19 Personal Training Marketing Ideas that will get You More Clients
Before you continue below, if you are interested in our FREE MARKETING COURSE that provides 0.5 continuing education units sign up here: Build Your Marketing Muscle: The FREE Guide to Marketing for Personal Trainers
Would you like to know how the most successful personal trainers market their personal businesses?
Consider yourself lucky because today we are going to provide you with a laundry list of the best sources of personal training marketing ideas that you can use to grow your business today.
Notice: there will be nothing here about wearing a polo with your logo on it (duh!) or starting a Facebook page here.
We are bringing the heavy lifting stuff. Ready?
Write for industry blogs to get touted as an expert
One of the most highly impactful ways to showcase you are an expert and an authority in the fitness industry is through other well-established media outlets. But how do you break into these industry blog sites, trade journals or magazines?
There is a process to this mayhem:
First, you have to invest some time in creating impactful content on your own website (you do have a website right?). Before you can start reaching out to others and offer them insights on their publications you’ll have to prove you know what you are talking about on yours.
When you approach a fitness blogger or other media outlet as an unknown they will likely look at your website to see the quality of writing you do. When they make it to your site they may also click around on your social media links to see the kind of following you have. While your social presence may be in the beginning stages, you can do your part to create some really great content on your own site that assures the other blog owners you’ll do the same for them.
So how do you find these sites?
You probably already know some influential people in the fitness industry. Start by writing down their names on an Excel spreadsheet or Google Doc.
Next, do some Google searches on the topic you want to cover to find people in your niche.
For example, let’s say your niche is with high intensity circuit training (HIIT). Google “HIIT workout tips” and here’s what you’ll get:
Next, make a list of the sites that appear on the first two pages of the search results (without making note of the paid ads). In the above search, the sites that appear are:
Chances are a lot of the searches you do in the fitness industry will reveal these sites in the search results. I know what you’re thinking:
“How am I going to get featured on BodyBuilding.com?”
You’d be surprised how receptive some of these sites are to fitness posts from knowledgeable professionals. But sites aren’t people and you’ll have to narrow down your list to the people who write for those sites to get featured on them.
Here’s how to connect with those authors you’ve found on these sites:
First step is to find the author of one of the posts that came up in your search. In this example, we look at the BodyBuilding.com article and find the author, Dr. Jim Stoppani, prominently displayed along with his contact information:
You can connect with Jim on Twitter and Facebook and also visit his website to see if you can find an email address or contact form. Then you simply start a dialogue and let him know you are a fan of his work. Be careful not to jump right into to asking for a guest blogging opportunity; nurture your contact a bit, share their content and you’ll increase your chances of them being open to a guest blogging opportunity or at least, sharing some of your content too.
But let’s take this a step further and use Jim’s name to look for more sites you can add to your list and repeat this same process. Keep in mind that 80-90% of these people you reach out to will decline or not even respond. This means you better have a pretty decent list.
That said, let’s Google “Dr. Jim Stoppani” to see where else he writes:
Now we have a few more sites that Dr. Stoppani has written for that we may be able to approach as well. Check out the gym-talk.com site. It is a review and not a site you would want to add to your list. You have to be discerning about who you reach out to so we included that one as an example.
The more you reach out the better you’ll get a building relationships. The more relationships and articles you get published the more exposure you will get and the more business will grow.
Stay top of mind with existing clientswith email
It is all too often personal trainers don’t utilize their existing client base to upsell or to help expand their reach. One of the best ways to do this is through email.
Consider this fact: email has nearly three times as many user accounts as Facebook and Twitter combined? That’s 2.9 billion.
Email is the most personal medium that exists and you know what, personal training is personal too. You develop relationships with your client based on their habits, diets and goals; email is a great way to connect with them with personalized messages, links to relevant articles or other business-related affairs.
Plus there’s the fact that email will help stay top of mind. This means that the client you have who only comes in twice a month will still be thinking about you every week as you make it a point to send them emails that are catered to them or are helpful for your client base as a whole.
