: Never Stop Prospecting

If you’ve been a personal trainer for more than a couple of years, you have experienced a slump. These are those times when everything seemed to be going ok. Your schedule was full and life was beautiful. Then, all of a sudden, that couple that you were training 3 times per week (each) move out of town, another client gets injured doing yard work, and still another finds they can’t afford to train with you anymore. Now you find yourself with a third of your schedule open and feeling the financial pinch of making less money. Top that off with the fact that you can’t seem to pick up any new clients. You start to feel panicky and anxious. Life no longer seems beautiful. What happened?

Well, when you began as a personal trainer, you knew you had to hustle, talking to everyone, making connections, creating opportunities to sit down with potential clients and transitioning them into paying customers. This builds your schedule to the point where you are comfortable with the number of people you are helping and the money you are making. And guess what? You stop hustling. You sit back and go about your day-to-day training and everything is fine… until it’s not. 

The key is to never stop prospecting, never stop hustling. You know from having built your schedule the first time that gaining clients is not an overnight thing. It can take days, weeks, and sometimes months before a potential client decides it’s time to start.  That slump can last for months and that’s not fun. On the other hand, if you keep hustling, keep working it, what’s the worst that could happen? You could take on a few more clients than you had planned on, or maybe you pair them up with another client with similar goals (creating a small group), OR, you could pass these new clients on to another trainer, which helps more people, helps the other trainer, build good will, and keeps you in the game. 

Losing clients is inevitable. Having that loss send you into a slump, is not. Keep hustling and you’ll keep busy.

The Art of Pricing Personal Training

I know one personal trainer that charges $300/hour. I know others that charge $15/hr. Fifteen years ago in NYC I charged $125/hr, now, in my new home in Easton, PA, I charge $65/hr. Pricing is not simply making up a number in your head that you want to charge (or at least shouldn’t be). price-is-rightThere are some important variables that should be considered when you are determining your price(s).

  1. Who is your target market? If my target market are the rich and famous, my prices will be higher than if I am seeking to address the needs of a low-income community.
  2. What weekly income do you need achieve and how many hours do you intend on working? Obviously, you need to price yourself so that you can make a living and still have time for a life.
  3. What value do you place on your time? Actually, let’s not think about time, based on all of your training and experience, what do you believe the value of your service is?
  4. What does the competition charge? While you can charge more than the competition (assuming you are worth it), it does play into how the public perceives the value.
  5. What is the perceived value by your target market? If their perception is that you are expensive and you still want to charge the premium price, you may have to educate your market why it’s worth what it is (and that will be more effective if you can show them vs tell them).

How you make your decision is very individual. This is the “art” of pricing. Some of the considerations will weigh more heavily than others based on your situation. The important thing is to consider each of the factors that play into deciding on a price. Determine your price, implement it, and, based on the response, re-evaluate it in six months.

 

Patience and Hard Work: The Real Secrets to Success

I was just watching a video by business guru, Gary Vaynerchuk, about how patience and hard work are essential in reaching your goals. It reminded me about all of the young personal trainers I’ve known through the years that had great potential, but when their business didn’t build as quickly as they thought it would, they left the field for a guaranteed pay check (one in particular, with a degree in exercise science, went to work in a lumber store).  This, to me who has had a wonderful career spanning more than 37 years, is incredibly sad and it stems from some preconceived notion that success should somehow be quick and easy.

 

hard work

Why aren’t they prepared to put in the time and effort? Maybe it’s that see other personal trainers in the club doing well and believe that will just happen for them, or maybe they have seen some get rich scheme or system that is marketed to personal trainers. I may never know, but it’s just like we tell our clients, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and consistent work to reach our goals.

Now, of course, the time and effort it takes needs to be well spent. Continue to learn, particularly marketing and sales. Then implement. Try different things, different ways of approaching potential clients, different ways of bundling services, different ways of asking for a commitment, etc. Then know that you will fail on some of these things and don’t fear it, embrace it. Every time you fail is a chance to learn, get better, and come that much closer to succeeding the next time.

