How to Grow, Market and Retain Clients when Starting a Personal Trainer Business

Introduction: A personal trainer sells services to people who become clients. Clients are your gold. In fact, the greatest amount of time spent in this job of personal training, is getting the client, so retaining those you have is very important. You can spend valuable time and money on marketing but if you can't keep the clients once you get them, you are pretty much in trouble.

Retaining clients, marketing and growing your business toward a strong and solid affair is the basis for this career you are choosing. You have to learn to master techniques for these purposes. If you are really good at what you do, your clients will do the marketing for you and create the growth you want.

"When you think about this, you can see that client retention, client satisfaction, and client attention becomes the main focus of all you do."

A. Look at marketing. There are many ways to try and sell your services. Before you begin, give your branding, your name and logo a lot of thought. If you aren't very creative in this area there are people who are, and you would be wise to seek them out. Another way to figure this out is to go on-line and observe the names and logos of many businesses. Study these and figure out what they have in common. You will need to choose color, design, and then a name that expresses what you do and what you stand for. When you do choose a name there are some steps you need to take.

If you use your own name as your business name that will work well, but if you don't choose to do this, if you use your name in combination with any other word or solely use a created business name, then in all legal matters you become "ABC Fitness" doing business as (DBA)John Doe. If you decide to use a "fictitious" or name other than your own, you may be required to register the name with your county or state. Naming your business with a name that people will recognize as representative of a personal trainer is important. Your name can be one of your best advertisements. It will be on your business cards, your handouts, your website and your receipts. Each of these is a form of marketing your business.

A website is almost a given. People who want to find something go on-line and do a search. You need a website, though it doesn't need to be fancy or complicated. Think of it as your storefront. It should be personable, clear, and communicate your services, fees, times and contact information. Eventually you might want to link up to larger sites for independent trainers. You can offer videos, free exercise information, nutrition tips and places in your town where people can access free or cheap health options. You want to be the "go to place "for fitness info in your community. Posting free videos, and blogging can attract a lot of people to your site. If you have good communications skills, you can become a trusted friend just by using this marketing tool. Gaining the trust of people is valuable.

Another way to market your business is to hit the pavement and talk to people. Hand out information and ask for e-mails then go home and make a follow up contact with them. You have to work every angle, every day, and stay on top of it. Pay attention to the needs in your community that are not being filled. That is a great place to begin. You have to sell yourself and remember that everyone needs a physical trainer. You have to believe in yourself if people are to believe in you.

Use your clients to market. Give them easily shared documents they can give to friends. Come up with your own personal branding of a technique, a creative name for an exercise routine or workout. Zumba, Tae-bo, Koga, all were just exercise routines given crazy names, branded and put on the internet by personal trainers. Keep it fun. You can also get listed for free on google business map sites. Your local chamber of commerce can hook you up with local leaders of business. You can offer them real scientific articles about how much more productive workers are when they are healthy and fit. Workers who exercise regularly actually have a higher self-esteem, take fewer sick days, and require less in health costs. Any business owner would be open to an idea that will benefit his bottom line.


B. Your clients are your best marketing tool. When your clients refer you to people they know, that is the best billboard you could want. So how do you make that happen? You have to do your job well, with confidence, kindness, knowledge, honesty and fairness. When you work with a client, make that client feel your attention. Focus on his needs, who he is and what he is about. Retaining clients in any business is an ongoing effort. You have to learn things about them and respond to them in personal ways. If Alice loves yellow squash, send her a great recipe for it. If Bert has a grandchild who loves model planes, find out about an air show coming to town and let him know. It does not matter if they go or not. What matters is you thought of them as a person other than simply as a client.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Personal Trainer course?

Some businesses put up signs like, "we don't have clients, we have friends." Those are meaningless. It is what you do that counts. Make your place of work inviting, clean, comfortable and open. When your clients come in for their session, take the final 15 minutes and go over 2 or 3 exercises for their homework. Give them some diagrams explaining exactly how to do them. This will not only be good for them; it makes them think of you when they are at home. It doesn't take money to retain clients, it takes making connections. Personal connections are not crossing the line of personal intimacy, there is a big difference.

Offer loyal clients some discounts once in a while, keep them informed of health fairs in the community and other related events. Offer free early morning yoga classes in the park on Saturdays or connect with college students by putting exercise to the current music fad. Be different, but be sincere. If you have difficulty socially, get a partner to work with you. Donate some personal training sessions at a charitable event and get yourself out there. You can offer clients shopping sessions to teach them how to shop for healthy foods. Get a friend to video tape you and put it on your website. You might even make the local news. Always think about a niche service, a boot camp weekend, a workout dance party, or other ideas that might gain you contacts with new clients and keep the current clients interested.

