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Nutrition Programs for Profit

Combining personal training and nutrition services can mean better results for clients, and more profit for your facility.

Personal training is often either the first- or second-largest source of revenue for fitness businesses. At the very least, it has the potential to be that. And, nutrition services are the perfect companion to personal training. If you have a strong personal training program with loyal clients, the additional revenue stream you could be generating from nutrition services is just a few key decisions away.

Fitness professionals recommend exercise three to five times a week, and members use personal training for motivation and expert advice. Clients eat three to five times a day, yet aren't using nutrition-related services at a frequency even close to reflecting this ratio.

Personal trainers and dieticians agree that proper nutrition and exercise combined are crucial to success. Imagine the difference better food choices three to five times a day would make to some of your current clients! Three to five times a day, clients are either closer or further from their goals. Three to five times a day, without sweat, an additional shower or down time, clients can move toward less fat, more energy and optimal health.

Overcoming obstacles

You need to have a strategic plan for marketing and selling nutrition services at your fitness center. Following are some obstacles that may get in the way of a successful program.

Staff and client education. The first road block may lie within your own staff. Many trainers mistakenly believe that their clients know what to do, but they simply don't do it. Promoting nutrition services requires an educational component. Point out to trainers that, although many people have been exposed to nutrition information since they were very young, the rules have changed. In addition, we all have been bombarded with diet myths and misconceptions. For some, eating at KFC appears healthier than a burger because they're choosing chicken. Fitness professionals have to realize that the majority of people are not as nutritionally tuned in as they are.

Your fitness staff can use quizzes and interactive discussions to demonstrate to clients where they have room for improvement. Check online sites for existing ideas, even those that target kids (www.bam.gov, www.kidnetic.com). Alternatively, ask a registered dietician to come up with a few quiz questions based on the most common misconceptions about food and diet.

Consistency. Customers need to be told that one or two appointments won't tell them everything they need to know about good nutrition. Behaviors learned over a lifetime take repetition and consistent monitoring to change. Teach those involved in selling and promoting your program that strong statements and directives are needed to reach people.

Being direct. Dieticians need to be direct about what a client needs. Lifestyle changes like portion control and knowing that everything is okay in moderation can be overwhelming to a chronic dieter. This type of information needs to be presented in a clear manner.

Commitment. "I'd like to see you back here on Friday. Which of the things we talked about are you willing to commit to for next time?" People like diets because it is clear to them what to do. Nutrition counseling is often more flexible than people can handle when they are making a change. Keep this in mind, and help members take baby steps toward lifestyle changes. They will appreciate a greater degree of discipline and more frequent contact in the beginning. As they experience results, they will be more likely to make more progress in the direction of lifestyle modification.

Establish goals

Do you want to make nutrition a new revenue stream? Do you want to use this service to simply add value to your current personal training services, potentially allowing you to increase your fees, or outshine the competition by helping clients more effectively reach their goals? How will you measure your success? If you are looking at a reasonable increase in an hourly service, you can set weekly, monthly and annual goals. If you are enhancing services that already exist, you'll still want to measure progress. Are you able to retain clients for a longer period of time? Do you have a greater degree of customer satisfaction? Is your monthly personal training revenue up from the same month last year due to no other change?

Choose your weapon

If you are planning to offer nutrition services, you will need to make the choice between a software program and a staff person who is a certified nutritionist or registered dietician. Consider the pros and cons. The software would be available to all staff persons for use with current and potential clients. The registered dietician would serve clients much like trainers. The dietician's compensation could be either as a regular hourly employee, or commission-based, generally similar to how you handle personal training. Should you opt to hire based on commission, make sure that you adequately train and monitor the marketing of your staff. Few dieticians have formal training in selling their services. They have a desire to help people by educating them, but may initially lack the ability to market and promote.

University programs combining exercise sciences and dietetics are increasing, which may mean a new breed of staff members who are both qualified as nutritionists and personal trainers. In many cases, these individuals will service clients both as a dietician and personal trainer. Contact nearby universities to see if they offer such a program, and provide them with information on your facility and potential internship or employment opportunities.

Software programs, on the other hand, offer ease of implementation and the ability to serve many clients at once. The registered dietician only has so many hours in a day. The software program quickly solves the dilemmas of what clients should have for breakfast, lunch and dinner - and can even include shopping lists. The registered dietician offers more flexibility in food choices. The software program provides a simple to-do list, but doesn't address behavior change.

Combine nutrition and training

At Ames Racquet & Fitness Center, Ames, Iowa, an average of 775 one-on-one sessions are conducted per month. At one point, nutrition consultation services accounted for 1 percent of that business. Likewise, the number of nutrition consultation clients who were also using personal training was a relatively small 15 percent. Of the clients who used both services, there were reports of greater satisfaction, better results, and stronger referrals to friends and relatives.

By implementing a referral form to be sent from trainer to nutritionist, or vice versa, everyone involved became aware of the status of each client. Sales of sessions increased in both categories, and clients progressed more quickly toward their goals. Clients had always been encouraged by their nutritionist or trainer to use the other service, but this referral form made it easier to do so, and the staff person took control of making the contact to initiate a complimentary session. Nutrition and personal training sessions are interchangeable at the facility, so clients aren't required to make an additional purchase at the moment; they can use their existing package. The facility did everything possible to make it easier for clients to get more involved. Members now have a higher renewal rate because they get results from the combination of the two services.

Selling nutrition

Increase the likelihood that new members will take advantage of nutrition services by offering a point-of-sale discount package, and give your sales staff a small percentage for sales made. An example might be three sessions at a discounted rate only available to members the day they join.

If you believe in your services and the employees providing them, nutrition services can be a win/win for all involved. When you have membership staff, personal trainers and nutritionists all working to get members involved, chances are greater that members will realize the value of your services. The result is more satisfied customers seeing results and talking about their successes and your business.

Pros and Cons of Software vs. a Nutritionist

Software-Driven Programs

Pros Low initial investment Wider use by staff Adds value to existing programs

Cons Computer maintenance and access Lacks behavior-change model Low flexibility in food choices Static until next entry No emotional component

Personal Nutritionist Coach

Pros Commission- or salary-based options Key personnel conduct sessions Cost-effective, if fee-based service Interactive and flexible Emphasis on behavior change High emotional component

Cons Educational seminar options (fee or non) Dependent on marketing and sales Phone and email contacts maintenance Requires meeting space

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