Think of some the most recent personal training ads you've seen. Chances are, they are dense with copy, promising "muscular hypertrophy" and topped with a bicep-flexing photo of the shirtless trainer. These well-meaning but ineffective ads are so common, they have become clichéd.
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?), you must 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 is that 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 60%-80% of all major household purchases. Big ticket items, like long-term personal training, do not necessarily need a husband's stamp of approval. And if a woman trusts you, chances are she'll buy training for her teenager and husband, too.
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 find those they trust and admire, and they hold them close, placing 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 look for another woman who behaves much like they do and is of a similar age, size or disposition. 
              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. 
              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 as a result 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 yet, even if you are a woman! Statistics reveal that most women value feeling healthy over looking good. 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 material 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?
  • 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.
  • 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 it will be profitable for you if you are able to keep patient with her.
              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" and 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.

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!"
Shelby Murphy is the owner/director of Shelby Murphy Training & Fitness personal training studio and Granbury Adventure Boot Camp for Women. She served as Marketing and Member Services Director and as one of the leading personal trainers in Granbury and Austin, Texas. 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 info, visit, email her at or call 817.326.6321.