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Client Retention Strategies for Personal Trainers (for the Holidays)

by Jonathan Goodman | Follow on Twitter

The holidays are a time for family, joy, and carbs. That and getting new clients, building relationships, and improving adherence. Here’s how …

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Every year around the holidays it’s the same thing. Sessions start to slow down, people eat more, results decrease, and your paycheck dwindles. No problem, it’s time to relax for you too right?

The holidays are also one of the biggest opportunities for both lead generation and to increase client retention. It’s also important to make sure your clients are raring to go right when January starts.

For the first two years of my career I looked at the holidays the same way as everybody else. I took it easy and knew that when January hit I would be busy. Unfortunately January never “hit”.  Some of my clients would come back in the first week, some in the second, and others I would never see again. It seemed that the New Year meant that I would have to build again – which I hated.

There were a couple of issues

1. I didn’t plan. I neglected to plan ahead with any sort of client retention strategies, like for example book my clients in for no less than two sessions in early January. It’s a busy time of year and when I contacted them after New Years they often took a couple days or even weeks to respond.

2. The holidays are a time for family, joy, and carbs. My clients deserved it and I didn’t mind if they indulged a bit. I knew however, that they would come back into the gym a little heavier and a little slower. Worst of all, the momentum that they built up before Christmas was gone.

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3. I never took time to reflect and didn’t give my clients a chance to either. January would hit and it would be business as usual. Programs started back up whenever my clients returned and it would be like they never left. I would give them a quick, “how was your holidays” and they would respond, “good”. Then it was warm-up time. I recognize now how much opportunity I was missing here and how much of a mistake I was making.

What I needed was to come up with some client retention ideas to stop this yearly cycle.

If you aren’t sending your clients holiday cards you are missing out on a massive opportunity to build relationships, increase client retention, improve adherence, and generate new leads.

The holiday season is a special time not just because jacked Santa pulls his sled full of gifts to deliver gifts. Families don’t just get together to build the idyllic winter scene with a perfectly round snowman complete with top hat. And nice Jewish boys and girls don’t just look forward to celebrating 8 crazy nights of workouts.

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It’s a time to reflect, relax and celebrate the successes of the past year.

Maybe your client hit a deadlift or maybe they went a month without debilitating pain? Either way it’s cause for celebration. They worked hard and this is the perfect time for them to be proud of their achievements.

Not a text message, not an email, not a phone call, and definitely not a Facebook message.

Write them a hand-written, sentimental, sappy, holiday card to them and from you.

When was the last time you got a hand written note in the mail for no other reason than to say, “you did awesome. Congratulations. Thank you for not only being a great person”?

It’s special and it will make their day. Of course it also has a lot of benefits to you and your business as well.

How to Write Holiday Cards.

Depending on the client there are a couple different types of cards you will want to write.

The Client Who Did Awesome

Celebrate their success. Taking time to recognize how far they’ve come in the past year helps them put the training into perspective. They’re new fitness level has become their reality and it’s sometimes easy to forget what they came from.

I recommend keeping the mood light but reminiscing about their a-ha moments and their emotional reason for starting to work out in the first place. For example here is what a card might say:

“Dear Jane,

As I sit here writing this I can’t help but be amazed at the amazing progress you have made. I remember when you first walked into the gym and nervously asked me if I would train with you. You wore a green tank top that day. Since then you achieved your first goal and have been pain free.

I smiled a big smile when you told me that you felt great walking 10hrs a day during your trip to New York.

Your work ethic and dedication has been amazing and I just want to say thank you and wish you a happy holidays. It has been an absolute pleasure both working and getting to know you. I can’t wait to see what the New Year brings.

Sincerely,

-Jon”

A card like this has a couple benefits:

1. Writing a card like this really nails down the relationship.

You decided to go the extra 10%. The card was hand-written and from the heart. The envelope was even addressed by hand. It shows you’re different and you care.

2. It’s something the client will want to display.

If your client has gotten great results training they will want to show off but it’s sometimes considered uncouth to bring it up in conversation. You better believe your card will be displayed prominently if your client is having family and friends over for dinner and how awesome you are will be the center of conversation.

3. Maybe I was always a writer at heart but I always found it difficult to convey just how proud I was of my clients.

These cards served as the perfect opportunity to tell them how I really felt about them. It energized me to write them and got me excited to train again in January.

4. It keeps them motivated throughout the holidays.

They won’t forget about you because every time they see the card it makes them remember the awesome results. Maybe, just maybe, the client won’t indulge as much and will get their workouts in by themselves during the break. If nothing else they will be excited to return and continue their progress in the New Year.

The Client Who Started Recently

This is the hardest card to write because you may not know the client as well. I always found that keeping the mood positive and referring to their emotional goals worked well. Here’s an example of what the card might say:

“Dear Bill,

I know we just met but I have already been impressed by your dedication and work ethic (holy shit you smash your workouts). I wanted to say thank you for choosing me as your trainer. I can’t wait to start back up in January and continue on keep pushing forward. You’re already moving better. We will get you back playing golf pain-free in no time.

So have an amazing holiday season and say hi to the family for me,

-Jon”

Simple but you’re really hammering in the relationship here. These clients are the ones most prone to falling off, as they haven’t had long enough to commit to either you or the program yet. It’s important to stay at the front of their mind. Ideally you will have booked them in for at least two sessions beginning in January (in case they cancel the first).

The Client Who Fell Off That You Want Back

It can be awkward to keep calling and calling a client who stopped training but the New Years signals a new beginning to a lot of people. Whatever the reason the client fell off you want to make sure they come back to you when they are ready to start training again.

These cards are simple but there is one MAJOR MISTAKE most people make with them. See if you can find it in the example below. I give the answer in the “bonus tips” at the end of this article.

Dear Jack,

It was a pleasure getting to know you this past year. I wanted to wish you and your family (name all the members if you can) a very happy holiday season. I hope your son Tom’s doing well in hockey and your daughter Casey is feeling more comfortable in University.

Enjoy the festivities and send me an email to get started training again.

-Jon”

The Cards Themselves

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You can buy cheap dollar store cards but what does that say about your business and your personality. The cards are a relationship builder and should both reflect who you are and remind them of why you’re special.

I always bought a bunch of the Unicef cards. They were much more expensive (I spent $100-$200 on the cards and postage each year) to ensure they were high quality and suggest that you do the same.

The cards cards should stand out both to your clients and on their bookshelves so that guests will ask them about it when they come over to celebrate. What happens next is a conversation about their awesome and funny trainer who went out of his or her way to send you this awesome and funny card rife with personality.

2 Bonus Tips

1. Have the reception at your club print out your client list from the past two years. Go through that list and highlight all of the names you want to write a card to. Then ask them to jot down all of the addresses for you. This way you can sit and write the cards without sifting through files.

2. Never write a call to action for them to book in a session or call/email you. Don’t ask if they want to come in or say something like “looking forward to your business this year”. They know how to contact you. Keep it light and congratulatory. Simply wish them a new year.

About the Author
Jonathan Goodman

As the creator and head coach of thePTDC, I'd have to say that this thing is pretty awesome. If you're interested in my book, it's called Ignite the Fire. Feel free to come hang out on my Facebook page where I talk explore the perfect balance between fitness, business, and living an awesome and fulfilling life.