Don’t be one of the “could have been” stories. Success will come to those willing to be patient and put in the work that it takes.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” Calvin Coolidge

Should You Be Social With Your Clients?

In most personal trainer educational circles and texts, it is often stated that personal trainers should keep their personal information out of any discussions with clients. Meeting a client socially outside of the gym environment would be frowned upon. I would like to say that I think that philosophy is dead wrong. Case in point, I had a client for 12 years who ultimately was my best man at my wedding.

add-as-friendHere’s the thing, and I’ve said this in the past, people hire those that they know, like and trust. If you don’t share some personal information, people won’t get a sense of who you are as a person. Sure, you can come off as a skilled professional, but without the personal relate-ability, why would they choose you above another skilled professional? “Oh, your kids are Boy Scouts, my kids are Boy Scouts!”
I connect with all of my clients and potential clients on social media. That said, you can’t be mindless about your posts. While the posts can share personal information, they should never show things that are not in line with your brand, or what you want to consciously convey to others.

What about going to a social event with clients? Again, with the opportunity to get to know you better, clients will potentially like  and trust you more. Tsocial-gatheringhese events could be activity related, like going for a hike together, or they could be a dinner party. It can bond them to you and your business that much more… as long as you act mindfully. In example, a number of my clients, that I really like as people, have opposing political views from me. I know that and I just avoid talking politics.

Now, not only do social interactions increase the bond between you, your business and your clients, but getting clients to socialize together is another way of increasing those ties. We just held a social/dance for clients and their friends. Germany_WidowsAlong with getting to know each other better, you can hear them talk about what classes they like, what exercises they think are really hard, when they are coming next, etc.

At this point you may think that this sounds really manipulative. Really, it’s no more so than anytime we’re trying to show others the best side of ourselves, and… when it comes down to it, I just really like my clients and enjoy spending more time with them.

Should You Be Selling Sessions, Packages, Memberships or Programs? 

As you begin your business or as you reevaluate your business model, you may wonder what the best way is to present and sell your personal training. In the old days (I can say that because I’ve been personal training since the dawn of time.) personal training was sold as a single session or in small to medium sized packages that were increasingly discounted the more you bought. The idea behind selling discounted packages was that the client would see the savings in the larger packages, purchase those and would be committed for a longer period of time. Since then, a number of problems and potential solutions have come to light.

pricesProblem #1: Larger packages, even with their discounts, could run thousands of dollars. This could put them out of reach for those that really needed the financial discount.

Solution #1: I know some clubs that sold nothing less than a 24 session package, but they offered a payment plan for the amount. This made it accessible to those who couldn’t afford the larger sum up front and got that commitment for a longer period of time.

Problem #2: Personal trainers saw the discounting of packages as a discounting of the value of their service.

Solution #2: Choose one, consistent session price and offer bigger packages as a convenience and/or a commitment, not a money saver. This is not a very popular model as many feel it can lead to clients paying session by session and the fear is that the more often the client has to make a financial decision, the more opportunities they have to decide it isn’t worth it. We happen to offer the pay-as-you-go/session by session because a) it doesn’t devalue by discounting the sessions, b) is an easy financial commitment for more people, and c) I believe that if the skill, the service, and the results are there, the client would have no reason stop. (i.e. I had one client that paid session by session, 6 times/wk for 12 years)

Problem #3: With any session by session package, clients can be inconsistent. This leaves the personal trainer and/or club with an ever fluctuating, unpredictable income.

Solution #3: Clubs and studios are now offering “memberships” (monthly agreements) that are generally priced with a session/wk assumption. (i.e. Members pay $x/month for 2 personal training sessions/wk) What makes this more predictable is that it is a monthly fee that is most often set up as an automatic charge to the member’s credit card or bank account. There is the potential for a secondary problem in that if a client needs to cancel and you allow them to make it up, you can build a backlog of sessions that the trainer will “owe” the client. I knew one trainer that, because the member had a difficult time making up the sessions, ended up owing her client over 30 sessions. One way to handle this would be to allow the client to make up the session within a week or it would be otherwise be forfeited.

