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A fellow trainer and studio owner recently asked me to review a marketing piece he created that was generating dismal results. The piece was meant to communicate a new program that he was initiating for women, but it failed to capture much interest. The program was solid, but the marketing wasn't — why? Because he, like so many trainers, was speaking the wrong language.
That trainer isn't alone. Well-meaning, but ineffective marketing is so common, some of it is almost clichéd, too much like a recent personal trainer's ad, littered with too much copy and spewing promises like "muscular hypertrophy" and "be the envy of all your friends." Then, prominently placed, is a bicep-flexing photo of the shirtless trainer, whose serious gaze, furrowed brow and teeth-clenched jaw makes the potential female client (or any client) want to run from exercise, not toward it.
You don't have to have a bonus X chromosome to understand that what may impress you as a fitness enthusiast is not necessarily what will drive clients to your door. If you want to grow your training business (and why else would you be here?), youmust update your image and create a message that appeals to women.
Why Women?
Where there are women, there is money. Women make up just over half of the population but control well over half of all spending. That's because she's got more in that Kate Spade clutch than a tube of lipstick. Over the past three decades, median income of men barely budged while that of women soared with a 63% increase. Among full-time working women, the wage gap between them and their male counterparts has dwindled to almost nil.
But perhaps more important, today's woman is usually the decision maker on how most of the household money is spent. Retailers realize that women are the household's Chief Purchasing Officer, and we're not talking just about underpants and Happy Meals. Women make 80% of all home improvement decisions, more than 60% of all car buying decisions and 66% of computer buying decisions. Big ticket items, like long-term personal training, do not necessarily need a husband's stamp of approval. And if a woman trusts you as her trainer, chances are she'll buy training for her teenager and husband as well.
Female clients also tend to be more profitable and loyal. Think about your own client retention — chances are, most of your long-term clients are women. And not only does a woman maintain loyalty, but she also becomes your biggest advocate to her friends. She appreciates when others tap her into quality service providers, and she loves the chance to return the favor. Women provide a much higher return on investment than any other demographic.
Beyond the financial benefits that women bring to your personal training business, studies show marketing that appeals to women also appeals to men. When trainers shape up their communication to contain the pull that women demand, men respond better, too. Go figure!
So how does the consummate trainer well-versed in undulating periodization craft a marketing message that will appeal to the estrogen-blessed masses? By stepping out of conventional gym-think and incorporating the following strategies:
·        Build Relationships
It doesn't take a marketing genius to figure out that women are social creatures. Women have been driven through eons of evolution to build tight relationships and communities, not just for the survival of their young but also for their own stability. Women find those they like and those they trust, and they hold them close and place great value on them. Women tend to build relationships with people with whom they can identify. Watch when women encounter a group of unknown others in a new exercise class — who do they seek out? Nearly every time they seek out another woman who behaves much like they do and is of a similar age, size or disposition. Very rarely will you see a 200-pound, 50-year-old woman hurry to build a friendship with a super-tight 20-something.
That doesn't mean that you have to mold yourself into something you're not just to make every potential client feel comfortable, but it does mean that you need to have an image and a message that is appealing to a large number of people. People, especially women, buy from those they know, like and trust. You must generate trust with your image and message and communicate with her over and over again so that she can come to know you and eventually admire you. A woman will probably see your ads several times, receive your postcard, subscribe to your newsletter, meet you at a Chamber of Commerce event and read the publicity article about your client that lost 75 pounds before she ever decides to give you a call. At that point, don't be surprised if she acts like she's known you forever.
Women also tend to perceive themselves as students in life and seek out people to serve as coaches, mentors and teachers, while men tend to perceive themselves more as masters. This difference in self-perception makes her much more willing to value the guidance you give her when you package yourself as a knowledgeable and motivating teacher. She expects you to bring to the relationship guidance and inspiration that she can't provide herself, so make sure your marketing materials position you as an able leader, not just a likeable friend.
·        Sell Benefits, Not Features
Also, make sure your marketing materials target the positive aspects of your product. Anybody who has taken Marketing 101 knows to sell the benefits of a product rather than the features, but this is particularly important when you're pursuing the holder of the purse. A woman doesn't care as much that you have state-of-the-art gym equipment and the most educated trainers in town at your studio. She does care that your trainers routinely help women like her lose an average of 20 pounds and feel better and more confident than they've felt since high school.
Make sure you use facts and figures secondarily. Women like details, so sometimes they want specifics, but only after an emotional hook. Improving her upper body strength by 25% is nice, but it doesn't mean anything to her until you communicate how that will feel. In your brochure or your sales pitch, create the image of toned arms, where there is no residual "wiggle" when she waves to a friend. Help her imagine how sexy she'll feel wearing sleeveless shirts. Only then will an increase in upper body strength matter.
