They've wasted $2500 on diet programs. They spend $50 weekly on fat-free snacks in the supermarket. They've invested in 17 infomercial products. Here's the astounding news. They're fatter than ever, more desperate than they ever imagined, and they will continue along the path they've chosen unless you rescue them! Who are they? Your neighbors!
Right now, there are many people in desperate need of your personal training services. Some live within five miles of your home and can comfortably afford your fees. The challenge is, many don't know you exist! Some might come to know you exist, but they might not believe you have the solution they need. You can set out on a quest to knock on every door, introducing yourself and explaining the value of what you do... or you can implement some methods of creative marketing to rescue these people and boost your income in the process!
This article will focus on "independent" trainers. They travel to homes, offices and exercise rooms providing education, motivation and guidance.
I meet them in seminars. They share common frustrations and challenges. Each time I conduct a marketing seminar for personal trainers, I take my place and begin:
"We're going to talk about some strategies for generating business. Can somebody share a marketing effort that worked exceptionally well or proved disappointing?" Hands go up.
"I ran an ad in the newspaper offering a free consultation," someone proudly announces.
The obvious question follows, "Did it work for you?"
The answer, "Well... not that well."
I'll solicit another response.
"I bought a coupon insert in the value-packs mailed to every home in a five-mile radius."
This is followed by a similar expression of disappointment. After a few more responses, it becomes clear that everyone in the room equates marketing with advertising. In almost every case, the responses that I initially hear involve the purchase of materials, lists, space or time. That's when I clear the air.
"Advertising should comprise not more than five percent of your marketing! If you see advertising and marketing as one and the same, you are missing out on 95 percent of the marketing efforts you can employ."
Note that I said "not more than five percent." If you don't spend any money on advertising, that's fine! Advertising is a trap that often sucks money from personal trainers, and it's rare that the investment is recouped. Here's a real life example.
Sherry, a Personal Trainer in Great Neck, New York, works with a health club that pays $22 per training session. She trains clients in their homes for $50 per hour. To attract more in-home clients, she runs an ad in a publication distributed free at restaurants and shops in her neighborhood. After meeting with the ad rep, Sherry writes a $740 check. She's promised excellent positioning on the Health page. She includes a "FREE Consultation with this Ad" coupon as the sales rep advised.
"People will respond to FREE, and you can monitor the ad with the coupons you collect."
That falls under the category of "Typical Advertising Rep Advice" or translated, "Advice You Should Ignore."
The ad hits and Sherry's phone rings. Day one she gets 11 calls and schedules six consultations. The next day, she schedules three consultations and the third day another for a total of 10. "Not bad," Sherry thinks. "The ad's working." When the rep calls to ask if Sherry wants to renew, Sherry responds, "I'm getting lots of calls."
Let's examine the words, "The Ad's Working." Is the function of the ad to make the phone ring? A closer look at Sherry's outcome reveals that "making the phone ring" doesn't necessarily have the same connotation as "making the ad profitable."
In the next week, Sherry travels to perform 10 consultations, each lasting 90 minutes. She does a fitness evaluation and spends time reviewing assessment results. She gains two clients, each committing to one session per week.
Sherry charges $50 per hour for in-home sessions. That means in the week that she performed her free consultations, she literally gave away over $500 of value, not including the sacrifice of time spent driving. With two new clients, each contributing $50 per week, it will take three months to even recoup the money the ad cost! That is, assuming she keeps each client for three months. If she believes the ad worked, the ad rep will have her dumping more money into a losing proposition.
If you've run such an ad, you know that Sherry's story is founded in reality. If you haven't run such an ad and have considered it, I'll discourage you. With ten hours and $740, there are far more productive things Sherry could have done than let an advertising rep talk her into contributing to the profitability of a newspaper.
Let me give you some ideas that work, without risk, to increase the business of any Personal Fitness Trainer.
First Rule of Power Marketing: If you're going to invest your time, optimize the use of that time.
Rather than devoting one hour or more to a single prospect, as in a FREE one-on-one consultation, use that time for visibility among many qualified prospects. I'm a firm believer in establishing your value and in finding opportunity to be compensated even for your promotional efforts. An ad rep won't respect the value of your time. Ad reps suggest you give it away for FREE. That is a definite formula for attracting unqualified phone calls, and offering a charitable service for which you are hardly appreciated. When you give your services away for FREE, your perceived value instantly drops down to Zero!
Lunchtime seminars are ideal. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of groups in your area that conduct weekly, monthly, or quarterly meetings. I've conducted seminars for groups ranging from an orthodontic training school to the South Florida Women in Business Organization. I've spoken to masses of individuals ranging from insurance sales people to police officers. I was paid for each presentation and in each hour I presented to at least 25, sometimes up to 1,000 prospects! Imagine what that would do to your visibility, even if you only conducted two seminars per month.
