Client acquisition is the most difficult part of personal training, especially for a new trainer or fitness business.
After all, if there are no clients, there is no business. When planning for expansion, however, it is important to recognize client retention as a vital part of any blueprint.
Your schedule should not be a revolving door of different clients who stay with you for a few sessions and then feel the need to move on. In order to see growth, you need a solid group of clients you retain for the long-term. This group is what you can count on to keep your business afloat, meaning that new clientele will lead to growth and profit.
Even though initial acquisition can be challenging, retention doesn’t have to be. Your interactions and effort with your clients will give them the type of experience that keeps them coming back.
Time and money are the two most prominent things that keep people from hiring a personal trainer. When you’ve done the work to convince them just once, you need to show them why they should continue to spend their time and money to train with you.
Clients want to know that they are getting something positive out of their session. This means that they want to know why training with you is a better option than working out by themselves or following a routine they found online.
If you want to retain your clients, it is your responsibility to show them how you’re worth their time and money. They are coming to you because you are the expert, so you need to prove it. Fully explaining your training method, the reasons behind your exercise selection, and the science behind different movements gives you the opportunity to educate them.
At the end of the day, clients want to know how your training helps them reach their goals. While some clients may be recovering from an injury and want a slow re-introduction to fitness, others may have more specific goals, such as professional drummers or professional athletes. Results are the most prominent way to show this, but they can take a while. In the meantime, you can establish value to your clients by helping them understand and believe in the process.
Every business needs to be prepared for the inevitable. It’s why every small business should have business insurance, and there’s even specific insurance fit for personal trainers. You will also need an inventory system, and a POS (point of sale) software your clients are comfortable with, and training gear and equipment. But when it comes to personal trainers, clients take the #1 spot. Feeling like a priority is an important factor when a client decides between staying with you long-term or trying another trainer. If they feel like you are engaged and connected throughout the entire session, they will feel the commitment you have to their success.
This is difficult to accomplish if you do not show up on time. It sounds like such a small thing, but if a client sees you walking in late, they will begin to question your commitment to their training. It will seem, to them, as though there are more important things consuming your time and they will begin to question if it is affecting their success.
The same concept applies to the preparation you should put into a session. It is a very unprofessional look to make a workout up as you go. Planning ahead does take extra time, which is normally unpaid, but you will see a return on your investment over the long-run when the same clients continue to train with you for years.
This is the single most important aspect of retaining your clients–it can even be more important than the results they achieve.
Many people stay with their trainers for years, even if they never see a change in their body, because they are comfortable with their trainers. We want to see results, of course, but the friendships and relationships that form between clients and their trainers play a more critical role in retention than anything.
Taking an interest in your client’s life outside of the gym is a great way to lay the foundation of a strong relationship. Find out about their interests, families, and experiences. This way, you have conversation starters each session and, when you ask about their lives, your clients will appreciate the attention you’re paying to them as people.
Having a solid relationship with your clients also helps them to trust you implicitly. Once their belief in you is established and strong, they are more likely to listen to your suggestions and advice, leading them to success in their goals. As previously noted, results in equal retention.
The majority of clients are respectful of your time, as a trainer. They know that the fee they pay is for an allotted amount of time you spend with them, and they expect to be on their own when the session is up.
For that reason, checking on your clients outside of their time with you will show the commitment you have to their success. You can let them know they are an important part of your life and business by sending something as simple as “How was your workout yesterday?”
Keeping in touch also gives you the chance to supplement your training. You can make suggestions or give them motivation based on your communication. All of this will translate into success over the long-term. As your clients have success, they’ll want to continue, and because of your effort, they’ll want to continue with you.
If you want your clients to stay with you for more than a few months, you need to show them what they can accomplish by continuing to train with you. In other words, you need to help them think of short-term workouts being a part of long-term goals.
Start by helping them uncover a long-term goal. Once that has been established, along with finding out the reason they want to achieve that particular goal, set smaller milestones to help them get there. Reaching their short-term goals helps the client feel successful and stay on track for their long-term goal, which is what keeps them in your schedule.
Personal training is a people business–it is you and your client. If you are unable to keep your current clients, you have to rely on acquiring new ones, which is a much harder task than retaining the ones you have now.
Maintaining a long-term business partnership with your clients is not as daunting as it seems. By utilizing the approaches above, you will have clients who see the value in your expertise, who appreciate the service you provide, and who see you as a necessity for achieving their future goals. Follow these steps and watch your business grow.
Luke Fitzpatrick has been published in Forbes, Yahoo! News and Influencive. He is also a guest lecturer at the University of Sydney, lecturing in Cross-Cultural Management and the Pre-MBA Program. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.