As readers of this column know, last year our club revamped our membership structure to better suit the needs of our customers. We also restructured our personal training department.
How much personal training should we be doing? How many clients should we have compared to the number of members in the club? You'll see different estimates from different experts in the industry, but most say between 20 and 40 percent of your total membership base should be doing some kind of personal training.
The more, the better, obviously. Members who buy personal training get better results. They also help you make more money. I once heard an industry expert say that membership dues pay the rent, but personal training revenue is where the profit is.
On packaging, pricing
For years, our PT director supervised a very successful team of trainers, most of whom were full-time. Training sessions were sold in packages of 10 or 40, and all sessions were an hour long. We had senior trainers, all in their 30s and 40s, who could manage their schedules and wanted to earn a living by helping their clients get results.
About two years ago, personal training revenue began to decline. Our membership base started to shrink, we lost three trainers in quick succession (they all wanted to run their own studios), and our director left to work in a different industry.
Our new trainers were mostly younger and lacked basic business and organizational skills, like how to manage their schedules and how to cultivate new clients. This led to far too much turnover — clients not getting results, and clients not buying more personal training. We needed to rebuild our personal training department, and we needed some new ideas, so we borrowed some great ideas from other people and other clubs.
Think of your personal training department from two different perspectives: what the customer sees and how the program will run behind the scenes.
What do customers want? What will help them get the best results? When your customers get results, they keep training and they encourage their friends to buy personal training. We no longer offer "packages" of sessions. Packages imply an ending — the package runs out, and you need to re-sign that client to a new package. We want our clients to think of personal training as something they do all the time.
So now, members sign up for monthly training. They can choose from one-, two- or three-times-a-week training. Most importantly, members can choose between 30-minute and 60-minute training sessions. This can be a huge benefit to those members who would otherwise talk themselves out of fitting a workout into their hectic schedules, and it can also make training more affordable for some members. Thirty-minute sessions are also more profitable for both the club and the trainer. A 60-minute session might cost $60, while a 30-minute session costs $40.
'Owning' PT clients
We began scheduling every new member for an orientation with the personal training director. This allows us to talk to this new member about their needs and goals and whether or not a personal trainer would be a real benefit to them. If we find the right plan for their needs, we have them fill out a personal training contract that specifies the number of sessions per week and per month and their monthly invoice. Next, we have the trainer reach out to their new client to set up their first appointment.
show up for
Often, we have a new member who is interested in personal training but just needs a little push to get started. We will schedule them for a free demo with a trainer that fits their needs and scheduling preference. It's important that the trainer understand that they are "selling themselves" to a potential new client. They need to assess this person's needs and take them through a real workout so the client understands how the trainer is going to help them reach their goals.
We've found that about 80 percent of new members schedule an orientation, and 80 percent of those who do actually show up for their appointment. Approximately 30 percent of the members you introduce to personal training should then sign up for some form of training — either small group training or one-on-one.
Managing the back-office aspects of this often requires acute attention to detail. We worked with our billing company to set up templates for personal training contracts. Clients are billed a specific amount each month based on their planned training schedule (four, eight or 12 workouts). When they are billed, the system dumps the correct number of sessions into their "bank." Each time they complete a session with their trainer, the trainer deducts it from the system.
It is essential that the trainers take responsibility for their clients. If someone has to miss a session, the trainer needs to get that person in for an extra workout the next week. Clients can't get results if they skip training sessions, and trainers can't get paid if their clients don't show up. Trainers are paid an hourly fee for each session, but they are also paid a monthly bonus based on the total number of sessions completed. This helps motivate the trainer to "own" their clients.
Results for clients and club
As you might have guessed, there is a learning curve, especially for young trainers. They need to hold their clients accountable, and they have to develop time-management and organizational skills. This means that the director has to check up on them constantly. Our director spends a minimum of one to two hours per week with each trainer. They go over the progress of each client, practice phone and interpersonal skills, and we even have the trainer put the director through a workout to work on specific skills.
You are running an entire business within the walls of your existing business. If you educate your trainers, they will help their clients get results and that will keep those clients committed to their training. Once other members see your trainers on the workout floor and see the results they get for their clients, they will want training, too, and your program will continue to grow.
This article originally appeared in the January|February 2018 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Personal training: The business within your business." Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.