Consider investing in a personal training client management software like gymGO or email software like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact to store all of your past and previous clients’ emails and to send out bulk emails with fitness and nutrition information that keeps them involved with your fitness philosophies and educates them on how to live healthier lives.
Make referrals easier on your clients by providing them with tangible, shareable, referral documents
If you’re like 90 percent of personal trainers out there you probably get most of your business from word-of-mouth referrals. That is great and you never want to push referral marketing out the door as a long-term and ongoing source of clients.
However, you still want to make sure you are doing as much as you can to maximize referral-generating behavior:
Referral-generating behavior are the ideas you put in place that make their clients want to talk about you.
Think of the common way a word-of-mouth referral is initiated:
You are at a BBQ with friends, the topic of the host’s beautiful grass comes up, someone asks how he does it and he tells them about the company that comes out and sprays twice a month. Boom. Word-of-mouth referral for the lawn company.
The host doesn’t walk around telling everyone about the lawn care company, it just sort of came up in conversation. But he might mention the lawn care company if they incentivized him with some kind of reward.
Lucky for you, you don’t have to wait for the BBQ to get a referral. You can create referral-generating behavior on your own.
In your personal training business referrals are a bit easier to come by because the results of speak for themselves. Incentivize your clients to get their friends in to see you by letting them know that their referral will result in something free for them and their friend.
In a study conducted on referrals it was shown that the person who gave the referral was more interested in helping out one of their friends than they were helping themselves to the reward for the referral.
In other words, provide an incentive for both sides of the referral – the referrer and referee – that will make both of them happy. One free personal trainer session for each is always a good idea but you can get more creative if you want.
To take it a step further, make the process of referring that much easier. Sure you can tell your clients about your referral incentive program and see what happens.
Or, you can draft some kind of document or email that can easily be shared with the friend. This way your client has something tangible to pass on – like a card or an email – and the recipient has the card to bring in or the email in which to redeem with you.
It is perfectly fine to ask your clients for referrals on a weekly or monthly basis. Just don’t look desperate – give your clients the perception that you are really busy by saying something like “My schedule just opened up and I can take on new clients. If you know anyone that is interested please let them know I have some slots available.” Reinforce your verbal message with the tangible email referral they can forward to their friend or the referral card.
Hint: If you really are busy, don’t give your clients the impression that you are not. A busy personal trainer is looked at as a good personal trainer. Pick your times that you want to ask for referrals discerningly so you don’t look desperate. The email approach works here because it is a bit softer than the verbal ask.
Assign homework to clients to make your sessions last longer
What’s your typical session length? 30 minutes? An hour?
Here’s the thing:
Your clients are most likely paying for you by hour and want to feel like they are getting the most out of their time.
So how can you make them feel like they are getting more out of their personal training than what’s involved in the session?
With homework, that’s how.
Give your clients things to do in between sessions so they feel the value of your services, always have something to take home with them, and have something to talk about with you when they return for their next session.
The homework can be as simple as an exercise they can do on their own, a posture issue or a nutritional tip that required some grocery shopping. It also might include a food or workout journal where you can talk about what your client wrote down in a future session.
Homework really helps your client feel like they are involved in their own destiny and helps them connect with you on another level because they can think independently of you while they are away. This almost always results in a client who has lots of other questions and really starts to gain a sense of value in your relationship.
Incorporate Homework with Fitness Technology
A lot of personal trainers are intimated by fitness apps like My Fitness Pal because they can make recommendations on nutrition and workouts, freeing them up from the need of a personal trainer. The thing is people that want personal trainers don’t buy apps. They want the in-person benefits that come with motivation and the personal element.
You offer all-encompassing programs and the personalized experience that you can’t get from an app – addressing muscle imbalances, prior injuries, corrective exercise, flexibility, strengthening weak muscles and analyzing movement patterns. Apps can’t do that. In other words, you are not offering a one-size-fits-all experience and the fitness apps can’t take away from that, only complement it.
Use My Fitness Pal (or a similar app) right when you bring on new clients. Using BMR as starting point, you can determine and make recommendations for nutrition. You can also use this data to craft the training regimen accordingly and really maximize that first meeting.
