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Hi Dr. Bell, how did you generate clients at first?
To set the stage, my early entry into Personal Training was decades ago, before it became popular and mainstream. It was also good and bad that there were not many personal trainers around to tell me what was “impossible” to do back then, nor give me advice on how to build a personal training business, so I was left to devise my own strategies.
I came up with my own marketing plan that by necessity, had to be done with a budget of approximately $1.69, which was pretty much all I had as life-savings at the time!
So…how do you execute a marketing plan with a budget of $1.69…I got out my town’s “White Pages.” For you youngsters out there…Telephone companies used to deliver phone books. The white pages were all the resident’s names, addresses and phone numbers and the Yellow Pages were for businesses. I started on page one and started calling. My calling pitch went like this:
Hello Mrs. Aardvark (the phone books were listed alphabetically), my name is Jim Bell. I am a personal trainer at Fitness World Gym near you. I am calling you today for a free visit to go through a complimentary personal training session with me. There is no cost or obligation to you of any kind at all. I simply want to show you how I can help you achieve your fitness goals, safely and effectively and far more quickly than you could do on your own. I have availability for you on Wednesday at 10am or Friday at 2pm, which would work better for you?
I always offered two options on both day and time, and yes, I would give them the day and time they wanted if I were available, but offering two options speeds their decision making process.
Now keep in mind, Fitness World was in the South and my accent is definitely Northern, so naturally this meant the response to my calls went something like: “no,” “No thank you,” “don’t call again.” “I ain’t doing’ business with no damn Yankee,” “Yes, I have been thinking about starting exercise, when can I come in?” Typically, I would get an appointment for every 25 calls. I quickly filled my appointment book with 40 prospects. Since this was the South, all 40 showed-up. Those that could not make it, called to reschedule.
Later in my career I moved to Southern California and used the same technique. I was shocked that of the 19 appointments I set..NOT ONE PROSPECT SHOWED-UP OR CALLED!!!
Once again I had to put my “Hat of Creativity.” I modified my plan by getting a list of gym members and called them and explained they were getting a “special-exclusive-VIP-offer as a long-time member of the club.
Now, I have told many IFPA Certified Trainers this story. Most of the time, they look at me in horror and say some variation of “I could never do that!” If you are thinking that, shame on you! Don’t tell me you are afraid, or don’t feel comfortable doing something like that, because the fact is everything you want is on the other side of your Fear! You have to step out of your Comfort Zone to grow and all your success depends on growth! If you are concerned about the “Do not call list,” I admire you, because no one else does. You should check your State law because one lawyer told me if you are calling for a free opportunity to a club member, the law does not apply.
Another thing I did was walk around the gym, talk to members and offer some free tips when I saw them performing an exercise very poorly, after you help them, make the same free offer, so you can show them your stuff.
If you are too shy or too introverted to approach people…you are in the wrong business. To become a success personal trainer, you are going to have to become an out-going personality. If you are afraid, please repeat daily, “Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the conquest of it.” In reality, there can be no courage without fear.
If you are thinking… “Can’t I just emailed or tweet?” Sure you can! And you can starve to death long before you get a single client!
My best recommendation for you is to eradicate your fear, put your “Hat of Creativity” on and develop your own path to success. Consider courage as your way of life.
Dr. Jim Bell
CEO of IFPA