Why Avoiding the Group Exercise Studio is Damaging Your PT Business

Dean Zweck | 15 Apr 2019

Say the words Group Exercise to most PTs and it conjures up images of lycra-wearing females rhythmically exercising around a studio on a step obediently and expertly following their class instructor. Now this may have been in the 80s, but it certainly isn’t now, and provides an excellent place where you can grow your PT business.

A few years ago, when I was managing a team of trainers at Virgin Active, I saw a PT looking fed up, stood arms folded on the gym floor. I asked him “what’s up?”

“The place is dead, there’s only three people in here and I’ve spoken to them all”

“What are you talking about, there’s 40 people in the club right now” I challenged him.

“Yeah but most of them are in the indoor cycling class” he replied.

“So why are you standing here?”

The indoor cycling studio was located at the front of the club, and if you came in to the class, you wouldn’t even see those members unless you positioned yourself at the door as they arrived. He was missing out on 90% of the members because he thought he could only get clients from the gym floor. I suggested he did three things on the next indoor cycling class:

  1. Be at the front door and meet and greet the members
  2. Offer to fill up their water bottles while they set up their bikes
  3. Hold a stretch class immediately after the class so the members could cool down (the indoor cycling instructor was more than ok with this)

He did this for a couple of weeks and 3 people signed up with him, for no other reason than the above!

Group training was 6th on the ACSM fitness trends in 2017. It is now number 2 in 2019. The group exercise studio isn’t a place where just step aerobics or body pump or Zumba happens. The studio is a place where 50-70% of your members will regularly go, and if you are not a feature in that studio in one way or another, you are missing a huge opportunity to grow.

Turning Studio Users into Clients

Firstly, teach classes. I assume you got in to this industry to help people achieve result. If not, you are in the wrong job! Teaching a studio class helps you impact 20 or more people in an hour rather than just one!

If you aren’t comfortable teaching classes, get comfortable. Seek help from experienced instructors and ask them to support you, attend their classes and maybe team teach with them to build confidence. There are also a great range of courses that help you with instructor skills.

In the UK, EMD is the national governing body for Group Exercise and have a fantastic range of courses to help you develop. You can find out more about them here https://emduk.org.

Teaching a class will give you visibility and help you build “know, like and trust” with multiple people at the same time, building those relationships that will help you gain clients.

But just teaching doesn’t mean people will ask you for personal training. I hear a lot of PTs finish their class with a desperate “If you want PT, come and speak to me after the class”. This rarely, if ever, leads to people approaching you for help. You see, they are in their because they LOVE training in groups. Why would they want to train with you 1-on-1?

Here is a golden way to generate consultations or taster sessions from every class you teach:

People Bingo

People Bingo is a game that can play every so often to turn your class attendees in to PT leads. Here’s how it works

  • Have laminated paper or card with the numbers 1 to the maximum number of people you have in a class
  • Hand out the numbers at the start of the class and ask the members to keep hold of them till the end of the class
  • Call out 2,3, 4 or more numbers at the end of the class and inform them that they have won a complimentary session with you and to come up to you and leave their details to book in for their prize

The above works every time. Don’t do it too often, as it will lose its effectiveness. Now for the savvy ones reading this, you may have spotted an even smarter way to do this. Remember the numbers that were taken by members that fit your target market and then call those numbers out at the end. That way you guarantee winners that fit in to your ideal client niche.

Offer Them What They Want

As mentioned above, people go to classes because they love training with others. Training in the gym by themselves or with a PT just doesn’t appeal to them. Telling them that classes “aren’t specific to your goals or personal enough to you” won’t suddenly make them sign up with you. If anything, it will turn them against you.

Make sure you offer group PT as a service. This will not only give them the camaraderie they require, but will also earn you more money. Instead of one client paying $40/hour, you could have 4 people paying you $20 per session in your group PT earning you $80/hour instead.

Make it Different

Your small group PT has to be value for money in the members eyes. If you just create a circuit that is essentially no different to a HIIT class that’s included in their gym membership, they won’t pay you for it. Think about including some of the following:

  1. Testing – group weigh-ins, fitness testing, or any other measurements taken during regular intervals
  2. Programs to follow outside of your sessions
  3. Check ins – contact the client during the week to ensure they are on plan
  4. Social media group – Facebook or WhatsApp chat groups work well to create a community
  5. Nutrition guidance

Think about the value you deliver as a PT and make it scalable to a group environment.

In Summary

Spending all of your time on the gym floor hunting for clients is not an efficient way to gain clients. Group exercise has never been more popular and with the majority of gym users going to classes, it makes absolute sense for a PT to have a presence in classes. Follow the above pointers and watch your PT Business grow.

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Dean Zweck

About the author: Dean Zweck

Dean Zweck, BSc, CPT, has been in the industry for 17 years with 13 as a personal trainer. For the last 7 years, he has been the lead educator for PTs in the UKs largest commercial gym chain, as well as successfully owning his own PT business. Dean's passion is helping trainers acquire all the tools so they can get clients, train clients and keep clients. The three core skills all successful PTs need to have.

In his spare time, Dean is a bit of an adrenaline junkie competing in OCRs with Europe's Toughest Mudder on the agenda for this year, plus engaging in mountain biking and rock climbing.

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