Knowing what new clients are eating can help you provide extra guidance outside of the gym. Monitoring what existing clients are eating and how many calories they burn makes you more professional looking and gives you another tool to impress the client but also helps to minimize the potential for error on their end.
With My Fitness Pal personal trainers can “friend” clients, have them share their stats with you, and allow for collaboration. You can also comment on their input, staying top-of-mind and furthering your role as someone who remains a valuable asset to their health and fitness.
Invest in your own education to become more valuable
What can you do to become more valuable as a personal trainer? Certifications.
All require some sort of continuing education. Why not use this opportunity to get additional credentials that make you:
- More knowledgeable
- More desirable
- More valuable
Take NASMs Corrective Exercise Specialization (CES) certification for example. This will allow you to service more clients who are looking to overcome pain and help address muscular imbalances to help prevent injuries. Who has injuries? Pretty much everyone over 30.
Instead of a personal trainer who helps people lose weight or get in shape you have now elevated your title to someone who can help reduce pain.
Speaking of further on continuing education, our Business and Sales CEU Course offers all the CEUs you need to recertify your CPT credential and it contains actionable steps to build your business way beyond what this blog is providing. Call us at (424) 675-0476 or learn more here.
Obviously, there are multiple specializations you can go after all depending on your interests and goals. Most accreditation bodies have certifications for things like nutrition, weight loss, group training, martial arts, youth fitness, senior fitness and even golf.
The more you know the more valuable you are. The more valuable you are the more you can market yourself on guest blogs and fitness sites (see idea #1).
In addition to studying for certifications and adding more plaques to the wall, you’ll want to have a radar on the types of information your clients are consuming.
Any new fitness trends or nutritional trends may come up in conversations with your clients and you don’t want to be blindsided by them.
If a client asks you a question about a fitness trend and you give a deer in the headlights response, your credibility may be in question.
On the other hand:
If you are asked a question about some new fitness trend and can intelligently provide your insight on what it means to them or you, your client will trust you even more and value you as a resource.
Just remember, studying hard, attending conferences and workshops and getting additional certifications shouldn’t be looked at as expenses. They are investments in your business and your future.
Brand your personal training strategies and techniques
Have you ever heard of “Koga Fitness?” How about “8-minute abs?” Zumba? Tae-bo? You get the idea?
These are all examples of workout routines that are branded.
If you have a unique fitness strategy, tactic or technique, slap a name on it and talk about it.
Instead of telling your female clients that you’ll be working on their legs and butt today why not tell them you’re working on your signature “Brazilian Booty Blast” workout instead?
If you design something people like it will catch on and you’ll be known for coming up with a great workout rather than relying on the generic term “personal trainer.”
Who knows, maybe you’ll even create your own viral YouTube video and make millions on advertising?
Make sure you document (legally and otherwise) your branded fitness strategies so that you can create marketing materials to support it. You’ll be handing these out to clients and posting them on your website so you’ll want to be sure you don’t skimp on the graphic design and quality you put behind these little used marketing gems.
Get listed on the most popular online directories to maximize website referrals
This particular personal training marketing idea can also fall into what is called SEO or search engine optimization.
Check out this below search for “personal trainer west palm beach” on Google:
You’ll see that the first seven results all appear in what is called the “map pack.”
Now, you don’t need a website to appear in this map pack but you are strongly advised to try to get some leads from common searches like this one.
The first thing you’ll want to do is claim your business with Google. You can do that by visiting their site and creating your business citation for free:
While Google is likely the most important citation (also known as directory) listing, there are others you’ll definitely want to try to get on.
Using this same search example of “personal trainer west palm beach” we can see some of the other popular directory sites you’ll want to be on lower in the search results:
Jump on these sites and see if you can add your personal training business to their directory. Along with Thumbtack, Ideafit, Your Trainer, and AngiesList, another good place to get listed is on RightFit Personal Training.
You’ll want to build out as many citations as possible, getting in that “40 to 60 range or more” according to personal training online marketing expert Daniel Lofaso of Digital Elevator. “Citations can influence about 20% of your ability to rank locally,” says Lofaso. He also mentioned a quick Google search for “local business citation service” if you want to find a company that will help you affordably build out the most important citations for your personal training business.
