Tricks of the Trade
Every year I give a simple gift to each of my clients for the holidays. My favorite gift is a pocket planner that says, “Schedule time for fitness.” Other favorites include a workout journal and a recipe holder for all the healthy recipes clients collect throughout the year. I like to give a gift that is professional and relevant to our relationship. This type of gift gives me an opportunity to thank clients without confusing the professional nature of our relationship.
Since many clients leave town for the holidays, I usually give gifts early in the season. The first year I decided to give calendars, I waited too long to distribute them. My clients went out of town and, before I knew it, the new year was underway and I was stuck with outdated gifts! I have also frequently received gifts from my clients. I find that distributing gifts early in the holiday season sets a tone, so that clients who are considering purchasing me a gift limit their buying to only a modest token, if anything at all.
While I typically do not give birthday or general-occasion cards, I do send cards for major life events, such as the birth of a child or the death of a family member. Then my clients know that I care about them as entire beings, and not just about their physical selves.
Often my clients will train for charity bike rides, runs or walks, and I always sponsor them in these endeavors. The donations show that I “put my money where my mouth is” when it comes to supporting my clients in achieving their goals. Furthermore, these tax-deductible contributions allow me to give back to my community and support important public- health missions.
Dana Schlossberg, MS
Owner, Custom Health Concepts, In-Home Personal Training
At Healthy Balance Fitness we like to thank our personal training clients with a small gift at Christmas. Our clients respond warmly to such a gesture. On the card I always thank them for their support throughout the year and say that we look forward to helping them achieve further goals in the New Year. The gifts that were the biggest hits were both homemade and economical—Bircher muesli mix and a chai tea mix. We created huge batches, bottled the mix in attractive glass jars and attached the recipe to the jars. This way our clients received a healthy gift plus the recipe to make their own in the future.
We have more than 200 group fitness clients, so we do not give gifts to each group participant. Instead we hold an end-of-year barbecue and award 20 fun prizes. Categories include an award for “most impressive boxing technique,” a “go hard or go home” award and an attendance award. The prizes include fitness equipment; class vouchers; and towels, caps and drink bottles with our logos.
Owner and Manager, Healthy Balance Fitness
We send each of our clients a birthday card to recognize their special day. Over the holidays we take a team picture of the staff, mount it on a holiday card, and mail it to all of our active clients. We talk to our trainers at length about recognizing their clients outside of sessions by sending notes, relevant articles, etc. The recognition doesn’t have to be related to an achievement; it just needs to let clients know we are thinking about their health and fitness outside of sessions.
Many of our personal trainers either make special gifts for their clients or buy them small items, which are often fitness related (pedometers, gloves, etc). We have a dealer account with Power Systems and give our employees our discount if they wish to purchase a fitness-related gift for a client.
Dale Huff, CSCS
Co-Owner, NutriFormance— Fitness, Therapy and Performance
We have been in the personal training business since 1994, and our gift-giving policies have evolved over the years. Initially, we commissioned a local artist and friend to design clever, customized birthday cards, which we had printed at a local print shop. They were designed to fit a standard-size envelope and were printed in black on white paper, making them very economical. At this point, we also handpicked Christmas gifts for a few special clients. To begin with, we purchased boxed cards at Christmastime and personally signed them. After a few years, we commissioned our youngest daughter (at the time, a budding art student, who has since graduated) to design some Christmas cards. We used the same trick as we did with the birthday cards, but chose red paper.
As our client base grew, we continued to send these birthday and Christmas cards, but we began to give each of our clients a Christmas gift. We tried to keep the budget for these gifts under $10 each. Over the years, we have given gifts such as local wine or olive oil, water bottles, movie tickets, maple syrup from Ohio (where our oldest daughter lives) and cool, long-sleeved T-shirts (with our logo, of course). The last year we gave everyone a gift, some friends and I spent an entire weekend hand-wrapping 75 poinsettias with florist foil and a raffia bow. We then displayed these in our studio so clients could choose one to take home. As you might guess, this was the last year of individual gifts!
The next evolution was to ask our graphic artist to take a photo of all of us and create a holiday card out of it. This has been a lot of fun (think Santa hats)! We e-mail that card to clients and print a handful to send to referring physicians, chiropractors, massage therapists and our team of great helpers (attorney, CPA, computer guru, etc.). We also use this in any holiday print advertising we are doing.
As our clientele has grown, we have stopped sending birthday cards. We now fax a birthday list to our local radio station, and the DJs announce the birthdays, free of charge. We also circulate copies of the list around the studio, so we can all wish our clients a happy birthday in person.
We have also stopped giving individual Christmas gifts and are now throwing a “holiday reception” for our clients, colleagues and business associates. While the other things we have done were perfect for us at the time, this reception is our best idea yet!
Prior to the event, we begin collecting raffle prizes from our friends and business associates. Then, we choose a local nonprofit to whom we donate the proceeds from the raffle. All the trainers dress up in holiday attire (our clients rarely see us in street clothes, so they love this), and each trainer provides two plates of homemade goodies. We close the studio early for the event so we have time to decorate. We buy disposable table service, rent some tables and tablecloths and get bouquets from our local florist. Our local winery gives us a deep discount on the wine, since the event will ultimately benefit a nonprofit. A few friends help keep the refreshments flowing, and our graphic artist (who helped with the cards) doubles as our photographer. We sell raffle tickets and give away prizes all evening. If any of the prize donors are present, I introduce them and they draw the winning tickets for the prizes they donated.
All the money collected goes to the chosen nonprofit. We then run a thank-you ad in our local newspaper, using some of the photos and listing the prize donors and the benefiting nonprofit. Our graphic artist makes a poster of the event. We put this on our website and hang a print version in the studio. Everyone loves looking for pictures of people they know! The entire cost for the event is under $500.
In closing, we do give gifts for special occasions and achievements—graduation, new baby or house, retirement, get well, sympathy, etc. We live in a small town where we all know each other, so this will probably be something we always do. We don‘t really set a budget for these gifts, and our trainers often pitch in. We call this the “human factor.”
Scott Jackson, CSCS, MES, IDEA
Master Personal Trainer
Barbi Jackson, NSCA-CPT
Scott Jackson’s Real Life Fitness
Nevada City, California