To transition yourself from an average personal trainer to a great one, it is absolutely essential to understand the world of business. Even if you have never taken a business course in school or worked in a corporate setting, you can still learn the basic business tools needed to run your personal training business. This article was written to help you, the trainer, build your business toolbox. By acquiring the following skills, you can make more money, retain current clients and recruit new clients. Doesn’t that sound good?
Are you in fear of not making enough money to pay your bills? Are you having problems retaining clients? Are you concerned that you don’t have enough new clients in your pipeline? If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, exploring your competitive advantage will prove an asset to your business. This is one of the most important skills from the marketing arena.
According to Marketing Principles and Perspectives, your competitive advantage is defined as “the way your business tries to get clients to purchase its product/service over someone else.” In other words, what is it you do that’s better than anyone else out there? Maybe it is your technical skills, communication skills, motivation, personality, etc. Ask yourself, what do you do better than anyone else in your club? Can you list at least three things?
For most trainers, figuring out their competitive advantage is quite a task. There are several things you can do to determine what sets you apart from everyone else. The first thing is to incorporate your customer relationship skills by way of an evaluation form. Keep in mind that not all of your clients will have time to fill this out. Make sure to offer a verbal evaluation as well. Try the following questions:
- What do you like best about our training sessions?
- What do you think are my best attributes?
- Would you recommend me to a friend or family member for personal training? Why or why not?
Make sure to tell your clients that this evaluation form will allow you to give them the best service possible because it allows you to continuously improve your skills for your personal training business. Once you get the results, see if there are any repetitive thoughts, words, etc. Is there something your clients see as your competitive advantage you had never considered? If you use the verbal evaluation, look for fluctuations in voice pitch/fluctuation, body positioning, body language. Remember, your clients are the key to your success. The more you understand what they want and need, the better you can meet those requests.
As a personal training manager, you can get your trainers to figure out their own competitive advantage through a team building exercise. You will need flip chart-sized sheets of paper for every trainer participating in the exercise. Each trainer needs to put his or her name at the top of each sheet and tape it to the wall. If you have 20 trainers, there should be 20 sheets hanging on the walls in your conference room. The next assignment is for each of the trainers to write on a sheet of scrap paper one positive attribute for each of the trainers in the room. These can be sentences, words or phrases. If there are 20 trainers, each trainer should get 19 separate sheets of paper. (They don’t need to write an attribute for themselves.) Once they do this, they are to fold each of the sheets of paper and drop them in a bucket. The manager along with an assistant separates all the trainer names with their attributes. For example: There will be a stack of positive attributes for Sally, Joe, Bob, etc. Once these are separated according to name, the manager and several assistants will write the attributes on the flip chart papers on the walls. As for the example above, each trainer should have 19 attributes on their big paper. Once all of the information is written, the manager will read the attributes for each of the trainers. The follow up exercise is for the trainers to summarize their attributes into one major theme. Managers should set aside time to meet with each trainer regarding these ideas.
So what are some examples of a competitive advantage a trainer could have? There are two main categories: technical skills and common sense skills. The thought would be that you need a mix of the two. For example, a trainer may have several certifications and be extremely “book smart” but not have the ability to relate that information to his clients. On the other hand, you may have someone who everyone likes but keeps injuring her clients due to lack of certifications or knowledge of personal training. As you can see, neither option is appropriate from the above examples.
Examples of technical skills that could be used as a competitive advantage are:
- Knowledge of the anatomy and body mechanics
- Structural assessment skills
- Explanation of exercises during session
- Cost effectiveness
- Post rehabilitation skills
- Sport Specific skills
- Ability to assist in reaching goals
- Follow up exercises, programs, etc
Examples of common sense skills that could be used as a competitive advantage are:
- Adaptable to different personality types
- Sense of humor
- Accountability/ Dependability
- Flexibility of workout
- Passion for training
So now that you have an idea of what your competitive advantage is, you need to market this to your potential clients as well as your current clients. The most important thing to remember is that your competitive advantage can be a mixture of any set of attributes, but if it doesn’t give your clients what they want or need in a session, your effort is useless. So what are your clients really buying from you? In a generalized way, they are buying “good feelings” and "solutions to problems." If you can configure your competitive advantage to answer these two questions, you can have a client for life.
So what “solutions” and “good feelings” are your clients seeking? The best way to do this is through the initial fitness assessment. Asking them to make short term (three to six months) and long term (six months to one year) goals is a good way to see what solution they are looking to find. The subjective topic of “good feelings” is a little more challenging. Constant communication during each session is the only way to really find out what “good feelings” your clients are looking to receive. Ask them how they feel going into each session and then comparing that statement to how they feel at the end of their session. An example of this would be if your client comes to a session tired and stressed. If he feels happy and energized at the end of his session, then there is a change in his feelings. As you can see, “good feelings” may be different each time the client comes in for training. It is our job as trainers to read and understand our clients' verbal language, body language, tone of voice, etc. at the beginning and end of each session.
Once you get a sense of your competitive advantage, use it to get new clients. If the majority of your clients are telling you they like your sport specific skills, punctuality and motivation, then focus on those attributes when you are recruiting new clients in your club. Emphasize these skills to current clients.
The best way to hammer your competitive advantage is through marketing channels. Marketing channels can also be known as your “pipeline” of new clients. The major marketing channels include but are not limited to the following:
- Word of Mouth - Word of mouth is the number one and most inexpensive form of marketing. Word of mouth normally comes from clients and anyone you have trained. They know your competitive advantage just from training with you. Let them promote you as well. Encourage your clients through marketing incentives to refer you to their friends and family. For starters, you may want to give them a free session for each referral they make. If you work in a club, another important “business card” is the employees. Train each of them for free so that they promote you! When a member asks for the “best” trainer, they will share the experience they had with you.
- In-club Sales Department - Your in-club sales department is also a huge marketing channel for new clients. Again, training each of your sales representatives will allow them to promote you. They will get an understanding of your competitive advantage in just one session. The sales staff should have a stack of your business cards and brochures to hand to new members.
- Medical Offices (including physical therapy, orthopedic, internal medicine, etc.) - Medical offices are a growing area for trainer referral. If you look at the aging population, obesity is becoming an epidemic, and joint replacements are on the rise. Trainers are being forced to gain the skills needed to train the “high risk” population. Just gaining these certifications will give these trainers a competitive advantage over their competition. Trainers are learning to build rapport with physicians and PTs through the initial medical release. By requiring all clients to sign a medical release, trainers automatically have reason to initiate communication with the medical community.
- Sport Specific Training Centers - Training centers are a great connection for trainers. This is an area where a trainer needs to make the initial contact. Sport specific training centers may need a trainer to refer athletes for cross training, stretching, strength training or post-rehab services. Many of these centers cater to kids and high school athletes. This is another example of a market with an unmet need for trainers.
In conclusion, there is a reason your clients train with you. It is our challenge as trainers to figure out what our competitive advantage is and how it should be implemented. It is only with continuous communication with current clients and constant searches for marketing channels that our competitive advantage can be implemented and utilized to its fullest extent.
- Bearden. Marketing Principles and Perspectives. 2001