Sign up for every online personal trainer site (niche directories)
Niche directories, as mentioned above, can be very valuable for personal trainers who are looking to get exposure online. To be included on these industry sites you simply need to add your listing to their directory and you’ll benefit from the exposure that these popular sites provide.
It can be challenging to find the exact locations on these sites where you can add your contact information but the listing portal can usually be found in the footer. For example, one of the most popular personal trainer sites in which to get listed is Ideafit.com (which you’ll also notice from the example above came up second in a search for “personal trainer west palm beach”).
On this site, there is a link in the footer that says “Get Listed.”
Other sites may have the portal in the footer as well and this is usually the most logical place to look for it (unless it is front and center on the homepage). Also, many of these sites, like Ideafit.com, allow you to list your information within their directories for free but there may be some paid options as well.
How to Find Personal Trainer Listing Directories
The aforementioned way to find these niche personal trainer directories is to simply type in “personal trainer [city]” into Google search and see which ones are the most popular in your area. You’ll want to get on those first.
You can also get some solid directory listings by dong a search for “personal trainer directory listings” on Google. Here are a few popular one’s to get you started:
These sites tend to rank better than your ordinary personal trainer website so it pays to get on as many of them as possible.
Use Your Local Chamber of Commerce to Sell Group Fitness Packages to Business Owners based on Employee Productivity Research
As a personal trainer you know that if you don’t work out, you usually feel like crap. Well, the good news for marketing yourself as a personal trainer is that there is some scientific research that backs the aforementioned un-scientific statement and you can use that to get in front of lots of potentially great clients.
The scientific stuff, which was even covered by an article in Forbes, goes something like this:
- Businesses are more profitable when workers are more productive;
- Employees that workout are more likely to be productive because they have greater energy levels as well as higher self-esteem. These healthy employees take fewer sick days, have lower absenteeism, and cost the company less in health care costs, all things that lead to money saved for the business;
- Thus, companies that encourage or offer employees fitness programs can benefit from increases in productivity, lower costs, and ultimately profitability.
This stuff practically sells itself if you know who to sell it to. Guess what? I’m going to tell you who to sell it to (hint: here’s where your local Chamber of Commerce fits in).
A great place to sell the idea of employee group fitness packages is at a place where business owners congregate. One of the first places that comes to mind is the local Chamber of Commerce (although you can approach any other organization that may have business owners).
I know what you’re saying, “Aren’t Chambers the types of places where realtors and florists go to try and get business?” Well, yes, but you are smarter than that because you’ll make these people want to come to you rather than you having to awkwardly try to shake a million hands to hunt down the decision-makers and tell them about your great employee productivity/profitability idea.
Here’s what you do (assuming you are a member of the organization you are going to approach):
- Contact your local Chamber of Commerce (do a Google search “[city] Chamber of Commerce”) and visit the About or Board of Directors page to track down the contact information for the President or Executive Director. You may even want to call the general number to see who the appropriate person to speak with might be.
- Next, tell them that you want to host a workshop on “How Group Fitness Programs can Increase Company Profitability”
Hell, let’s make this easy for you. Here’s a script you can use:
Hello Director Gluteus,
I’m a new Chamber member and I’d like to get more involved within the organization. I’d like to hold a workshop at the Chamber offices on the topic of “How Group Fitness Programs can Increase Company Profitability.” This is a research-backed topic that shows how an investment in fitness programs for employees results in increased employee productivity and profitability.
Please let me know if this something that you think the members would be interested in attending and I can provide more details.
Personal Trainer Bob
Now that you’ve gone directly to the source and asked for their help in organizing an event that benefits their members, you’ll probably get a resounding “yes” for your request. Now you’ll have to begin to put together your presentation you built up so much.
- Uses science to show how fitness results in decreased absenteeism, increased productivity and profitability.
- Shows them your recommendations for group fitness programs that meet your criteria for helping employees stay physical fit (for example, twice a week sessions).
- Shows them that you have already created an amazing program that they can enroll their employees in today!
