Who are your best prospects? That's a question marketing experts in every arena seek to answer. When it comes to personal trainers and fitness studio operators, the answer to the question is clear. Or is it? Let's try a multiple-choice exam.
Question:  Who Are Your Best Prospects?
            A. People who have physical or emotional pain that can
                 be alleviated through exercise?
            B. Individuals seeking weight loss?
            C. Affluent populations?
            D. Athletes?
            E. People who have inquired but failed to commit?
            F.  People who are intimidated by mainstream health clubs?
            G. All of the Above
            H. None of the Above
            Can it be letter "G?" Nope. It cannot possibly be "all" if the question asks for "best." A marketing expert who told you to direct your marketing toward all the populations would really be telling you he or she hasn't a clue who the best prospects really are. It's the old "throw spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks" methodology, a strategy you don't need to retain an expert to apply.
            So what's the answer? Well, it's "H." None of the above. Everyone listed in the multiple-choice question is a potential prospect, but there's one distinctive group that is, without question, your most responsive niche: Your clients and customers!
            You must be thinking, "Whoa, hold on, Phil. Up until now you've always given us good advice, but now you're slipping off your rocker. Our clients can't be prospects! They're already committed."
            Let's reframe that line of thinking. What single thread runs through each and every one of your committed clients? They've responded to your marketing. Every client, without exception, has bought into the possibility that you can help them achieve, and every client has validated his or her buy-in with money changing hands. These are your proven buyers.
            Let's go back to the question. I didn't ask who are your best prospects for personal training services. I asked who are your best prospects, and while personal training is the core of your business, if it's the entirety of it you're missing out on the potential to build a business that continues to escalate in profitability and continues to provide a greater ROI each year.
            I'm suggesting you build out your offerings slowly, methodically and, with a focus on increasing prosperity while providing great value to clients, never letting go of your core business. Let's go back to a simple business premise I've addressed in previous issues but bears repeating.
There are three ways to increase profitability:

  • More clients
  • More dollars changing hands during each client action
  • More actions per client
                Too many fitness proprietors limit their marketing to "more clients," and once you have a foundational nucleus of clients, that is the most challenging of the three. I'm suggesting that you devote some thought and energy into attracting more dollars during each client action, and if you do this effectively, you'll find it escalates the other two areas as well.
                Allow me, before I talk about the specific offerings and marketing vehicles, to share a part of the secret of my success in consulting with independent health club owners. In 1980, it was pretty simple, with an understanding of the marketplace and a grasp on business principles built around weighing financial pumps against financial drains for an independent club to prosper. Buy quality equipment, market aggressively, maintain an adequate sales force and work to control attrition.
                The world has changed quite a bit since then. Today, the large health club chains are putting up facilities that seem to grow like weeds in independent club owners' backyards. It's easy to be "the best club in town" if you're driven and you start out on an equal playing field. The large chains have a playing field all their own. They can sell memberships for $19 a month and prosper. Their administrative costs per club are reduced due to centralized administration. Ditto for their marketing, and with multiple clubs, million dollar advertising campaigns can go a long way. When they buy cleaning supplies, paper, office furniture and computer printer cartridges, they're buying, not for one club, but for scores of clubs, perhaps hundreds of clubs. Their costs are lower; their marketing power is greater; and the independent club owner can't compete, at least not if they're going to attempt to beat the large chains at their own games.
                The trick to 21st century independent club success lies in changing the game, changing the terrain and flipping the paradigm on its ear. Rather than striving to grow consistently by selling "more memberships," I teach independent club owners to prosper by teaching their members to happily spend. An independent club with a commitment to thrill members can ensure long-term security by getting members committed to effective for-fee services and by selling products that offer healthy profit margins as they contribute to member results. Ideally a 21st century independent club would claim half of its gross revenue from membership, a small percentage of that from new membership and half of its membership from member spending. Members are the proven buyers. Members are the individuals who raise their hands and say, "Yes, I see the value here." Members, therefore, are the best prospects.
                This translates directly to the operation of any fitness facility. Ultimately, we're not selling a product as much as we're selling a feeling. We're doing our job if our customers and clients reach a point where they feel good about themselves and attribute at least a part of that sense of well being to programs we provide.
                If we're going to prosper by recognizing our best prospects, we have to create profit opportunities that directly tie to client results or gratification. There are several avenues:
  • Safe nutritional products that will increase energy, improve performance or assist in recovery
  • Necessities that clients will purchase somewhere else unless you supply them conveniently
  • Educational Resources
  • Exercise Aids
  • Referral Vehicles
                Of course, as you use external aids to enhance results, or to further boost your perceived value, you might find you also increase the number of client visits (more actions per client). The fifth category in the list above, referral vehicles, clearly increases new client traffic. So by directing your focus toward your best prospects, you wind up capitalizing in all three areas of financial growth.
                Phil Kaplan is a fitness industry expert and has developed many successful programs and products aimed at helping fitness professionals gain respect and financial rewards. For more information, visit www.philkaplan.com.           
    Internal Marketing
    Five most powerful vehicles, in no specific order, for
    marketing to your best prospects — your present clients and members.
    1. Cardio Hangers — On the exercise equipment where clients and members park themselves, you have a captive audience. By writing articles specific to your products and offerings and hanging them from the cardio equipment, you create an internal marketing goldmine.
    2. Newsletters — If you send out newsletters to clients and members, in hard copy or electronic format, write articles (not ads) specific to the virtues of your offerings and a tactful expression of the opportunity to purchase the products and services you write about can lead to a boost in revenues each time the newsletter is distributed.
    3. Personal Contact — I once read a book that was titled something like, "How to Get Anything You Want." It was a short book and it could have been one word: "Ask." That's the vital step most people ignore, and wishing for something is far less likely to deliver the desired result than asking for it. Ask your clients if they'd like a post-workout drink, if they'd like to take home a stability ball or if they'd like to sign up for your new four-week group seminar series.
    4. Networking — Marketing is not a mission with a beginning and an end. It's an ongoing extension of your business operation, and the most powerful form of marketing for personal trainers is marketing that puts you in front of groups of influential people. Include your service and product offerings in your networking presentations, and over time, both existing clients and new prospective clients will begin to happily spend.
    5. Product Ride-Alongs — Each time you sell a tangible item, you have an opportunity to promote another. Use bag stuffers, flyers, inserts and left-over newsletters and promotional vehicles that ride home with any tangible product purchase.