Problem #4: Finally, there are clients that only want to commit for a certain amount of time and want the maximum results for that time. This means they have to know the expected outcome, be held accountable, and maybe need more than just the exercise sessions to get those results.

8-week-fat-loss-program-for-busy-people-lose-weight-tone-up-build-lean-muscleSolution #4: The idea of creating goal specific small group programs (such as a preseason sports prep i.e. golf conditioning, a specific health concern focus i.e. healthy back program, or bundled offerings i.e. 2 small group training sessions + 1 nutritional coaching session each week), that have a defined start and end date can be a great alternative to other offerings. This could be a 4 week, 8 wk, 12 wk, etc. Do pre and post program assessments to gather data and then use that in setting program expectations, “In this program, the average participant achieved ….” This also assures the income, because clients sign up for the program, not individual sessions. I think the addition of various programs will be the biggest change in our industry in the near future.

These are not all of the issues and they are certainly not all of the possible solutions, but they are some of the most prevalent concerns. This post is meant to be food for thought. There is no wrong answer if your choice is working for you.

 

Presence; a Book Review

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy is probably classified as a self-help book, but it’s a lot more than that. In essence, social psychologist Cuddy, reveals the science behind creating personal power and presence and where and how that can be used in our lives. presense

A large part of that power and confidence can be controlled through our conscious attention to our body language. Cuddy discusses “power poses”, body positions that, when adopted, can leave us feeling empowered, confident and in the moment (present).

I’m sure that you, as do most of us, “read” people’s body language to gather insight into their personality. Hunched and averting direct eye contact may mean they are shy or wary. So, the emotional state creates the posture… unless it’s the other way around. Cuddy goes on to describe research that shows how changing your posture can also change how you feel, becoming happier, more open, more social.

I say that it’s a lot more than a self-help book because I can see how I can utilize some of the principles to help my clients. So many of the people we see have poor self images. If we can, through a few simple exercises, make others more confident and happier with themselves, wouldn’t that be a wonderful ability to have.

https://embed.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are

If this interests you, I highly recommend reading Presence. As a teaser, check out Ann Cuddy’s TED talk on the topic.

KPIs and the 80/20 Rule

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the business acronym, KPI, it stands for Key Performance Indicators. These are the numbers that you can track that tell you how your business is doing. kpiAs a personal trainer, these numbers could be how many sessions you have per week, how many phone inquiries you had, of those, how many came in for an initial consultation, how many initial consultations you had, how many of those consultations became clients, the average dollar amount spent by each client each week, month, year, and so on. You can track almost anything, but should you?

80-20-rule_The 80/20 Rule, or the Pareto principle, originally referred to the fact that 80% of the population’s wealth was held by 20% of that population. The principle has since gone on to represent almost any situation where a smaller number represents the greatest percent of another. In business it might be that 80% of your business’s income comes from 20% of your customers, or that 80% of your referrals comes from 20% of your clients.

Back to KPIs. Of all the numbers that you can track, you want to focus on the roughly 20% of them that will have the greatest impact on the success of your business. Which ones are those…? That… is the big question, there is no one answer to that as it depends on any number of factors.

When you have an initial consultation or meeting with a potential client, what percent of those actually sign up with you (that’s your closing ratio KPI)? If you are really good at this, the fastest way to build your business may be to simply get more people to sit down for a consultation with you. Track where your consultations come from (another KP). Are they referrals? Did they come from a conversation you had with them in the club? outside of the club? from a public presentation that you did? If you got most of them (it doesn’t have to be 80%, BTW) from presentations that you do… do more presentations. Right? Rather than spending your time trying to improve everything, focus on the KPI that gives you the greatest return.

Say you have plenty of people sitting down with you, but your closing ratio is not good. Worrying about getting more people to meet with you is a waste of time. Your focus should be on getting better at closing in the consultation. This means, get help, study, learn and keep tracking you closing ratio. If you are not improving that, you may find that the best way to build your business is to deliver amazing service, but hire someone else that is really good at it to convert clients for you.