Now, the Chamber is useful because they will market your workshop for you. To give them a proper nudge, request that they send out the news about your amazing workshop to their entire email list as well as their social media networks. Also, make sure you emphasize that the workshop is for business owners or decision-makers so these type of people show up. The email will likely also attract general personal training clients as well and that ain’t a bad thing!
To take it a step further, try to mention in the marketing that space is limited and that the follow up email should say “only a few seats left” or something like that that showcases demand for your workshop. Get a list of all the attendees before or after the workshop so you can follow up on your own and thank them for attending.
Chamber memberships are around $500/year (give or take) so if you get just one client it is likely it will pay for itself.
Partner with local health-conscious businesses
In the above example we learned how to leverage the power of a much larger organization to help us market our own services. You can do the same thing by partnering with other health-conscious businesses.
By doing this you not only get the exposure that the business can provide due to their much larger network, but you also get a statement about your credibility if a credible business mentions your services.
For example, in my neighborhood, a local coffee shop that attracts a lot of young, active people, hosts donation-only yoga classes every weekend. There are generally about 10 to 15 people who show up for the hour-long classes, generating the instructor about $10 per student times the two or three classes she gives each day. At $300 to $450 a day and only three hours of work, it’s not a bad partnership.
Plus she gets to make relationships with people who may be interested in her services whom can become clients the rest of the week.
What local businesses do you think would make for good partnerships in your community? Take some time to explore opportunities and determine if your services would also be a good fit for the businesses you’d like to approach.
Charitable donations are good for two reasons – tax deductions and free exposure – and for the purposes of this personal trainer marketing idea we will be focused on the latter (click the previous link to vet the potential charities for specific tax info).
This is actually a bit of a diamond in the rough marketing tip that I have used before and that has landed me quite a few new clients. Here’s how it works, it’s pretty simple.
Do some research on upcoming charitable events in your area by Googling “charitable events [city].” After finding one that you particularly resonate with, contact the event director to let them know that you are interested and to see if you could donate some personal training sessions as a prize.
If this is agreeable, see if you can get mentioned by name (or website or brand) during the charity as well as on their website and their marketing materials. I found that offering a free 3-pack of sessions is a great way to get exposure, gives you the opportunity to turn that offer into a client, and allows you to get a nice little tax write-off if you do it right.
Get a booth at a swap meet or flea market
A swap meet is a gathering in which like-minded enthusiasts get together to exchange items of common interest. You can get a booth at a swap meet or fair – gyms often do this – and offer things like body fat assessments or hold fitness-related contests. For example, hold a push-up contest where the person that does the most pushups (within one minute) gets one or two personal training sessions.
The idea is to collect contact information for each participant and then just call everyone and tell them they won and give them their free session in hopes that they’d actually become a paying client. The booth at the swap meet might set you back a few bucks but if you are able to land a few clients it will easily pay for itself.
You can find local swap meets much in the same way you find charity events above, by Googling them. Type in “swap meet near me” into Google and check out some of the local events then inquire about getting a booth. Check out these tips for marketing yourself at a flea market.
Offer healthy shopping outings
As a trainer you know that nutrition is, for most, more important than working out. This is why offering to take your clients to the grocery store, and educate on what you recommend that they eat, is a great way to provide more value as well as show them how much you care about their results.
This works best if you take one client at a time to their favorite grocery store, and show them how to eat right based on their budget, likes and fitness goals. The idea is not to criticize them if they go straight for the Twinkies, but to educate them on how balance in their diet can really help them perform at their peak.
As a bonus, or if you want to upsell an additional service, let them know that you will create a nutritionally balanced meal plan for them so that they can easily follow it and get results. Whether their goal is weight loss, weight gain or muscle gain, your expertise will allow you to create something valuable and that will keep them wanting to keep coming back for more of your advice.
Host competitions against clients and get local sponsors involved
If you really want to make a splash and go after some big time public relations exposure, this idea is for you. Hold your very own “Biggest Loser” type contest with your clients and set a start date where you take measurements on weight, or, if you specialize in another area, gains in the chest or biceps.
