Standing out in the fitness industry today is a must, if you want to make fitness a full-time career. So many young trainers get into the industry assuming they will be successful financially simply because they are fit and knowledgeable. The reality is very different.
Providing clientele with effective exercise programs to achieve the desired results is only the first step. That is actually the easy part for quality trainers. The challenge, then, lies in moving beyond the role of average busy trainer to a true fitness entrepreneur. While not everyone in the fitness industry may desire such achievement, there are many who do but simply lack the direction to get there.
So how can you truly differentiate myself from others, train less and enjoy more financial security? The answer centers on one simple concept: over-delivering.
Face it — many people in the fitness industry simply fall short here. Given a choice (and there are many these days), customers will always opt for the service with the best perceived value. How many times have you heard someone complain that they overpaid for a service or that the product was not worth the money? The perceived value for them did not equate with the cost.
The following are concepts and ideas that have proven effective for me and can be applied to your training business as well.
Exceed Client Expectations at All Times
This rule seems simple, but unless you routinely survey clients, you will not truly know how well you are doing. Consider doing such things as:
·         Sending new client welcome packets containing a signed letter, relevant articles and a written description of your referral program within one week of signing up
·         Calling 24 hours after the initial session to assess response to the workout
·         Hosting client appreciation events
·         Sending content-rich electronic newsletters one to two times per month
·         Utilizing birthday and training anniversary cards
·         Using surveys and eliciting open feedback at least quarterly
·         Going the extra mile and doing the unexpected, whether it is researching topics, preparing travel workouts or giving them healthy recipes
·         Keeping your facility and equipment clean at all times
·         Returning all client phone calls in less than eight hours
·         Returning client emails in less than 24 hours
Identify Where Your Strengths and Passions Intersect
To excel, you must first understand what you do better than others and, more importantly, what you are most passionate about. Dedicate your time and energy to developing these talents. Many trainers end up trying to do too much or get talked into performing tasks that are not meaningful to them — these are crippling mistakes.
Once you find this intersection, you will enjoy a renewed spirit and find that training is not really work at all. Your passion will shine through naturally, and your clients will be thrilled to work with you and refer more business.
Develop a Niche within the Industry
To be the best, you must clearly define what you have to offer and why people should seek you out for it. You also must build your own personal brand and document success stories. Do not simply emulate someone else in the industry because he or she was successful. Develop your own approach and style through science and practical application. Also, be prepared to take a few shots along the way as you climb the ladder of success.
Study Your Competition
If you want to over-deliver, you must know what others in the marketplace are doing. Learn from their pricing, marketing and programming. Determine what they do and do not do well. The application of such knowledge will reduce your learning curve, reduce mistakes and help guide your decision making.
Analyze Trends and Consumer Spending Patterns
One mistake trainers often make is to assume their clients will never stop training. The economy is always a factor to some degree, but you should also keep in mind that life-altering events (job change, pregnancy, divorce, etc.), dissatisfaction or even boredom may cause a client to suddenly stop training. Plan "A" is great when it is working, but always have a Plan "B."
Stay up on developing markets, and be on the cutting edge to maximize your presence. The window of opportunity may be small, and timing is everything. If you are first and successful, you must work hard to maintain your market share and know that people will copy you.
Keep in mind, again, that gravitating toward new trends relies upon you being passionate about this particular area of fitness and emotionally committed to it. Broadening the scope of referrals is always recommended in case any one aspect of your business drops off.
Think outside the Box to Leverage Your Time and Talents
You can only trade so much time for money. Therefore, it is critical to find other ways to generate income and earn more per hour. Consider the following ideas:
o    Online training and consulting
o    Informational products: e-books, DVDs, training manuals and podcasts
o    Phone coaching and teleseminars
o    Grocery shopping tours
o    Boot camps and group fitness
o    Participation in networking groups
o    Donating your time and talents for charity
o    Speaking at industry events
Use your electronic newsletters to build customer relationships, increase your customer list and position yourself as the "expert" in your chosen area. Building your list will increase overall exposure and will allow for additional selling opportunities. Just be sure to offer relevant information, and avoid selling too strongly on a repeated basis.
Becoming an author will also introduce immediate credibility. Provided the material is unique and fills a void in the marketplace, you will see significant growth and recognition, thereby allowing you to raise your fees and sell even more products. Your new customers will even give you new ideas for future products.
Public speaking is another great way to increase exposure locally and nationally. While you may volunteer your time in many cases, you are also building your brand and raising awareness, which often leads to opportunities down the road. Giving back should be part of every fitness professional's nature, and sharing knowledge that improves the lives of others will strengthen your brand.
Never Stop Learning
To be more successful today than yesterday, you must strive to acquire new knowledge and improve your processes. A few key things to implement are:
v  Perform a routine self-performance analysis
v  Ask for critical feedback from clients and staff
v  Read one new educational book per month
v  Join a mastermind group of like-minded fitness professionals who can accelerate your growth and share common experiences
v  Know the current research related to your field
v  Seek out experienced business mentors
v  Never be afraid to ask others for help
To stand apart, you must often do the things that unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Set goals and have high expectations. Some people say under-promise and over-deliver. I simply prefer to over-deliver by working hard and doing the "little things" right day-in and day-out. Your clients will notice, and you will certainly distinguish yourself as the best of the best.
Brian Schiff, PT, CSCS, ( is a nationally respected physical therapist, author and fitness professional, and he is the owner of Fitness Edge, a personal training and sport-specific conditioning facility in Dublin, Ohio.