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Every business has its bread and butter — that special something that brings in the most money outside of membership dues. And for many gyms in the U.S., despite technological innovations in fitness, that bread and butter remains personal training.
“The trend of the industry is leaning toward small group training,” said Brandon Yates, the director of personal training at the eight-location chain Chicago Athletic Clubs. “But I still believe one-on-one personal training is an integral part of any training department, if done well.”
To do personal training “well” and increase profits, there are three areas you can focus on: member onboarding, trainer development and programming.
Maximizing personal training profits begins the second a prospect walks through your door.
“When you make that membership sale, you should be talking about the benefits of your training staff and encourage customers meet with them,” said Greg Maurer, the vice president of fitness at WORKOUT ANYTIME, which has over 140 locations. “You’ve got to create excitement in the membership process so the prospect wants to go to that trainer meeting.”
And then once a member joins, ensuring they meet with a trainer as soon as possible should be a top priority. “The first 30 days of membership are key,” said Yates. “If we can integrate our members into either a personal training program or group fitness, the length of membership is drastically increased, rather than allowing a member to navigate the club and services on their own.”
Chicago Athletic Clubs offers discounts for personal training sessions to new members as an incentive to explore the benefits of meeting with a trainer.
But according to Maurer, to increase the chances of a new member getting in front of a trainer, appointments should be made when they join.
“We have to book that appointment at point of sale for membership, because trying to chase someone down after they’ve joined — it just doesn’t happen,” said Maurer. “It’s very inefficient — people don’t answer the phone. So, we have to take advantage of every opportunity when we’re face to face with a prospect or a client.”
Once the prospect agrees to the evaluation with a trainer, this is the time for your staff to win them over, and hopefully begin a long-term relationship.
Your staff members are the difference makers between a profitable personal training department, and one that’s barely breaking even.
“I’d say the biggest single challenge you have is finding quality people,” said Maurer. “You need to be recruiting constantly — it never ends. You’re not going to be able to do anything without high-quality trainers who stick with you.”
To boost your trainer retention, consider investing in your training staff and offering a career path.
“Most trainers go into the business because of their passion for helping people, without having the necessary business skills to develop a long-term business,” said Jennifer Beaton, the vice president of fitness at The Bay Club Company. “I think that needs to be part of the onboarding process [for trainers] — helping them understand the business process, how to do business plans, how to develop their business, market themselves, and how to be strategic about their scheduling to optimize their production and minimize their burnout.”
According to Beaton, this process is cyclical — the more you help trainers hone their skills, the more they help you by making money for the club. As they continue to grow and develop, their clients are happier, the results keep getting better and personal training profits continue to rise.
Offering engaging programming — that trainers enjoy coaching and members enjoy participating in — is just as important as having the right staff in place. If the member is enjoying the workout but not seeing the results they want, they probably won’t continue. Likewise, your trainers will be hard-pressed to convince a member to keep up a workout they hate, even if it’s helping them see results.
Yates suggested putting the focus on what your members want when developing programming. “Ask for feedback from your members,” he said. “Don’t add programs you think are best for the members — ask the members what they want and what they think is best.”
This is where the initial evaluation and your trainers’ ability to engage members become vital. A balance must be struck between operating within a member’s comfort zone and still pushing them to reach their goals.
“When you build rapport, you’ll really get a granular understanding of what’s important,” said Maurer. “Help them understand why a program is important to them. Through the process of a consulting interaction with the client, the trainer should be able to put together a program that makes the client feel like, ‘Wow, this was made just for me.’”
Another strategy for maximizing profits is to play to your trainers’ strengths. According to Yates, you could see some very positive results by giving your trainers a chance to shine. “Specific short-term programs have allowed our trainers to increase their individual offerings, and have allowed the trainers to display their knowledge to a broader base,” he said.
And in terms of small group training, Beaton said it’s a no-brainer for most health clubs to begin offering the service as a complement to one-on-one sessions. “If you can get groups together where you’re pulling in a larger amount of revenue per hour for the labor that you’re paying, I think that’s one way to optimize profits and also provide some savings for the members, so they can make a longer-term commitment,” she added.
Personal training will always have its place in the industry. It puts trainers in the position to directly engage and motivate members to reach their fitness goals.
As a result, emphasizing the member onboarding process, trainer development and programming will help drive your personal training profits higher and higher.