You cannot stop reinventing what you do, looking around for places that are not being tapped with services and being creative. If no one knows you are there, you cannot succeed in this business.


C. Growth can mean many things. You've heard people say, "I want to grow my business." But what does that really mean? It means different things to different people. For some it means increasing profits, for some having a larger facility, more employees and equipment, and for others an increase in clients. For some it means all of those. Part of setting up goals is to be specific about where you want your business to go. In 3-5 years that vision may change but you have to have something to work towards. Even if you want to retain a smaller business, there will be things you want to improve. Maybe you want to diversify your clientele, mentor kids who struggle, connect with other small fitness freelancers, help your community to become healthier, or develop competitions in fitness. You need to know where you are going.

Possibly you want to churn out videos and make money on advertisements on-line, or maybe you want to be a speaker about fitness and health benefits, or start a line of health products. You may simply want to make enough money to be able to survive, and that's ok too. But one day you may decide you want something more. Few people who go into business do not want to improve or grow in some way. You may find, after a few years of doing nothing, you are bored.

Fitness in a worldwide industry. You could live anywhere and earn a living as a professional personal trainer. If you have a sense of adventure you may decide to try working in another country. Most people in most careers change their focus within their industry and some move into side industries like nursing, nutrition, teaching or training trainers. Sometimes your growth happens because you decide to learn to be more business savvy and take a business class, or you feel the need to improve your ability to talk to people and join a social circle. Growth in your business will not happen without you deciding it will happen. It isn't a natural part of business. It is hard work.

In the personal training industry, like many others, the more people you meet, the more people you introduce yourself to, the more people you invite to call you for a consultation, the more clients you will get. So you have to practice all the time. You cannot lose any opportunity to tell people what you do and then follow up on each of them. Have your card and your cost sheet available when you are asked. You might be able to summarize your fees on the back of a business card. Be ready, be approachable, be open, sincere and forward in a respectful manner. If you aren't cut out to sell yourself, you may be better off working for an established center, at least until you find the confidence to let people know that you can make a difference in their lives.

D. Conclusion and Assignment: Growing your business, retaining clients and marketing your skills is a continuous part of this business. Just because you have 25 personal clients today does not mean you will have them tomorrow. It is not a given. You have to earn the right to serve them. This can be done by knowing the field. Read constantly about what new fads are starting, and be ready when you clients bring them up, so you can discuss them intelligently. Your clients will learn that you are knowledgeable and aware and will be more confident in you. This creates more chance that they will refer you to friends and stay with you for a longer period of time.

Be flexible with your clients. If a client has to cancel at the last minute and it is a rare occurrence, remind the client of your policy but then admit to the client that because they have been so committed in their program you are willing to bend the rules for them. Find ways to show your appreciation. Don't forget the value of home assignments for your clients. It can be keeping a food journal, breathing exercises or just walking each day. Try to stay involved in their increased good health beyond your training.

Stay educated. Go to conferences, take new classes yourself, learn about new machines and obtain increased accreditation. Your clients need to know that you are invested in fitness and they will be more likely to stay invested in you. Remember to listen to your client without interruption. Your clients will tell you what they want from you. Don't provide a program that you think they need, provide one that they think they need. The client knows himself best and you don't. The client may not be willing to tell you all of his issues so be aware of exactly what his goals are.

One of the main things that is difficult for some trainers to understand is that they are educating their clients to learn to maintain their own health and fitness. If you are successful, your clients will learn to exercise and work toward their goals independent of you. That should be your goal and their goal. If you are not helping them improve in the way they want, something needs to change. Your encouragement and the exercises you provide have to show results for the client to feel successful with make them see you as successful, so it is in your best interest to encourage each to set individual goals and make a commitment to themselves to do the work because it will benefit them.

Some final advice; never throw away your contact information from potential or past clients. Always let your contacts, and hopefully there are many, know about new packages, programs or services you offer. Even if they aren't interested, the flier you send them may reach someone who is interested. Look professional and make everything you wear and use advertise your business.

As you grow your clientele and your business in whatever way that may be, don't forget that you have office work to do as well as working with clients. Stay organized and put your best foot forward.

A summary of your assignments for this article:

1. Decide on a name for your business

2. Begin work on a logo

3. Start working on your website.

P.T. Tips 
Growing fitness programs have some things in common that should be addressed. Personal trainers who are more successful are those who continually grow their love of good health and nutrition. They embrace their choice of career as a life choice and they live what they teach. They seek to bring the world to a place where they can enjoy life and live longer. They know that what they do makes a difference in all people and they don't hide that. Going to work, for a successful trainer, is a joy, and the successful trainer creates an atmosphere that is encouraging, fun, and upbeat. Great professional personal trainers share their vision, their own goals and create a mindset in the client that they too can have a better life.