“Will build to suit.”
It’s an attractive headline on real estate signs that are promoting a space available for lease. In your fitness business, however, it’s detrimental.
I should know.
For a while, I sold myself to clients with the promise that I would build a customized package just for them. I spent an embarrassing amount of time with a spreadsheet that compiled various prices for different services offered. It didn’t take long before I had 20 different clients on 20 different programs and a scenario Urban Dictionary might refer to as a “hot mess.”
Every time I sat down to help a client, I had to madly sift through their contract papers to find out what I promised to deliver. This proved frustrating, and as a result, I often neglected something that they paid for, or provided a service that wasn’t included. In the end, what I got were wasted time, a poor customer experience, and lost revenue.
Perhaps you’re now where I once was: unable to see the chaos that ensues with the desire to please the masses. Take a page from my book before things get too out of hand and address it””unless your goal is to work more and earn less.
Here’re four reasons why a custom program for every client doesn’t work, and how to fix this model:
1. It’s inefficient. The more time you have to spend figuring out what services you’re providing to whom, the less time you can spend focusing on providing remarkable results. And let’s be clear, we’re in the business of providing remarkable results.
Having clearly defined programs for your clients to choose from means you know exactly what to deliver and to whom to deliver it. Both significantly streamline your operations, especially when you don’t have to recreate the wheel with each new prospect.
2. It discourages re-signs. Customers are unpredictable, yet they crave predictability in their experiences. Without a clearly defined set of services into which a client falls, your clients don’t know what to expect. When they don’t know what to expect, your clients will take their business elsewhere.
Success in any business, but particularly in the fitness industry, hinges on being able to produce the same experience over and over. When you have a hodgepodge of offerings, you’ll inevitably end up delivering something you didn’t promise or withholding something you did, just like me. Both are a disappointment to your clients.
3. It undervalues your services. If you price a service at a certain rate, then give it away for free, you’re leaving money on the table. Worse, you’re showing you don’t believe your services are worth what you charge. There’s no point in charging for something if you’re not going to follow through.
4. It’s not sustainable. The goal of your business should be to increase revenue as efficiently as possible, so that you can help the most people. (If it’s not, you should probably ask yourself why.) Things can’t grow properly out of chaos.
So now that you understand why you need to change your sales strategy, here’re some tips to make it happen:
1. Define Your Client
You’re not William Tell. You can’t hit a target you can’t see. It’s imperative you know exactly who you’re trying to reach, as this gives you an apple toward which to point your arrow. The best, most profitable place to start is to look at your current clientele base and at those who have trained with you in the past.
Invest the time into completing this Client Identification Form to identify the connections between your most valuable clients. With this information, you can determine a general demographic within your slice of the market and begin to understand how to tailor your programs to better attract them.
Note: Yes, this is a scary process. We tend to associate a narrow demographic with decreased opportunities for income, but people are fiercely loyal when their needs and wants are met, and they often spend more money and stick with a company longer. Think about why you do business with certain companies and you’ll probably come up with reasons related to this very fact.
2. Find Out What They Want
A lot of women like flowers. When their significant others arrive with a bouquet, they melt. My husband has never bought me flowers, and it’s worked out well for him. I remember fondly opening my car door early in our relationship to find a package of my favorite pens sitting on the driver’s seat. I was hooked.
If my husband based his gift-giving strategies on what the “majority” or “stereotype” wanted, he’d have a poor return on his investment. He’s saved a lot of time, money, and frustration by knowing what I like and then coming through.
It’s imperative to get to know those whom you’re trying to reach. Don’t give flowers if your prospects are looking for pens. (The reverse is also true.)
How do you know what’s best? You ask those current clients of yours who best match up with those new clients whom you’re trying to reach.
Set up a Survey Monkey or Google Form (both free) and ask these clients why they train with you; what enticed them to get started. Go deeper and ask what kinds of brands they’re loyal to, study what kinds of messages those companies use, and emulate. Offer a free shirt or other inexpensive perk as thanks for completing your survey.
3. Build Simply
Now that you know who your client is and what she’s looking for, you can create packages. The key is to give ample options without overwhelming your prospect.
Set up as many as you need, understanding that having at least three tiers (a premium, mid-grade, and budget-friendly option) will anchor your offerings. You could even get creative and give each its own “title”. Just be sure to clearly outline what each includes so you and your clients know exactly what is promised and how much they’re paying for it.
The cool thing about how I have my packages set up is that there’s still room for customization but without the headache and hassle as before. They pick one level (Competitor, Contender or Champion) based on the services they want (group exercise only, group classes with comprehensive exercise programming, or everything plus nutritional guidance, respectively.)
Each of these comes with a set number of weekly sessions built in, to which they can add comprehensive “a la carte” sessions at the Champion level. So, a Competitor who wants a weekly 30-minute private session would be a “Competitor +30″, who would attend unlimited group classes and have a private one-on-one session with a 5:17 trainer.
There’s no easy way to tell you how to set up your programs because every situation is different. I work with moms on a tight budget with unpredictable schedules who need the flexibility to train on their own time, while having support and accountability. There’s little demand for multiple weekly meetings, which is why I’ve set my plans up based on service type. You may find offering different levels based on number of weekly sessions to be more ideal. Don’t be afraid to ask your clients for direction.
4. Have Systems
These come into play for growth in a big way (pun intended). When your service products are clear and defined, you can streamline your interactions with clients and your delivery of solutions. This frees time to take on more clients, improve your business, or dare I say, take some time to relax for a change.
I have everything organized in Google Docs (and backed-up in a separate “systems folder” just in case), and from there, I pull all my info as needed. There’s no typing and re-typing long emails explaining to prospects what I offer, and I’m never scrambling with a client because everything is orderly and arranged.
When I have a new prospect, it’s Ctrl+P and a manilla folder, or a single link I can send for an online inquiry. Based on their assessments, I offer set programs and the descriptions are pre-typed with space for me to efficiently add my comments for why a certain program may be ideal.
But where to start? I filled a folder with loose-leaf paper and began writing down everything I did. It was tedious at first, but now I have a vast vault (that’s always growing) of quick and easy resources that I can refer to whenever needed–no wheel re-inventing required.
Depending on how disorganized things are, it may take a while to weed out the existing confusing contracts. In the meantime, you could consider lumping them into as few categories as possible, even if it means bumping some up to the next “level.”
As you transition, be clear with clients as to why the switch is being made. Sure, the reasons might seem selfish, but they ultimately benefit your customer because you will be in a better position to deliver the services that you promised. And that will (hopefully) result in more incredible achievements for them.
What to Read Next:
Developing great systems is imperative for running your fitness business. It’s recommended that you read about three (simple) systems that every personal trainer should use: