PT on the Net Research

Personal Training Business


Question:

Could you please provide me with some sort of rough indication regarding the rates structure used by Personal Trainers in the United States? It really is just to support a conversation I was having with a client and to make some sort of comparison.

Answer:

I am doubtful that there are any definite rough indications for personal training rates in the United States. Personal training rates vary significantly based on demographics, whether you are training at home, through a private studio or in a health club and the particulars of the service you offer (areas of specialization, sessions purchased in advance, etc.). Throughout the US, personal training rates can vary as much as $30-$150 per hour! More information about training rates or industry averages can be obtained through IHRSA and/or IDEA.

However, there is one indicator of compensation rates for all professional services (regardless of industry) that should be addressed. That is value. It has been said that you are what you charge for. You can only charge a client to the extent that your value justifies the investment you are asking (long term, anyway). What determines value? Unless you are a commodity (and you are not), value is not indicated by the industry you work in but by your clients' perception of the quality you offer. In other words, the rates you can charge are highly correlated to the quality of your services, and quality is only what the client says it is.

Therefore, brand distinction is a substantial indication in personal training rates. It is arguable that poor quality in tangible products (electronics, automobiles, etc.) is rare in today’s technologically advanced world. Yet, people will pay substantially more for the same quality product if it’s a brand name. Why? It is emotional association we attach to that product. Whether or not the brand name is better engineered is irrelevant. If we believe that there are benefits associated with that brand that make it distinct or if we associate superior design (less risk associated with the purchase), we will have no problem paying more for an identical product based on our perceptions. Think about it! If I wanted a quality automobile and I defined that by dependability, there is a better than likely chance a Honda Accord will start up on a freezing winter morning just as well as a Mercedes Benz. So if quality is a buying factor, where does the several thousand (at least) dollar price difference come from?

The price of the Mercedes is justified by it’s brand distinction of affluence. The customer who buys a Mercedes is not buying just a car but the emotional feelings they hope to achieve as a result of the purchase. They buy a statement of prosperity or a feeling of success.

Similarly, our clients are not training for the achievement of their goals but the benefits they hope to experience once the goals are achieved. Due to the fact that you are the vehicle assisting them in reaching their goals, they are buying your competency in getting them from where they are now to where they want to be. Therefore, your reputation, more specifically your band distinction (reputation for not only being a quality trainer but having distinguishing skills that make you unique) has a tremendous impact on what people will perceive you’re worth, and in turn, what rates you can charge for your services.

In the May/June 1990 edition of the Harvard Business Review, C.K. Prahalad and Professor Gary Hamel wrote an article on “The Core Competence of a Corporation.” They recommend that corporations identify what they do very well that other companies do poorly even when applying a noble degree of effort. Whether you work for a large corporation, a small business or a company of one (yourself), you are self employed. That is because you alone are responsible for the results you produce. What are you known for or what skills do you have that differentiates you from other trainers? If the brand association for Mercedes Benz is affluence, what word is associated to your brand? Everyone has an area of distinction. It is only by identifying it and effectively marketing it that we can optimize our compensation. If you do not know what your area of special distinction is, ask someone (preferably someone who likes you). Usually, a friend or close colleague can recognize unique talents and strengths in you.

If training rates were to have an industry standard, it would imply that all training services are comparable to one another. In today’s “experience economy,” what you charge for your services cannot be based on a standardized rate structure or you run the risk of being commoditized (Pine & Gilmore; The experience economy, 1999).

Differentiation in the process (the experience) is becoming just as important as what you can do for your client. In order to create brand distinction, we have to ask, “What does our client value?" That will bring us to the question, "What are they really paying for?" The trainer who answers, “The achievement of a goal” is making a dangerous assumption and runs the risk of not creating a high level of differentiation, which means they won’t get paid much. Yes, we must have superior knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge to the delivery of excellent results for our clients. Yes, we must be tenacious about our continuing education and professional development. However, that’s the bare minimum the client expects from us. Which means, the ability to get results is no longer adequate to justify higher training rates.

Client are not just paying for the achievement of their goals, they are buying the emotional consequences associated with that accomplishment (i.e., success, confidence, self esteem, physical attractiveness, etc.) This means they are buying the hopes that your services will transform the way they feel, look, perform, etc. so they can experience greater levels of happiness and quality of life. Therefore, you are in effect selling transformational experiences! That is not built just on the end result but in every facet of the means to that end.

The trust you create, the relationship you cultivate, the emotions your clients associate to you and the reputation you build as a result will all effect your perceived value.

When you pull into a gas station, you have a choice between the cash price, the credit price, self service or full service. The price you pay is determined by the method of payment, the services you take and the services you decline. The price deviation based on those decisions can be as high as 25%. Yet, you’re paying for the exact same gas that’s underground! If there’s such a variation within the terms of sale of gasoline, there is more than likely opportunity (irrespective of a standardized rate range) for the professional who can answer and deliver on the question, "What is unique about my services and the experience I provide my clients?"