Your ‘Golden Ticket’ for your Fitness Business
By: Kelly Stroud
Whether you’re just starting out in the Training Game, or you’ve been training for a while, you’re bound to make a mistake here or there. That’s ok…we’re all human and the occasional mistake will inevitably happen. While the way you handle your mistake is a testament to yourself, we all would prefer to avoid the mistake to begin with!
To become successful with your fitness business, you need to find your Golden Ticket. From what we’ve seen, the Golden Ticket comes in three distinct parts easily referred to as PEP: Pricing, Expertise, and Process.
One of the mistakes made by some trainers who are just starting out boils down to the pricing structure of their fitness classes. Especially in today’s economy, if you set your fees too high you won’t get many clients. If your fees are too low, people don’t think you know what you’re doing and you still won’t get many clients. It’s that elusive “middle of the road” price that will become part of your Golden Ticket.
Pricing is something that should be researched but rarely is. You need to know your area, have a feel for the clientele base you want to attract, your competition’s rates, and not view your pricing schedule as the cornerstone of your success. For example, if you’re located in an affluent area you can charge more than if you’re in a less affluent area. If your area already has six other trainers running similar classes, what do they charge? What is the typical income in your area?
Look around at other trainers. Those who really love what they’re doing, who really care about helping others, are typically more successful than those who are in it for the potential income. Even with today’s growing sense of being healthier, fitness classes and memberships are still often among the first things cut out and removed from someone’s lifestyle when times get tough. None of us like the “thrown away” feeling, but that’s exactly what will happen if your eye is focused more on the client’s wallet than the client.
There are some practices that sound good in theory, but end up falling flat in the “real world”. One of the most common misconceptions is that a subscription-type service is the best (and only in some cases) payment method to offer. While in theory, this payment method means a recurring income for the trainer and hassle-free payments for the client. In reality, using this method alone will do much more harm than good.
New clients need to have time to decide if they like you as a trainer, if the location works for them, if the specific time slot is manageable with their schedule, and if they even like what your classes have to offer. If you offer a subscription type service as the only method of payment, you’re cutting out these potential new clients, as they probably aren’t ready to make any kind of long-term commitment yet.
Your best bet is to offer a variety of payment methods such as some way for the new client to pay immediately online with a credit card as well as a way for them to sign up for the class and mail you a check. For those dedicated returning clients consider selling things similar to a Class Pass/Punch card (physical or virtual) as well as some type of subscription offer. This gives both the potential new clients and the existing clients some options they can choose from and offers some flexibility.
We know one trainer who, just four years ago, started out with a group of ladies meeting in her garage. Now, she owns a fitness boot camp business with nearly 1,000 clients. One of the tricks is to be flexible. “People like to feel special and when I tailor a membership or work with a client on program and payment, then I’ve sold them once again.” This trainer has developed a bond with her clients and makes it a point to not only know them by name, but also know something about each client as a person. Almost all of her business is from returning clients and she no longer has to worry about filling a class or finding new recruits. Since this particular trainer has such a great bond with her clients, they advertise for her. “Word of mouth” is one of the best forms of advertising you can get and, if nurtured properly, ongoing! To this day, this trainer still offers various ways a client (new or existing) can pay for upcoming classes. After all, if it works don’t fix it!
Offering a ‘Money Back Guarantee’ also goes a long way towards lowering the barrier of entry for potential new clients.
This is a more complex area than what most people think. Not only does “expertise” refer to your training or the certifications you may have received, but it also includes your “people skills”. You could be the person who is the most knowledgeable about health and fitness in the country, but if you’ve got bad “people skills” you won’t retain many clients.
Quite often, the bond you make with your clients is more important to them than the fitness routines themselves. People need to feel comfortable with you and feel like you are looking out for what’s best for them. Keep the workouts fun and exciting by altering them and inventing themes. “Survivor” isn’t only a popular TV show; it’s also a popular boot camp theme. Be creative and offer a “Survivor Day” containing various challenges for your clients. “The Amazing Race” is another popular show you can play off of. Create a physical scavenger hunt. Don’t be afraid to joke around a bit and laugh with your clients. Have FUN. Develop those bonds and nurture those trust levels. When you’ve won over the client, you’ve gained a step towards getting more repeat business.
Be involved in your community and participate in anything fitness related. Whether you volunteer at a local community center, to help with a local marathon, or organize a community fitness class to help a charity, time well spent is not time wasted. These actions will get you “out there” in the community where people will start to know you and trust in your fitness knowledge and commitment.
Of course additional training and certifications are important. Some community colleges offer health and fitness classes at a reasonable cost. Some fitness conferences, as well as various online certification companies, offer the opportunity for various certifications. Take advantage of these offerings to help establish yourself as a Fitness Professional in your community. You can even put an announcement in your local newspaper each time you obtain a new certification to help promote yourself and your business.
Ok, so you’ve got your pricing in place and you’re continuously working on your level of expertise… now what? No matter where you’ve set your pricing, no matter what level of expertise you hold, none of it matters if potential new clients can’t easily join your classes.
Remember K.I.S.S., the acronym for the principle “Keep it simple, stupid”. Don’t make things so difficult that people walk away. This doesn’t refer only to the physical process, but the mental process as well. Everything should be easy to understand and easy for the client to join in. Offer options, but don’t be overwhelming with too many.
Include a video, pictures, and testimonials from existing clients to your web site to give the potential client an idea of what to expect. Especially if one of your selling points states that what you have to offer is FUN, not just another workout chore, a few images of your clients having an obviously good time might be that one ‘push’ your site visitor needs to join in!
Be sure to consider exactly how you’ll collect the new class signups. Some people are painfully shy and the thought of making a phone call to a complete stranger sets them off in a near panic state. For these people, the phrase “Call now to enroll” can be frightening territory to tread.
From the trainer’s perception, you might not want phone calls during any and all times of the day. When you do get a call, you typically have to write something down whether it’s the new client’s name, their phone number or even when they want to attend class. Eventually you’ll end up with dozens of scrap pieces of paper or paper napkins each having some important note scribbled on them that you have to sort through. Is that really how you want to spend your time?
These days, it’s recommended that you offer a way for people to join your classes by using some type of online registration service. These services are much better than phone calls or dozens of emails as they keep the information organized for you. Not only does this help you run your business more smoothly, but you’ll have more time for the actual training aspect if you’re not stuck sorting through dozens of scribbled notes and racking your brain trying to remember a phone conversation from two days ago.
There you have it. The PEP steps that cover the basics needed to get your ‘Golden Ticket’ with your Fitness Business. Anything more detailed depends entirely on you, your offerings, you location, and your clientele. This is just the starting point from which you can expand and grow.
Kelly Stroud is co-owner/operator of MyClassPro.com, an online organization aid and registration system created for fitness trainers dealing with boot camps and group training. For more information, please visit the website at http://www.MyClassPro.com.
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