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Trainers Want to Know!

Questions I'm Often Asked

by Phil Kaplan

Iíve developed some methods of making any Personal Training business profitable, be it in a health club, a personal training studio, or the business of an independent trainer traveling from home to home.† Every credible trainer knows the frustration of attempting to explain the synergistic relationship between eating and exercise to a fitness hopeful who wants a single tip, a single exercise, or a single pill.† Not unlike the fitness wanter asking for a single sentence solution, trainers want to know what ďthe secretĒ is.† They ask a question specific to compensation and hope that a single answer will turn their businesses around.† The reality is, it is a complete methodology, one which integrates marketing, client relationship building, compensation, record keeping, and time management.

Is it complicated?† Well, itís business, and it isnít any more complicated than any other business . . . but it isnít as simple as a single ad, a single phrase, or a single shift in business practice. †Below you'll find a few of the more common questions answered by a few ďpieces of the professional puzzle.Ē

Marketing vs. Advertising

I discourage trainers from wasting money on advertising.† That doesnít mean ďdonít advertise.Ē† It means, donít advertise unnecessarily, or more accurately, donít advertise unless it is clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that the ad is generating a greater financial return than it is a financial cost.† Is there an exception?† Sure.† Franchises playing follow the leader.† Let me explain.



I meet many trainers who spend between $800 and $2,000 per month on advertising.† Assuming the average trainer generates $50 per working hour, that means the ad would have to result in between sixteen and forty sessions to pay for itself. If the ad ran once, itís possible the return would justify the expense as the client retention can multiply the return many times over.† If, however, the trainer committed to this advertising monthly, that means the first 16-40 sessions conducted are basically a wash.† Many trainers mistake the ad response to signify an acceptable return, however, many of those trainers also advertise free consultations.† If a single ad results in 10 consultations, another $500 in missed revenue is incurred.† That would mean in addition to the 10 consultations, an additional 10 sessions would have to be conducted in order to break even.†† If Iím confusing you with the math, hereís the bottom line.† Iíve consulted with thousands of independent trainers over the years.† Out of those thousand consultations, Iíve seen maybe 20 cases where regular advertising was justified by the return.

Too many trainers believe marketing and advertising are one and the same.† They arenít.† Advertising is a single example of possible marketing efforts, and its downfall is, the cost!† Marketing doesnít have to cost a cent.† Building relationships with owners of stores, networking with special interest groups,† appearing on radio and TV, writing for the local newspaper, and appearing at charity races and events are all cost-free examples of advertising, and every one can result in a significant increase in revenues.† As a matter of fact, these cost-free marketing efforts are even more valuable than advertising, as consumers perceive advertising as exactly what it is.† You buy space in a publication to present a message intended to ďsell.Ē† Conversely, when you are positioned as an expert in networking or media circles, consumers readily receive and respond to your message.† There are even marketing opportunities for which you can get paid such as corporate presentations and seminars.

If you can justify the ad expense, and can see your way clear to a financial return, then by all means advertise, but donít feel obligated to, and recognize that if you are running a successful ad campaign, imagine all the free marketing you can do to supplement it!

Packages vs. Series

Conventionally, trainers sell ďpackages.Ē† If youíre already selling packages, you thought it through as a part of your overall business strategy, and thrilled with the outcome, I certainly wouldnít suggest you change.† On the other hand, if you developed your package offerings because . . . well . . . because ďthatís what trainers do,Ē you might want to re-thing things a bit.

Suppose your time is worth $50 per hour.† Typically, a $50 per hour trainer would offer 5 sessions in a pre-paid package for $200.† That would lower the ďcost per sessionĒ to $40.† If the client were to purchase 10 sessions, it might be $350, and 20 sessions might be $600.† At first all seems dandy (dandy?† Hmmmm, donít think Iíve ever used that word before) as you sell your packages and run off to the bank with nice deposits.† Sell three 10-packs in a week and your deposit slip reads ď$1,050.Ē† The catch is, while that is your deposit, it isnít your money!† Now you owe the client 10 sessions.† That leads to the cash flow dry spell that follows, and if clients, cancel, get sick, or put things on hold for awhile, youíve entered the land of ďOwe,Ē a place trainers donít want to be.

