The recession-proof personal trainer

Here are some practical tips that we can offer as fitness professionals to help clients who may be in a less favourable financial position.

School Of Personal Training Posted Feb 22, 2013 Future Fit Training


The recession-proof personal trainer

 Sometimes the simple things can be the most effective.

Let’s face it. The current economic climate isn’t ideal for any business. So how can you launch a successful personal training business or, if you’re already a personal trainer, how can you maintain your client base?

Here are some practical tips that we can offer as fitness professionals to help clients who may be in a less favourable financial position than perhaps they’re used to. Sometimes the simple things can be the most effective:

  1. Offer group training sessions. If two of your clients are thinking of reducing from two sessions to one session per week, why not recommend they see you once a week for a one-to-one session and once a week for a small group session? Or take it a step further and as well as offering one-to-one personal training, offer boot camp workouts, circuit training or even launch a walking group or running club. It’s also possible to significantly reduce the cost to the client and still increase the revenue for yourself - would you rather train one client for £40 or train 10 clients at £5 per person and generate £50?

  2. Set up personal training by direct debit. Extensive research shows that the perceived cost is higher if we keep getting reminded of it. If your client hands you £40 cash every time they see you, we’re reminding them about cost rather than benefit. Why do businesses (such as health club memberships, utility bills, mobile phones, charities and so on) encourage us to pay by direct debit? Simple - we forget we’re paying for it!

  3. For the vast majority of clients, analysing food diaries and encouraging them to eat right is critical. Get into the detail and help your clients plan healthy and economical meals. This really is about planning. Don’t listen to the ridiculous claim that ‘eating healthy is too expensive’ when they’ve just told you they’ve eaten out three nights in the past week!

  4. Are you able to offer 30-45 minute sessions? You wouldn’t normally offer a 30-minute session at 50% of the cost of an hour session, but it would be realistic to offer 1-hour sessions at £40 and 30-minute sessions at £25.

  5. To grow your business and save your clients money, consider offering existing clients a free session if they introduce a new client to you. Referrals are a great way to grow your client base.

  6. Add value to your personal training offering through service – include fitness testing, analysing food diaries, providing consultations and body composition assessments, goal setting and evaluation reports.

  7. Add value to your personal training offering through products - provide your clients with boxing gloves, a sweat towel or a drinks bottle – it’s a great way of marketing yourself too!

  8. Diversify. Can you offer sports massage therapy, NLP, weight management services or training seminars?

The above ideas are very simple and straightforward. Be careful not to under-value yourself, which can be tempting. The reality is that everything has a value. When disposable income decreases, expenditure is thrown under the spotlight for all of us. The truth is that we have to get better as personal trainers and move the perception of our service away from being a luxury and towards being a necessity. The problem with some luxuries is that the benefit and pleasure can be instant.

Think about other leisure activities that compete for our clients’ disposable income such as going to the cinema or a restaurant. In a world where income drops, unemployment grows and the working environment becomes more and more favourable to the employer and less to the employee (i.e. people work harder and harder and feel less and less rewarded). People soon seek escapism, instant gratification, reward and enjoyment. Thus, the inclination to go to the pub, enjoy a meal out, watch the latest release at the cinema or indulge in some comfort eating often grows in times of hardship. Simply put, we need something to cheer ourselves up!

It’s difficult to compete with the immediate pleasure of watching a great film or having a delicious meal out when it can take considerably more time for a client to achieve their training goals, whether it’s to take 2 minutes off of their 10K best time, drop a dress size, or squat 100Kg. Hence the job of helping our clients make the right decisions and look after their health and well-being can become extremely difficult. We need to focus on linking action with consequence. Educating our clients about the negative consequences of not making the right nutrition choices and failing to exercise regularly is more important than ever.

Personal trainers have the power to bring sound, long-term results through the application of long-term, sustainable behaviour change. This will remain the foundation of a successful personal training business. What needs to be added is the enjoyment factor. Do your clients really want to keep coming back? Make training fun. Endorphins will naturally flow around the body due to exercise, so give your clients new ideas, keep the sessions varied and leave them laughing and smiling throughout their training sessions.

We can turn to our Olympic heroes for some inspiration here. The sacrifices of some athletes and their efforts to achieve success must be admired. In terms of ‘inspiring a generation’, sacrificing a small amount of time and money with a personal trainer to achieve a better level of health and fitness should be a habit. We just need to make sure it’s worth it for our clients. How? We need to offer results and enjoyment. Simple!