How do you find these organizations? Start at the library. They have resources for locating listings of registered groups in any given county. Also contact meeting planners at local hotels and conference centers. Let them know that you can fill any group's bill with an exceptional fitness presentation. Large corporations have in-house meeting planners. The number of industries you can target is limitless. The service we as fitness professionals offer appeals to everyone!
A simple way to assemble a group is through schools. Contact administrators of middle schools and high schools and offer a fitness presentation. I've been amazed by the receptiveness of school age children to information about eating right and staying fit. I've actually had principals assemble their schools in age groups over an entire week to attend my sessions. How will this help you if kids aren't your market? Each child goes home to at least one parent or guardian. Distribute informational letters for each child to bring home. It's far less expensive than direct mail, and far more effective! Parents will prove highly receptive to a fitness program "endorsed" through their child's school.
Administrators and teachers will also listen. They have fitness needs, families and friends.
You can look beyond attracting adults. I've helped trainers conduct "camps" for high school athletes. Parents will pay for structured programs geared toward health and activity for their children, especially those children who are supported in their athletic endeavors. $200 per student for a three-week camp is not unreasonable. Calculate your potential for profit with 30 students. You may need to establish insurance coverage, but with that coverage, schools will often allow you to conduct the camp on site. Without charge!
There's even more value to school presentations. Newspapers view them as Public Service. Put together a press release documenting the abysmal physical condition of school-age children and include the fact that you are performing a public service educating children in how to prevent adult disease and obesity. You know that space the ad rep wants to sell you? Get a newspaper writer connected to your cause and you'll be given that space for free! No, not as an ad, but as something better. A story, in which you're the hero.
To optimize your marketing efforts, internalize this as the next vital rule.
"Perception is more important than reality."
People fall for nonsensical weight loss solutions because misleading advertising alters perception. Clever advertising can convince the general public that some mineral will melt fat away. Sales of that mineral soon skyrocket. The reality is, no single mineral will eliminate fat, and we all know that fat doesn't melt! Perception is powerful.
If you run an ad, people know that you paid money to say whatever the ad says. Public regard for advertising information is far less than public regard for "expert opinion." People read movie reviews to find out if movie ads are accurate. They'll peruse opinions of restaurant critics to sort through restaurant ads. Position yourself as an expert in the fitness arena, and you suddenly jump to the top of the perception ladder!
The example I gave earlier of being the feature of a story in a newspaper is an ideal example of how you can establish an expert position. Write a fitness advice column for the local TV magazine or the neighborhood section of the city newspaper. It will take some samples of your work, a few directed phone calls to editors, and your ability to convince those editors that your column will add readership to their publications, better empowering their ad reps to sell! This can be a very worthwhile effort!
TV and radio can do wonders for you once you establish a position as an expert. There are thousands of hours of media time that need to be filled with information. News programs are filled with public interest stories. Three minutes on a local news program being positioned as an expert can be enough to build you a year's worth of clients! The trick is to present yourself to producers as someone who has valuable, entertaining, perhaps revealing information to share. Never tell them you want to promote your business. They'll direct you to... the advertising sales rep! Tell them you want to deliver vital information to their audience. Once you are booked as a guest, the station will, out of courtesy, agree to post your phone number at the end of the segment. In contrast to advertising, airtime costs you nothing. I've received upwards of 250 phone calls from a single media appearance.
The most powerful marketing program I've ever run I've coined, "The Guinea Pig Promotion." Find someone who has a burning desire to change. Offer a substantial discount in exchange for this client's willingness to allow you to document results with measurements, photos, videos, and testimonial words, and to use that documentation in a publicity campaign. Bring about a dramatic change and you've proven yourself without question. Take time to find the right "Guinea Pig" and the right avenues for publicity.
You can get a tremendous amount of publicity by securing a local talent or media personality as a Guinea Pig. This is not as hard as you might think. People visible before cameras are concerned about their appearances. Find a local news anchor, sportscaster, or DJ, and transform their body. You'll wind up with all the free publicity you can handle. (By the way, don't let them know you're calling them "guinea pigs." Let's let that be our little secret.)
My challenge in writing this was in deciding what proven marketing techniques I should share. There are thousands and the space is limited. Rather than attempting to squeeze in more and more, I hope to empower you by getting you to understand some powerful concepts. With that understanding, you should immediately take on a new marketing power, one that will continue to grow and feed what can only become a highly Professional and extremely lucrative career!