Itís also important to note that if youíre selling 20 sessions for $600, and they really are worth $50, youíre giving up $20 every time you train a client.† The day I stopped selling packages was the day I started making money in my personal training business.† Rather than discounting sessions in exchange for commitment, I came to realize that the commitment the clients were making was not for my benefit, but for theirs, and it was an absolute requirement if they were going to achieve results.† If my time was worth $50, I was going to get $50, and so, I came up with the concept of ďthe series.Ē

A ďseriesĒ is more than one session on a recurring basis.† Itís ďeveryĒ something.† It can be every Monday at 8 PM, every Tuesday and Thursday at Noon, or every other Friday at 6 in the morning.† The idea is, I can block out my calendar for recurring weeks.† There isnít any scheduled ďendĒ to a series, and while the client can cancel at any time (with adequate notice), if I, as the trainer, simply motivate each client to want to come back for another session, the series never expires.† I asked for a retainer which was equivalent to one sessionís fee, and in the event that the client failed to give 48 hours notice for a cancellation, or failed to show up at all, the retainer is forfeited, the trainer is paid.† It worked out nicely, not because I was paid for no-shows, but because my no-shows went away completely!† When clients have money on the line, they show up!

The series per session price should equate to whatever you believe your time is worth.† If a client wants to schedule one session, without committing to a series, there should be a premium attached to that session.† In other words, a single session might be $75, a series would be $50 per.† That entices clients to opt for the series.† Is it fair to charge more for a single session?† I believe it is.† After all, if Iím setting aside Wednesday at 4:00, but I know I havenít any firm commitment for the following week, Iím going to have to expend time and energy marketing to fill that gap.† The reality is, I rarely would get single sessions.† Almost everyone opted for the series.

I started selling training sessions using the series method over a decade ago and it made a dramatic difference in my income. Every personal training entity Iíve operated within that decade has found a significant revenue increase, both in the short term and the long term, by trading packages for ďthe series.Ē†

The Nutritional Issue Ė Is Dispensing Nutritional Advice Illegal for Trainers?

I wouldn't say that dispensing nutritional guidance is "illegal," but I will suggest the lines of legality are not clearly drawn.  If a doctor were to "prescribe" a medication, and the patient reacted to the medication, the doctor's advice would be suspect, but that doctor can prove his or her expertise by defaulting to schooling and legitimate medical credential.  If you were to tell someone to eat egg whites for breakfast, and they developed kidney stones, although the stones may or may not have had anything to do with your advice, the fact that you "prescribed" something outside of your expertise would make you suspect, and the precription would be difficult to defend.

We know our clients need nutritional advice, we may have some nutritional knowledge, but by law without nutritional credentials we are stepping outside the boundaries of our proven expertise if we attempt to become nutritional counselors.† Without recognized credentials, we cannot and should not prescribe diets.† Thatís clear.† What isnít clear is how we address the missing component in the program of a client who has the exercise element down pat, but doesnít know a carbohydrate from a hole in the ground.

While Iíll admit Iíve ventured into some gray area, the way Iíve approached nutrition has served me well, and in fact, Iíve had many nutritionists, physicians, and assorted health practitioners as clients, all reaching out to me for nutritional information.† Iíve learned to present facts, to share information, and to empower clients to construct their own supportive eating programs.† I avoid telling anyone what to eat, but I will readily explain how athletes eat to boost performance, or how bodybuilders eat to shed fat.† Iíll explain the value of a calorie, the difference between natural complex carbs and refined, bleached, and processed carbs, Iíll explain how sugar ingestion affects pancreatic hormones and fat release, and then Iíll clearly provide some examples of lean proteins, starches, fiber sources, and sources of essential fats.† Iíll explain, if asked, what the research has revealed regarding creatine, what the risks are in considering stimulant fat burners, and what role antioxidants play in health and well being.† Iíll never ever ever tell a client what to eat or what not to eat, but I will help them to understand the loopholes in the labeling laws, the deception in food and supplement marketing, and the elements of supportive eating.† I canít tell you to do the same, as I donít make the laws nor do I interpret them, but I will tell you, this approach has not only served me, but has helped me to help clients and customers worldwide.


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