·        Know What's Important to Her
Don't assume you've got women all figured out… even if you are a woman! Continually solicit feedback from your feminine clientele, and determine why they bought from you and why they continue to value your services. Also, ask your clientele, as well as all the women in your life, what is important to them, but be specific. Ask them if they'd rather have more money or more free time. Ask them if they'd rather look like Jessica Alba or have the confidence and poise of Oprah. Ask them what motivated them most or would motivate them most to commit to regular exercise.
In fact, when you look at the statistics, most women say that looking good is secondary to feeling good and being healthy. Of course, this varies with age — many younger women choose to look good because they don't know what feeling lousy is like, so target your message appropriately to your market. Don't assume that just because she's female, she wants to look like a celebrity.
On that same note, understand that most women operate out of empathy rather than envy. When you put out ad copy like, "After training with me, my clients are the envy of all their friends," you'll likely miss your female mark. When women read a testimonial or ad copy about another woman who lost weight, they are more likely to think, "Hmmm, she's a lot like me, so maybe her strategy will work well for me, too."
Also, women value a sense of belonging and being understood very highly. Unlike men, who often want to excel or dominate, your female clients want connection and acceptance. Think of the language you use in your marketing material. Does it speak in tones of conquering and being the best, or does it sell the idea of fitting in and being heard? In a consultation, do you listen to a female prospect, or any prospect for that matter, at least twice as much as you speak?
To understand women, you must understand the value of time. Women today report that time is their most valuable commodity, and most women feel like there isn't nearly enough of it. But women today handle their time better than the media's ideal of the super-stressed, time-starved working mom of the 1980s. Just because women want more time — for themselves and for their families — doesn't mean that they're running around frazzled, trying to be all things to all people. Today's woman has learned that, to have time for the things she wants, she must give up other things, and she's okay with that. So remind her in your advertising that she's a priority, and that you'll make the time she spends training with you very worthwhile.
·        Think Beyond "Pink"
Just because we are speaking about women in generalities, don't believe that all women think alike. The worst thing you can do is assume that you know all of your female clientele based on some gender-bent stereotype and wash all your marketing in pink. Yes, many women like pink, and some women even like kitty cats and butterflies, but you will certainly miss your target if you cutesy-up your programs, your gym or your marketing material. Women who are serious about getting fit and being healthy want a trainer who is serious as well, and to come off as anything less is unprofessional.
A program that has worked really well at my training studio is called Power Diva. And, yes, we give away a pink t-shirt and a tiara that says "Bad Ass" at the end of the 12 weeks, when the client has met her athletic-based goals. But every client who embarks on the Power Diva program knows that it takes commitment and action to meet the ambitious cardio and strength goals that she sets during the first week. So the pink Power Diva shirt and the tiara are worn with pride, as tangible symbols of her accomplishments, rather than silly tokens of gender stereotypes.

·        Understand How Her Decision-Making Is Different
Women are also serious about making up their minds when purchasing a product. While men often make decisions linearly, women make decisions in a spiral path. In other words, women will often revisit ideas or preliminary decisions that seem to have already been finalized. As a trainer marketing your services, don't worry if a potential client asks questions you thought you already addressed. She is seeking reassurance, and your patience will be profitable.
Many women also seek advice and counsel before making a purchase, and this is the perfect opportunity for the savvy trainer to step into the role as "buyer's assistant." Switch caps from "sales" to "expert-looking-out-for-her-best-interests," give her your best recommendation on the fitness program for her, and you'll find her amazingly receptive — and appreciative of your help!
·        Embrace High Standards
Women want all the features and benefits of a product that men want, plus some, so don't change your training services to look out for her best interests— improve them. Reach for superior service and add in extra products to make it a well-rounded package. Always give her your very best, and she'll become a raving fan. Throw in some rewards for her patronage, her loyalty and her referrals, and you'll have her as a client for life.
One immensely successful trainer, who can charge more for her services than most of us dream, is a master at this. Her motto is to always over-deliver. Her clients are treated to daily motivational emails, organic chefs, facials, fashion shows and discounts from other relevant retailers. Why would any client choose a cut-rate trainer, when she can have all the education and experience of this trainer while also being treated like a queen?
Women value quality and, as a group, are willing to pay for it, so pay attention to all the details and make sure everything you do screams "cream of the crop!" This extends beyond the way you train. Pay attention to the way you speak and interact with people. Pay attention to the way you dress, the way you shake hands and the way you make appropriate eye contact. And pay attention to the quality of your business card, your website, your brochure and your advertising. Invest in a quality designer and printer. Find the advertising vehicle that shares your passion for the very best. When you pay attention to all the details, it is guaranteed that she will too.
Shelby Murphy is the Owner/Director of Shelby Murphy Training & Fitness personal training studio and Granbury Adventure Boot Camp for Women. She uses her prior experience and education in marketing to drive a steady female clientele and keep it with a 90% retention rate. For more information, visit www.shelbymurphyfitness.comemail or call 817.326.6321.