I’ve hardly touched on the number of KPIs that you could track. The key (pun intended) is to narrow them down to the 20% (or thereabouts) that have the greatest effect and work at improving those numbers. As management expert, Peter Drucker, has said, “What gets measure gets managed.” If you don’t measure the variables, you won’t know what actions to take.

 

Public Speaking 101

why-the-heck-would-i-want-to-speak-in-public

When one of people’s greatest fears is the fear of public speaking, why would you want to? Well, the answer is simple. It is one of the best ways for people to get to know you, what you’re about, your expertise, and your personality. Here are some tips that will help make your speaking engagement as successful (and painless) as possible.

Make some friends before your talk. In the moments before your presentation, introduce yourself to some of your audience. Welcome them. Ask their names and what brings them to your session. This will give you a few friends to connect with later during your talk.

They are not there to judge you. Attendees are there to hear what you have to say and find out how that can help them.

Choose a topic that you are passionate about. If you don’t really care about the topic, neither will your audience. Your passion will make up for any lack of polish.

Make sure you know your topic inside and out. It’s one thing to be passionate, but if you are spouting unsubstantiated “hearsay”, people will see through you and tune you out.

Be authentic. That’s a bit of a jargon way of saying, be yourself. Don’t try to be some slick pitchman when that’s not you. Your honesty and sincerity will make people root for you, even if you struggle.

Know that you don’t need to fill every second. It’s not only ok to pause and say nothing while gathering your thoughts, it’s sometimes desirable to let an idea sink in to the audience’s mind. Give them a moment to think about what you just said.

If you’re using Powerpoint, don’t read your slides. First you should try not to have a great deal of text on your slides. Pictures are always better. If you do have text, it should serve only as a highlight to your talking points and the audience can read them for themselves.

Leave them with a takeaway. Always make sure you give your audience something that they can take with them that they can use right away. “So, with this information in mind, go out and…”

Plan on finishing early. Respect their time. If you have a few moments left over you can answer a question or two, but running long can leave people checking their watches and not listening to you. As they say, “Always leave them wanting more.”

Public speaking is one of the best ways to get your ideas across, demonstrate your expertise, and get known by you target audience. With practice and by following a few simple tips, you can make your presentations a success for both you and your audience.

One of my favorite presenters, Ken Robinson. (See him on TED)

Is Tech Taking Our Clients?

We are in an age where technology is an integral part of our lives. Everyone is attached to a smart phone or other device that can monitor our every move, our steps, our heart rate, even our sleep patterns. There are apps that will map our ride (or run), take us from the couch to 5k, and act as a personal trainer making recommendations for an exercise program that includes showing us how to perform the exercises. Many in the fitness industry are concerned that these devices, apps, as well as online training, streaming and on-demand classes, are taking business away from the clubs, studios and personal trainers. No real surprise here… of course they are.

tech-trainer

The world has changed, as it always does, and we need to be able to adapt to the changes. Let’s look at who the people are that we could lose to technology? In my opinion, it’s very likely to be the same people you would lose if a low-cost club moved in next door. You lose the people that are self-sufficient and exercise savvy because they don’t believe they need your help. You also lose the people that will choose the cheapest option possible, whether it is the best choice for them or not. If that describes your client base, then you may want to reconsider who you are trying to attract.

The people who need our help, the non-exercisers, the unsure, the afraid, (which is the majority of the population), not to mention the broken and diseased, are not going to start a random program online that doesn’t provide the answers to all of their questions and walk them through an individualized program and exercise progressions. If you focus on attracting them, by getting to know them and letting them get to know, like, and trust you, you can offer them an introductory program that promises a safe start to a healthier life. There’s no technology (at least to date) that can offer that kind of caring attentive service that you can personally. I believe that if you choose to help those just starting out, you will always have plenty of clients to keep you busy.

Having said that, we can introduce our clients to the technology that will enhance their ability to succeed. Teach them how to use apps that help track their nutrition and activity that you can review together. Create personal exercise videos that they can take on vacation. Use a video conferencing app to train them if they move away. Show your clients how tech can add a new layer to your relationship and they won’t leave you for it.