PT on the Net Research

Client Prospecting Techniques to Build Your Business

All world-class fitness professionals possess three qualities: they are highly educated, they have magnetic personalities, and they have strong business skills. This article focuses on developing the business skills you need to take your client prospecting to the next level.

There are many ways to prospect for new fitness clients, but as the owner of a personal training studio, the three most effective ways I have found are:

  1. getting tons of word of mouth referrals
  2. positioning yourself as the fitness expert in your community
  3. having a strong online presence


Most personal trainers receive the majority of new clients from referrals. But rather than just waiting around for your existing clients to think about sending you new clients, try developing initiatives that regularly encourage your clients to help you develop your business.

Some effective word of mouth initiatives include:

Gift Cards

Take a cue from the real estate and financial advisory industries and ask each new client for three referrals using gift cards. Or ask existing clients if you could send a gift card in their names to five of their friends who might be interested in personal training. Each person they name receives a complimentary gift, such as a fitness evaluation or training session.

Here's an example of wording that may work for you.

gift card for $100 in personal training services

We created $100 gift cards (pictured on the right) that we hand out to clients, bring to community events and give to our local partners. We want as many of these circulating in the community as possible. These cards are for new clients only, can only be used for an initial personal training or Pilates package, and have no cash value. Gift cards like this allow your clients and community members to pass on great value to their friends and family and allow you to meet potential clients.

Requests for Client Referrals

Include a “request for client referrals” statement on your client feedback forms or client information packages. If you’re not sure how to word them, try out the examples below.

Sample referral request to use on feedback forms:

At XYZ Personal Training we rely on word of mouth referrals. We believe that if we serve our clients well, they'll brag about us to everyone they know. So we're not shy about asking for referrals – we really do want to help your friends, family members and co-workers.

Do you know people who could benefit from personal training and would appreciate information about our services? If so, please list their names and contact information below.

Name                                                             Phone/E-mail

1. ________________________________  ___________________
2. ________________________________  ___________________
3. ________________________________  ___________________

Sample referral request for client intake forms:

Give the Gift of Fitness
Since you are a new client, we want to offer you the opportunity to give two friends a complimentary gift certificate for one training session and one week membership to our studio. We may both be able to make a huge difference in their lives. Please take the time to jot down the names of two friends, family members or co-workers who you believe are ready to take action and achieve their health and fitness goals. We’ll let you give them this as a gift, and then we’ll contact them to schedule them for their first session.

Name                                                             Phone/E-mail

1. ________________________________  ___________________
2. ________________________________  ___________________

“Inspire a Friend to Fitness” Signs

Create signs that you can post throughout your facility during different holidays that remind your clients to refer a friend to your facility. Here is an example of the wording we use on the signs at the beginning of each year:

Remember to send a personal thank-you note or gift to the person who refers a new client to you. Let them know the results the person has achieved since starting working with you and acknowledge that they were the catalyst for helping that person take action towards their fitness goals.


Who has the money to take out ads in magazines or newspapers or create a commercial for the radio or television? If you're like most fitness businesses, you don't! There is a way to get free advertising, but you do have to work for it.

The key is to develop a list of important local media contacts in your area including print, radio and TV. Use that list to:

Regularly mail or e-mail your media contents to develop ongoing relationships.

Tease them with some health and fitness information. For example, you could say "I was just at an international health and fitness conference in Las Vegas and I learned some of the most incredible exercises for the abdominals – stuff you've never seen before. Call me if you'd like to hear more about it," or "I was just at a fitness convention in San Francisco and I've got to tell you about some of the hottest and craziest equipment new on the market," or offer a human interest story about one of your clients and their success (with your client's approval, of course).

Just whet your contacts’ appetites for more, and you can expect at least one or two callbacks from each of your efforts. Of course, each time they run your idea, you are mentioned as a health and fitness expert. You can also ask for your business and your number to be listed so people can contact you if they have  questions.

Offer to write a free weekly/monthly fitness column.

The time spent writing the article will be well worth the advertising value.

Offer key media contacts a couple of complimentary training sessions.

This lets them try out your services and see what it's all about. Perhaps propose a “Media Fitness Challenge” or “Getting into Shape” challenge and pit reporters and producers of various networks against each other. The press you get will be huge.

My own story is an example of just how much free advertising you can get through media contacts.

When I first moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, and started my new business, I began sending regular mailings and faxes to the media. In the beginning the response was poor. But after a few months, I started to get at least one or two call backs from every effort. Soon I was being quoted in various sources and being asked to appear on local radio and television shows for 3-5 minute guest fitness appearances. In the beginning, I wrote many free articles and did many free appearances, but the exposure I got was priceless. My first big break came when a high-circulation newspaper in British Columbia asked me to write a weekly fitness column for them, and was actually willing to pay me! Three years later, I'm still writing for the paper every week, and it’s given me much more exposure than I would have been able to afford through traditional advertising.

As a result of the newspaper exposure, I was asked by a local publisher to write a book, and within a year Go For Fit - The Winning Way to Fat Loss was published. This led to writing assignments with well-known magazines in Canada and elsewhere, and I eventually co-founded a local health and fitness magazine.

All of this exposure came from just committing to some free work in the beginning. Sometimes new trainers expect things to just happen. If you want to succeed, you will have to work at it. Remember this, what goes around, comes around. And your efforts will not go unnoticed!


The last critical aspect of prospecting for clients is ensuring that you have a strong and diverse online presence. At my studio, we focus our energy on the website, blog and Facebook page. We link all our online resources together and do our best to create a consistent, branded experience throughout. This allows clients and potential clients to easily connect with the business through a variety of online media resources.

Here’s a taste of our approach, to give you an idea of where to start:



Facebook Page


Now that you are armed with three great important ways to prospect for clients, it’s time to take action:

  1. Set a goal for how many gift cards you will give out this month. Then make it happen.
  2. Start sending out weekly press releases and building your media contact list.
  3. Revamp your Web presence and consider other ways to market your services online, for example Twitter, Google+, Pininterest, etc.

These are not one-time tasks, of course; you have to stick with it to build a healthy client base. But if you do, over time your business will grow and you’ll see more and more potential clients line up for your training services.