By now you probably know my two rules of success:
Rule #1 - Do a great job.
Rule #2 - Make sure everybody knows about it.
I'll go on a limb and assume that readers of thePTDC already do a great job. Finding this site in your spare time in an attempt to better yourself personally, professionally, and financially shows your dedication to the craft.
Last week I sent an email to a portion of you (sorry I couldn't send it to everybody yet, the list is too big so I'm doing it in segments) asking how I can help? I was floored by the 100's of emails that poured in.
Unfortunately it seems that a lot of you are struggling to get clients. "If only I could get people in front of me I know I could sell them" one email said. Another guy complained, "my gym is different, I can't pull people off of the floor because it's private. Everybody already works with a trainer. How can I bring my own clients in?"
Because I struggled too until I read about the concept of a maven in Malcolm Gladwell's, The Tipping Point. After the read, I went out and identified the mavens in my neighbourhood. From that moment on I was flushed with referrals and became the go-to personal trainer in my area.
But I didn't go to the usual suspects -- the doctors, chiropractors, and massage therapists weren't of interest to me. My goal was to find the oft-ignored mavens in the neighborhood who had trust and connections and interact with a lot of people over the course of the day. I also wanted to find mavens who would be overjoyed when offered something in return for their recommendation.
A relationship is a two-way street so it's pertinent to have something to offer the maven in return. I made some suggestions but I'm sure you can think of some offerings yourself as well.
The Secret Mavens
Coffee shop baristas
If there is a neighbourhood coffee shop I suggest you start to pay $2+ for your coffee and go there every day. Consider the insane mark up a work expense. Get away from the medium Dunken Donuts or Tim Hortons for the time-being and opt for the grande (that means big by the way, but not really big -- really big is called vente, which means 20 ounces and makes you pee).
Wear your personal trainer shirt and walk in with a big smile. Say hello and ask how the barista is. Give them a tip and say thank you. Over the coming days you will see the same barista. After 4-5 visits he or she will ask if you, "work at that gym down the street" because she noticed your shirt.
Say that you do and mention that you offer a referral bonus if he or she sends anybody your way (note: do this whether or not the gym supports it. You can afford to pay 10% out of your own pocket of the first package a new client buys. The barista will be ecstatic. Leave a takeaway with the barista in the form of a business card or flyer.
Continue to go into the coffee shop and the barista will start to go out of his or her way to introduce you to other customers while they wait in line. Barista's know everybody. Barista's also serve everybody caffeine, so people love them.
Instead of reading in an office during your break go for a walk and read in the coffee shop; with your trainer shirt on.
A break during the day when you wish you were training should be spent either on professional development or on getting new clients -- reading in a coffee shop where the barista is looking out for your best interests accomplishes both.Other people who are out and about during that time are prime candidates for training. If you want clients in the middle of the day go where people who have nothing to do during the day go, which is to buy a grande mocha frappe crappa chino with light foam medium hot with a dash of cinnamon.
Real estate agents
The ideal client is somebody new to the area with money. Real estate agents are the first line of contact with new members of the community which makes them a perfect secret maven.
Take 30 minutes tomorrow and walk around the neighborhoods that surround your gym. There's probably 3-5 of the same agents who have signs posted in front of a bunch of different houses. In a notebook write down their name and phone number but don't call them yet.
If you work for a gym try to arrange for a free membership for the agent. If you're an individual trainer you have a number of different options that include everything from in-home training to offering them 8 sessions for the price of 10 to training them for free.
Call the number of the agent and introduce yourself. Tell them that you're taking on new clients in the area and would be interested in hearing how you can help them with their fitness. Be persistent. Real estate agents are busy and over-stressed people. Keep calling and leaving messages offering to help and not asking for anything in return. If they aren't looking for fitness help themselves think outside the box, maybe they have a significant other who you can train.
Even if training them isn't an option you can ask them to include a welcome gift to new home buyers. This includes a certificate for a trial membership and some materials on fitness that you've written with an invitation to meet you. I suggest getting these designed which can be done cheaply on fiverr.com.
Two people in a small space staring at each other through a mirror for at least 30 minutes is awkward. Hair dressers days are full of small talk. Find the local salons in your area (ideally the higher end ones) and introduce yourself at a time when they aren't very busy which is generally between the hours of 2-4pm.
Tell them that you are currently accepting clients and offer a referral bonus to anybody they send to you. For a hairdresser I suggest leaving information that you know their clientele wants to read. For example, if the clientele is mostly 30-50 year old women write up a short article on post-pregnancy fitness. If you train dudes write up an article on mistakes guys make building muscle and leave it at the barber shop.
Have your contact information on the flyer and special code at the top of the form specific to the barber or hair salon. On the flyer make sure to mention that the potential client has to bring it with them in order to get the discount. This way you can track how good the ad does and pay out commissions accordingly.
I like this system because the hair dressers are getting 3 things:
1. A talking point. Instead of awkward small talk they can chat about the great trainer down the street.
2. Extra value to give to their clients. When people are waiting for their appointment or while they are getting their hair cut they can read your materials.
3. Another stream of income.
In Canada naturopathic medicine isn't covered by our health care system. So people who see a naturopathic doctor are either wealthy, willing to invest in their health, or both. Therefore a naturopathic doctor's clients are ideal for your personal training business.
Naturopaths are also active preventative care practitioners and together you can form a good team. Putting on free seminars together for members of the community (while putting up flyers in the coffee shop to advertise of course) is a great way to build both of your businesses. Together you can hit both ends of the preventative care spectrum. A bonus with getting them on board for your talks is that companies are more willing to donate food and coffee to doctors. So you can probably get the event sponsored.
Nutrition store employees
The local health food or supplement store employees get asked questions daily about how to lose fat, gain muscle, and feel better. They even get asked questions about workouts all the time and, while some of them might be trainers, they usually aren't looking at personal training as a career.
Similar to the hair dressers above I would go in to the store and introduce yourself. Mention that you give referral bonuses for anybody they recommend to you. Depending on the store you can offer to leave some information as well. Large chains like GNC likely won't let you leave physical materials but neighborhood stores might.
Who not to go to for referrals
Personal trainers have an advantage because when a client comes to us its usually under their own volition. A referral from a doctor is told they must exercise and might not be psychologically ready for change yet. In my opinion you have a limited number of hours to train and that time should be spent with clients who want to be there and are ready to change.
In terms of approaching doctors for referrals my experience has never been positive. Doctors are overworked and more concerned about emergency scenarios than preventative care. I don't disagree as their job is to fix issues right away.
With the above in mind getting to know a doctor not in their practice but as an active member in your community can be a good source of referrals. Medical doctors opinions are trusted. Getting them to refer you at their dinner parties or when they meet friends for coffee is good.
The Biggest Mistakes People Make and How to Fix It
Creating relationships and building trust takes time. Making a connection with one of the aforementioned mavens (or anybody else) is a great first step but you must follow up. Too often when speaking with trainers I've found that they did a lot of the initial leg work and didn't even make an effort to reconnect.
My solution is to create a spreadsheet on your computer with all of the names, phone numbers, and emails of the mavens you connect with. Once a week on a chosen day send an email or call them to say hi. Ask them how their business is and help them celebrate their success. This will keep you at the top of their mind.