Once you have your pool of contestants, start sounding the horn. Get local businesses involved (health-conscious businesses are recommended but not mandatory) and ask them to provide gifts, in exchange for exposure, as part of a grand prize (and runner-up prizes). From there you’ll also want to get the local media involved to see if they will cover the story. The media loves these type of feel-good stories so if you can get ahold of them and get them to agree to cover your contest you’ll benefit from a lot of free exposure (as will the local businesses that you involve).
After the initial time period is up, let your participants and the media know who the winner is. You’ll want to take before and after pictures and promote them on your website, at the gym and on social media to show progress and how great your training is. You can also use the contest to continually market yourself and use the client testimonials to get social proof on your efforts.
Advertise a personal training session “bring a friend to any session, anytime” promotion
Allow existing clients to bring a friend in to any session, anytime, or advertise that you are opening up sessions to include the ability to bring in friends. This works well because friends like to work out with friends and if you open up this promotion for free, your clients will actually feel good about giving the gift of health to their friends.
This practice works best if your clients tell you that they want to take you up on the promotion and you provide them with a signed waiver with a specific date (you’ll especially need a signed waiver if you train at a corporate gym). The idea is to give your clients something tangible – the nicer looking the waiver the better – that they can hand to their friends.
When the friend comes in to work out with you and your client it will be easy to get to know them quickly. When they see how badass you are and how great it is to share your fitness knowledge, they’ll be more likely to sign up for their own sessions.
Offer package pricing to encourage longer-term relationships
You may have heard the old marketing cliché that getting new clients costs five times as much to acquire than an existing one does to retain. Whether this is true or not, the reality is that more time should go into wowing your existing clients than trying to drum up new business.
Think of the cell phone companies – does it piss you off too that all the promotions are for new clients and existing, long term clients get the shaft? The lesson here is don’t be like the cell phone companies, benefit from existing clients by upselling them and keeping them around for the long haul.
One of the best ways to do this is to offer package pricing – something like “buy five sessions get one free” – to create real value for your clients. This not only extends your relationship, giving you more time to prove results, but also shows your clients that you care about their wallets.
Buy a specific piece of equipment and invite people to use it
Sometimes fitness equipment can promote your ideas just by being seen better than you ever could. For example, I bought a slide board and invited people to use it at an ice skating rink. Slide boards are particularly helpful for building strength and endurance in the legs and my goal was to attract both hockey players who wanted a competitive advantage as well as figure skaters who wanted to improve their stride.
As people approach your special equipment area, try to recruit them as clients or put them on your marketing list as they have to sign up to get involved. Give them a free try on the equipment and explain the benefits of it, paying particular attention to their fitness goals. Just make sure that everyone who wants to try your equipment signs up for your marketing list so that you can reach out to them later.
Other cool equipment: big ass tires, battle or climbing ropes, etc.
Do fitness competitions yourself
Enroll in a bodybuilding competition yourself – such as a “figure competition” – and the exposure you get from the comp, as well as the marketing you’re doing to promote how good you are looking via social media, will help spur leads.
CrossFit trainers do this all the time. You’ll often see a trainer in a CrossFit Games or similar competition sporting their gyms’ attire, all the while doing wonders for their exposure. Not only do people get to see you in action, putting your strength and training techniques to practice, but they also see that you train at a gym, providing you instant credibility and attracting attention to your gym or brand.
Embrace the power of cross-referring
Personal trainers are not isolated in their aim to help clients get healthy. There are lots of other health and fitness professionals that help people become their best that may not necessarily involve weight training or exercise.
These are the types of professionals you should seek out – start with five – so that you can cross-refer clients to one another. Think of local nutritionists, chiropractors or physical therapists, physicians, hair stylists, massage therapists, sports coaches, etc. who your clients may benefit from. The referral partnership should be communicated – don’t just refer them without letting the other professional know that you’d like to try to consciously cross-refer – and be proactive about your referrals.
When referring, go the extra mile and call the professional with your client standing next to you or shoot them an email and CC your client so that the connection is actually generated. Don’t just say “go visit Dr. Jones,” form the connection and benefit from instances when your referral network does the same for you.